By Alex Shapiro
It is December and most high school baseball programs are kicking off their off-season workouts while some may be well underway. Off-season workouts are critical in determining how prepared a player is for the season as we all know. Workouts may be consist of hitting the weight room, the track, or could include open hitting sessions for players, among several other things that benefit a team and its players. However, off-season workouts are not mandatory. I struggle with the word mandatory in regards to off-season workouts as a coach, as I am sure some of you out there reading this article do the same. We, as coaches, probably scratch our head from time to time wondering where some guys are when they are not showing up and perhaps even why. I get it—some players have jobs, some play other sports, and some do things on their own, which is great, no doubt about that. Some things come up from time to time like doctor’s appointments or tutoring sessions, and some just do not show up at all. But, there are some things players need to know about off-season workouts and why their attendance is in fact mandatory.
What a player needs to understand is that their attendance at off-season workouts accomplishes several objectives. The first objective is a no-brainer, and that is by getting bigger, faster and stronger means that they are getting in shape for baseball season. But, more importantly, their attendance shows that they care about bettering themselves, and the team. They understand that when they get better, the team also gets better. I mentioned before that some players do things on their own, which is perfectly fine and imperative to preparing for the season as well, but when they put in work with the team, it tells me that the team is important to them and that they are committed to being a part of helping the team be successful in any way possible. No coach wants to be told how hard a player works or does this or that on his own, but would rather be shown. By coming to workouts consistently, a player’s hard work is on display in front of the coaching staff. The effort that is given by players in off-season workouts then shows coaches, and teammates, that they can be trusted to give the same effort during the season.
Team workouts provide elements that can directly transfer from that experience to the baseball field. They learn the expectations and standards of the coaching staff and get accustomed to carrying them out on a daily basis and know what actions are acceptable. A sense of togetherness and camaraderie is created and developed while team chemistry is strengthened as players are constantly interacting with one another, pushing each other to get better and walk out of there knowing who they want to go to war with out on the field. They learn how to compete in tough situations and battle through adversity when things might not be going their way. When a player handles these situations successfully further proves that they can be counted on to deliver when it matters most. Sure, some will fall short from time to time, just as they would in a game, but if an absolute best effort is given, and a player puts it all on the line for his team, he will have earned everyone’s respect and can in fact be relied upon. One aspect of our workouts includes a losing team of a competition being handed some sort of punishment by the winning team (20 burpees, 100 crunches, 2 minute wall-sit, etc.). Players on the winning team may “pick up” some guys who might struggle and help them out by knocking out a portion of their punishment with them. This example could not be more relative to how things could shake out in a game as players assume the responsibility of picking others up when they perhaps struggle to get a job done, like getting a bunt down or scoring a runner from third with less than two outs.
By no means am I saying that coming to off-season workouts guarantees a spot on the team, or even playing time. Just because a guy runs the fastest mile does not necessarily mean he can track down a fly ball or if a player squats the most that he will bat cleanup. But, I do feel there is something to be said for the guys who show up day in and day out to get after it with their brothers on the team, even if they may not crack the starting lineup, which will happen for some players. These guys need to be shown some love for the hard work they put in, and they will get it when the opportunity arises to get some innings or an at-bat here and there.
So, in conclusion, baseball players— make workouts as mandatory as possible if you want a desirable outcome for your upcoming season! Your presence is greatly appreciated and respected. Off-season workouts are not just about getting in shape, or running a bunch, but more so about coming together as a team. We all want to have a winning season and the first step in working towards that is doing so together. A team that works together, grows together, and a team that grows together, wins together.