Ron Musto is in the Pennsylvania American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player, manager and general manager.
When Musto decided to resume his successful high school coaching career at Wyoming Area in Exeter, Pa., for the 2015 season, he became reacquainted with one of the challenges of coaching at that level in the north: cold weather.
Musto says his team usually has to practice in a gym for the first two to three weeks. “That’s nothing detrimental to the program,” Musto said. “It’s welcomed.”
Musto said there is a lot to focus on when forced to practice inside. He shared a half dozen of the key areas to work on when a team is forced to workout indoors:
“It’s a good time to go over topics like offensive and defensive signals,” Musto said.
Musto said he uses the indoor time to go over pick-off plays and discuss other situations so that players are ready to put those concepts to use when they get outside.
Cut-offs and bunt plays are among the other topics Musto discusses with his team before they ever put them to use on the field.
While inside, Musto has the team view video and other instructional material. In some cases, the presentations serve to reinforce what the team will be doing when it is ready to work outside.
“There is no reason why, with the Internet today, you can’t show the kids, for example, ‘Hey, this is the way Baylor University practices,’” Musto said. “They see the way the University of Georgia baseball team does its conditioning in the pool. So, then, when we take our team into the pool for conditioning and they’ve seen that the University of Georgia baseball team does the same thing, it makes it seem a little more meaningful and productive to them.”
Musto said indoor time can be used to get arms ready, but cautions that coaches should be aware of differences when players switch to throwing outside.
“We have a progression of our throwing program so that we are able to get our kids up to about 70 pitches on four to five days rest,” Musto said. “Then, when we go outside, we back it up to about 50 pitches because throwing in a controlled environment in a gym is much different than throwing in the elements outside in 34-degree weather in the north.”
Infielders, in particular, can benefit from indoor workouts.
“Our infielders work on backhands, forehands, slow rollers, double-play flips and double-play turns,” Musto said. “We actually use a tennis ball machine for our infield practice in the gymnasium. If you can field a tennis ball, you’re able to field a hardball because you have to have very soft hands to field a tennis ball without it popping out of your glove.”
Musto conducts hitting drills with tees on different heights and using soft toss, all the while explaining to the players what the goal is at each height level when making contact. He recommends collapsible balls made specifically for gym use, such as Jugs Lite-Flite and Easton SoftStitch.