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Mental and Physical Offseason Workouts for Pitchers

Tyler Oakes, a former three-time Academic all-Big Ten performer as a collegian, is a firm believer in the cerebral side of baseball. It’s an element he says is often overlooked during this time of year.

Nowadays, as the pitching coach at North Dakota State University, Oakes has his troops envision future success during the offseason.

“So many times we work on the physical skills,” the coach noted. “I think there needs to be more training on the mental side of things — the breathing, visualization, positive affirmation statements. Sometimes that’s bigger than some type of pitching drill you can do. 

“I’m a big fan of visual bullpens,” Oakes added, “where they’re actually on a mound, going through their delivery, and just visualizing each pitch that they’re trying to make.”

The North Dakota State assistant also feels amateur coaches should stress incremental training each offseason. Oakes lets his Bison pitchers largely take around six weeks off in the offseason to recharge. But, once his pitchers return to training, Oakes insists that they start throwing at only around 75-percent of their maximum effort.

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That said, the coach stresses that every offseason throw is made with a purpose.

“We don’t have enough guys this day and age that simply know how to play catch,” Oakes noted, “and the long-toss, and learning to hit your partner where the target is set up, or having an intent with every throw you make. That has to be your base.”

Oakes plots out offseason training plans like a professor writing a syllabus. Among his other noteworthy thoughts: teenage pitchers don’t need to start their offseason training program until January or February. When pitchers return to throwing during the winter months, they should start throwing at 60 feet, and then build each week to a lengthier distance. … Some of the best pitching drills to utilize are balance drills, stride-out drills, direction drills, and extension drills — “things that are going to give them a better feel for their delivery,” the coach explained. Additionally, Oakes, who was briefly a Tampa Bay Rays farmhand in his playing days, feels pitchers of any age should aim to hone in on their fastball location in the months leading up to their season.

When it comes to offseason weight training, the North Dakota State assistant said pitchers should strive to be more like Andrew Miller and less like Von Miller.

“I think it’s important that they lift like baseball players, and not like football players, per se,” said Oakes, who pitched at the University of Minnesota from 2006-09. “I know there’s multiple-sport (teenagers), which is great … but I think they need to be smart in what they’re trying to do, especially pitching-wise. You know, there’s certain exercises (with regard to the) upper body that you probably want to stay away from, and work a lot of the legs and core.”

Ultimately, the pitching coach said the offseason is about building trust in your mechanics and confidence in your overall skills. That offseason approach, Oakes said, gives young pitchers “a feel for their delivery, and also works on the mental game, as well.”

From GameChanger and Kelly Beaton. 

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills