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Winter Baseball Practice Pays Off in the Spring

Winter Baseball Practice Pays Off - TheSeason - GameChanger

There are no rainouts for players in Joe Taylor's Portland Baseball Club — not even in January in the wet Pacific Northwest.

The club fields six teams ranging from 10U through 18U age groups, and each member takes part in Taylor's offseason program, which primes them to get out on the field when the sun shows up in the spring. 

“You see so many injuries during those first three weeks of the season — you can't get yourself ready by throwing the ball around a bit before practice,” Taylor said. “The moral of the story is that when March comes you'll be throwing six days a week and you need to be prepared for that.”

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To get his players ready, Taylor offers a 12-week program at his 4,000 square-foot indoor facility that focuses on developing fitness and arm support. 

“You can't strengthen a tendon, but you can strengthen the small muscles that protect the tendon,” Taylor said. “The elbow is a key area to build enough strength to support the stress that throwing puts on that part of the arm.”

Taylor's regimen begins with a series of warm-up exercises largely using resistance bands to target regions in the shoulder, elbow and wrists.

From there, players will do a variety of throwing exercises with weighted balls designed to speed arm motion. Taylor will also get out the radar gun so players can track their progress through the program, similar to someone on a diet stepping onto the scale each day. Players that complete the 12-week cycle typically add 5-6 miles per hour to their velocity, he said.

“When guys come in here we want them going full speed — we want them to throw the ball through the wall,” Taylor said.

Pitchers will go through a full throwing motion as if they were firing off the mound, while field players will mimic the sidearm throws of an infielder or the above-the-shoulder motion of an outfielder.

“I'm a believer that the body will organize itself based on the intent of the activity,” Taylor said. “Everything we do progresses to the actual throwing motion you would use at your position.”

Each day's workout finishes with a conditioning session designed to build core strength with medicine balls and resistance jumping.

“We want to build explosiveness,” Taylor said.

The most important benefit of the training program is its track record for keeping players healthy through the spring and summer. Club players are going on three years with no arm injuries in its 10U through 14U teams, Taylor said.

“The biggest piece we've found is that guys are reducing soreness in their arm — they'll throw 50 or 60 pitches and come back the next day ready to throw another 50 or 60,” he said.

Taylor attended high school near Tacoma and went on to pitch and play infield at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. After four years as General Manager with Northwest Star Academy, he started the Portland Baseball Club in 2008. 

From GameChanger and David Ball.