In the first post, I summarized my high school baseball, as well as my collegiate career. In this post, I will go into what I wish I had known during high school, regarding the entire recruiting process and what to expect, and what was expected of me, in collegiate baseball.
The three main things I wish I had known are that my strength and body played a huge part in pitching, that training for velocity and arm strength/care are incredibly important, and what the different types of schools available are.
Strength and Weight
Your mass, and more specifically, your strength, is highly correlated to your ability to throw hard. Newton’s second law of motion states that force = mass times acceleration. While this is reducing the highly complex pitching motion to a simple formula, which is never going to be 100% accurate, there is a lot of truth in this. If you are able to increase just one of the components of the formula, either mass or acceleration, you are going to increase the force that you are able to produce on a baseball. Now mass is done through gaining weight, and acceleration can be increased by lifting. Obviously this only works as long as one of the other’s doesn’t go down. When I was in pro ball, I got my weight up to 245, but I found that my ability to move that weight went down, and I ended up losing velocity. There comes a balance that experimentation needs to happen, but for most skinny high school players, this balance is a long way off.
Now I know that a lot of high school athletes are “hard gainers,” meaning they have an extremely tough time putting on weight, no matter how much they eat. But guess what, weight gain is always possible. Eat carbs, eat fats and always be eating. It’s just a matter of making it a priority.
There are so many weight training programs out there, but in high school, it is extremely important to keep it simple. It’s essential to have a coach/trainer work with you at the beginning to implement good form. I would rather see you lifting very small weights with good form, than lifting big weight with subpar form. With bad form, you are risking injury, and not using/strengthening the correct muscles. A simple weight program will include some form of the big three (squat, deadlift, bench) and a few accessory exercises, such as pullups, rows, rotational core, and RDL’s.
Velocity and Arm Strength/Care
The biggest thing I can recommend for high school pitchers, besides my first point, is to long toss! Jaeger Long Toss is the most important aspect of any throwing program, and is used by every major training facility across North America, including Driveline Baseball, Cressey Sports Performance, Tread Athletics, etc. I highly recommend buying the video that he offers on his website, and watching it and implementing it. The extension phase can be done 6-7 days a week, and the compression phase can be anywhere from 1-4 times a week, depending on your playing schedule. Long tossing with high intent in the compression phase works so well, because the body will learn to organize itself to reach higher velocities. Jaeger also offers J-Bands, which are a great warmup protocol. Other warmup implements can include shoulder tubes, Driveline’s Plyocare balls, etc. All of these should be done under direct supervision of a coach or trainer.
Arm care is essential, starting at a young age, to ensure strength and ability for the arm to remain healthy. Only doing exercises when the arm hurts is why many athletes have recurring injuries. It’s important to start these exercises well before any injury starts to creep in, in order to prevent injury. A good warmup and recovery program needs to be implemented after every practice, training session and game. This includes J-bands, or some form of bands, shoulder tube, strengthening exercises for the arm, etc. Running poles may work for pitchers that don’t throw hard, but as a pitcher starts adding velocity, a more comprehensive warm up and recovery program is necessary.
Different Types of Schools
There are many different types of colleges and universities, and this is something that Canadian athletes don’t understand. Here are some of the basic ideas behind each of the different colleges/universities.
NCAA Div I (4 year - meaning you will need to stay all 4 years, unless there are some extenuating circumstances/ get drafted)
These are very good schools. Especially top tier ones. Scholarships are hard to come by, and the starters are all going to be very good. Probably half of the 12 starting pitchers will be 90+, with the rest in the high 80’s or very good secondary pitches. Only go here if you get recruited by them, and given a good scholarship. Athletes that go here are likely draftable prospects, and lots of them will be juco transfers.
NCAA Div II (4 year)
These are good athletic schools. Less scholarships available than Div I schools. These schools are comparable to NAIA schools in talent.
NCAA Div III (4 year)
There are no athletic scholarships available at these schools. These schools are very focused on academics, with baseball being a second priority. Players who go here are there to get a great education, and have some fun playing baseball on the side.
NAIA (4 year)
Similar amount of scholarships to D2 schools, but with less rules surrounding the scholarships. These are great schools to get a good education while playing baseball at a high level. These schools have a good mix of juco transfers and 4 year freshman. The talent is similar to a D2 school, with a few are working on becoming D2 schools. Most NAIA schools are private schools, meaning they are affiliated with a religion.
Junior College (Juco) (Div I II & III) (2 year)
There are hundreds of juco’s, all with different ideas about winning and development. Most will have scholarships available, and are probably the easiest to obtain out of any school. Juco’s are also extremely affordable, especially compared to most NCAA and NAIA schools. A Juco is a great choice if the player hasn’t quite reached their potential, and need an extra year or two to get better and transfer to another school. The main goal of going to a Juco is to get a good scholarship at a 4 year school, or to get drafted after the first or second year.
CCBC (and other Canadian schools)
CCBC schools are hit and miss. You need to pay to play at these schools. Some are very progressive and want to send you to a better school after the first year or two, while others will want to keep you there to help them win. Some of these schools can be treated like a juco, where you can take a year or two to get better and get sent off. Be very careful when looking into these schools.
Overall, it is super important to get a good idea of what the specific college prioritizes development along with winning. You want to find a coach with some forward thinking about development, and doesn’t just wait for you to get better on your own.