A lot of people think playing is the best way to get better, which can (but not always) be true if the competition is quality. But there is a point in an athlete's life where they need to ask themselves if they are good enough to compete at the next level, not just the level they are at.
This is probably one of the toughest ideas to get through to high school players, and even college players. This idea involves getting real with yourself, and asking yourself if you are truly good enough to not just play at the next level, but compete at the next level.
Let me ask you this: Does pitching in a game increase your velocity? Does taking an at bat in a game increase your exit velocity of your swing? Does pitching in a game make your breaking ball better? Does pitching in a game suddenly make your command get better? The answer to these is no.
At around the age of 16, the dreams of playing at the next level (mainly college baseball, and for some pro baseball) starts to become a reality. The pressure of being scouted and recruited becomes a major part of every game you play, and what team you are going to play for. The major problem with this is that your level of play is not up to next level standards. Just because you are one of the top guys in your league does not mean you are going to be the top guy at the college level, especially going from Calgary baseball to a good school in the US. Calgary, and much of Canada, players are at a huge disadvantage, because we cannot play outside for much more than 4-5 months a year, whereas players from the south are playing baseball year round. As I’m sure you know, taking batting practice on field is much different than in a cage, and throwing a bullpen on a field is much different than throwing one inside. What this means for Canadians is that we need to take training much more seriously, and be more truthful with ourselves about our level of play. If your current skill set is not good enough, I would much rather see a player train for 8-10 months a year, and play local baseball for 2-4 months a year. Playing travel ball, fall ball, spring ball, etc. when your skill set is poor is not setting you up for success in the long run. Even at mid tier NAIA schools, most starting pitchers are averaging 88mph. Scouts and recruiters don’t want to see you throwing 78mph as a grade 12 with 4 average pitches. They would much rather see you throwing 84+ with one good to great offspeed pitch. And this is when self awareness is essential.
Some general numbers I would throw out to be competitive at the next level would be this:
Squat – 1.5x your bodyweight or 1x your body weight for 5 reps
Deadlift – 2x your bodyweight or 1.5x your body weight for 5 reps
Pullups – 10
Pushups - 30
60 yard dash – < 7 seconds
Mound velocity – average 82-84 with a good offspeed pitch
These numbers will put you in a position to stand out at the next level, and get you a starting job. The way to get to these numbers is not playing games, but rather taking a serious focus on training. This training can be done a couple ways:
On your own.
This will take an extreme amount of dedication and perseverance, as there is no one to push you. Setting up a schedule, and finding someone at the gym to make sure they are spotting you and helping you with your form, finding a throwing partner. It is also tough to find a facility that will let you train for cheap, and it could end up costing quite a bit of money for throwing space, and a gym membership. All tough things to do when you are on your own, but it is possible. I did this when I was training between pro ball seasons. The best possible scenario for this is to find someone with the same goals as you.
My facility recommendations in Calgary:
Coyote Den – run by Drew Miller
Diamondawgs – run by Miki Kawahara
2. Find a training camp/facility
While this could cost more money upfront, (on your own the facility fees and gym membership will add up) the benefit is well worth it. You will have professional trainers on hand throughout your training, including throwing, lifting, nutrition, etc. They will also provide the facility that will have everything you need.
My recommendation for players in Calgary:
Diamondawgs Winter Camps – run by Miki Kawahara