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Tips to Stay in Baseball Shape from Aces Pitching Coach Jeff Bajenaru

"The Main Thing is to Have Some Fun and Get Creative!"
March 26, 2020

What is your general advice for ways young ballplayers can get better while they are forced to be at home? What types of things can they be doing? Basically, just depends on what you have available at home right now. Playing catch is the number one thing that all kids

What is your general advice for ways young ballplayers can get better while they are forced to be at home? What types of things can they be doing?

Basically, just depends on what you have available at home right now. Playing catch is the number one thing that all kids can be doing just to keep the arm going every day or every other day…At the very least, find a wall or if you have a bucket of balls and a net even better.

We have a portable net we keep in our garage that can be pulled out in the yard as well. I've put string on the net to map out a strike zone for my kids to throw into when I'm not around. If you have a net and tee even better because you can get some hacks in and work on your swing anytime you want.

The main thing is to have some fun and get creative. I've seen professional players doing all kinds of crazy things trying to stay ready for the season. From playing long toss with their wives, to making their dogs retrieve their throws, to even flipping over mattresses in hotel rooms and throwing into those. Whatever you do find a way to get better!

The thing I’ve noticed while doing this is that both kids have really been having a lot of fun, they don’t feel like they’re “working”, and I can see a ton of improvement through the competition and the home run line we’ve made up. They know they’re not strong enough to hit it over that back line yet so they make their own adjustments trying to find more power in their little bodies. They start using their lower halves to get more out of their swing.

It’s been really fun watching them grow while playing an old school type of street ball game that I grew up playing. When you learn to be athletic, you start mimicking your favorite players' swings and just end up trying different athletic movements which is helpful in youth development.

What are some of the best in-home baseball specific workouts players can be doing right now?

I think if you’re moving daily and getting your heart rate up anything works. There is so much free info on the internet that I think it’s impossible to not be getting something done physically.

The last thing you want to do is just sit around and binge watch Netflix for the next month or two. Enjoy some TV time of course, but don’t use this time as an excuse to get lazy and form bad habits.

My family has actually been using the Peloton app. It isn’t free but we have a non-Peloton bike we use with it and also for the many other workouts they have including body weight circuits. I like the quick 20-minute workouts that get you going because they’re over quick but you really feel like you got after it.

I know a lot of people don’t have weights at home so again, get creative and find things in the garage or in the house and just create “weight” if you need it. Use your fireplace for step ups, throw your little brother on your back and do squats, just do something!

What kind of mental exercises can players be doing right now? Any baseball books you specifically recommend?

Now is a great time to read. If you’ve never read a “mental baseball book” I would highly encourage The Mental Game of Baseball (Dorfmann). He also wrote The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, The Mental Keys to Hitting, and Coaching the Mental Game. All are outstanding.

I also really enjoyed Heads Up Baseball 2.0, Intangibles, and Mind Gym. I was introduced to The Mental Game of Baseball at Riverside Community College at a time in my life when I needed it most.

We would go over chapters before our practice as a team and talk through some of the concepts. To tap into my brain and this whole other side of the game that I never even thought of changed my game. Visualization and the breath became integral in my development as a player wanting to play D1 baseball and beyond.

What is your best advice for keeping your arm in shape during this time? Any in-home drills that can help with this? Same goes for hitters, any drills you can think of without a field to hit at?

Just keep the arm going. If you’ve built up your arm to a place where you were strong and throwing competitive bullpens, try and keep it that way. I think every coach realizes that there needs to be an on-ramping period to get players built back up. We will give our guys time to build back up to game intensity.

However, we all know how limited players are right now but at the same time if you’re not throwing at all or you’re only throwing once a week for example, that’s not enough. I would encourage at least 3-4 times a week and if you can get off a mound at least once a week. That’s pretty conservative but at the same time not over doing it.

Hitting wise, tee work and soft toss are your best bets for now. If you have a place to see a live arm throw (even if you’re just tracking pitches) that would be ideal but make sure you stay six feet away from that catcher! Tracking pitches is something big league hitters do often during our pitchers’ bullpens. Just getting a visual of pitchers going through their delivery helps their eyes adjust and gets them mentally ready to hit live pitching.

What type of baseball content do you recommend players consume right now? Certain YouTube channels? Twitter accounts to follow?

I encourage young ballplayers to just watch old World Series baseball games from all different eras on YouTube. It really doesn’t matter what time period you watch but if they’re taking in highly competitive games and watching the best in the world you’re going to soak up some of it.

Watch how the best hitters load and get to launch. Watch how the best pitchers in the world go through their delivery and how they attack hitters and execute pitches. Many MLB stars seem to be players' kids. Look at Bobby/Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Sr./Jr., Felipe/Moises Alou, Cecil/Prince Fielder, Dante/Bo Bichette, Craig/Cavan Biggio, Vlad Guerrero Sr./Jr., Delino Deshields Sr./Jr., Tom/Dee Gordon, Ivan/Dereck Rodriguez, Chris/CJ/Kevin Cron (Chris and Kevin were both in Reno last year!) and so many others I missed!

Those kids grew up around the game WATCHING the best and I know for a fact that watching their actions and work habits rubs off on young players. The only social media account I would encourage kids to follow is Tim Dillard on Instagram. The dude is hilarious and keeps this game light not to mention he can still pitch and was in AAA in Nashville last year.

I really just can’t wait to get back to being around my guys and starting up baseball again. There is nothing like the hope that the start of a new season brings!

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