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Off-season training in baseball and the story of Roberto Clemente

by Egle Damini / LUZ
Practically no champion can hit a ball like that and run as well as that boy.  Clyde Sukeforth was Dodgers' legendary talent scout.
Roberto Clemente during a training session in Pittsburgh
These were his first, enthusiastic words when he first saw Roberto Clemente, the 17-year-old son of a Puerto Rican sugarcane grower, playing baseball.
Clyde was damn right.

Bought by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, Clemente began his career as baseball player in the Major League, the first series of American baseball, in the "Steel City" on the Ohio River, even though the early days were not easy for the Pirates or Clemente – who both hadn’t had a win for some years. He had to work twice as hard as his teammates to get half their recognition, especially in a 1950s America where skin colour and Latin accent were still a burden, even though you might be the best on the field.
1960 was the year that paid off the team's efforts, winning the World Series of baseball and confirming Clemente's talent.

Roberto Clemente, baseball champion on and off the pitch

From then on a series of fairytale years: he was elected in 1961, '62, and '64 best hitter, in 1966 best player, receiving 15 summonses for the All-Star Game. And again: in 1971 Roberto Clemente won the second World Series and in 1972 in the USA baseball champion he was the eleventh player ever to join the "Club of 3000 valid", which gathers the champions who have made 3000 or more valid beats in their career in the Major League.
Husband and father role model, polite, kind, professional, at 37 years old Roberto Clemente was the star of the Pittsburgh Pirates, acclaimed and admired baseball champion not only for his successes in the field but also for the great humanity and sensitivity that addressed many humanitarian causes.
The home of Pittsburgh Pirates
Like on December 23, 1972, when the world was devastated by the earthquake that affected the Nicaraguan capital Managua. Less than a month earlier Clemente had been to Nicaragua for the World Cup, taking part - free of charge - in the technical staff of the Puerto Rico team. He could not help but think of all those who had welcomed him during the trip and stayed in the hotel where he was staying.

He decided to leave for Nicaragua on New Year's Eve.

After the earthquake, many people from various parts of the world had moved to Nicaragua, sending food and necessities, but there were also cases of disappearances of humanitarian aid and funds. To avoid any risk of that type, Clemente decided that he himself would bring the funds raised with his wife Vera and other teammates, renting a DC-7. He left San Juan airport for Managua, where President Anastasio Somoza was waiting for him.
But Clemente never landed. The aircraft sank a few minutes after takeoff and the body of the champion was never found. He was a champion outside and inside the camp. Clemente was for the Puerto Ricans in the U.S. what Joe DiMaggio was for the Italians in exporting, or Jackie Robinson for the African Americans. The first to have the courage to shout for them, as MLB friend and talent scout Luis Rodriguez Mayoral recalled.

Athletic preparation in baseball

The physical preparation of baseball athletes is a fundamental ingredient in baseball, a sport with high technical content. The exercises involve all the muscle segments that are used to produce explosive force in the execution of various technical gestures.
This aspect must be taken into consideration for the determination of the load and the mode of execution of the exercises, based on the preparation phase during which they are proposed.
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh.
According to the Baseball Conditioning Program in winter by the National Technical Committee of the FIBS (Italian Baseball and Softball Federation), studies of baseball using computer models (Jobe 1993) confirm that baseball as a sport uses the whole trunk, both in the upper and lower part simultaneously.
This happens both in the action of the shot and in that of the batting. Therefore, according to the program, in order to obtain the maximum result in relation to time, energy and obvious talent, it is very important that the execution of the movements passes from the quantity to the quality of the athletic gesture.
Since baseball is a sport that activates all the kinetic chains of the body, it will be necessary therefore for complete athletic preparation, which includes among its activities:

1. Stretching in baseball

The routine phase dedicated to stretching (to improve fluency and work on static stretching) in baseball includes a series of services designed for muscle stretching and to reduce stiffness. Normally in baseball, there are no maximum movement ranges, so they are not harmful to muscles or joints (or in any case executions such as to cause muscle injury).
Stretching should be performed before and after each training session with repetitions of 10 / 15 each with exercises according to the program among others:

  • head circumduction
  • trunk rotation
  • Interaction of the shoulder
  • neck rotation
  • Elongation of ischiocrural (as in gif)
Stretching gif

2. Core training

It is very important to understand that all shooting and batting movements require a well-stabilised trunk to develop kinetics correctly. Examined as a transmission system consisting of the upper part of the body (head and arms), the lower part (legs and feet) as well as the core that unites the cat. To make sure that the weak link is not the trunk additional structure, it is good to train it in the correct way:

  • Upper body part. (Head and arms)
  • Low body paces. (Legs, feet)
  • The chain is as strong as its weakest component.

Make sure that the weak link is not the trunk/abdominal structure.

Core training gif exercise.

3. Cardio workout

For cardio training in baseball, you use a program in a progression starting with good cardiovascular preparation (capillarization). The program then includes speed resistance and finally speed training with appropriate running. The so-called cross-country is used for vascularisation, but the programme is generally based on technical running because it is an integral part of our game.
Skillrow rower
Training with Skillrow, for example, is a valuable aid for activating the whole body, particularly suitable for throwers.

4. Leg and lower body exercises

To develop explosive strength it is very important that the lower body, including the legs, become well trained. Exercises like Squat, using your own body weight or the weight of a few additional weights, such as calf extensions with a balance.
Core stability gif

5. Agility workout

Often during the season, you notice that the player that is capable of great performances has remarkable qualities of agility. In fact, it has been found that balance techniques and agility exercises improve the balance of the body and by playing a game, allow a rapid recovery of the position.

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