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A different kind of baseball training

CSUN says it’s one of the few D-I schools to offer a summer academy

Posted: August 3, 2009 10:40 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Youth baseball player Nicko Franco, left, trains with Cal State Northridge baseball player Jason Dabbs in Northridge earlier this month.

Cal State Northridge head baseball coach Steve Rousey said his baseball camp is one of a kind.

He said one would be hard-pressed to find an NCAA Division I baseball team that offers what his program offers during the summer.

Many programs offer showcases, which are geared toward high school athletes trying to attract the attention of college baseball coaches.

Rousey’s program offers an actual multi-week training academy that he said gets results.

CSUN assistant coach Phil Van Horn said kids from across the Los Angeles area, including kids from the Santa Clarita Valley, have taken advantage of the academy.

The academy can be a sort of alternative to what many kids — pre-high school and high school age — are doing to improve their baseball skills in the summer.

With the focus so much on playing games for travel ball teams or even high school teams, are kids truly working on improving their game?

Playing so many games is a double-edged sword, explained Van Horn.

Van Horn, whose son played with the Anderson Bat Company travel team, said travel ball exposes kids to college and professional scouts.

But at the same time, games take away from practice and maybe even an opportunity for improvement.

The CSUN training academy works to improve mechanics for pitchers and position players alike.

Various exercises are used to improve baseball ability.

A seated-position transfer of a medicine ball from hip to hip (or Russian twist) helps make the hips faster and gives more explosion on a swing.

Pitchers throw with a weighted ball to get more speed.

The core is put to the test with more weighted balls. The coaching staff shows kids scapula exercises to protect the shoulder from throwing injuries.

Anthony Walker, a 16-year-old from Las Vegas, played for Mojave High last season but the slender young man had trouble developing power.

On his first day in camp, Van Horn said Walker was hitting line drives, but they’d land just beyond the infield dirt.

On his last day of camp, four weeks later. “It went out of the park,” Walker said with a wide smile.

“Hard work pays off,” he added.

The staff at the camp, which includes coaches and CSUN players, uses metrics to constantly push the kids.

Each kid keeps a notebook with measurements of every exercise they participated in.

They are challenged to break their records.

“We try to teach them what giving more is,” Van Horn said.

One of the sweetest sounds, Van Horn acknowledges, is a kid working so hard that he grunts.

“It’s the sound of competition and improvement,” Van Horn said. “It’s the sound of a young man realizing hard work works.”

Many of these methods, if not all, are the brainchild of Rousey.

He gets very technical, almost like a baseball scientist.

“We started doing velocity training by accident then we realized that fast-twitch muscle fibers could be applied to hitters, pitchers and runners,” Rousey said.

“We built a comprehensive program. It worked, it worked phenomenally.”

Fast-twitch fibers are better at generating short bursts of strength or speed.

The camp helps athletes concentrate on and develop those muscle fibers to better their game.

Rousey said it works.

“Kids are knocking four, five, six seconds off their 60 times,” Rousey said. “They’re adding four, five, six miles per hour (to their fastball). They improve their bat speed by 10 miles per hour.”


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