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hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became the well documented issues that have plagued South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and evening curfews a bi-product of communities devoid of productive distraction hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became the well documented issues that have plagued South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and evening curfews a bi-product of communities devoid of productive distraction hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became the well documented issues that have plagued South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and evening curfews a bi-product of communities devoid of productive distraction hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became Caption Copy Here. Caption Copy Here. the well documented issues that have plagued Caption Copy Here. Caption Copy Here. South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and evening curfews a bi-product of communities the well documented issues that have plagued devoid of productive distraction South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and hopefulness. The outlet for many of the ideal- evening curfews a bi-product of communities ists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became devoid of productive distraction the well documented issues that have plagued hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealSouth Central LA for decades. Gang colors and ists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became evening curfews a bi-product of communities the well documented issues that have plagued devoid of productive distraction South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and hopefulness. The outlet for many of the ideal- evening curfews a bi-product of communities ists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became devoid of productive distraction the well documented issues that have plagued hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealSouth Central LA for decades. Gang colors and ists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became evening curfews a bi-product of communities the well documented issues that have plagued is published Monthly in Los Angeles, CA. No Portions of this magazine can be reprodevoid of productive distraction South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and duced without permission. The intent of this publication is to tell the stories of those who play the game of Baseball. hopefulness. The outlet for many of the ideal- evening curfews a bi-product of communities WeDominic thank All who contribute to photos, writing and story gathering. Sometimes we make mistakes in a hurry to get ists in Smith’s neighborhood became devoid of productive distraction

the publication out and we apologize in advance - so please email us if you see something that needs to be corrected. We value our players, coaches, officials and parents who are involved in the great game of Baseball!




QandA with JORDON TWOHIG By Josh Citron



















From the Publisher... Welcome to the first Issue of Jack9BaseballMagazine. We hope you enjoy reading the stories we are presenting and we would like you to spread the word about our publication and website. This is only the beginning and we want you to take the journey with us. Send us your stories and photos for future consideration in our next issues, and please patronize our advertisers. Thanks

HOME FIELD 4 CHAMPIONS: THE BEGINNING By Josh Citron Beneath the sun pocked palm trees and a few hundred yards from the relentless traffic of the 405, the rhythmic popping of baseballs hitting leather fills the morning air. The baseball field at Crenshaw High School, once the launching pad for Bunyan-esque homeruns off the bat of a teenage Daryl Strawberry, was on this day filled with the a few dozen teenage ballplayers all vying for a spot on a new travel baseball team in the process of upending the status quo. The Jack 9 Baseball club is the brain child of former professional pitcher, Derron Spiller and is the first living, breathing model of his groundbreaking organization, Home Field 4 Champions. After decades of coaching following ten years playing professional baseball, Spiller was looking for a solution to one of America’s fastest growing and least talked about issues. It is an issue that goes to the very heart of American idealism and tradition, combining an increasing culture of greed with the continual marginalization of some of this country’s most forgotten communities. The issue, of course, is stratospheric rise of the pay-for-play model in youth sports. The issue has gotten to the point that only 38% of kids from homes with $25,000 or less in income played team sports in 2015, compared to 67% of kids from households making over $100,000. “I was part of the problem. “Spiller stated candidly, “I was just trying to be successful in what I did and trying to help the kids that were in our program. And then I would see the kids that


Home Field 4 Champions Co-Founder, Derron Spiller as a member of the St. Petersburg Cardinals in High-A ball.

were left behind so the last couple of years out of my own pocket I have been giving scholarships to these kids and it’s been tremendously gratifying seeing some of these kids get developed.” Spiller is not only one of the most passionate youth baseball coaches in the country, he is also one of the most effective and sought-after

commodities in all of amateur sports. “To date we have right around $800 million or so in major league contract money.” Spiller said matter-of-factly, “These are kids that came through our programs or were trained in our academies. So, along the way I’ve been a witness to the process and the way baseball has gotten and the way to get exposed to colleges through these high-priced showcases and travel teams.” You only need to spend a few seconds with Derron Spiller to know that he cares for baseball and the kids he coaches on a visceral level. It radiates off him like a coat of fresh paint and his stellar reputation in an industry and a culture prone to slander speaks volumes about what he has done for so many. But, the booming baseball business having become the behemoth that it has, Derron needed someone that knew the business side as well as he knew the baseball. Enter Mike Thorne. Mike Thorne has fully earned the reputation that proceeds him. His many successes as the tip of the spear, leading over a half dozen multimillion dollar companies, combined with his unbridled enthusiasm for sports as a community made him the perfect match for Derron Spiller in his quest to flip youth sports on its ear. “Derron Spiller and I met when I was running Easton baseball out in California.” Thorne said when asked how he came to co-found Home Field 4 Champions, “He came to me and said he wanted to reinvent his college baseball development program and wanted to do more work with underserved communities and said I could be the business guy and he could be the baseball guy.” It was more than just the business side for Mike Thorne, however. The reason that this professional CEO from Massachusetts was chomping at the bit to help salvage the youth of Southern California was because he empathized, on a spiritual level, with how these kids were feeling. “On a personal level, my mother put me up for adoption at birth and I was adopted at 5 months, but it wasn’t until the age of 46 that I

Home Field 4 Champions Co-Founder, Mike Thorne

finally met my birth mom and siblings. So, I lived the majority of my life just wanting to know ‘why?’ ” Thorne said about why this mission was important to him. “I was very fortunate to get adopted by someone great. But you still have this feeling of being abandoned, you feel different and you have this stigma. I always believe people need an identity and purpose and ultimately a community of people. So, for me, and why this is so important and why I get up every day and do this, is my mine was sports.” Mike Thorne and Derron Spiller officially started Home Field 4 Champions with the joint understanding that they would be providing access and opportunity to underprivileged young people. They were both very clear that, despite their love of baseball and Derron’s obvious connections in the sport, baseball was only the vessel. It is a sentiment that is expressed consis-

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


Derron Spiller doing what he does best - instructing a young ballplayer.

tently throughout the brain trust of Home Field 4 Champions and is one of the main reasons why the organization is so unique in its foundation. The idea is that baseball is the vehicle, but that vehicle is interchangeable as long as the Four Pillars of Home Field 4 Champions remain a constant.

draws particular interest in a community. Amateur baseball is just one example of a theatre in which opportunity and access are restricted to those that can pay, but the same can be said about a number of activities like culinary arts, theatre programs, and musical activities such as playing in a band or orchestra.

The Four Pillars

“Wherever you have kids that have a particular passion or interest in something we can connect them that way and teach them the four pillars.” Mike Thorne said of the program’s applicability, “We believe that where we are as a country this can be done whether it’s a rural community, urban community or any community that is looking to help younger generations fill void in the marketplace, in the workforce, help kids see a better future for themselves and be a bigger player in life.”

The Four Pillars of Home Field 4 Champions are: Community, Health & Wellness, Education and Youth Activities. Each pillar contains its own value aimed towards shaping community leaders of the future. Each pillar, can stand alone as an example of how to improve yourself as an individual and become a more useful member of the community. While each pillar alone is conceptually strong, true practical strength comes from combining these pillars on an institutional level and creating better human beings as a result. The Four Pillars of Home Field 4 Champions are designed to be applicable to any “vehicle” that


Another attribute of Home Field 4 Champions that sets it apart on an organizational level is how success is defined within that Four Pillar structure. It would be simple to use an easily quantifiable metric like money earned or draft

picks selected. But the true goal and the main focus of Home Field 4 Champions and even Jack 9 as an elite travel baseball organization, is to create amazing people – something that not as easy to quantify but nonetheless measurable. Derron Spiller already has seen the impact that baseball can have on a far more profound level then athletic success and its part of the motivation that keeps him moving. “Wherever they end up.” Spiller said of athletes he’s coached, “Whether it’s the big leagues, college, wherever. I have doctors, lawyers, I have marine sergeants. And I am just so happy wherever they end up, seeing them happy and see them giving back to society. Seeing them as productive young men, good fathers, husbands. That’s huge for me, it puts a huge smile on my face.” According to the NCAA, only 6 percent of high school athletes will compete in college sports and only a little over 3 percent of those individuals will compete a professional or Olympic level. With the odds so incredibly low, Home Field 4 Champions is determined to set the goals of the athletes it fosters in a more realistic and productive direction. To provide young athletes in the Jack 9 program with a level and a standard to which they should aspire, Home Field 4 Champions has partnered with California State University at Northridge (CSUN). About 30 miles north of Los Angeles, CSUN is a brilliant and quaint combination of the Southern California charm and a budding athletic powerhouse just starting to find it’s footing. With all of the humble stick-to-itiveness of the scrappy underdog, CSUN is only just beginning to have the dust scrapped from its breezy 80degree façade exposing a glimmering diamond underneath. Much of that shine began to poke through in 2014 when Head Coach Greg Moore took over the helm for the ‘Matadors’ and brought with him, Jordon Twohig to serve as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Twohig had developed the reputation of something of a recruiting wunderkind following his time at Washington University before joining Coach Moore and the CSUN staff in 2014. In

2011, Twohig assisted in developing a recruiting class that ranked among the top-30 in the nation, according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. This class included 7 players who were selected in the 2014 MLB draft in June. Twohig was quick to show why he was such a hot commodity in his first year of work at the helm of the Matatdor recruiting machine. His first full recruiting class at CSUN – the class of 2014-15 was nationally recognized as one of the ‘Top Recruiting Classes in the Western Region’, according to Baseball America. “I don’t know if I am any better than anybody else.” Jordon Twohig said when asked what has made him such a successful recruiter, “Everywhere that I’ve been is try to recruit special stories. We try to focus our recruiting efforts on something a little bit deeper than putting a great baseball player out on the field. Obviously, the baseball talent is what draws us in but its other things that keeps us interested. Things like grades and character and just the make-up of the family. How they interact with their coaches, what other coaches think of them. That's the stuff that we really try to look at. So, we set the bar pretty high for the individual and the person.” It is immediately obvious why the CSUN regime was such a perfect hang-in-glove fit for Home Field 4 Champions. Coach Moore and Coach Twohig and the CSUN brass have opened their arms and classrooms to the kids in the Home Field for Champions. CSUN is allowing players sponsored by Home Field 4 Champions to spend time training, living and taking classes on the CSUN campus. The purpose of providing this opportunity is to create tangible experiences that align with that standard Home Field 4 Champions is trying to create and foster within their ecosystem. “The guys that are doing Home Field 4 Champions, just the mission they’re on and the ideas behind it aligns so much with what we’re doing here at CSUN and with what Coach Moore has tried to do with the staff in the past 5 years.” Jordon Twohig said of how the both organization’s mesh together, “It’s really a focus on giving back to the community and also reaching

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


“I just love the idea of helping kids that really do want that shot at playing at a high level and giving them the whole thing not just the baseball” Twohig said, “Giving them the picture of what it's like to be a good student, what those habits are like and giving them some idea of nutrition and strength and condition along with having those checkpoints that you have to meet. I just think for me if one of those guys in ten years becomes an All-American, that’s a cool story but I think we’re going to affect so many lives in a positive way, way beyond the scope of just college baseball.” CSUN is just the first of what is hoping to be network of institutional partners that will be able to provide the experiences and the infrastructure necessary to allow young athletes, musicians, or thespians to gain the exposure and development that they desperately need. Derron Spiller mid-fastball as a hurler for the Class-A Savannah Cardinals

kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity or in our case might not have a chance to set foot on a college campus.” “I look at that as a little less as how it’s going to work as coach or a college recruiter and more so how many lives we can impact as a baseball program. We are in such a centrally located area at CSUN within in a 20 miles in any direction you have some of the toughest neighborhoods and some of the toughest communities…So we look at it as a way to give kids the opportunity to see what it’s like to be on campus, see what the day-to-day of a college campus looks like and give a sneak peak of what it could be like to be a college baseball player.” Even someone as baseball minded as Jordon Twohig recognizes the necessity to treat baseball, and athletics in general, as a vessel for teaching optimal life skills.


The future is bright for Home Field 4 Champions and the Jack 9 baseball club, which picked itself up a half dozen or so new members as a result of that early morning tryout beneath the palm trees. Much like the inception of Home Field 4 Champions just a short time ago in the fall of 2017, the goals and creed of the organization remain consistent throughout, as they must to set that ascending standard to which all young people who fall under it’s tutelage shall aspire. “Sports is such a lifeline for these kids.” Spiller waxed affectionately, “Some of these kids believe that if they don’t have sports, that there is no way they can make it. So what were doings giving them a little jump start…we get them in but along the way we teach them – ‘hey, if sports fails – you’re ok. You’re going to be a strong young man with tons of gifts that you’ve been blessed with that are going to allow you to be very successful in life.”

BASEBALL TRIVIA 1 – I was known as “The Flying Dutchman” and was a charter member of the Hall of Fame, elected in 1936. 2 – The initial Hall of Fame class consisted of what five all-time players. 3 – I have the highest percentage of votes ever garnered for an elected member of the Hall of Fame. 4 – I was honored to be called the “Grand Old Man of Baseball.” 5 – During the latter years of my life, I was known as “Baseball’s Greatest Living Player,” but, in fact, I was not elected to the Hall of Fame during my first few years of eligibility. 6 – Who has the highest stolen base success percentage (minimum 500 attempts)? 7 – Who led the major leagues in hits in the 1980s? 8 – What four MVPs won the Manager of the Year award? 9 – Of the 106 switch-hitters with at least 5,000 at bats, which two hit .300 or better from both sides of the plate? 10 – What switch-hitter holds the record for hitting home runs in a game from both sides of the plate 13 times?

Answers: 1-Honus Wagner. 2-Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christie Mathewson and Walter Johnson. 3-Connie Mack. 4-Tom Seaver. 5-Joe DiMaggio. 6-Tim Raines. 7-Robin Yount. 8-Frank Robinson, Don Baylor, Joe Torre, Kirk Gibson. 9-Frankie Frisch and Chipper Jones. 10-Mark Teixeira.

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


QANDA With Jordon Twohig, Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for California State University at Northridge (CSUN). Q: Your specialty is recruiting. Everywhere you go the teams get better. What makes your approach to special?

By Josh Citron

Jordon Twohig (JT): I don’t know if I am any better than anybody else. Everywhere that I’ve been I’ve tried to recruit special stories. I also try to focus our recruiting efforts on something a little bit deeper than putting a great baseball player out on the field. Obviously, the baseball talent is what draws us in but its other things that keeps us interested. Things like grades and character and just the make-up of the family. How they interact with their coaches, what other coaches think of them. That's the stuff that we really try to look at. So, we set the bar pretty high for the individual and the person.

• In 2017, Jordon Twohig completed his fourth season as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at CSUN. • Twohig serves as the Matadors hitting coach, outfield instructor, and offensive coordinator-running the CSUN offense. • The class of 2014-15 - his first full recruiting class at CSUN - was nationally recognized as one of the ‘Top Recruiting Classes in the Western Region’, according to ATHLETIC Baseball America. • Twohig earned his bachelor’s degree, with honors, in education with an emphasis in secondary education and physical education EX CELLENCE from York College in 2003. He received his master’s degree in sports administration from United State Sports Academy in 2004. • He and his wife Nicole reside in Porter Ranch, California.


We always say, we try to recruit good people and baseball players second. As a Division I recruiter you always try to find really good baseball players but I’m proud to say I don’t think we’ve ever had to sacrifice the integrity of what we’re trying to do just for the sake of a really good baseball player. We’ve been fortunate that the two have aligned a few times where people have taken notice and publications have taken notice but at the end of the day we’re really not focused on rankings, we’re really trying to find good individuals that fit into the scope of what we’re trying to do on the baseball field.

Q: How have you remained so consistent? JT: You have to be realistic to where you are. I’ll go head-to-head against any recruiter in the country, but you also have to be realistic to the fact that you have to recruit to your needs and your wants and what you're doing. Our facilities are not LSU’s facilities, they’re not Mississippi State’s and we know that but they’re good, they’re quality, they’re ours we love them, so we have to take into account and ask ourselves ‘what is our edge?’ So, for us we are looking for some intangibles that might give us the better player in the end. We joke all the time in the office we don’t really care if my 2019 class can beat your 2019 class.

We want to put a good product on the field the year that we're actually playing so sometimes that means we have to go a little bit slower than some of the big boys. When I was at Washington we were able to get in to those early hunts and get some nationally ranked recruiting classes but that’s all projection that’s not what is really on the field. At a Mid-Major like CSUN we’ve to focus more on year-to-year and not recruit four years out. It’s working so far, we’ve had some good success and we’ve been turning out some really good kids. They’ve been graduating, going out into the workforce or playing professional baseball. So, we kind of like the model we’re going after, it’s a little more well-rounded.

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


Q: How quickly do you make a decision on a player? JT: We will lean more towards being patient and making sure we’ve really done our due diligence on a recruit before we pull a trigger. It’s not: meet him in the afternoon, see he’s got talent and offer him a scholarship that night. We’re going to make sure we’re doing our due diligence with that kid and that family because we’re not trying to make mistakes and pull scholarships back late were really not trying to do that. When we make a commitment to a family and a kid we want to stick with it. Sometimes the way the college recruiting game goes, it’s so early and we’re asking 14-15 year old kid to make life decisions that are going to

affect them for the next 40 years so we’ve kind of adopted a model that's called “Late is Great” so for us we almost purposely wait until a kid is a senior almost purposely waited and try to find good quality junior college kids or even a 4-year transfer that might be in grad school. If we can find the right senior who is trending at the right time and may have been passed over in that first wave of recruiting by the big schools, we might have a chance to develop someone who can surpass those blue-chip prospects. Q: How have you been able to take your recruiting philosophy and adapt it to several different schools while also having an immediate impact?


JT: I think for us it’s about relationships. It’s been about trying to establish relationships with the players, the coaches, the faculty wherever I’ve been. I think when you really work on personal relationships you start to develop a trust. Once you develop trust, then people really start to listen to what you have to say. If you just come in and try to tell everyone what to do and force the issue I just don’t think that’s the way to do things you don’t get a lot of immediate results. What I’ve always tried to do is really listen first and try to get to know the situation and when I can interject, when I can help when I can make an impact with a player I think it goes long way when you’ve sustained that relationship and that trust.

It’s the same thing in recruiting, when it comes to coaches. I’ve gone to different regions all over the country and if you can maintain those relationships and you can culture those relationships and keep them going: when you get to a new spot it's very easy to pick up the phone, and you’ve had good history with someone, all the sudden there's the same trust factor whether that's getting players or getting the right information. You never really know when you’re going to get that 5-star recruit that just falls in your lap. A lot times when that happens it’s because of what you’ve done in the past and what kind of person you are. Q: Your teams have been recognized for their academic prowess as well; how have you been able to take success on the field and use it to foster excellence in the classroom?

JT: More so than focusing on numbers like GPA and things like that it we’ve focused on developing really good habits and good routines. All the programs I’ve been a part of have been focused on the complete person, the complete player. Meaning, what you do off the field reflects directly with what you do on the field. So, in terms of academics it’s been a lot of those things where if I can get the kids to understand the value going to class and taking notes and paying attention that's really 90% of the battle. What you get with that is you get them excited about going to class and working and doing those types of things you’re getting better GPA’s you’re getting better marks.

A lot of times player-coach relationships are strictly on the field, between the lines - and there's nothing wrong with that - but nowadays coaches are asked to be so much more: often they’re asked to be a counselor, baseball coach, strength coach, so it’s multi-faceted and you’re wearing so many hats. But if you can open up to your players and they can see you in a different light and they truly know that you care how they’re doing in math class or who you’re hanging out with on the weekends and they ask those questions…it goes back to that trust factor. It goes back to wanting to live up to a standard that you’re setting as a coach. I think the biggest thing is getting to know who

That's going to practice early, that's putting in the extra work. doing more than what's asked of you. If you are doing just what is asked of you then you're probably going to be average. If you’re going above and beyond, if you're really relentless in your habits and your values whether that's getting up in the morning and shaving, whether that's showing up 5 minutes early to class or sitting in the front of the classroom and really listening to the teacher, wearing a collared shirt - just have some little built in things like that in the program - they start to take a little more pride with what they’re doing in the classroom. I don’t sit here and pretend to know math better than anyone else or English, I can’t do the work for the kids. For us it’s just about developing really good habits and setting a really high standard when it comes to image, appearance and how they present themselves to the community – those habits translate to the classroom and they start to catch on. Q: As someone who has visited, scouted and coached kids at all different levels, what do you think youth coaches can be doing differently at younger levels? JT: I think just listening - Just taking the time to have those conversations with a kid. Whether that's how they did on a paper or what’s due this week and just having those types of conversations that aren’t just directed at the baseball field.

your players are and carving out some time in your busy schedule to just sit and listen to them. I think coaches have a lot to give especially nowadays with everything that's going on and social media, that to focus strictly between the lines is really selling everyone short. Q: How does the culture that you have helped create and your mindset mesh with the mission and goals of Home Field 4 Champions? JT: The guys that are doing Home Field 4 Champions, just the mission they’re on and the idea aligns so much with what we’re doing here at CSUN and with what Coach Moore has tried to do with the staff in the past 5 years. That

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


really focuses on giving back to the community and also reach kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity or in our case might not have a chance to set foot on a college campus.

of those guys in ten years becomes an AllAmerican, that’s a cool story but I think we’re going to affect so many lives in a positive way, way beyond the scope of just college baseball.

I look at that as a little less as how it’s going to work as coach or a college recruiter and more so how many lives we can impact as a baseball program. We are in such a centrally located area at CSUN within in a 20 miles in any direction you have some of the toughest neighborhoods and some of the toughest communities…So we look at it as a way to give kids the opportunity to see what it’s like to be on campus, see what the day-to-day of a college campus looks like and give a sneak peak of what it could be like to be a college baseball player.

I believe in Coach Moore and the CSUN baseball staff and I believe in Derron Spiller and Mike Thorne and what they’re doing with Home Field 4 Champions and it really just makes sense to try to bring the two together.

Home Field 4 Champions has such a good vision in terms of trying to break down some barriers of that pay-to-play mentality in baseball, it’s gotten so out of hand where unless you have a certain amount of money to play baseball you don’t get that opportunity. I just love the idea of helping kids that really do want that shot at playing at a high level and giving them the whole thing not just the baseball, giving them the picture of what it's like to be a good student, what those habits are like and giving them some idea of nutrition and strength and conditioning along with having those checkpoints that you have to meet. I just think for me if one


Q: What do you see envision for the future? It starts with the people. From Derron Spiller and Mike Thorne, who are two of the best people I’ve ever encountered. They care about things. They are in it for the right reasons. They are about the kids, they are about development. They see there shouldn't be fee restrictions on giving a kid the chance to develop and have a chance to play at the high school or college level. Home Field 4 Champions is trying to do the same thing we’ve been doing at CSUN for 5 years and take it to a different level by bringing in pros from all walks of life and create a connected access that allows big companies big industries to say “I want to give back.” It starts with the mission.

SAT/ACT PREP ONLINE GUIDES AND TIPS How to Early Prepare for the SAT Posted by Dr. Fred Zhang SAT STRATEGIES

options — you have so many years to fix that.

One of the most common times to take the SAT is during junior year of high school (11th grade). Is it too early to get started on the SAT preparation if you start before junior year — say freshman year or even middle school? What can you do to help with the SAT during the early years?

Without further ado, here are some advantages to starting early: 1. You know where you stand.






Once you prepare for the SAT and take it the first time, you'll know roughly where you stand in the The SAT is one of the most efficient ways to college admissions process. The most important boost your chances of getting into college. I've advantage to taking the SAT early is that you'll said it before but I'll say it again: if you have spent know whether the SAT is a limiting factor for less than 40 hours total studying for the SAT, you in college admissions. If your SAT score is hour-for-hour, there is NO BETTER 1510 but your GPA is only 2.5 and you WAY to improve your college have two extracurriculars, then the SAT chances than by SAT studying. Does is NOT your limiting factor. You'll know this mean that it's not efficient to that you can relax about the SAT, never study way ahead of time for the SAT? worry about it again (just use your first I believe that is it not. There are a few score) and boost the other two as much key reasons I'll outline later, but the as you can. Conversely, if your SAT score main logic is this: is 1220 but your GPA is pushing 3.9 and you have clubs up the wazoo, the SAT is By starting to study and think about a strongly limiting factor. It would be O I T N A C AN DU the SAT earlier, you have so many difwell worth your while to spend over a ferent options and interventions hundred hours on SAT study in this case. open to you. The old saying that a stitch in time saves nine holds particKnowing this early gives you so many RE E ER R A DIN ular true for the SAT. Say you find advantages. You'll know way beforeE out your math score is incredibly hand what your balance of effort weak: if you're a freshman or middle should be between the SAT and other schooler you can actually solidly learn college admission factors. the underlying math content. You have the years to take that algebra 2. You don't forget content. class or hard math class to improve your skill. Say you find that your SAT I would advise the follow ratio of conscore is strongly limiting your college tent versus strategy studying depend-

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


ing on how far ahead of junior year you are. If you are studying junior year, I believe a 60/40 content:strategy ratio is most optimal. At this point you've already built your underlying skills for 11 years, so content studying will have limited returns, while strategies, getting used to the timing, fatigue, and quirks of the test are a great way to get quick points.

far, but content can take you all the way. I would say you'll be just as efficient studying for SAT content junior year as freshman year. Start early, and begin by focusing on content. 3. You get the SAT over with.






Junior and senior year will already be stressful enough as it is. You'll be applying to a number If you are studying sophomore year the ratio of colleges, trying to get the highest GPA is 70/30, freshman year the ratio is 80/20, CATION AN possible (junior and senior year GPAs and in middle school the ratio ought to DU matter most), and these will be your be 90/10. Why do I recommend a prime years to compete in a number of higher content:strategy ratio the earcompetitions that will be the crown lier you study? The simple reason is RE E jewel of your college applications. You twofold. First you forget content less ER R A DIN E don't want the stress of uncertain SAT through time. Once you learn how to solve a system of linear equations, you'll be using scores to add to that. So study early, and you that all the time in math class, and often in real life could get it over with by the time you reach junas well. It's like riding a bicycle; you won't forget ior and senior year. In fact, this is exactly the it. On the other hand, knowing a strategy like strategy I took: I look the test only once and "double check at minute 20" will earn you points, never had to worry about it most of junior and but unless you're taking the SAT, you won't re- senior year. peat it and so you'll forget it much faster. Second, content studying suffers less from decreasing The point of this is that it's definitely useful to get marginal returns: strategy can only take you so started on SAT studying earlier.

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


TOP 10 HEALTH BENEFITS OF BASEBALL America’s favorite pastime is also the leading youth sport among boys across the United States. Baseball is not only a great way to introduce children to sports, but it is also a great way to teach them the value of teamwork. Not to mention, it is a great way to stay healthy and physically fit when played on a regular basis. Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:

• Cardiovascular training: Cardio exercise strengthens your heart muscle and improves lung capacity, which you definitely get from running around the field. Batters running the bases, outfielders running to catch a fly ball and catchers chasing a foul ball all get short bursts of cardiovascular exercise.

• Strong arms: Swinging a baseball bat, throwing the ball and catching the ball are good ways to build arm strength and improve joint flexibility. Throwing the ball and swinging the bat involve all the muscles of the arms, including the biceps, triceps and the muscles of the chest and shoulders.

• Strong legs: Baseball recruits all of the major muscle groups in your legs. Moving laterally, throwing and squatting down to retrieve a ball engages your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. Running, in particular, is not only a good cardiovascular workout, but also ideal for toning and building up your leg muscles.


• Hand-eye coordination: Pitching the ball and batting requires a great amount of hand-eye coordination.

• Burn calories: Swinging, running, catching and even walking to and from the dugout are exercises that may amp up your metabolism and burn calories. According to, a person who weighs 160 pounds can burn 365 calories an hour playing baseball.

• Stress relief: Getting involved in a game of baseball develops mental focus, concentration and refreshes the mind from everyday distractions. • Benefit for youth: Kids who take part in youth sports like softball and baseball are more likely to live longer, have fewer health issues, avoid substance abuse and attend college.



• Overall fitness: According to the Sports Fitness Advisor website, a professional baseball player tends to be lean, with a body fat percentage of between 8 and 9, and able to run 60 yards in less than seven seconds. • Sunlight: Baseball is typically played outdoors, where players are exposed to sunlight, which is a great natural source of vitamin D. Sufficient amounts of daily vitamin D intake are crucial for your body to be able to absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorus.

• Sharpen the mind: Making split-second decisions on which is the correct strategy to implement on a certain play can help keep the mind sharp and alert.



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SHOULD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS BE FORCED TO VOLUNTEER? High school is not just preparation for college. In fact, many students leave high school with no intention of going to college. Some join the military and others already have job prospects to pursue. While preparing you for the future, high school is where you learn exactly what it means to be a good citizen. A major component of being a good citizen is interaction with your community. One of the most common ways of involving young adults in community activities is through volunteerism. In order to truly complete the education the public school system promises, high school students should spend time volunteering in their community.


Making community service a requirement ensures students will at least spend the minimum time volunteering in their community. If at least a third of these students are able to grasp the importance of community service, then they can take that skill and apply it not only to their professional lives but also to the general well being of their communities. If these same students use the lessons they learned from volunteering, they could solve many of today's economic and social problems.





"Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop," said Dr. Dorothy Height, president and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women. What Height says is undeniably true, and it needs to begin in our educational system.

People who volunteer at an age where social interaction is essential, high school, will carry this message with them through life. The life lesson of service is just as important in "the real world" we teenagers so often hear about as that "A" on our last calculus exam.



By requiring students to do community service in high school, we are not only ensuring good and informed citizens, but also a better economic and social climate and ultimately help them become better citizens.

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DOMINIC SMITH PROFILE IN DETERMINATION By Josh Citron In the shadow of the Hollywood sign and the California foothills, Dominic Smith woke up at 5 o’clock each morning and trekked the few miles to Serra High School in Los Angeles, California. It is a tiny alcove of La La Land that is devoid of all of the shimmer of Hollywood but ripe with the same idealism and hopefulness. The outlet for many of the idealists in Dominic Smith’s neighborhood became the well documented issues that have plagued South Central LA for decades. Gang colors and evening curfews a bi-product of communities devoid of productive distractions for the innate fervor of young men. For the lucky minority, those that have a guiding force of some shape or form, they find an outlet through sports. By his own admission, Dominic Smith didn’t yearn for the 5am wake up call. He didn’t eagerly rise from his bed before the sun had even discussed making an appearance. But with each tired step, he knew that every ground ball he fielded and every baseball he sent soaring from his bat into the dew-covered outfield grass, he was one step closer to avoiding the fate of so many of his contemporaries. The hard work paid off. - The dedication. The discipline. All of it. After starring at Serra High School, validation came in the form of a $2.6 million signing bonus from the New York Mets after selecting the imposing first basement with the 11th pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Shortly after signing, Dominic flew across the country to enjoy significantly more humidity and his first 48 games as a professional baseball player with the Gulf Coast Mets of the Gulf Coast League.


Dominic Smith wearing his customary smile as he rounds the basis during a September game at Citi Field.

Smith helped justify his early selection by hitting .287 with a .384 on-base percentage in 198 at bats as an 18-year old. Finishing up the year with a trio of games with the Appalachian League’s Kingsport Mets, Smith started the 2014 season with the Class-A Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. The young first basemen dropped off slightly in his second year of pro ball watching his batting average dip to .271 with just a single homerun and 77 strike outs in 518 at-bats. He did collect 26 doubles in the 2014 campaign, however, hinting at the gap-to-gap power that would help propel his rapid ascent through the Mets’ farm system. The Mets’ brass was unconcerned with the

slight dip in numbers and promoted Smith to high-A ball where he would join the St. Lucie Mets for the 2015 season. It was in his third season as a professional that Dominic Smith truly began to blossom as a hitter, catching the eyes of the Mets’ front office and their fans alike. Smith slashed .305/.354/.417 in addition to 33 doubles and 79 RBI. It was not just the steady hitting performance that impressed scouts, it was the continual improvement and growth in Smith’s game. Adjustments to professional pitching and a more disciplined training regimen helped shape Smith into a more complete player and improved performance on both offensively and defensively. In 2016, Dominic Smith made the march north, way north, to Binghamton, New York about 4 hours from New York City to join the hometown Mets and take one step closer to his dream. The Mets proved savvy in their promotion of the young first baseman with Smith getting off to a red-hot start and never turning back. The 20-year old played 130 games for the Binghamton Mets racking up 146 hits in 484 atbats, which included 29 doubles and 14 home runs to go along with 91 runs batted in. What

Dominic Smith getting some infield work in during Spring Training in 2017.

was eye opening for the Moneyball-minded Mets was the .367 on-base percentage that continued a trend of disciplined at-bats and a mature hitting approach that had most in the Met’s front office salivating back in Flushing.

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Dominic Smith tracks the ball off his bat shortly after making contact during a Spring Training contest against the Atlanta Braves in 2017.

From there, Smith continued along the same staggered geographical route as his recent predecessors currently shining in the Big Apple, traveling the 3,000 or so miles to Las Vegas to join the 51’s of the hitter friendly AAA Pacific Coast League for the 2017 season. 500 plate appearances and 16 home runs later, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins had seen all they needed to, making the fateful call to Dominic Smith and fulfilling the dream of a little boy from South Central who knew that if he worked hard enough he could accomplish his dream. The day of that monumental phone call was in mid-August with the Mets long since eliminated from the playoff picture but no less interested in the talented crop of prospects they would be showcasing as the 2017 season wound down. On August 11th, 2017, Dominic Smith dressed for the first time as a major league baseball player in the visitor’s clubhouse of Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park. He stepped on to the


impossibly green grass, officially checking in to what would be an otherwise meaningless late season affair. "I was pretty much lost for words," Smith told SNY before the game. "I'm super excited. I feel very accomplished and stuff like that. But I know it's just the beginning." And it was quite the beginning for Smith who stepped to the plate in the 4th inning of a tie ball game and took a curveball on the outside corner and smacked it on the ground underneath the second baseman’s glove. Smith could barely contain a smile as he rounded first base and watched as his new family heirloom was tossed between a few Phillies and rolled into the dugout for safekeeping. The baseball that became Dominic’s first major league hit would find its way to his mother, Yvette whose ecstatic reaction to her son’s life changing milestone was flashed across TV screens all over the country. In a game that featured fellow blue-chip prospect, Amed Rosario’s first major league home run, the Mets were happy to see two key

A skeptical Dominic Smith following a called third strike during a late season game last September.

pieces of their young core start to flex as prophesized. The 22-year old Smith remained level headed after his major league debut, admitting to the inevitable nerves but also the ability to maintain perspective in a big moment. "Your first at-bat, your first ground ball, your first everything, you get a little bit of nerves," Smith said. "But right after that stuff happens, it kind of goes away. Your instincts kick in and you just remember it's baseball." Dominic Smith would have a roller coaster finish to the 2017 season as well as finding himself embroiled in discussions over his physical fitness as the season came to a close. Smith would play the final 50 games with the Mets going 33-167 (.198) with an uncharacteristic 49 strikeouts. He did continue to showcase his game changing power potential by slugging 9 home runs in his rookie campaign. The aforementioned discussions that would plague Smith as the season concluded focused upon his weight and called into question the tremendous work ethic that had allowed him to ascend to his sport’s highest tier. The next few months of the off season would be an intense trial of mental toughness for Smith who was proven no stranger to overcoming adversity. The offseason would include skep-


tical remarks from his general manager and the signing of former All-Star, Adrian Gonzalez to add some serious competition for Dominic Smith to secure a spot as the Met’s Opening Day starter. Epitomizing the all-out attitude that has impressed so many, Smith showed up to the Spring Training Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida nearly 30-pounds lighter than he was last September. With stories abounding about his new physique and optimistic predictions for a reversal of fortune for this year’s Mets, Dominic Smith is in position to assert himself as a true star in 2018. Dominic Smith has used his growing platform to increase awareness for those back in his hometown and the surrounding areas that have been increasingly degrading for decades. With his organization, Baseball Generations, Dominic hopes to use baseball as a vessel to create better individuals through improved exposure and better instruction from coaches that are well versed in baseball and in life. In that mission, Dominic Smith, Baseball Generations and Home Field for Champions are aligned, uniting the four pillars of Community, Wellness, Education and Sports to help create the future leaders of tomorrow.

WHAT BASEBALL CAN LEARN FROM GOLF ABOUT SPORTSMANSHIP Playing the Game In sports that have as many unwritten rules as written ones, enforcing those codes of conduct can be tricky. By Ben Zhang, Duke University ( For starters, you could send them an email or message them on Facebook regarding the behavior you find undesirable. Perhaps you might approach the offending individual in person or ask to schedule a face-to-face meeting.

Alternatively, you could try throwing a ball at them at over ninety miles per hour. As silly as that last option may seem, Major League Baseball players embrace it wholeheartedly. In 2015, for example, Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista made waves for his epic bat flip against the Texas Rangers during the American League Division Series. The next year, the Rangers decided to get back at their newly minted nemesis In Texas’ final matchup with the Blue Jays,

The Texas Rangers' Rougned Odor lands a clean punch on the chin of Toronto Blue Jays' slugger Jose Bautista during an on-field scuffle that broke out during an early season affair in 2016.


pitcher Matt Bush hit Bautista with a fastball. Two batters later, Bautista slid hard into second base, causing him to be socked in the face by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. The ensuing benches-clearing brawl led to several players on both teams receiving suspensions. Amazingly, the madness continued even after the fracas finally died down. The very next inning, Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez plunked Texas first baseman Prince Fielder with a pitch, resulting in his ejection from the game. A fight, a controversial slide and an unceremonious early shower—all of these resulted from one team deciding to hold a grudge for seven months after a man celebrated “too much” for hitting a series-winning home run. Welcome to the strange world of baseball, where the players attempt to keep each other in check using a series of unwritten rules. Such self-policing, as previously mentioned, often comes down to throwing at opposing teams’

players or starting fights. The motivations behind these actions are generally blameless. As retired infielder Greg Dobbs once said, “When you hit a homer, flip your bat, walk 10 feet toward first base and stare at the pitcher, showing bravado, you are disrespecting the other team, your team and the name on the front of jersey. That’s the worst thing you can do.” Encouraging people to not show off and play the game the right way is almost always the right course of action. There have to be limits, however, to the ways in which this encouragement is manifested. Sure, maybe throwing at someone’s head, as the Boston Red Sox recently did to Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, may seem like a good way to send a warning. But what if Machado had been hit in the head and injured? Even worse, what if the severity of the injury had forced him to cut his career short? Such an outcome would be highly undesirable, especially if it resulted from an act of retaliation.

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


Image via The Star

Umpires attempt to keep the peace on the field in the aftermath of the now infamous Odor-Bautista Brawl

The trouble with unwritten rules is that they are often vague and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Some players, for example, feel that you shouldn’t steal a base or swing at a 3-0 pitch when your team is up big. But exactly how large of a lead must you be sitting on before the rule kicks in? Some players use a complicated formula involving “runs ahead” and “outs left,” but it relies on adjustments for different stadiums that are inherently subjective. Of course, you could also make the point that players shouldn’t ever hold back, as theoretically no lead is safe, but that’s an argument for another time. Unwritten rules can also lead to some rather contradictory and hypocritical situations. Take the Blue Jays/Rangers anecdote from earlier. Sure, Chavez deserved to get thrown out of the game for endangering the safety of the opposing team’s players. But, under that logic, Bush should have been tossed as well, especially since he was the one who started the whole mess in the first place. And for a good illustration of the confusing home run celebration debate, check out this quote from pitcher Brandon McCarthy: “If Manny Ramirez hits a home run and does his thing at the plate on the bases, well, he’s Manny


Ramirez. He can do that…but when Ronnie Belliard, who swings just like Manny and does the same thing as Manny after he hits a home run, it’s not the same because he’s not Manny…to me, it’s just so arbitrary.” Baseball’s unwritten rules are a great example of an attempt to preserve good sportsmanship gone awry. A look at the world of golf might shed some light on how to effectively enforce fair play. Golf players are famous for their adherence to the rules, sometimes in truly remarkable ways. The story of Jason Millard is a good example. In 2014, while attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open, Millard may have ground his club in a bunker, though he wasn’t quite sure. As no one noticed, most people probably wouldn’t have given the situation any further thought, but Millard did, even after he successfully qualified for the Open. Five days later, he disqualified himself for his failure to call a penalty. Millard’s tale is surprisingly not unique or even particularly uncommon. In 2012, Blayne Barber willingly took himself out of the qualification process for the PGA Tour. His crime? Penalizing himself one stroke, not two, for possibly brush-

ing a leaf in a bunker. If that seems unduly harsh, keep in mind that the rules are the rules. And those who might suggest that Barber and others should have simply kept their mouths shut don’t understand the history of sportsmanship in golf. As former LPGA Tour member Meg Mallon once put it, “That’s just the way the game is. It started as a gentleman’s game, and it has kept going.

disqualified himself after winning a junior tournament, saying, “I knew right away I couldn’t live with myself if I kept this medal.” Without knowing, he was following in the footsteps of the great Bobby Jones, who, after being lauded for calling a penalty on himself at the U.S. Open (which he narrowly went on to lose), exclaimed, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”

You learn that it is a badge of honor to play the rules and call penalties on yourself. It is a game of integrity.”

So, if people want to encourage good sportsmanship, they should look to create a culture of honesty.

Indeed, golf players past and present, young and old, seem to understand that they are called on to abide by the rules. After Aussie legend Greg Norman disqualified himself from a tournament for using an improperly-stamped golf ball, Tom Kite said, “I don’t think you’ll see that in other sports. People set those standards long before us, and it’s expected of us. And we expect it from the younger players.” Mark Wilson, after narrowly winning a tournament despite self-reporting a penalty, related, “I don’t think I would be here if I had not called it on myself because I would be thinking about it, and if I had not called it on myself, every time I look at the trophy, it would be tarnished.”

Golf players grow up being taught to do the right thing, and they know they will be heavily criticized for failing to meet the standards of fair play. Over time, such healthy peer pressure forges players who are willing to sacrifice wins for the sake of preserving the integrity of the sport. On the other hand, baseball players try to control others through fear, mostly that of being hit. Small wonder, then, that the system still has so many kinks. Former catcher John Baker once said that in baseball, “There’s not a platform for retaliation when you’re frustrated or upset.” Hopefully, if his sport and others make an effort to adopt the ways of golf, there won’t need to be.

Even fourteen-year-old golfer Zach Nash

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HOW TO BUILD ARM STRENGTH FOR BASEBALL: THROWING DRILLS By: Eric Bunnell Throwing a baseball is the first skill players learn. But it's also where trouble starts. Surprisingly, what causes most game-time errors is not poor fielding-it's poor throwing. Defenses are better at fielding the ball than throwing the ball. This is probably because throwing is considered such a fundamental skill that most coaches take it for granted, placing a


greater emphasis on fielding and hitting. No one seems to pay attention to throwing until a game is lost due to a throwing error. To reduce throwing errors, coaches must do more than institute a throwing program with a series of drills. Accountability and accuracy must be made priorities. Accountability. Players need to feel a sense of accountability whenever they make a throw in

practice. This will remind them that every bad throw has consequences. For this to happen, players must make game-like throws in every situation in practice. Putting infielders on the clock during practice drills adds a sense of urgency. Demanding 100% in every situation dramatically increases players' focus on their throws. Accuracy. Consistency breeds accuracy. And the best way to promote consistency is by scheduling throwing drills in every practice. Coaches must commit to implementing them as often as they do hitting and fielding. A baseball throwing program that demands accountability and accuracy is the biggest step a coach can take to reduce throwing errors. But any good program is made great with quality drills. Here are a few drills that would be excellent additions to your program. BASEBALL THROWING DRILLS Ready-Break-Throw

• Players start in a throwing position with their lead shoulder, hip and foot pointed toward the target.

• On coach's command, players break their hands (separate them) and hold for one or two seconds for self-evaluation, ensuring they're in the proper throwing position.

• On coach's command, players throw to a specific point on the target, making sure to fully finish their throw.

• On the return throw, players step with their glove-side foot to meet the ball, jumping into the "ready" position. Alternative: Have a teammate hold his/her glove in different locations to concentrate on accuracy. Changing the location is a good way to stay sharp. Ready-Throw

• Same as " Ready-Break-Throw," except there is no pause.

• Players must still emphasize meeting the ball and getting into a proper throwing position.

• In a further stage, position players can simulate different aspects of their positions during

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the return throw; for example, middle infielders can work on their double play pivot, and corner infielders can work on their relay throw. Quick Release

• This is the next step in the progression. It is great for improving a fielder's footwork and hands as well as accuracy.

• Players make the transfer and return throw as quickly as possible while hitting the target.

• Make this a competition between different sets of throwing teammates. STRETCH IT OUT This allows players to stretch out their arms while improving their arm strength.

• Players start at a normal throwing distance with a teammate.

• After every five throws, players back up a set distance, still keeping their throws on a line.


Repeat the Sequence Once the players long toss, repeat the progression in reverse order, finishing with "ReadyBreak-Throw." Sample Baseball Throwing Program for Practice

• Ready-Break-Throw - 10 throws at 30 feet • Ready-Throw - 10 throws at 60 feet

• Quick Release - 10 throws at 90 feet

• Stretch it Out - 10-15 throws at 100 feet to max distance • Quick Release - 5 throws at 90 feet • Ready-Throw - 5 throws at 60 feet

• Ready-Break-Throw - 5 throws at 30 feet

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SPEED AND AGILITY DRILLS FOR STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING ATHLETES Whether you’re training for strength, endurance, or a combination of both (rec league soccer, hockey, football, rugby, volleyball, or even ultimate Frisbee), the benefit of adding speed, agility, and quickness drills to your fitness routine can take your game to the next level. All athletes can benefit from improved balance, quicker feet, and a faster reaction time, and this is exactly what Speed, Agility, and Quickness (SAQ) drills help you achieve. While SAQ drills are often thought of as interchangeable, it is important to recognize how these components are related, as well as how they differ. Speed General refers to the speed of which you’re able to move your arms and legs, in a way that allows you to move as fast as possible in a straight line. This is often referred to as linear speed. If you notice you have difficulty keeping up with or breaking away from your teammates and competitors, you will likely benefit from adding speed drills. Agility While speed refers to moving in a straight line, agility is the ability to change direction quickly and effectively. If you struggle moving side-toside, or find yourself off balance a lot, agility training will help improve your performance. Quickness While speed and agility rely on a combination of core and lower-body strength, quickness refers to your body’s reflexive reactions. Quickness measures your instant and rapid responses, and drills to improve these abilities usually only


last several seconds. If you have trouble getting your body into position quickly or lack explosiveness in your first few steps, adding quickness drills to increase your reaction time will help you be a quicker athlete. Examples of SAQ Drills and the Components They Target:

• T-Drill: Agility, Speed • Zig Zag Drill: Agility, Speed • Tennis Ball Drop: Quickness, Agility • Chase Drills: Speed, Agility, Quickness

SAQ Drills Provide Tangible Benefits for Multiple Disciplines As a multi-sport athlete in my youth, I was fortunate enough to learn of the benefits of SAQ training early in my athletic career. As a youth soccer player, speed, agility, and quickness training was introduced at a young age. In a sport where being faster than your opponent can make a huge difference, I quickly learned how to use a speed ladder and training cones to gain an advantage over my opponents. I spent many training sessions going through the T-Drill to improve my agility, eventually adding a soccer ball to improve ball skills. Zig-zag drills are common on the soccer pitch for players of all ages, and much like the T-Drill, a ball can be added to improve skill development as well as agility. The Chase Drill is always a favorite of athletes of varying sports as it combines SAQ training with some good light-hearted competition. As I transitioned from competitive soccer to mixed martial arts, the importance of speed,

Cone drills are some of the best ways to improve lateral quickness and footwork, regardless of sport.

agility, and quickness took on a whole new meaning. When evading an opponent with quick reactions and effective footwork can be the difference between getting hit and creating an opening in which to counter-strike, all martial artists happily embrace the benefits of SAQ training. Martial artists not only rely on hand and head reactions to block and slip their opponents strike, they also use footwork in order defend and attack. Being able to change direction

in a split-second is important when sparring, and fighters will learn to move in all directions early in their training. Many martial artists learn to be light on their feet by using a speed (skipping) rope, and there are many drills that help a fighter develop quickness and reaction time, including the Tennis Ball Drop, a favorite in my gym. While soccer and martial arts require a

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Foot speed and lateral speed are two of the most important attributes an athlete can work on during training.

combination or strength, speed, and endurance, I was happily surprised to learn how well my SAQ training translated to my most recent sport of choice: trail running. As I began training for my first trail ultra-marathon, one of the first things I realized was how important downhill running was in order to improve your time. I quickly found that it was an elite trail runner’s ability to navigate technical terrain downhill at a fast pace that separated them from the rest of the pack. As I began to improve my skill of downhill trail running, I soon realized that my background as a soccer player, and then many hours of training dedicated to foot speed, agility, and reaction time was an advantage as I navigated rocks, roots, and other hazardous


obstacles at top speed. While trail running is a sport that does require a mixture of endurance and strength, SAQ training can make the difference as you attempt to achieve your next PR! Regardless of whether you consider yourself a strength, endurance, or combination athlete, focusing on improving your speed, agility, and quickness will help you improve your performance and lead to better results. As with any type of training, repetition and consistency are key. Try several types of drills and focus on the ones you find most enjoyable. Many SAQ drills are more effective with a training partner, so don’t be afraid of a little friendly competition.

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Guide Baseball and softball gloves are an important part of being a great player. It isn’t enough to just buy a glove, wear it on the field, and hope it does its job. You need to break your glove in, take care of it, condition it, and help maintain it so it extends beyond just a single season. And it isn’t just about the cosmetics of a new glove – properly caring for your fielding glove will ensure you realize if it’s in danger of breaking down when you need it the most. In this glove care guide, we’ll discuss: • Why gloves need to be kept clean • Some different ways to clean gloves • The best places to store gloves during the offseason or when not in use

if you want to learn how to clean a baseball glove or softball glove the right way, there are some tools that you can use to help. Those tools include: • Brush • Cotton rag or terry cloth • Leather safe cleaner (it’s important to note that you definitely want to avoid using cleaner that’s made for saddles or shoes, as these leave a slick surface that may gunk up on the exterior or interior of your glove) • Glove conditioner (only those approved for use on baseball and softball gloves)

WHY YOU NEED TO CLEAN YOUR GLOVE Proper softball and baseball glove care is essential to ensuring your glove lasts longer than just one season. Keep in mind that most gloves are made of tough and durable organic leather, but they’re vulnerable to deterioration if not properly maintained. Going through an entire season not caring for your glove will turn your investment into one that’s guaranteed not to last long. And let’s face it, once you spend the time it takes to break in your glove, the last thing you want to do is have to start the whole process over again. HOW TO CLEAN YOUR BASEBALL OR SOFTBALL GLOVE If you don’t know any better, you may think cleaning a baseball or softball glove is as simple as wiping off the excess dirt that builds up, but


The process to clean a glove is simple and can be completed as follows: 1. Remove excess dirt and debris from your fielding glove by gently using a brush or piece of cloth:

2. Using leather safe cleaner and a soft cloth, wipe off any dirt that still remains. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. 3. Use the conditioner to moisturize the glove. You want to apply the conditioner lightly and work it into the glove. Make sure not to use too much, as it could build up over time. This will weigh the glove down and will actually become a home for dirt and debris to gather as well. While conditioning, be sure to get between the fingers and on the inside as much as possible. This will help prevent the leather from deteriorating.

If you notice a lace has begun to rip or crack, you will want to re-lace the glove before using it in a game again or else you risk it breaking, possibly leading to injury. There you have it! Your glove should feel brand new.

HOW TO PROPERLY STORE YOUR GLOVE One of the greatest mistakes a player can make is not knowing how to store a baseball glove properly. Sometimes players just toss their glove in a closet or in the garage, or they leave it in their bat bag for long periods of time. Taking care to store your glove the proper way, both during the season and during the off season, will ensure it’s ready to go when the next spring rolls around. Follow these ultimate baseball glove storage tips to keep your glove in the best condition:


• Keep your glove dry: If your glove gets wet during game play or due to any other circumstances, use a clean, absorbent rag to dry it off and then let it dry naturally. The leather may become a little stiff, but this can be remedied with conditioner after it has dried.


• During the off-season: In the winter months, store your glove in a cool, dry place, or even at room temperature. You should never leave it in your equipment bag, near a heater, or outside for extended periods of time.

• Clean and condition: Use approved conditioners – don’t spit in the glove. This will only contribute to it drying out. • Store with a ball: You should keep a ball rolled in the glove during the off months to keep the pocket shaped.

It’s worth noting that keeping a glove in the bed of a truck or trunk of a car and exposing it to extreme sun and heat can contribute to the breaking down of the leather and laces quickly.


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HELMET PLEASE H ere are the facts, just the facts, Jack!

KEEPING HYDRATED keep your player healthy, happy and playing well


JOINED AT THE ELBOW By Josh Citron If you run your finger up and down the list of the greatest Yankee pitchers of all time you will inevitably stop on names like Ford, Ruffing, Rivera and Clemens. These names are ingrained into the psyche of not just Yankee fans but baseball fans a like as immortals of the game that also happened to wear the slimming pinstripes of the Yankee uniform. On your way down the list it would not take long before your eyes happen on a familiar name, tied for 20th on the Yankees all-time wins list with 91 victo-

ries, Tommy John. Over a 26-year career John accrued an impressive 288 wins which ranks seventh all-time among left handed pitchers. Three times he won more than 20 games in a season, including back-to-back seasons in 1979 and 1980 in his first two years in the Bronx. But for most, the name Tommy John conjures nothing but nightmares and all of those wins have long since been put in the rearview mirror. In 1974 Tommy John, while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and in the middle of an outstanding 13-3 season, underwent the first ever procedure to repair a torn ulnar collateral liga-

Washington Nationals pitcher, Stephen Strasburg


ment using a surgical graft to replace the tendon. Since then, 1,485 athletes have undergone the surgery, which now bears Tommy John’s name. The surgery, when it was first introduced was thought to be nothing short of a prayer, due mostly to the fact that sports medicine was, at the time somewhat medieval and the procedure seemed as outrageous as it did risky. The architect of the surgery was the late Dr. Frank Jobe. Dr. Jobe worked as the team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers and devised the idea for a surgery after considering the ability to remove the palmaris tendon, a tendon in the forearm that is effectively useless, without any negative effects on a pitchers arm. Holes would then be drilled in the ulna and humerus bone and the transplanted tendon to be woven in a figure-eight pattern through these holes and anchored down. Obviously, this is no simple task and to suggest this to a person whose job depends solely on the health of their arm was met with much skepticism. Dr. Jobe shared in these concerns and initially set the odds of a complete recovery at about 1% and waited two years before he performed the surgery a second time. With approximately 30 percent of active pitchers having undergone the surgery already and another 26 more having gone under the knife since 2016, Major League Baseball teams have grown concerned with the growing influx of elbow injuries in some of their most prized assets. Since the early 2000’s an average of 16 major league or minor league pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery each year. That number has continued to rise since the growing acceptance of the surgery and reached a head when a record 46 hurlers underwent the procedure in 2012. With that record on pace to be challenged by the end of the calendar year, Major League Baseball has gone through a massive transformation with how they deal with their young pitchers. Given the average major league salary upwards of 5 million dollars in 2017, the need to protect pitchers by major league teams is as much driven by financial interests at is the health of their employees. For this reason we have seen a growing trend move in the direction of innings limits and pitch

counts in an attempt to limit the workload that pitchers see in any given season. Steven Strasburg was the number one pick by the Washington Nationals in 2009 and signed a record four-year, 15.1 million dollar contract before ever throwing a single pitch as a professional. A walk on at San Diego State University, under the tutelage of head coach and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Strasburg transformed himself from an overweight journeyman to perhaps the most dominant college pitcher since Mark Prior was making waves for USC over a decade ago. With his fastball registering regularly in the triple digits and featuring a breaking ball that baffled hitters and had scouts salivating from the stands, Strasburg seemed to be a on a fast track to stardom well before his name was called in early June. The following year, on June 8, 2010, Strasburg made his much anticipated debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates that saw a sold out crowd pack into PNC Park for what everyone hoped would be the beginning of a historic career. 14 strikeouts later the sports world was abuzz with Strasburg-Mania and many pinned their hopes to the promising rookie and his electric repertoire of pitches. On his final start of his rookie season the baseball world looked on in disbelief as their golden boy grabbed painfully for his right elbow and walked gingerly off the mound. The diagnosis – you guessed it – torn ulnar collateral ligament and a date with Mr. Tommy John. Dr. James Andrews is undoubtedly the most renowned sports surgeon in the world. While he did not perform the surgery on Stephen Strasburg, his list of patients reaches all manner of sport and would be an impressive collection even if it were simply a list of people who you once saw walking down the street. Names like Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods highlight a list that is filled mostly with major league pitchers in need of the dreaded Tommy John procedure. The official team doctor of the Washington Redskins, Auburn University and the University of Alabama, Dr. Andrews is at the top of his profession and can be found on the speed dial of nearly every Major League Baseball team who’s officials watch with baited breath waiting for one of their prized bonus babies to pop baseball’s most infamous ligament. Dr. Andrews has re-

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


ing on the extent of the tear. There is risk involved in both cases of course, but there have been dozens of cases of pitchers choosing the non-surgical route going on to re-tear or further injure there elbows after they begin throwing. Steven Strasburg underwent successful Tommy John surgery shortly after his injury in 2010. The vomit inducing rehab and tedious drills that increase mobility in the new tendon while strengthening the muscles around the elbow allowed Strasburg to climb, or more like crawl, his way back into the Major Leagues to begin the 2012 season healthy and as the Opening Day starter for the Washington Nationals. What developed shortly after the 2012 campaign commenced caused the baseball world to peer deeper into the shifting culture of Major League Baseball. The Nationals announced shortly after Strasburg’s second start that their ace would be held to Matt Harvey throws from the bullpen mound behind First Data an innings limit, that is, they Field at the Mets Spring Training home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. would shut Strasburg down somewhere between 160 and cently discussed with several publications and 180 innings – the actual number was 160 1/3. networks the growing regularity of Tommy There wasn’t a baseball analyst alive that didn’t John surgery not just in the professional ranks offer his or her take on the strategy and the but in amateur baseball as well. He has even kind of precedent it would set for the coming gone as far as saying that the recent surge can generations of the game. Being a sport that be considered an “epidemic” and cites the de- thrives on it’s traditions and a collective velopment of these athletes as a major cause. thought process stuck somewhere in the 1950’s, Another reason for this epidemic according to baseball die-hards shook their fists at the sky Dr. Andrews, is the immediate reliance on the and cursed the Nationals front office for their surgery to fix a tear in the UCL rather than con- caution. Often referencing the increased emsider the use rehabilitation to build strength phasis on ‘100 pitch’ limits on pitchers in games, around the elbow and allow the body to heal many did not want to see baseball fall into the the ligament on it’s own. The rehab after receiv- trend of treating healthy pitchers as if they were ing the surgery is anywhere between 12 and 15 unhealthy. There is no scientific or biological evmonths while the non-surgery option requires idence to back up what the Nationals decided two to three months of complete rest and sev- they would do yet the idea that they should eral months of extensive rehabilitation depend-


diminish we have seen a higher rate of serious injuries amongst major league pitchers. The percentage of innings has dropped nearly 10 percent since 1988 when discussions about pitcher’s workloads began to float around major league water coolers and the amount of 100-pitch starts is about a third of what it was over the same period. In comparison, the amount of pitchers who have had Tommy John surgeries that are currently pitching professionally is five times what it was in 1996. The time spent on the disabled list, or DL, is also alarming given all that we know, or think we know about a pitchers well being. The average pitcher will spend Matt Harvey's Tommy John surgery scar, photo via team cook 73.7 days on the DL in any @bumblelina1 on Instagram given season, nearly half of a major league schedhandle with caution a player they hope to be a ule. Pitching arm injuries have shown in increase cornerstone of their franchise for 10 plus years of nearly 30 percent over the past 5 years as well is not a ludicrous theory. Dr. Andrews was one and can be attributed to many pitchers joining of the few respected voices that spoke out in the once exclusive fraternity of hurlers who defense of the Nationals strategy. "He’s such a throw in the upper 90’s. This can be due in large young pitcher, such a tremendous talent, and I part to Dr. Jobe’s innovations using a throwing think prevention and being careful with these method known as the “Thrower’s Ten” which is high-level pitchers is certainly admirable," Ana series of exercises that strengthens the rotator drews said. "So I would certainly take up for the cuff and tightens the muscles that protect the decision. And I don’t know first-hand -- there’s shoulder. With the workload diminished and probably a lot of intangibles that helped them the injuries on the rise it has caused many exmake that decision. But I don’t think you can perts to conclude that pitcher’s arms are simply criticize that one bit, to be honest with you.” not prepared for the immense workload and toll that a full major league season has on young The thought process behind the strategy is cerarms. With pitch counts and innings continuing tainly that the less pitches any given pitchers to fall in the minor leagues it is difficult to imagthrows in a season will reduce the amount of ine any pitcher who is prepared for the grueling pressure on the arm, specifically the elbow and 30-35 starts and 200 innings plus that are shoulder, and would in turn limit the amount of expected from a major league starter. injuries that these pitchers face. The numbers prove otherwise however and as innings, and When it comes to the intrusion of Tommy John pitches thrown in those innings continue to • Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •


on the careers of young, star pitchers in the big leagues you can look no farther than the unfortunate story of Matt Harvey and his experiences since going down with a torn UCL in September 2013. In his first full season with the New York Mets, Matt Harvey was nothing short of dominant. He led the league in strikeouts, strikeouts per inning and opponent’s batting average and did so with a fastball routinely in the upper 90’s and a slider that, to this day probably keeps a lot of hitters up at night. At 23 years old, Harvey offered a brief glimmer of hope for Mets fans that have waited a long time for a winning team in Flushing. When Harvey was diagnosed with a partial tear in his UCL, there was much debate over whether or not he should undergo surgery or rehab the elbow and potentially pitch in the 2014 season. Harvey of course wanted to avoid the surgery and stated publicly that he was favoring rehabbing the injury. Harvey was sent to the guru himself, Dr. Andrews for his potential options and prepared for the possibility of the dreaded Tommy John. To determine the extent of the tear Dr. Andrews performed a standard test to figure out if the ligament was strong enough to be repaired through rehab or required surgery. The test consists of Andrews placing his hands on either side of Harvey’s elbow, one below and one above, and pushing his forearm and biceps in opposite directions. A healthy UCL is tight; a torn U.C.L. is loose, which makes it unstable. If Harvey’s UCL is unstable, when Andrews pushes on his forearm and bicep, there will be a space between the bones. This is where Andrews’s expertise comes in. He has seen so many of these injuries that Andrews can diagnose, to the millimeter, how unstable the ligament is. Whatever Dr. Andrews tests proved or disproved, Harvey and the Mets’ front office agreed that the best option would be to go under the knife. Add another to the list. At the time of Tommy John’s revolutionary procedure he was 31 years old with 11 seasons of big league baseball under his belt. He had also accrued a respectable 124 wins over those seasons but, unlike Strasburg and Harvey, didn’t


generate the eye-popping fastball and knee buckling breaking ball that make for such good television. He was more of a crafty guy, using a hard sinker to force ground balls and didn’t strike out too many. After a year of rehab, Tommy John returned against the Pittsburgh Pirates and pitched his way to a victory over 7 innings. In the stands was Dr. Frank Jobe, doctor and concerned friend who was as curious as any to see how Tommy John’s new, fancy elbow would hold up. Jobe wasn’t positive the new tendon wouldn’t rupture and uncoil like a spring on the first pitch and told John as much. Much to the amazement of his teammates and competitors alike, Tommy John’s elbow held up just fine. In fact it held up to the tune of 15 more big league seasons and an astounding 164 victories. John finished his inaugural season with his new fancy elbow with a record of 10-10; a feat that more than a few of his colleagues considered ‘miraculous.’ Even with all of the technological advancements and continual research into sports medicine, Tommy John’s success after his elbow reconstruction is one of the brightest examples of the surgeries benefits. Without an elbow problem for the rest of his incredibly long career, John is one of only a handful that can make this claim. But it is not just the health of Tommy John recipients that remains in question after all of the surgery and rehab, it is the ability to be close to or as effective as you were before you received the surgery. Amidst all of the rumors of innings limits and pitch counts, Stephen Strasburg returned in 2012 poised to regain his flame throwing form with his new surgically repaired elbow. His fastball was amongst the top pitchers in baseball averaging a little bit above 95 mph and he was striking out batters at a rate that mirrored his exciting few months as a rookie. However, it is not often that a pitcher loses too much velocity on his fastball after Tommy John surgery, in fact the extensive rehab and strength training often leaves a pitcher much stronger and durable than before the procedure. What often goes missing, and has been the case for Strasburg, is the bite or hard movement on breaking balls that makes it so effective. Pre-surgery Strasburg

curveballs would seemingly disappear as they approached the hitter, darting into the dirt and causing a halfhearted wave of the bat before a long walk back into the dugout. But postTommy John, Strasburg has not been able to find that consistent, hard breaking ball that compliments his electric fastball. Most major league hitters could hit a speeding bullet if they knew it was coming, so without the full compliment of secondary pitches it is difficult to be an effective pitcher on the highest level. The nearly 1,500 men that inhabit the strange fraternity of Tommy John surgery recipients are still struggling to find their identity. While the surgery has certainly changed the face of the

game and given previously useless arms new life, it is yet to be determined if pitchers can regain their pre-surgery form. With so many pitchers – young, strong pitchers that is – going under the knife so early in their career there is certainly cause for concern amongst the brain trust in Major League Baseball. Restrictions and overcompensation aimed at pitcher safety has been the suggested remedy up to this point but has done little to suppress the problem. And with tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars and season ticket sales in the balance baseball is looking to these young upstarts to lead the way for the surgically repaired arms of the future.

• Providing Life Changing Experiences Through Sports •



The Jack 9 Baseball Magazine  
The Jack 9 Baseball Magazine  

This is our monthly digital magazine covering the baseball scene in Southern California and around baseball.