"I can't rely on talent alone to make it to where I need to be," said Skip Schumaker as he entered the batting cage for an off-season hitting session.
Where he needs to be, well, sometimes even Schumaker doesn't know. That call comes from the manager, who seems to play the six-year Cardinal veteran anywhere and everywhere on the field.
Whether he's at second base, the position he moved to in 2009, or in one of the corner outfield spots, Schumaker is ready to answer the call—ready because he relies on a comprehensive approach to training that transfers his weight room work directly to the skills of the game.
Schumaker's program applies baseball skills—hitting, fielding, throwing and running—to nearly every movement and lift. Here's a snapshot of how it works.
The Skill: Hitting
For more power at the plate, Schumaker performs exercises that simulate the explosive movement needed to hit a baseball, driving through his legs, hips and core to generate force.
In the Weight Room: Sledgehammer Smashes
- Grasp eight- to 10-pound sledgehammer and assume batting stance with tire to left
- Explosively drive sledgehammer into tire; repeat for specified reps
- Switch hands and perform on opposite side
Sets/Reps: 2x12 each side
Coaching Points: Grip sledgehammer firmly // Drive through legs, hips and core // Transfer energy through core to drive sledgehammer
On the Field: Tee Drill With Donut
For improved wrist and grip strength, as well as quicker bat speed, Schumaker hits roughly 50 balls off a tee with a donut on his bat before each game. "I'm not trying to kill the ball, I'm trying to hit line drives up the middle," he says. Once complete, he removes the donut and performs regular tee drills. Throughout the drill, he focuses on using his hands and tries to avoid getting his body involved.
The Skill: Baserunning
For more explosive drive action from the batter's box or leadoff position, Schumaker performs Three-Switch Mountain Climbers, which require him to drive his knees while stabilizing on a physioball.
In the Weight Room: Three-Switch Mountain Climbers
- Assume Push-Up position on physioball
- Drive knees to elbows in alternating, 1-2-3 fashion
Sets/Reps: 2x12-15 total touches
Coaching Points: Explosively drive knees up // Keep toes pulled up toward shin // Maintain body control
On the Field: Losing the False Step
Core strength and stability give Schumaker better balance on the base paths and, more important, help him avoid the false step. By eliminating the false step, he's less likely to be caught leaning toward the base he's attempting to steal. From the leadoff position, he opens up his right foot, shifts his weight onto his right leg, and then slightly lifts the heel of his right foot.
The Skill: Fielding
Resisted-assisted agility training improves Schumaker's ability to generate force and accelerate to field a ground ball. To reinforce proper movement patterns, Schumaker sticks the movement on the final rep, holding that position for one count.
In the Weight Room: Resisted-Assisted Fielding Drill
- Assume ready position with partner providing resistance from left
- Shuffle right five yards while partner provides steady resistance
- Drop hips and lower into fielding position
- Drive up and shuffle left; repeat for specified reps
- Perform in opposite direction
- Repeat drill with forward-backward movement
Sets/Reps: 2x4 each direction
Coaching Points: Keep feet forward and glove in ready position // Stick fielding position, holding for one count for final rep of each set
On the Field: Charging Ground Balls
Fielding a slow-rolling ground ball barehanded is "a complete do-or-die play," Schumaker says, and thus, should be avoided. The safest play is fielding the slow-roller to your glove side. When charging forward, stay low and keep your eyes on the ball all the way into the glove.
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