Leading up to the 2008 MLB Draft, the scouting report on high school prospect Tim Beckham fawned: Bona fide five-tool player at a premium position tools galore needs to iron out some things mechanically and fundamentally, but he's got the ability and potential to hit, hit for power, steal bases and stay at shortstop at the big-league level. Unofficially, the word potential means you ain't worth a damn right now. It's a tricky term, which is haphazardly thrown around and inflates egos. Too often, "potential" stunts development because athletes rest too much on possibility rather than on actuality. Fortunately for this potential future All-Star, Competitive Edge Sports exists.
Standing in a group of other minor league baseball players at CES, the baby-faced owner of a 6.15 million-dollar bonus physically resembles a regular high school player. As the workout begins, though, Beckham starts to show why the Tampa Bay Rays tabbed him the first overall selection out of Griffin High School [Griffin, Ga.] in 2008, a rarity for MLB teams.
Since 1990—the year Tim was born—only four other high school shortstops have been selected number one overall: Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Matthew Bush and Justin Upton. Jones and Rodriguez are no-brainer Hall-of-famers, albeit after position changes at the Major League level. Upton, now an outfielder, will be a fixture at the mid-season All-Star game for years to come. Bush, loaded with vast potential and skills, is out of baseball and considered one of the all-time draft disappointments [think Ryan Leaf].
All five players, including Beckham, were viewed as "can't-miss prospects" with extraordinary tools at one time or another. So what is the tipping point between being a Cooperstown bust and a monumental bust?
"He's matured, even from last year when he first started working with us," claims Tripp Smith, CES director of performance. He continues, "I think being in the league has opened his eyes a little to show him there's better players out there; so if he doesn't step his game up, someone else can easily come in and take his position."
Beckham's epiphany that talent alone won't let him fulfill his dreams has motivated the SS to take training seriously. "Today was my first day back, and I was kind of rough around the edges," says the current Bowling Green Hot Rods shortstop. "But you gotta get it done, get back in here and get your work in."
Beckham's daily off-season training includes a full menu of skill development and strength enhancement. Smith says: "We want to address any deficiencies in his game. All-around explosiveness is vital—first-step explosiveness to the ball, explosiveness in his hips while batting and explosiveness off the base while he's on the base paths."
CES focuses on taking what Beckham does naturally and, in a methodical way, polishing the rough edges Beckham admits to having. "Some days we will go heavy on his legs during on-field work, then focus on his upper body development in the weight room," Smith says. "Other days, we take it easy on the lower body during on-field drills, then get a little heavier leg workout in the weight room."
Eighteen years ago, a New York Yankees scout filed a report on a high school shortstop that read: "Five-tool player…bluechipper… a Yankee." That young player, whom the Yankees selected in the first round of the 1992 MLB Draft, just collected his fifth World Series ring. "I watched Derek Jeter all the time growing up," Beckham recalls. "He's done everything I want to do, and he's been everywhere I want to be."
The potential is there.
With every workout, Smith believes in developing on-field explosiveness and improving strength. Following is a typical heavy legs workout for the weight room. He takes Tim through these after on-field drills.
Purpose: The Single-Arm Kettlebell High Pull develops explosiveness through the hips and legs for movement on the field. Since baseball players are constantly throwing, they need exercises that build strength in the shoulder girdle, such as Plate Shoulder Shrugs.
Single-Arm Kettlebell High Pull
• Assume athletic stance with knees bent, back flat and chest high
• Hold kettlebell with straight arm just above ground
• Explode upward by fully extending hips, knees and ankles and shrugging with straight arm
• Pull kettlebell up, keeping it close to body
• Return to start; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 4x6 each arm
Coaching Points: Avoid arching back // Bring kettlebell straight up in front of face // Use controlled movement on way down
Plate Shoulder Shrug
• At sides of body and with straight arms, hold plate in each hand
• Keeping arms straight, drive shoulders straight up to bottom of ears
• Control weight down to start position; repeat
Coaching Points: Never roll shoulders forward or backward //Squeeze hard on each rep
Purpose: Vertimax Squat Jumps develop hip explosiveness and increase overall vertical jump height by recruiting fast twitch muscle fibers. Seated Leg Presses are a slow, controlled movement working on slow twitch fibers. Seated Leg Presses allow Tim to increase the workload without added strain on muscles and joints that can be caused by Squats.
Vertimax Squat Jump
• Attach each cord on Vertimax to hips
• Standing in middle of platform, lower into quarter-squat and explode straight up as high as possible
• Land softly, reload, then fire straight up
• Repeat in continuous manner for specified reps
Coaching Points: Avoid landing stiff-legged // Do not bend over at waist, but instead drop hips into squat position during reload
Seated Leg Press
• Sit on Leg Press Machine with back against pad and feet shoulder-width apart
• Lower weight sled with control, bringing knees to 90-degree angles
• Drive weight up by extending legs to start position; repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Push through heels to avoid stress on knees and ankle joints
Purpose: Landmine Circuit allows for movement in all directions and forces Tim to stabilize the weight with core strength without letting it control him. Bosu Med Ball Side Lunges develop inside and outside leg muscles for stealing and sliding.
Single-Arm Landmine Squat and Press
• Place barbell on ground with one end wedged in wall corner; grasp other end of bar with one hand
• In continuous motion, squat down, then explode up as you drive bar up and forward with arm
• Repeat Squat and Press motion for specified reps
• Perform next set with other arm
Sets/Reps: 2x6 each arm
Coaching Points: Control bar throughout entire movement
• Place barbell on ground with one end wedged in wall corner; grasp other end with both hands with arms fully extended
• In one continuous motion, rotate hips and pivot right 90 degrees
• Return to start position
• Rotate hips and pivot left 90 degrees
• Return to start position
• Repeat rotational movement for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2x6 each direction
Coaching Points: Control bar throughout entire movement // Avoid bending arms
Bosu Med Ball Side Lunge
• Assume athletic stance holding med ball at chest with Bosu to right
• Step right foot onto Bosu and lower into Side Lunge while extending med ball in front
• Drive left off right leg to return to start position
• Repeat for specified reps
• Perform next set to left
Sets/Reps: 3x6 each leg
Coaching Points: Plant sole of foot steadily on Bosu // Keep lunging knee behind toes
Resistance Band Shoulder Circuit
Purpose: Resistance bands strengthen the shoulder girdle at different angles and prevent use of momentum, which dumbbells and plates allow.
Resistance Band Upright Row
• Assume athletic stance with band under feet; hold ends of band with palms facing you in front of thighs
• Keeping hands close to body, drive elbows up until hands reach chin
• Lower arms to start position; repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Lateral Raise
• Assume athletic stance with band under feet; hold ends of band at sides
• Keeping arms straight, raise them to sides to shoulder level
• Lower arms to start position; repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Rear Delt
• Assume athletic stance with band in front of chest; hold ends of band so arms are straight and in front. Band should have tension in it
• Keeping arms straight, bring hands back and to sides until even with shoulders
• Return arms to start position with control; repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Use slow, controlled movements // Perform through full range of motion
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