Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

James Clifford – Seattle Mariners

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James Clifford is completing his 18th year of work in professional baseball including the last four (2012-2015) as the Head Major League Strength and Conditioning Coach and Coordinator of Sport Science with the Seattle Mariners. His involvement with the Mariners began in 1988 when they drafted him out of high school in the 16th round. He passed on their off and accepted a scholarship to play football and baseball for the University of Washington. After four years of college athletics, the Mariners drafted him a second time in the 24th round in 1992. James played minor league baseball for Mariners for six seasons (1992-1997) before joining their strength and conditioning staff as minor league strength and conditioning coordinator in 1998, a positon he held for 14 years.

In addition to his duties with Seattle, James also worked in international baseball for five years where he developed individual and team performance programs and counsel for the Chinese National Baseball Team and the China Trust Wales of the Taiwan Professional Baseball League.

James graduated from the University of Washington earning a BS in physical education and a BA in Human Resource Management. He had a distinguished career as student athlete at UW including earning four letters in football as an inside linebacker and letters in baseball as a DH. As a football player, he led the Pac-10 in tackles in 1989, was named Sophomore All-American, was a member of the 1991 National Championship Football Team and played in three Rose Bowl Games. He played on the Husky Baseball Team in 1992 and was named the First Team All-Pac-10 as a designated hitter.

He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCS) and Registered (RCSCS) Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He also holds numerous other certifications including FRCC, FMS and CPR.

James and his wife of 19 years, Kimberley, reside in Peoria, AZ in the off-season with their three daughters; Kaelyn (15), Kennedy (14) Kinley (10).   His hobby is cooking.

His philosophy of strength and conditioning in professional baseball is as follows:

We (Seattle Mariners) have created a list of needs that we believe all athletes must be able to master in order to enhance performance, increase durability and play at the highest levels in professional baseball. The list was developed with input from the Mariners’ performance team, athletic trainers and skills coaches (hitting, pitching, infield, outfield, and base-running). Every player in the organization is assessed throughout the year and the results are used to develop a personalized needs analysis each player. The needs analysis is then used to help create a targeted program for each player.

His advice to anyone contemplating a career in professional baseball is:

Don’t be afraid to explore new or different ideas. We use the word adaptation a lot in strength conditioning. In most cases we are talking about physical adaptation which know can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful. New or different ideas can be used to help create a mental adaptation process. Adaptation may be uncomfortable or painful, but once you go through it, you will come out of it a better coach.


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