San Francisco Giants Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic
Interview with Sergio Rojas
Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, San Francisco Giants
PBSCCS: Where is the Giants Baseball Academy located?
Rojas: The Giants facility, The Felipe Alou Baseball Academy, named in honor of Felipe Alou’s distinguished career as a player, coach, manager and executive, is located Boca Chica, DR.
PBSCCS: As the Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, how much time do you spend in the Academy?
Rojas: About 20 weeks over the course of a calendar year.
PBSCCS: How old does a Latin American player have to be in order to be signed by a MLB team?
Rojas: Latin American players can sign on or after they reach 16 years of age.
PBSCCS: US players don’t sign until after the MLB Amateur Draft, when can Latin American Players sign?
Rojas: Signing date for Latin American players is July 2. This date is equivalent to Amateur Draft Day for US players and National Signing Day for high school players in the US. Due to COVID restrictions the last two international classes have signed on January 15th.
PBSCCS: How long after a player signs a contract does he report to the Academy?
Rojas: Players can report so soon as the next day after they sign. In years past they have reported a week after signing, in order to give them opportunity to celebrate with their loved ones.
PBSCCS: Do the players undergo a testing program when they report?
Rojas: Players go through medical and physical exams. After they are cleared, they go through a series of movement and performance assessments to establish baselines from which to prescribe workouts and measure progress.
PBSCCS: Do players reside in the Academy year-round?
Rojas: No. Players reside at the academy for the duration of DSL Spring Training and the DSL Season. During the off-season, they return to their homes. During the off-season they stay at the academy if they are invited for any off-season camps.
PBSCCS: How is the training year divided for the players?
Rojas: Even though the last two international classes have signed on January 15th, instead of July 2nd, the focus of the first 4-6 weeks is still on training. They learn the principles of training, i.e., why and how to train the way we do. Players learn how to perform the basics. We want them to be great at the basics. We know that they can play, or we would not have signed them. The initial goals are to help build a solid foundation, improve coordination, and learn to move efficiently. Then the goal is to help them get bigger, faster and stronger. Our goal is to get them physically prepared and build resiliency for the demands of a professional baseball career.
Players participate in strength training workouts 3-4 times per week and speed development training 5-6 times per week. They also participate in a movement preparation program to learn how to get their body ready for practice sessions, workouts and games.
When the DSL season ends, the off-season program starts around November. We provide an off-season calendar and go over expectations thoroughly at the end of the season and through bi-weekly check-ups. We have a variety of strength and conditioning camps at the academy from December-February. They provide feedback on where players are and how we can adjust training to better prepare them for the season.
DSL Spring Training starts in April and lasts for two-months. We utilize Spring Training to continue physical training and make decisions on programs based off performance metrics. The 72-game DSL starts in June, and we work around the game schedule and continue to make the weight room an in-season priority.
The season extends through August and then the goal is to prepare players for instructional league which can take place anywhere between September – November (Each organization is different in the length of instructs). Training remains a priority during instructs but it provides the performance staff an opportunity to see them as baseball players during practice and games.
Players eat three meals per day at the Academy and are provided snacks. We believe that nutrition is a key to effective, injury-free, year-round performance. The goal is to instill good eating habits, e.g., eating breakfast, consuming enough of the right foods for training, growth and recovery and eating enough calories to maintain energy and increase lean muscle mass throughout the season.
PBSCCS: What is the primary objective of the training programs at the Academy?
Rojas: At this level we strive to take advantage of players training age and push for physical development. If we have the opportunity to train a 16-year-old player for two years, he should be more mentally and physically prepared at age 18 than a US high school draft pick. We have a great system in place and believe we offer an incredible service for our players to help them become the best versions of themselves. We want to prepare the athletes physically, mentally, emotionally and socially to succeed in both baseball and life in the US. Regardless of how well we prepare players at the Academy, Rookie Ball in the states is a cultural shock for many players. They are exposed to different foods and a different language. They must learn how to travel, how to live in an apartment at home and in a hotel on the road. They must learn and understand US laws, regulations, and customs. They also must learn how to get along with American teammates, be a good teammate and understand the “unwritten” rules of the game. Latin players play with a lot of emotion and sometimes with a flair that is not always consistent with the play of their US teammates, managers, and coaches. Players must adjust to their new environment without losing their joy of the game.
The weight room is a natural carry-over from the Academy to the US. It provides them with a space and environment in which they have experience and are comfortable in. Teaching players why, how, and when to workout in the Academy reduces the number of adjustments that the Latin player must make when he becomes a member of a minor league team in the US.
Sergio Rojas, CSCS, is the Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, San Francisco Giants.