The minor league baseball (MiLB) schedule is a grind. The combination of long days at the ballpark, bus rides through the night and a 140-plus game season with few off days affects players’ sleep habits, recovery, and training schedule. Although visiting teams are given access to a local gym in the mornings before night games, most MiLB strength and conditioning coaches travel with an equipment bag or travel trunk full of the tools needed to enable players to workout at the field. Strength and conditioning coaches in the Double-A Texas League were asked what equipment they carry on the road and how they implement daily training around travel in the Minor Leagues. Here is what they said:
• Terence Brannic, CSCS (Midland Rockhounds – Oakland Athletics). I pack a MD ball for rotational core exercises, power slams, and throws, and for posterior chain exercises like glute bridges and hamstring curls. MD balls are easy to travel with and work well in both gym and field settings. I also pack a 30-pound sand bag for lower body exercises, such as squats, lunges, and RDLs. Having these pieces of equipment helps me be prepared for any visiting clubhouse or gym situation. As the season progresses and we go back to the same cities, I make adjustments to the equipment in my bag based on what I will need for a given trip.
• Brian Buck, CSCS, RSCC, USAW (Tulsa Drillers – Colorado Rockies). The things that I can’t leave home without include a golf ball, lacrosse ball, peanut, and PVC pipe for soft tissue and mobility work. If I ask players to be diligent with their soft tissue work I must have those tools available everywhere we go. As for strength work, I usually take advantage of the local gym provided for visiting teams, or ask to use the home team’s training facility located at the field. I also travel with an iPad mini to film sprint technique. Visual feedback is important for athletes, especially when I need to identify and correct improper sprint mechanics. An iPad, or smart phone, is a great tool for quickly documenting progress on-the-go. Because most MiLB visiting clubhouses don’t have a budget for supplements, I travel with NSF-approved protein powders, supplements, and nutrition bars as a source of fuel during games and to help facilitate post-game recovery.
• Joe Griffin, CSCS, RSCC (Arkansas Travelers – Los Angles Angels). A few of the things that I never travel without include stretch bands, a suspension trainer, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and mini-bands. Recovery is vital, especially after long bus rides in which players have been exposed to prolonged periods of bad posture and poor or limited nutrition options. Lacrosse balls and foam rollers are great soft tissue tools to help combat bad posture. Stretch bands are used for flexibility training, distraction and band flossing techniques, and to improve joint mobility. We carry a suspension trainer for body weight exercises and mini-bands for hip routines because most box gyms don’t carry these items. You never know what will happen on the road – rainouts, doubleheaders, gyms being closed, or team busses breaking down – but when you have a sport like baseball that is so specific and with such small windows for recovery, you have to be prepared with the right equipment to handle any situation.
• Josh Cue, MA, CSCS, RSCC (Springfield Cardinals – St. Louis Cardinals). I take a 10-pound MD ball, 25-pound weighted vest, suspension trainer, various bands, and a Tendo Unit. We use the Tendo Unit on dynamic effort box squat days at the gym to develop strength-speed quality and improve the rate of force development. I target a 0.9 m/s speed to tell me how much weight a player should use for speed and auto-regulation. When we are not able to make it to the gym, we use the MD ball for overhead throws, backward throws, and scoop throws, focusing on lower body power production. The weighted vest is great for single-leg strength work such as lunges, single-leg RDLs, and single-leg squats. The suspension trainer and bands are used for inverted rows, pull-aparts, band walks, and scapular work.
• Eric McMahon, M.Ed., CSCS, RSCC (Frisco Roughriders – Texas Rangers). I try to pack light, i.e., smaller pieces of equipment with more than one function. We travel with two half-length foam rollers and a few lacrosse balls for soft tissue work. We carry cones and ladders for field setup, speed work, and conditioning, and a variety resistance bands, tubing, and 6- to 8- pound MD balls. Frisco is centrally located in the Texas League, which has its travel advantages, but this means that on most road trips we arrive in a new city between 4:00 and 7:00 am. Because bus sleep is not quality sleep, we avoid morning buses to the gym on travel days. To help players achieve an adequate amount of rest and recovery, while maintaining an acceptable level of training consistency, we include some on-the-field training options later in the afternoon before batting practice. Adjustable DB blocks fit easily under the bus and give us the ability to have more productive training sessions at the field on travel days. We also include MD ball throws and lower body plyometrics as speed and power components of our training.
• Trey Wiedman, CSCS, RSCC (Corpus Christi Hooks – Houston Astros). I usually carry only three reliable pieces of equipment: 60-pound Kettlebell, 8-pound MD ball, and a bodyweight suspension trainer. With these three pieces of equipment I am able to incorporate strength, power, and functional movements into most workouts. Depending on the player, weather, travel, day in a pitcher’s rotation, etc., the workout plan might have to be adjusted to accommodate the conditions. These three training tools allow me to implement the organizational weight training program without traditional gym equipment, and to transport these items around the field and to and from different stadiums via bus.
• Eric Wood, CSCS, RSCC (San Antonio Missions – San Diego Padres). I try to keep things as simple as possible on the road. I don’t like to bring pieces of equipment that are single purpose or redundant. The only “weights” that I carry are a 50-pound kettlebell and a 10-pound MD ball. I like to use tubing, but my favorite tool for portability and versatility on the road is a body weight suspension trainer. With a suspension trainer, players can perform multiple upper and lower body movements, provide their own resistance, and use something that takes up very little space. If we can’t get to the gym in the morning, I try to schedule a time in the home team’s clubhouse gym. I like to use this time to focus on technique and mastery of lifts because, depending on the ballpark, there is often a lack of options and space.
• Austin Driggers, CSCS, RSCC (Northwest Arkansas Naturals – Kansas City Royals) – I travel with two 40-lb kettlebells, a 40-pound weight vest, 10-pound MD ball, various bands and tubing, a suspension trainer, speed ladder, and a supply of NSF supplements appropriate for the length of our trip. We have a large ATA grade travel case on wheels that significantly increases my travel carrying capacity in terms of both weight and volume. The equipment that we transport enables training to remain fairly consistent on the road when schedules don’t allow for a trip to the gym. I also carry a duffle bag with equipment for soft tissue work (foam rollers, PVC pipe, lacrosse ball, etc.). Because we track body weight on a bi-weekly basis and measure body composition monthly, we pack a portable scale and skinfold calipers so that we can monitor the changes that players are experiencing throughout the season.
Thanks to the strength and conditioning coaches of the Texas League mentioned for their contributions.
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