It is said that the most difficult act in all of sports is to put a bat on a well-pitched ball. Although that may be true, there are some players in the today’s game who can actually make it look easy. One of them is Bryce Harper, the 21-year-old slugging outfielder of the Washington Nationals. Since being drafted first overall in 2010, he has been anointed as the next great player and hasn’t disappointed. Harper won the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award in helping lead the Nats to their first post-season appearance since moving from Montreal and in 139 regular season games, he hit .270 with 22 home runs, 26 doubles and 59 RBI.
The 6’3”, 230-pounder put on nearly 20 pounds of muscle during that offseason and got himself prepared to win that at-bat confrontation by training with Tim Soder the past two winters. Arriving at the trainer’s Las Vegas facility at 5:30 a.m., Harper— along with a group that included fellow big leaguers and also minor leaguers— went through a litany of exercises in the weight room that lasted in the area of two hours, four days a week.
On certain days, Harper will perform heavy compound movements such as power cleans, squats and dumbbell bench presses. And then there are days that are filled with supersets for both push and pull muscle groups.
It apparently was effective, as Harper finished the 2013 campaign hitting .274, 24 doubles, 20 home runs and 58 RBI, earning a second consecutive spot on the NL All-Star roster. This season, Harper injured his left thumb and had to undergo surgery but should make his return in the beginning of July.
It is stunning to think that it was only a short time ago that baseball players were discouraged to train in this fashion and how much things have changed since then, something not lost on Brady Anderson.
“I was criticized for lifting weights early in my career and actually told not to,” the former centerfielder and current Vice President of Baseball Operations of the Baltimore Orioles says. “When I was a rookie with the Boston Red Sox in 1988, we didn’t have a full-time strength and conditioning coach— and many teams didn’t either. We didn’t even have a gym.”
Times have changed, though, and Cory Snyder sees it up close every day just how much. “There’s a strength conditioning coach at every level in the minor leagues,” the nine-year veteran and current hitting coach of the Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, says. “They send [the players] home during the off-season with an entire workout and nutrition program. There’s a lot of money out there and [the organizations] have a lot invested in these players.”
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