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Written on January 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm, by Eric Cressey
On March 31, 2011, Cressey Performance athlete Tim Collins made his major league debut on opening day for the Kansas City Royals. As one of the shortest players in Major League Baseball, Tim made for a great story, especially considering he was an undrafted free agent sign who never received interest from any college baseball programs, let alone Division 1 schools. In light of this unlikely ascent to baseball’s biggest stage, Tim’s story was featured on Yahoo Sports, MLB.com, and Men’s Health, and I also wrote up this post, which was among my most popular of all time. By the end of the day, Tim was trending worldwide on Twitter when my business partner and I went out to dinner with Tim and his folks to celebrate his big-league debut – even though nobody in downtown Kansas City recognized him outside of his uniform.
Not surprisingly, Tim’s phone was bombarded by text messages and phone calls all that afternoon and evening. However, I never could have imagined that we, too, would get bombarded with requests after Tim got to the show. Since that date, we’ve received hundreds of emails (in addition to some phone calls to the office, one of whom asked to speak with Tim – in the middle of July while he was in-season) that all essentially go like this (this is copied and pasted):
“Hi, I am a 5-7 lefty pitcher that also weights 170lb but only throws 80 mph. I read the articles about Tim Collins and was wondering if you could send me the workouts that he does in the off-season with you because I’m just like him. What leg exercises/lifts did he perform. Also did he just focus on legs, core and light upper body. If I lifted upper body I get really stiff because I have a similar stature like Collins, so did he basically avoid upper body lifts or did he just perform light lifts on the upper body. Finally after I lift I have been running a mile after that to loosen up my muscle to stay flexible, is that a good or bad idea. Thanks.“
Now, don’t get me wrong; I think it’s absolutely awesome that Tim’s story has inspired guys to want to work hard to achieve their goals in spite of their stature – and we’ve certainly received loads of comments from folks who always put a smile on my face in this regard. However, it frustrates (and entertains) me to think that some guys assume that they are just a program (actually, five year worth of programs) away from throwing 97mph and pitching in the big leagues. Programs are just a bunch of words and numbers typed into Microsoft Excel and printed out; it’s how they’re carried out that really matters. Additionally, there is a lot more to long-term baseball success than just following a strength and conditioning program; you also have to prepare on the baseball side of things and attain a skill set that differentiates you. To that end, I thought I’d take this time to highlight 21 reasons you’re not Tim Collins.
1. You don’t have Tim’s training partners.
Tim’s had some of the same training partners since back in 2007, and in addition to pushing him in the gym, they’ve also served as a network for him to share ideas and solicit feedback. If you just do “his programs” in a commercial gym by yourself (with obnoxious Nicky Minaj music in the background), you’re not going to get the same outcome. True story: in the fall of 2009, Tim trained alongside Paul Bunyan. This experience gave him the size, strength, and courage needed to grow a beard that would become a beacon for humanity in Kansas City and beyond.
2. Your beard is not this good.
Everyone knows that beards improve the likelihood of baseball success, not to mention all-around happiness in the rest of one’s life. I can’t send you a strength and conditioning program that will make your facial hair grow.
3. You don’t put calories in the right place like Tim does.
Tim can eat a ton of food and a LOT more of it goes to muscle than fat. Just because you’re 5-7, 150 pounds and left-handed doesn’t mean you won’t become a fat slob if you crush 8,000 calories a day. Sorry.
4. You don’t have Tim’s awesome support network.
Tim is fortunate to have a great family, from his parents, to his sisters, to his fiance. This is especially important for an undrafted free agent who didn’t get much of a signing bonus. His parents put a roof over his head and fed him while he worked his way through the minor leagues.
More significantly, though, people don’t realize that the foundation of becoming a big leaguer doesn’t come from a training program; it comes from the values that are instilled in you by those around you when you’re young. As a perfect example, Tim’s father, Larry, is one of the hardest-working guys you’ll ever meet. He teaches, has a painting business, and even just accepted a prestigious award for outstanding community service in the Worcester area. A few sheets of paper with exercises, sets, and reps written on them won’t foster the kind of habits that will get you to “the show.”
5. You probably don’t enjoy the process like Tim does.
Tim likes training. In fact, all of our clients knew Tim well before he made it to the big leagues, as he was always at the gym. He has been putting in eight hour days of hanging around the office (on top of his training) for five years now. If you don’t enjoy training, you probably around going to become a gym rat. And, if you don’t teach yourself to enjoy the training process, your chance of getting to your ideal destination will surely be diminished. This was taken at 7pm on a Tuesday night, as a frame of reference:
6. You might not have Tim’s luck.
Then Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi “discovered” Tim by accident when he was out to scout another player. How many of you have GMs just “pop in” to your Legion games – and conveniently do it on a day when you strike out 12 straight guys?
7. Your name isn’t Matt O’Connor.
Meet Matt O’Connor, Cressey Performance athlete and student at Emory University. He is sometimes mistaken for Tim when he’s at CP.
If we were going to pick anyone to be “just like Tim Collins,” it would be Matt – purely for efficiency’s sake.
8. You might not have a switch you can flip on and off.
One of the things most folks don’t know about many high level lifters is that they joke around all the time during training sessions. When I was lifting at one of the best powerlifting gyms in the world, guys were always busting each other’s chops between sets. However, when the time comes to move weights, they get very serious very quickly. They know how to flip the switch on at will.
However, they also know how to turn the switch off when they don’t need it. This is true of a lot of the most successful baseball players I’ve encountered; they leave work at work. The guys who are constantly “on” and let the game consume their lives often have bad relationships with teammates and stress themselves into bad results.
I think part of what has made Tim successful – especially as a relief pitcher – is that he can turn his brain and his body on at a moment’s notice, but knows how to go back to “normal Tim” when the time is right.
9. You probably don’t even have a bulldog, and if you do, I guarantee you that his underbite isn’t this awesome.
10. You don’t have Tim’s curveball.
I actually remember reading somewhere that Tim’s curveball had more top-to-bottom depth than any other curveball in Major League Baseball, and I spoke to one MLB advanced scout who said he rated it as an 80. Keep in mind that average fastball velocity is higher in Low A than it is in the big leagues. Tim’s velocity improvements might have been a big part of him advancing through the minor leagues, but he doesn’t even get his first opportunity unless he has a great curveball. And, no, I don’t have his “curveball program” to send you.
11. You don’t have Tim’s change-up.
If Tim’s curveball is what got him to the big leagues, it was his change-up that has kept him there. Interesting fact: he threw two change-ups in the 2010 season – and both led to home runs. It took a lot of work to develop the change-up he has now. But you just need his programs. Riiiight.
12. You can’t ride a unicycle.
I don’t know of the correlation between unicycling ability and pitching success, but there has to be something there.
13. You might not respond to success like Tim has.
I often see one of two things happens when guys are successful in pro sports, and everyone comes out of the woodwork asking for something. They either a) trust everybody or b) trust nobody. I think Tim’s done a great job of finding a happy medium. He puts his trust in others and doesn’t second guess them, but still guards his network carefully.
14. You might not be as willing to make sacrifices as he is.
This might come as a surprise, but Hudson, MA really isn’t that beautiful in the winter. Most pro guys move to Arizona, Florida, or California in the off-season, but Tim sacrifices that lifestyle to train with us and be close to the support network I mentioned earlier. Asking to just have a program (actually, 50+ programs) emailed to you means that you aren’t willing to make sacrifices on that level, which leads to…
15. You wouldn’t be doing your program in the same training environment.
I know a lot of pro guys who struggle to find a throwing partner in the off-season. If that’s an issue, it’s a safe assumption that they don’t exactly have many (if any) training partners or a good training environment in which to execute the program, either. You don’t just need the right people; you need quite a few of them, with the right equipment at your fingertips. At risk of sounding arrogant, I think we’ve done a great job of creating that at CP.
16. You don’t have just the right amount of laxity.
Congenital laxity is a big consideration in training throwing athletes. Some guys have naturally looser joints, while others tend to be very stiff. The really “loose” guys need more stability training and little to not flexibility work, while the tight guys need a hearty dose of mobility drills. Generally speaking, the best place to be (in my opinion, at least) is middle-of-the-road. Tim falls right there, with a small tendency toward being a bit more loose, which favors his aggressive delivery.
17. You don’t throw to a left-handed catcher in the off-season.
And, even if you do, your left-handed catcher probably doesn’t have a mitt with his name on it. It’s definitely a crucial part of the Tim Collins developmental experience.
18. You probably can’t score a 21 on the Functional Movement Screen.
Many of you are probably familiar with Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen, a seven-part assessment approach used in a number of fitness and strength and conditioning settings nowadays. A perfect score is a 21, but you don’t see it very often – usually because everyone gets dominated by the rotary stability test, where a perfect score (3) is essentially a same-sided birddog. The first time I saw Tim drop to the floor and do this effortlessly, my jaw just about hit the floor. Luckily, he can repeat it on command like it’s nothing, so I snapped a video (this was the first try, with no warm-up).
He’s scored a 21 on this two spring trainings in a row – and that implies that he actually moves quite well. Most people don’t need his program, as they have a lot more movement quality issues to address.
19. You ice after you throw.
Tim iced after pitching one time, and hated it; he’ll never do it again. Not everyone is the same, though; some guys swear by it. You might be one of those guys.
20. You’ve never personal trained a nine-week old puppy.
21. You “muscle” everything.
One of the traits you’ll see in a lot of elite athletes is that they don’t get overly tense when they don’t have to do so. If you’re squatting 500 pounds, you want to establish a lot more rigidity, but if you’re participating in the vast majority of athletic endeavors, you want effortless, fluid movement – almost as if you aren’t trying. If you just tense up and try to muscle everything, it becomes harder to take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle. Teaching an athlete to relax is challenging – but I never had to even address it with Tim; it was something he just “had.”
There’s a saying in the strength and conditioning world that “it’s easier to make a fast guy strong than it is to make a strong guy fast.” I think this quote applies perfectly to Tim’s development. Not everyone has that natural reactive ability from the get-go, so different training approaches are needed for different individuals.
Again, in closing, I should emphasize that it’s great that Tim has become an inspiration to shorter pitchers to pursue their dreams. However, as is always the case, young athletes simply following the exact training programs of professional athletes is a bad idea, as these programs may not be appropriate for their bodies or point on the athletic development continuum. To that end, I encourage all young athletes to educate themselves on how they are unique – and find the right people and programs to pursue their dreams in accordance with those findings. And, for the record, Tim agrees!
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