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Written on March 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm, by Eric Cressey
Professional baseball really is an enigma.
On one hand, some professional players are bad-bodied one-trick ponies who aren’t athletic enough to train their way out of a wet paper bag. And, many of them are okay with it.
On the other hand, you’ve got players getting arrested for crimes so stupid that you wonder if they even appreciate the fact that they get to play a game for millions of dollars each year. They’re just so anxious to take it for granted that they let waste it away.
It would be a really depressing picture if it wasn’t for optimism and enthusiasm of the millions of up-and-coming baseball players around the globe who dream of one day playing in the big leagues. And, we DO have some diamonds in the rough in professional baseball who stand out as fantastic role models for these aspiring players with their efforts both on and off the field.
I’m thrilled to say that the major leagues gained another Ambassador of Awesomeness today when the Kansas City Royals announced that Cressey Performance Athlete Tim Collins would be on their opening day roster – and that’s why I’m probably on a plane to Kansas City as you read this. While hundreds of young athletes (and our staff and adult clients) in the Cressey Performance circle alone already appreciate Tim as a tremendously positive influence in our community, with this promotion, a lot more people are going to appreciate just how special Tim’s story is.
The long story short is that Tim was overlooked by every single Division 1 school in the country in spite of being the ace of a high school team that compiled a record of 91-5 over Tim’s four years of school. His high school numbers were absolutely video-game-like, but he was overlooked because he was only 5-5, 130 pounds. Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi came across Tim by accident in the summer of 2007 when scouting an American Legion game – where Tim struck out all 12 batters he faced with a low 80s fastball, but an absolute “Kaboom” curveball. Two days later, JP and the Blue Jays took a leap of faith, and in the single greatest baseball scouting story I’ve come across, signed Tim – who, at age 17, had never left the Northeast – and sent him to rookie ball…the next day!
This is where Cressey Performance entered the equation. Tim had been committed to play at the Community College of Rhode Island on a baseball scholarship – and he was going to be roommates with another one of my athletes. The two had played against one another in high school extensively and stayed in touch – and when Tim got back from his first few months in minor league baseball, this “roommate that never was” encouraged me to reach out to Tim because he thought I could really help Tim. I made the call, and the next day, here’s what walked in to CP on October 12, 2007:
That, folks, is what 5-5, 131 pounds looks like. And, that’s a body that was lucky to touch 82-83 on the radar gun. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though.
That first week, my business partner, Tony, and I took Tim to the track with us to do some movement training. I figured, “Hey, this is a professional athlete; he’ll be able to move pretty well.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tony and I whipped him all over the track. He got beaten by a good 8-10 yards on every single sprint, and spent more time wheezing than he did training. He had the fuzzy dice (curveball), but no horse power in the engine. His vertical jump was 25.0 inches (a peak power of 4497 watts, considering the body weight of 131).
It would have been very easy for Tim to tap out that morning at the track. He could have just resigned himself to being a slug in the off-season like so many professional baseball players. Pitchers aren’t athletes, right? Well, this one committed himself to becoming one.
Over the next three off-seasons, the entire Cressey Performance community watched Tim transform. Each year, his weight and athleticism shot up – and he’s now about 172 pounds with a vertical jump of 38.7 inches (7453 watts – or a 66% improvement in 3.5 years).
More importantly, this athleticism directly carried over to increased throwing velocity and pitching performance. In 2008, he jumped up to 87-89mph. In 2009, it was 90-92, and 2010, he was 92-94 – while reportedly touching a 97 on the stadium gun. Oh, and entering the 2011 season, Tim had a career ERA of 2.26 in 223 professional innings, – with 329 strikeouts (13.3 per 9 innings). And, he just turned 21 in September.
That’s the tip of the iceberg, though. We’ve had lots of guys get more athletic and perform better in their chosen sports. There are a few things that make Tim’s story even more special.
First, of course, is the simple fact that he defied the odds and has made it to the big leagues as a long-shot – when only 3% of players ever drafted ever make it this far in their career. And, he did it as an undrafted free agent signing. Nobody ever crunches the numbers on these guys because, frankly, it almost never happens; they are scouting “afterthoughts.”
So, it’s an awesome story because it meant that every time Tim went out and “shoved” against opposing hitters on his way through the minor leaguers, he also “shoved” against baseball traditionalism. He showed that pitchers need to be athletes, that strength and conditioning really can change a career significantly, and that there are some situations where scouts really don’t know a stud from a dud. And, he has shown – and will continue to show – loads of impressionable young athletes that working hard really does pay off, even while other professional athletes are being lazy and destroying their bodies and careers, or being unethical and taking the easy way out.
Second, and more interestingly to me, I’ve watched Tim mature exponentially as a person – far moreso than anyone else his age who went to college. He was thrown into the real world quickly, and he matured and thrived, coming out of his shell and becoming a wildly popular part of Cressey Performance. The kid who used to barely talk when he came in to train now spends about eight hours a day at CP – between training and just hanging out in the office chatting with other clients and our staff. In perhaps my favorite story, last spring, we watched Tim sell over 90 boxes of Girl Scout cookies for one of our adult client’s daughter. He literally set up a makeshift desk in our office and met everyone at the door. And, even against the objections of CP nutrition expert, Brian St. Pierre, just about everyone obliged because, well, it was Tim – and he makes people smile.
Simply, changing his body and surrounding himself with the right people in the right environment played a big part in shaping Tim as a person. While quantifiable results are certainly very important, these more subjective changes are ones that every fitness professional and strength and conditioning coach hopes for with their clients and athletes. As I see Tim signing autographs, doing charity work, and taking younger players under his wing, I’m thrilled that he’s “paying it forward.”
The Kansas City Royals might not be a favorite to win the American League Central, but there’s still something to be excited about in Kansas City right now: a great guy getting to live a dream to which he has dedicated himself relentlessly to achieve.
Congratulations, Tim. I know I can speak for all the Cressey Performance staff and clients when I say that we couldn’t be more proud of you and happy for you. Thanks for having us all along for the ride!
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