Our 2015 series on learning baseball from those who teach is best continues with this week’s feature on off-season conditioning…from former UD Flyer and Washington Nationals’ reliever, Craig Stammen.

By Craig Stammen….Pitcher for the Washington Nationals

Hall of famer Rogers Hornsby famously said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

In Hornsby’s day, showing up for spring training meant that was the first time you picked up your bat, ball and glove and started getting ready for the upcoming season.

In today’s game, that starts almost as soon as the last season ends.  The game is filled with great players and players working their tails off to take your job.  As a mode of survival, if you aren’t ready to compete on day one of spring training you will soon be the forgotten man on the team.  I feel Rogers’ pain in the winter, as I cannot wait for spring to come, but there is no time to sit and wait!

Although my friends may joke about it, and say all I do is watch Sportscenter, but I actually attend every Dayton Flyers basketball game, I play golf, and hunt in the off-season.  But that isn’t the complete story! There’s plenty of work to be done to prepare for 2015.

While there is a lot of work to do to prepare for the coming season, I actually attend every Dayton Flyers basketball game, I play some golf, and spend time with friends and family.  I take about a month off from any baseball related activities, to let my body and mind heal from the grueling 162 games in 180 days schedule. This is a good time to heal from all the aches and pains and more importantly forget about those hanging curveballs that never came back. This past season ended Oct. 7th, after losing to the Giants in the NLDS.  But four weeks later it was back to the gym running lightly and lifting 3 times a week.  For me, day one of the 2015 season started November 3rd at Terry Bryan Personal Training in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After I get my body back in training mode, which usually takes about 2-3 weeks, I start heading to the gym to lift 4 times a week, with running, swimming, or biking twice a week.  Recently I’ve added racquetball into my off-season conditioning, as anything to keep that competitive edge is a great tool to keep my mind and body sharp in the offseason.

As Thanksgiving passes and Christmas time rolls I start playing catch a few days before the holiday.   This year it was December 19th in Orlando, Florida.  Our family was there to celebrate Christmas with my uncle, aunt, and grandma,  and my throwing partner that day was none other than my younger sister Cheri! It was almost like when we were kids and I used to make her put on the little league catching gear so that I could get my practice!

I start out just playing catch from 60-90 feet for a week and gradually move my long toss farther and farther back.  Currently, I’m long tossing to the point where I’m trying to throw the ball as far as I can.  This is tough during the winter in Ohio, so many times I find myself throwing into a net. In less than a week, somewhere around Jan 26th I will start throwing for the first time off the mound.  I start out just throwing fastballs and change-ups and after about 3 bullpens sessions I start working in my breaking balls.  I make sure my arm is completely in shape before I really start letting it loose and spinning curveballs and sliders,  otherwise I would be susceptible to an injury.   Along with the increase in throwing my workouts are amped up for this last month of training to almost every day!  Florida sounds pretty nice right now!

I hope this helps all the area players getting ready for their own high school or college season.  My report date for Spring Training is Feb 19th.  I usually leave about a week early to get settled into my apartment and be able to train outside and get acclimated to the weather, throwing off dirt mounds, and running on green grass!

By the time I get to spring training my arm and body will be in good enough shape to throw 2 innings in a game. This year will be an extremely important because the competition is high in the Nationals’ bullpen for those late inning opportunities!  My teammates will have put in the time during this off-season.

Now it’s time for us to win a ring!