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Arms race: Position players ready if needed on mound

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All baseball players can throw. Pitching is something completely different.

Both the Columbus North and Columbus East high school baseball teams finished successful seasons in the spring, but even with some rather deep pitching rosters the search for players who can throw strikes always continues.

When rainouts condense the schedule and place a burden on those pitching staffs, it’s nice to find a player who has had at least some experience on the mound.

This summer, former Columbus North pitching coach Trevor Baty has been working with a couple of players who might log some innings next spring.

Kyle Weiss (East) and Hunter Liggett (North) are both successful position players who are headed into their junior seasons. Weiss hit .412 for East, while Liggett batted .341.

Weiss threw 91/3 innings last season, putting together a 2-0 record and a 2.25 ERA. However, he was far down the rotation.

Liggett didn’t throw at all and might not next season, either. However, he will have some innings under his belt this summer in case the Bull Dogs need an extra pitcher.

Whether or not they pitch next high school season, they are getting some first class instruction as they compete in a series of summer tournaments (nine or 10) with their traveling team.

Baty had been coaching the Indiana Redbirds in travel ball and working with college and pro pitching prospects. He was going to take this summer off, but the 16U Indiana Outlaws Red team needed a coach.

“The main thing you get out of the summer is the recruiting side of it,” Baty said. “There are a lot of college coaches who are out and about.”

What scouts aren’t going to see on the Outlaws are natural pitchers. “We have just one kid on the team who is a pitcher only,” Baty said.

But if players like Weiss and Liggett are going to throw, they have to follow all the training regimens that keep pitchers, and their arms, healthy.

“I keep a serious eye on how kids are throwing,” Baty said. “During the week in the summer I don’t have many practices, so throwing and conditioning is something they have to put in on their own.”

One of the drills involves working with Thera-bands, elastic tubes that offer resistance when pulled.

“It helps give the pitcher more velocity,” Baty said. “They work all angles of their arm when they use the bands. It can wear your arm out after stretching for awhile.”

Baty also has his pitchers work with throwing softballs and tennis balls. It creates an overload and underload system. “It deals with weight and power,” Baty said. “The softball weighs a little bit more than a baseball and is bigger, while a tennis ball gives

the pitcher a lighter feel when they throw, giving them more speed.

“Both methods help build the strength.”

Weiss said the workouts have made his arm more powerful.

“He gives us different methods of (training), whether that is with the bands or with softballs, so we get the all-around treatment when it comes to working our arm.

“I pitch every tournament about seven or eight innings, so my arm is usually tired,” Weiss said. “I try to rest during the week, maybe playing pitch and catch with friends, but when I don’t pitch I usually lift or condition.”

Liggett said the strenuous pitching of the summer can take a toll.

“In an average tournament, your team plays three to four games,” Liggett said. “It can wear your arm out pitching in at least two of those games. At the end of the tournament, you just want to rest.”

It is the current state of baseball that the players don’t get to rest after the high school season.

Most players have a heavy schedule throughout the summer.

“Once the summer is over, it’s the best time for them to take a couple of months off,” Baty said. “But if kids are going to play fall baseball, they need to take October through December off. Generally, there is not a lot of throwing during that time.”

Liggett said conditioning is a big factor this summer as he works on the mound. “I usually do treadmill workouts,” he said. “It could be long distance or sprints, but one of the keys to being a better pitcher is good conditioning, because you can tire after throwing a good number of pitches.”

Weiss said he will continue to follow Baty’s pitching plan. “I plan on implementing Coach Baty’s workouts during the fall and winter,” Weiss said. “They’ve helped me throw faster and harder, and it will help me become a better pitcher for my team.”

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