Note: This is the second of a two-part article on two of the men behind the success of Memphis Redbirds first baseman Matt Adams, his hitting and performance coaches. To read part one, click here.
Ever since he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 23rd round in June 2009, Matt Adams has been listed in club’s media information materials at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.
Having seen the first baseman many times on the field and in the clubhouse, including last November during the Arizona Fall League, I knew 230 was substantially out of date.
I didn’t know how far off until I spoke with Rob Oshinskie. The owner of Victory Sports Performance and Fitness in State College, Pennsylvania and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist first began working with Adams after the slugger returned home from the AFL.
Oshinske pulled no punches about where Adams began and where he ended up.
“Matt was 284 the first day he came in here,” Oshinskie recalled. “When he left for spring training, he was 259.”
|Adams last fall|
How Adams took off those 25 pounds while gaining muscle in three short months is a testimony to his renewed commitment to obtain (and now regain) his projected spot as a major leaguer.
The focus of part one of this article, Adams’ hitting coach Justin Hazelton, acknowledges the benefit of this aspect of the first-baseman’s 2012 preparation.
“Matt’s relationship with Rob really paid off big time this winter,” Hazelton noted. “He made the 25-mile drive to work out with Rob every single day and he rarely missed it. He committed himself. That was really a big thing. He trimmed down and that helped his swing, too. He gained some muscle, too. Rob did a great job.”
Oshinskie explains how they got started.
“We consider ourselves performance coaches. We do an initial evaluation that is quite lengthy and involved,” he said. “We try to determine where his body is experiencing imbalances and essentially from an exercise perspective, what his priorities are going to need to be, taking that into account and taking into account Matt’s training history, which actually was quite limited. He had not done a lot of off-field training prior to the winter.
“We determined his priority this off-season was to significantly increase his core strength. He is continuing to do my core program while he is with the Cardinals but he is doing other work with the Cardinals strength and conditioning coaches,” Oshinskie noted.
As noted above, shedding some of those extra pounds was also a key element of the off-season plan.
“The other priority was to get weight off,” Oshinskie said. “I told Matt and his agent pretty emphatically that if we were going to say the one thing that was going to have the greatest impact on his off-season preparation, it was going to be getting his weight down.”
There was a lot to accomplish in a relatively short period.
“Off-season training, particularly for baseball players, is limited,” the performance coach said. “In some people’s view, three months is a pretty long time, but in reality, it isn’t much time at all.”
It wasn’t just about getting Adams in shape, but also to send the Cardinals a signal that he was serious about his preparation.
“We wanted him to go into spring training and for the Cardinals staff to be confident that Matt had worked hard,” Oshinskie said. “We wanted that to be evident that his body had changed and that he had spent a lot of time doing that and whatever they threw at him from a practice standpoint, we wanted him to look as though he could continue. He wasn’t getting winded. We just really wanted the right message to be sent to the coaches.”
|Adams on the bases|
The workouts were structured but also varied. Each element had its purpose while always ensuring not to conflict with Adams’ skill development work with Hazelton scheduled most evenings.
“It was three days of strength work with flexibility and core work being done on those days,” Oshinskie said. The way those workouts were designed, they were at a fast pace with exercises that we call complex together, which meant there was a very high demand on his body. They were pretty rigorous workouts.
“On the other days, he would do some form of conditioning, which in light of his body size and the upcoming season, we did a lot of sled pushing and sled dragging. That may seem more appropriate for football players, but the reason why we do it with athletes like Matt is that there is a limited amount of joint trauma. So we can really tax them without wearing out hips, knees and ankles, so they can enter the season fresh,” the performance coach said.
Adams knew the medicine wasn’t always tasty, but it was good for him.
“Rob put me through a good quality workout each day,” Adams noted. “The sled work wasn’t fun, but I loved the routine.”
There were other athletes, amateur and professional, on hand to drive Adams to the max.
“Matt was doing training sessions with a guy who was doing (NFL) combine prep this year,” his performance coach said. “Those two would do their conditioning sessions together and pushed each other pretty hard. We also had some of our college guys in over Christmas and again over spring break. It is always a good motivator to be working with other guys, so we tried to make that happen as often as possible.”
For Adams, the discipline inherent in the program was ideal.
“The big advantage was knowing what to do training-wise,” the first baseman said. “The last two years, I had pretty much gone on my own with the Cardinals gave me but I didn’t have someone with me every day. This year, having Rob was big. He took the Cardinals’ and his own program together.”
Oshinskie isn’t just a coach. He is also a fan.
“It has been so exciting because of the quality of guy that Matt is,” he said. “When you have a relationship like we do with our athletes, you get excited for any of them to be successful, but when it is somebody like Matt, it is a whole other level. Here is a guy who genuinely, genuinely cares about his family. Genuinely cares about his friends and those relationships, genuinely and deeply cares about the community he grew up in."
Despite all the assistance, Adams receives the credit for being a self-made man.
“Honestly, he is kind of an All-American story – a guy who was self-admittedly not a D-I player out of high school, continued to work and got better, had a great Division II career and continued to plug along and keep the faith,” Oshinskie said.
Hometown pride clearly shows through, but not in an exploitative way.
“To sum it all up, everybody is excited about Matt,” the performance coach explained. “Everybody is proud of Matt. I don’t think it is your typical people following some kind of a gravy train with a pro athlete. The people around here got to know Matt and what he is really about. People were excited because of the quality of guy he is. It is a great story and we want to help Matt keep plugging along.”
For his part, Adams is ready for more sled-pulling.
“Rob will set up the program for me this winter, too,” the slimmer slugger said.
You can bet large parts of Pennsylvania will be watching with considerable interest and pride.
(Remember, click on the link to read part one of this series with Adams’ hitting coach Justin Hazelton.)
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