Private Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

What do you think the following five former Major League Baseball stars have in common?

Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez

If you guessed something along the lines of “each of them could do everything well on a baseball field,” then you win! And in everyday baseball parlance, “doing everything well on the baseball field” is called being a 5-tool player, and that’s precisely what those five spectacular superstars were.

All of them had the ability to consistently:

Run fast
Hit for power
Hit for high averages
Field their positions well
Throw the ball like it was shot out of a cannon
Five players, five tools.

How did they do it?
Most 5-tool players become what they are due to healthy helpings of natural talent. But there’s definitely an element of hard work involved, too.

Barry Bonds may have been born with good foot speed, but he refined it for chasing fly balls and running the bases, just as he and the others developed and honed their arm strength, fielding abilities, hitting consistency, and power at the plate.

But what did they do, exactly, to enhance their innate skills? It’s hard to say with absolute certainty what their workouts were, but we have a pretty good idea. So, we’ve put together a list of exercises you can do to become a 5-tool player -- or, at the very least, help you become better, faster, and stronger in these five areas.

Elite speed on defense and the basepaths
Mickey Mantle may not have been a prolific base stealer (although he did swipe 153 of them in his storied career), but he was an absolute speed demon in centerfield.

His range patrolling the outfield is one of the reasons why The Commerce Comet is considered by most people to be one of the two or three best CFs of all time. And to have superior first-step quickness like he had, you need to develop leg power with a mix of strength training and sprints.

RSB recommendations: One-legged Squats (w/dumbbells), Split Jumps, Treadmill Sprints

Hitting for prodigious power numbers
Hitting for power requires a few things, namely, making solid contact, excellent bat speed, and overall body strength.

The latter seems most obviously important -- none of the five guys on our list would ever be confused for some sort of weakling -- but it goes beyond simply having Barry Bonds-like bulging biceps. Lower body strength and mobility are crucial, too, and can be developed through good old fashioned hard work in the weight room.

RSB recommendations: Squats, Medicine Ball Squat Jumps, Medicine Ball Rotational Throws

Making solid contact consistently
It seems simple enough, but what does “making solid contact” mean exactly and is it quantifiable? If you read our last blog, you’ll recall our discussion of barrelled balls -- those balls hit within a certain range of launch angles and above a minimum exit velocity.

Alex Rodriguez -- he of the 3,000 Hit Club and the .358 season-high batting average -- knows a thing or two about barrelling balls and the resulting torrent of extra-base hits (in 2016, barrelled balls went for a ridiculous .822 BA among all hitters). To really find the sweet spot when batting, training for improved balance and core strength is crucial.

RSB recommendations: Single Leg/Single Arm Dumbbell Rows, Hitting off a Tee

Gold Glove fielding ability
Sweet-swingin’ Ken Griffey, Jr. was much more than a yearly Triple Crown threat at the plate. Over his illustrious career, Junior won 10 Gold Gloves and made it look easy, cruising the outfield with top-flight speed as graceful as his swing.

But he also possessed the excellent quickness, body control, and instincts of a first-class fielder, all of which can be enhanced through agility ladder drills and quickness games that help players develop their situational movements, acceleration and deceleration abilities, and body awareness.

RSB recommendations: Lateral/Linear Rapid Foot Strikes, Knee Tag, Heads-or-Tails Tag

Bazooka-like throwing arm
None other than the legendary Joe DiMaggio once said that Willie Mays had the greatest throwing arm he’d ever seen, and the Say Hey Kid’s famous heave to nail Brooklyn’s Billy Cox at home plate in 1951 became known simply as “The Throw.”

The stories could go on and on, and they’d no doubt include tales of Mays’ strength and durability, and make mention of Men’s Health ranking him #32 on their list of the 100 Fittest Men of All Time. To earn that accolade, his workout regimen would have surely included various upper body and arm strengthening exercises.

RSB recommendations: Medicine Ball Pushups, Overhead Wall Toss, Long Toss

A rare breed
In today’s Major Leagues, there are only a handful of true 5-tool athletes. Mike Trout comes to mind, as does Bryce Harper and a few other versatile All-star type players who shun complacency in order to achieve that rare combination of high-level power, speed, and agility that makes them special.

For today’s up-and-comers dreaming of the Big Leagues, RSB can help you unleash your potential and better understand the practice and conditioning that will lead you to a better, more well-rounded game.




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