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Red in action.
Red in action. (Photo: Aaron "Red" Hoback and Andrew Emmick, CSCS)

Train like a prospective Milwaukee Brewer, part 1

NASHVILLE -- The crack of the bat. 

The impact of a pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt.

"Take me out to the ballgame …"

Those are the sounds of baseball.

So, it’s highly appropriate that "Music City" is home to The Nashville Sounds, the AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. AAA is the highest level of minor league baseball, the last rung before the Majors. Teams include players from young to veteran and in varying situations like working to go to "the Big Show" for the first time or coming back from an injury.

The Milwaukee Brewers Director of Medical Operations Roger Caplinger, ATC/L, generously gave me access to The Nashville Sounds training team so I could find out more about how The Nashville Sounds work out and train in preparation to become members of The Brewers.

This is the first in a two-part series that will give you access into how an athlete, like a prospective Milwaukee Brewer stays strong and healthy during a rigorous schedule that often demands just one day off per month.

I was lucky enough to witness the Sounds beat the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 2-1, and see, firsthand, the athleticism these guys display on their home turf at beautiful Greer Stadium. Brewers fans should make the trip south to see play at this venue before construction of their new stadium is complete. Once it is, that will warrant another Southern baseball adventure, as First Tennessee Park is slated to be complete by the start of next season.

I also got to see Aaron "Red" Hoback, Athletic Trainer for the Sounds in action, when a ground ball hit pitcher Brent Leach. It was amazing to see the orderly action/reaction when a player was in jeopardy. The main photo accompanying this piece is "Red" making sure Leach is OK to continue play. 

Below are "Five Questions with 'Red.'" He even gave me his prescription for the number one exercise readers can do to "stay in the game." I know I’ll be adding it to my workout regime! 

Look out for part two of this series and please be sure to follow The Nashville Sounds on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on The Brewers hopefuls! According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, Athletic Trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. That’s a lot of responsibility considering you handle the Nashville Sounds, the AAA Team that is affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers. What’s a day in the life look like for you?

Aaron "Red" Hoback: I don’t know if there is such thing as a "normal" day for an athletic trainer, especially one in professional baseball. Day-to-day operations usually begin early for me (around 9 a.m.) with paperwork, cleaning and organizing of the athletic training room, and depending on if I have had any injuries the night before – running players to the physician’s offices to get evaluated or get diagnostic studies (x-rays / MRIs).

Once the documentation work is complete players usually arrive at the field between noon and 1 p.m. for early work and treatment. Treatments at this time include daily maintenance (getting guys ready for the day’s game), and corrective exercise programs. Around 3 p.m., up until game time we are completing pregame work (bullpens / batting practice).

At least an hour prior to the game, it is time to get the starting pitcher ready for the game, and all starting pitchers are different so it can be anywhere from 15 minutes of prep to a 30-minute prep depending on what all they need to get ready for the game. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., (or whenever the game is over) I am in the dugout for game coverage. Post-game until approximately 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., I am completing my medical documentation and post-game treatments.  

OMC: Considering that AAA teams prepare players for the major leagues, I assume there is a lot of emphasis put on the players staying healthy so as not to jeopardize their chances of moving forward. What are some key things a player can do to ensure an injury doesn’t hold him back? 

AH: When it comes to any injury, especially in baseball, it is key to continue with maintenance work. This is a general term meaning daily corrective exercise, adherence to a strength and conditioning program and continued monitoring of the injuries and movement patterns that they might affect. The AAA level is even harder because we typically only have one day off a month, so recovery and maintenance work is vital to staying healthy over the long haul. There is no "one" key thing to making sure that an injury doesn’t affect a player, it is a combination of all things listed.

OMC: Is there a real-world application of question No. 2 for athletic folks looking to "stay in the game?" In other words, what is your advice to regular folks like me, who love working out and being athletic, but don’t want to be sidelined due to an injury?

AH: Paraphrasing from "Becoming a Supple Leopard" by Dr. Kelly Starrett, it is important to be "supple" and ready for any obstacle or activity that is thrown at you at any time. Therefore, it is important for the body to be free of any "speed bumps" and have the ability to use proper movement techniques in such a manner as to complete these activities to the best of our abilities.

In the athletic world "speed bumps" could be something as simple as fascial adhesions, "knots," or tight musculature/lack of mobility in a joint. Doing proper soft tissue mobilization (i.e. foam rolling / trigger point / massage / instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization), and joint mobilization techniques are two important things that must be done in order to prepare the body for proper movement.

These are simple things that can be done prior to activity in order for the body to have "supple" soft tissue and mobile joints in order to get in the proper positions during activities (running / yoga / step class).  Unless it is a traumatic injury or involves structural damage, the majority of "athletic injuries" are soft tissue related and will be positively affected by these techniques.

OMC: As an avid yogi and mind / body practitioner, I’m always interested in the role this plays in professional athletics. Do you incorporate any elements of disciplines like yoga, pilates, meditation, resistance stretching, bodywork, acupuncture or visualization into the work you do with the team?

AH: We do incorporate some of these techniques in our training and strength and conditioning programs. One of our other athletic trainers in Wisconsin has dubbed his yoga exercises as M.A.S.A. (mobility and strengthening activities) so that our players will complete the exercises and not get bogged down by the fact that they are doing yoga.

With our younger players especially we will incorporate yoga techniques to show them certain weaknesses or lack of mobility that they might have from side to side. We will also use certain forms of visualization with our guys to aid in focus, as well as training to control heart rate.

OMC: Can you give me a relatively quick, do-able routine of your favorite preventative exercises that readers can incorporate into their training routines – so, that they can "athletic train" like a prospective Milwaukee Brewer?

AH: There is one move that is a "catch-all" for our players. This move can incorporate almost all phases of strength and conditioning. It is a move that has been around for centuries but has stood the test of time. It used to be an exercise that could also be used as a diagnostic tool or screen to determine what needs to be worked on. It’s called: The Turkish Get Up (TGU). 

This is a move that shows strength / mobility / focus /conditioning and balance. This one move alone can be broken down into hundreds of different moves and alternate moves to focus on certain facets of any one individual’s needs. Beginner TGU should be body weight only with high reps (3 sets x 12-15 reps each side) in order to get proper form. 

Once form is established, progress with kettlebells starting at 15 pounds and then increasing based on strength levels and ability to perform the exercise with proper form. Sets and reps depend on training level and what you are looking to get out of the exercise. Warm up with one set of five reps each side – exercise alone, no weight. Then do 5-6 sets of 4-6 reps each side (with a heavy weight) or 8-10 reps (with lighter weight). The most important key with  the TGU is proper form, form, form!


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