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Insidepitching.com's Q&A with Coach Valenzuela

Nov. 5, 2007

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - InsidePitching.com contacted eight pitching coaches from around the country to give us their input on what types of things they do during the off season, and what impact it can have on developing their staff. We October and November, these eight pitching coaches will answer our series of questions about "The Off Season". Part two of this eight part series will be presented by University of San Diego pitching coach Eric Valenzuela. Coach Valenzuela enters his fifth season with the Toreros as pitching coach. In his first season at San Diego in 2004 his staff led the West Coast Conference in pitching. This past season he led the San Diego staff to the 7th best earned run average in the nation at 3.37 while ranking 16th in the country for strikeouts per nine innigs. Along with that, he tutored All Americans Brian Matusz and AJ Griffen. In addition to being a team USA member, Matusz was named InsidePitching.com West Region Pitcher of the Year.

1. What is the time frame for which your "off season" begins and ends?

Our off season begins September 1st and will end right before our first game which is February 22 vs. San Diego St. With the schedule change and later start date, it gives our pitchers an advantage for preparation.

2. In general, what types of things do you look to get accomplished during the off season with your pitchers?

The off season is the most important part for our pitchers. During the recruiting process, we explain to each pitching recruit the amount of work we do as a pitching staff. Coming from a boxing background, I train my pitchers to outwork everybody. The goal for our arms is to train them for a long season. This means that they are on a very strict long toss program throughout the fall. The goals for our bodies are to get them in the best shape of their lives through heavy weight lifting and heavy conditioning. Lastly, the main factor to this type of work ethic is the prevention of injury. I believe once you train your body at this level, it will also help stay healthy throughout a season.

3. What type of throwing programs do you have your pitchers do during this time period?

The throwing programs are different for every pitcher depending on their summer. There will be different start dates for different pitchers. But once we begin our throwing program, we start slow. We train week to week, starting at 60ft in week one to long toss (which is basically as far as you can throw the baseball) in week four. Our bullpen sessions will begin in week five with a 25 pitch all fastballs pen. Then week six will add change-ups and get our pitch count up to 35. After this, we are pretty much full go. Once intrasquad games begin our pitchers arms are prepared to compete.

4. What types of conditioning do your pitchers participate in during the off season?

Like I said before, coming from a boxing background, I want our pitchers to train like boxers. Our goal is to outwork every school in the country. Our conditioning consists of many long distance runs, anywhere for 2-5 miles. We run hills and do stair training. We push our pitchers to their limits making them feel like they can accomplish anything after our workouts. Sprint work is a very minimal part of our training in the fall, but we will do sprint work as part of our hills workouts.

5. Please explain the off season lifting program that you have your pitchers do during the off season?

The off season lifting program is done through our Strength and Conditioning coaches. The focus for our pitchers is core and leg strength. Our pitchers are on a different workout then our position players. I want our pitchers to be as strong in the core of their body and legs as anyone. Many pitching coaches are against upper body lifting, but I feel that our pitchers need maximum strength throughout their upper body as well. We do upper body lifting, but with that, our stretching routine is outstanding. We stay very flexible and do exercises before and after our lifts to complement our workouts in the weight room.

6. Do you implement any special training that might be considered unconventional or different? (i.e - yoga, mental training, visual training etc.)

I will take our pitchers up to Los Angeles a couple times in the off season to my fathers boxing gym. Our day in LA consists of leaving USD at about 5am, get to the Duarte Boxing Gym at 7am, we start with 15 minutes on the jump ropes, we then wrap the pitchers hands and put the boxing gloves on them. We split them up on the punching bags and the mitts held by the 10 or so boxing trainers. We have station work for about an hour, with punching bag exercises, hand speed exercises, footwork exercises etc.. After our station work is completed, we get on the speed bags and learn how to hit the speed bags correctly. After we complete the speed bags, we spread out across the ring for a very tough sit-up and push-up routine. After the completion of our boxing workout, we will then drive to Mount San Antonio College where they have a famous cross country route in the hills. We then run about a 4 mile run through the route which they call "Poop Out Hill." After the run, we stop and eat a good meal as a pitching staff and head back to San Diego.

7. Do you find the Christmas break hurts your pitchers progress towards the spring?

Our pitchers are given a day to day calendar of their throwing program, conditioning program, and lifting program for everyday that they are gone. I stay in daily contact with them to make sure they are on top of their workouts. Bullpen work is key for this time period. They need to have a catcher to be able to throw with, which becomes the most difficult part of the Christmas break. For the most part, as long as there is something for them in hand and communication throughout the break, it's an easy transition for the coaches and pitchers.

8. How much of an impact can the off season have in determining roles for your pitching staff?

The off season is huge for determining roles in our pitching staff. Our pitchers understand that the off season is a very competitive intense time to earn innings, travel squad, etc.. Our pitchers also understand that there outings and work ethic in the off season will complement the type of season they will have. Now roles can change throughout season time, but how we start our season is directly impacted on how our off season goes.