Feb. 16, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Batting for success.
A group of teenage baseball players have been hitting the weights and practicing their ball skills inside a popular Sunnyside gym during the cold winter months.
The players, all boys aged between 12 and 14, are part of a local travel team called Method Athletic Performance Scrappers that play games throughout Queens and Long Island. The team plays its home games at Frank Principe Park in Maspeth.
Most of the players hail from the Sunnyside/Woodside area while some live on Long Island.
The team has been taking part in two specialized training sessions per week at Crossfit Sunnyside, located at 52-25 Barnett Ave., since the beginning of December—as they try to get an edge over their opponents for the upcoming season, according to gym owner Michael Seewald. The new season kicks off Friday when the team competes in a tournament in Puerto Rico.
The sessions at the gym involve strength and conditioning training, mixed with ball skills, Seewald said.
Each session lasts two hours and is split in two.
One group of players takes part in strength and conditioning training for the first hour while the other group practices batting and pitching. The groups then swap over after an hour.
Seewald has repurposed a section of the gym so the aspiring young athletes can play ball.
He has installed a batting cage in the corner of the building where the pitchers throw. He has also put up nets to keep the loose baseballs away from the gym floor.
“It’s pretty unique because not many gyms offer a service like that,” Seewald said.
“It’s very exciting, I played baseball growing up so seeing these kids have the opportunity to practice their hitting during the winter is great.”
The gym is also equipped with batting tees—providing batters with the ability to work on their technique.
Seewald said that the pitchers and batters come into the gym an additional two times per week to focus solely on improving their ball skills.
The batting cage, Seewald said, has proven to be invaluable since many outdoor fields are unplayable during the winter months due to snow and ice. The facility provides the team with a safe and comfortable space to improve their skills during the off-season, he said.
Seewald said the strength and conditioning component of the session takes part on the gym floor and is carried out by one of the instructors at the gym. It includes pushing and pulling exercises such as bent-over rows, overhead dumbbell presses and bench presses with dumbbells.
“They are not lifting heavy weights, said Seewald. “We’re really building joint stability, shoulder stability, and core strength – all those fundamental aspects of being an athlete so when they go out and play they’re stronger which sets them up for success.”
Seewald said that the players also use air bikes and resistance bands for conditioning purposes.
He said that strength and conditioning training is a relatively new concept for younger players noting that it has many short-term and long-term benefits.
For instance, Seewald said the training makes players more athletic, helps improve performance and decreases their chances of suffering injuries in the future.
Kenny Osorio, one of the MAP Scrapper coaches, said that the players and coaches have noticed significant improvements, noting the training has brought about improvements in speed and endurance
“It’s been very positive and constructive, we’ve been ecstatic with the results,” Osorio said.
“It took the boys some time to acclimatize to the workouts but now they are starting to enjoy it and are not shying away from it which is great to see.”
Osorio said the gym provides the players with all the necessary equipment to train in one spot. Previously, the team used a local school gymnasium that didn’t have any weights or batting facilities.
He said he is eager to find out how the training translates to the players’ on-field performances in Puerto Rico this weekend. Two MAP Scrappers teams, consisting of U13s and U14s, are taking part in a tournament hosted by former New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltrán where they will face off against teams from Puerto Rico and Florida.
Osorio said it is a huge opportunity for the players to put their training to the test and compete against other teams. He said the players will also take part in a training clinic on the trip which will be headed up by a number of former professional baseball players.
“We’re really looking forward to it, it will be a great experience for the players.”
CrossFit Sunnyside will be re-launching its CrossFit Teens program in March, which will focus on strength and conditioning training with the goal of developing good movement mechanics. For more information on that program and others call 917-496-3931