Evan Longoria's Four Keys to Better Baseball
Evan Longoria's baseball ability had its origin in a top-secret, subterranean bunker a few miles outside of Bellflower, Calif. The dramatic moment included the following announcement, made to a handful of middle-aged men in white lab coats: "Gentlemen, we can build him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first perfect baseball player. Evan Longoria will be that man. Better than he was before. Better... stronger...faster."
OK, two quick confessions. First, only part of that scenario is true (Evan is from Bellflower, Calif.). Second, yes, we "borrowed" the announcement from the opening voiceover of the 1970s smash-hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man.
Admittedly, Evan's development into one of the most talented athletes in baseball was much less dramatic—consisting, as it did, of hard work, smart training and sharp focus on the crucial elements of athleticism—but you get the point. We've seen the future of Major League Baseball, and his name is Evan Longoria.
In three years, Evan went from being a high school senior without a single scholarship offer to the third overall selection in the 2006 MLB Draft. Two short years later, he had become a full-fledged, record-breaking, bomb-smashing MLB superstar.
"I wasn't overlooked, I just wasn't that good of a high school player," Evan explains. His early lack of prowess on the diamond was due largely to his not having the training knowledge to maximize his ability. "I wasn't working out very sport-specific," he recalls. "I was doing a lot of Bench Presses and Dumbbell Curls, the normal stuff that any kid does at that level, just focusing on trying to get a big, bulky body."
After taking his game to Rio Hondo Community College, 20 minutes down the road from Bellflower, Evan began his transformation. During the 2004 season, he caught the attention of both college and MLB scouts by hitting .430, growing two inches and adding 25 pounds of lean, functional mass. Like many programs, Division-I Long Beach State was sold, and they offered Evan a scholarship.
After a couple of mightily impressive seasons at Long Beach State (hitting .320 and .350 respectively) and a monster summer season in the renowned Cape Cod League, Evan had earned himself a front-row seat for the 2006 Draft. His breakneck development continued as a pro, and by the end of the 2008 season, Evan had won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and sent a bevy of postseason bombs into the bleachers of Tropicana Field. His success continued into the 2009 season, beginning with a historic tear consisting of driving in 27 runs in a 12-game span.
The unsubtle shift in Evan's game while developing in college and the minors directly coincided with his realization that hard work was a necessary ingredient to success in the Bigs. "I saw so many guys down in the minors, and thought 'there's no way this guy is not a Major League player,' recalls the two-time All-Star. "But some of those guys couldn't find it within themselves to give themselves that drive and dedication to make it."
As Evan's game got better, so did his training. "I know a lot now that I didn't know then," he says. "Now I'm focused on trying to build lean muscle and keep my body as flexible and agile as I can."
That focus is the origin of the four key training components that have helped Evan build himself better... stronger... faster.
To remain at the top of professional baseball, Evan needs to handle the 162-game grind without succumbing to injuries, muscle tightness and fatigue along the way. Outside of a broken wrist, not exactly a preventable injury, Evan has remained largely unscathed due to his diligent flexibility and prehab work. "I start out with this stuff every day to get myself loosened up," he says. "Not only does it get your heart pumping and blood flowing, it [also] has an element of stretching in it."
Hurdle Mobility Series
Perform the following movements over a row of six thigh-high hurdles
• Forward Step-Over
• Backward Step-Over
• Lateral Step-Over
• Lateral Straight-Leg Skip
Sets: 2x each variation
Longoria: The most common mistake is not getting full hip extension, so when I do it, I get my knees as high as I can and really bend from the hips.
Evan patrols the hot corner with quickness normally seen at the shortstop position. His lateral movement allows him to backhand hard grounders and reach balls in the hole that less-mobile 3Bs routinely whiff. "I really believe that the biggest thing is agility and speed training," he says. "It has really benefited me with that first-step quickness and being able to get to a few balls that maybe some guys couldn't get to."
This impressive and explosive side-to-side quickness is one of the key reasons why Evan earned his 2009 Gold Glove and All-Star selections during his first two MLB seasons.
• Assume athletic stance with partner providing band resistance from right
• Keeping hips low, shuffle left slowly for specified distance while partner provides steady and continuous resistance
• Repeat in opposite direction
Sets/Reps: 3x4-5 steps each direction
Longoria: This is really where you strengthen your legs [and] hamstrings and stabilize your core. On a day when my legs are feeling good, I will perform some of these with explosiveness to get that first-step quickness out of there with resistance. That's where you build the power. Stay low and really drive with your legs. Try not to use your upper body too much.
In a short 2008 season, Evan hit 27 homers and followed it up with 33 more in 2009. Many of his souvenir shots didn't just happen to find their way over outfield fences, but exploded into upper decks. His monster blast against the Orioles in April traveled 473 feet. It was described as "one of the farthest balls I've ever seen hit," by Rays teammate James Shields.
What makes this power so impressive is the fact that Evan is not a massive man. Rather, he's an athletic guy who tips the scale a shade north of 200 pounds. "Power comes from your core and your legs," Evan says in explaining what propels his blasts. "So, all the things I'm working on are trying to generate as much power as I can from my abdominal muscles down."
Bosu Med Ball Rotational Throws (Watch video from Evan Longoria's spring training strength program.)
• Assume athletic semi-squat on top of Bosu disc
• Receive med ball from partner in front, rotate torso left, then rotate torso right to throw ball back
• Catch ball and rotate to right side
• Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each side
Longoria: A common mistake would be to just stand up with this and just use your abdominal muscles to throw the ball. I really like to sit into the squat so I'm working my legs and core muscles to stabilize. You're also working those lateral ab muscles on the side with the twist. That is huge, because a lot of your swing strength comes from your core. It's a big part of throwing as well.
Med Ball Sit-Up Throws
• Assume Sit-Up position with partner in front
• Perform controlled Sit-Up after receiving ball overhead from partner
• Throw ball back to partner from overhead as you return to start position
Longoria: You want to pull from your lower abs. That's where you see a lot of athletes get injuries, or with a pulled groin, because they're not working those muscles. It all comes back to having that ability to be flexible and be strong through there. When you receive the med ball overhead, control that med ball all the way down. Don't let the med ball pull you back.
To stay healthy and strong throughout the season and supplement the power he's developed in his core and legs, Evan works on building a foundation of pure strength (watch a video from Evan Longoria's spring training workout and see how he builds core strength for baseball). "My main goal this off-season was to prepare my hamstrings and my glutes," he says. "I had a little hamstring injury last year, so that was a big focus for me this off season, getting my hamstrings, glutes and low back as strong as I could. Along with the rotational stuff for baseball, you're always in a squatting position. So, you always want to incorporate some sort of Squat exercise."
Weighted Bulgarian Squat
• Wearing weight vest, assume split stance with rear foot elevated on bench or box
• Keeping chest up and front knee behind toes, squat down until front knee is bent 90 degrees
• Drive through front heel to return to start position
• Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite foot forward
Sets/Reps: 2x10 with light weight for explosion // 3x5 with heavier weight for strength and mass
Longoria: This is an isolated squat that really works the glute and hamstring muscles. Keep a tight upper body and core muscles intact, and really let your legs do most of the work. Focus on sitting back into the squat, and let the glutes and hamstrings take the brunt of the weight. Start with a lighter weight and progress to a more difficult weight once your legs and back are ready for it.