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The offseason is a sacred time for most Major League Baseball players. After playing 162 games in 186 days, it is understandable why so many players feel the need for a break in October.
An MLB player’s offseason routine usually varies from player to player, but pretty much all of them prioritize rest, strength training, and skill training. A player’s goal in the offseason is to improve his game but to also improve his overall health.
How those three things get accomplished is dependent on the player’s needs and the resources he has available. Continue reading to learn more about what players do to stay healthy and improve their craft in the offseason.
When a season ends, players often take a significant amount of time to take a break from the game. Most players take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to completely rest their body from any baseball-related activities.
Baseball is all about repetitions and creating muscle memory. While muscle memory generates success in the game, repetitive motions can cause the body to break down quicker.
A short part of a player’s offseason is spent untraining these repetitive movements to allow the muscles to rest and recover from a long season.
During this time, players often focus on things that they don’t often get to do during the baseball season such as spending time with family, going on a vacation, attending their kids’ events, and just relaxing their minds and body.
Some of the more high-profile players may even take this time to film commercials for endorsements or make guest appearances on sitcoms and talk shows.
Again, the emphasis from a baseball standpoint during this time is to rest the body. From a life standpoint, this is a good time for players to take advantage of their free time to focus on things for which they don’t have time during the season.
Rest is an important part of every MLB player’s offseason, but what allows one player to feel rested may be different from another. As long as a player’s routine for rest in the offseason allows him to feel rejuvenated, the first part of his offseason is a success.
After a player has received adequate rest, it is time to start retraining the muscles that allow those repetitive movements to function.
Strength training for MLB players looks different across the board as different players often have different techniques and goals during this part of their offseason.
If a player wants to add more power to his game, he will often spend this part of his offseason lifting heavier weights and changing his nutritional habits to put on more mass.
During a 162-game season, it is often difficult for players to participate in the type of weight lifting that will allow them to gain strength. While they are in season, their workouts mostly focus on maintaining their current weight and strength.
With no games to play and no fear of being too sore to compete, these players normally take advantage of this time to ramp up their workouts to gain weight and add power.
Players who are coming off of injury may use this time to rehab whatever part of their body they injured during the season. The severity of the injury often determines the type of rehab the player does.
For more serious injuries that caused the player to miss significant time, physical therapy to get that specific body part back up to playing shape is necessary.
Sometimes players suffer more nagging injuries that don’t require them to miss significant time. These players often spend the strength training part of their offseason strengthening the muscles and improving the movements that caused that body part to break down.
The age of the player is a key factor in determining the type of strength training the player does in this portion of the offseason. Younger players whose bodies recover more quickly may be able to be more aggressive in improving their overall strength in the offseason.
Older players may focus mostly on maintenance and injury prevention in order to continue playing at a high level. This may consist of more pliability and lower volume weight training.
Overall, strength training is an important piece to a player’s offseason. It is so important that players often hire their own personal trainers to tailor their strength training efforts to the specific needs of their bodies.
Eventually, after the muscles have been retrained, players begin working on skills specific to their position to retrain the movements that allow them to perform at a high level.
During this time, players often continue their strength training regimen but add emphasis to the baseball-specific skills they wish to improve. There are normally two phases to a player’s skill training period: retraining and improving.
During the retraining part, players spend a week or two “knocking off the rust” after several weeks of no baseball-related activities. Players will often begin by playing light catch and hitting off the tee before slowly working into long toss and live batting practice.
This portion of the offseason usually lasts up until Spring Training begins in February.
A Pitcher’s Offseason
A pitcher’s offseason consists of the same periods: rest, strength training, and skill training. What they do in each portion is a little bit different than what position players do.
While the rest period is important for position players, it is even more important for pitchers as they must rest their arm from the wear and tear of a long season. Some pitchers take as many as 8-10 weeks off from throwing activities.
In the strength training portion, a lot of pitchers focus on gaining strength in their bodies, but they also place an emphasis on mobility and endurance as they are key to staying healthy over the course of a season.
During the skill training portion, this is when pitchers begin throwing. They often start by playing light catch a few days per week before ramping up their long toss. After 2-4 weeks of throwing, they usually start throwing bullpens.
Teams normally give their pitchers a benchmark for where they must be when they arrive for spring training in mid February. For example, they may tell their pitchers to be ready to throw one live inning as soon as they report to camp.
They usually give their pitchers a throwing program to follow in order to get them ready for whatever they are expected to do upon reporting. These throwing programs are often tailored to a pitcher’s specific needs and areas of improvement.
Are MLB players paid in the offseason?
Unless it is specifically outlined in their contracts, MLB players are not paid in the offseason. This includes spring training. Minor League players are also only paid during the season. Considering their wages are much lower than Major Leaguers, many of them have to seek employment in the offseason.
Do any players play games in the offseason?
Usually, players spend the offseason working on their craft in training sessions, not in games. However, some teams send some of their top minor league prospects to the Arizona Fall League or winter leagues in the Dominican, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or Australia to compete against other top prospects.