Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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May 16, 2019  

100: Tanner Swanson- MiLB Catching Coordinator, Minnesota Twins

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.






In this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I talk with Tanner Swanson, minor league Catching Coordinator with the Minnesota Twins. He shares about his journey of coaching and teaching and how that has led him to this point in his career. He shares incredible insight into the importance and mechanics of solid catching techniques, and brings a wealth of insight to the catching position.

Episode Highlights:

  • Tanner grew up playing baseball in a small town and had positive experiences and connections with coaches.

  • Gained an interest in teaching and coaching in college.

  • Shares about how catching has shaped his career, and how he got to spend focused time on teaching the catching program at the University of Washington.

  • Tanner talks about the parallel of the catching position and middle linebacker, as opposed to the quarterback analogy typical used.

  • Tanner shares about the importance of framing metrics in the catching position.

  • There's more complexity to stances than just 2 stances.

  • Tanner shares some insight into a variety of positions for different situations, and how varying setups and hand positions affect outcomes.

  • A deep dive into receiving position

  • Important to understand the pitcher's mix and qualities  

  • Discussion on varieties of extension styles and manipulations  

  • 3 keys to high level throws

  • Importance “on the field” communication for catchers.

  • Discuss next phase of motion technology


3 Key Points:

  1.     When you step back and look at anything from a distance, it allows you to question and see things from a different perspective.

  2.    Developing a versatile, well-rounded skill set needs to be the foundation.

  3.    We need more voices to come forward and push the catching position forward.


Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Coaching is teaching, and they parallel each other.” – Tanner Swanson

  • “Good ideas, inspiration, and creativity are drawn from asking the right questions.” – Tanner Swanson

  • “A catcher has to be very instinctive, very reactive, and has to have really advanced perceptive skills to be able to read, react, and respond to a lot of different variables in a really short amount of time.” – Tanner Swanson

  • “It's important to start prioritizing your training economy based on what actually happens in competition” – Tanner Swanson

  • “Not a single catcher in baseball is a better pitch framer from a big, active secondary stance.” – Tanner Swanson

  • "The key to the strike zone is down, being able to dominate the bottom of the strike zone is critical." - Tanner Swanson

  • "Down is better than up, right is better than left." - Travis Swanson

  • "We should be promoting what we want pitchers to do, not what we want them to avoid. - Tanner Swanson

Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show 





Ahead of the Curve Coaches Facebook group



May 9, 2019  

99: Rob Benjamin- Hitting Coach, Riot Hitting (NY)

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.



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In this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I welcome Rob Benjamin, a highly experienced baseball hitting trainer at R.I.O.T. Hitting based in the New York City area. Rob Benjamin discusses how to help players break out of their stiff batting routines, and become more adaptable to real game situations. Rob also expresses important processes to assist hitters gaining movement solutions and degrees of freedom in their swings.

Show Notes:

  • Guest: Rob Benjamin, baseball hitting trainer at R.I.O.T. Hitting

  • Rob Benjamin shares his upbringing in Puerto Rico and New York City playing baseball

  • His journey towards coaching began in the early 2000s

  • Who is the player, what is their hitting experience, and what are their parents’ concerns

  • Video review includes dissecting major league hitting swings

  • Recreate the unpredictability of the real game in the batter’s box

  • Playing sound effects of loud crowd noises helps players prepare for game distractions

  • Player assessment involves using video to help evaluate them

  • How does Rob Benjamin help clean up player’s movement patterns

  • Many players have been overcoached to the point that their body’s move too robotically

  • Players need to trust you to communicate what they need

  • How do you coach the timing of hitting

  • The swing starts as soon as the foot lifts off of the ground

  • What should be the focus when using videos for training

  • Do players have too many degrees of freedom to their swing

  • Bridge the gap between training information and the experience of movement solutions

  • What are training drills that Rob Benjamin’s players love

  • Watching his own children develop is an enlightening experience for Rob

  • Look for challenges and obstacles, and embrace failure

3 Key Points:

  1.  Having a successful bat swing includes the launch, the barrell, and de-excelleration.

  2.  Techniques during hit training include: throwing screens up, ball drop drills, and two pitchers throwing at the same time.

  3.  Know what your players’ goals are.  

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “I want to see these players adapt.” - Rob Benjamin (10:21)

  • “Being the ‘teacher king,’ I don’t want to do that. I want the environment to do that for me.” - Rob Benjamin (12:27)

  • “Some kids have been so over-coached that a lot of the athleticism has been stripped from their bodies.” - Rob Benjamin (26:53)

  • “It’s important that you create a foundation of trust so they can talk.” - Rob Benjamin (29:10)

  • “I want them to make one choice...hit the baseball.” - Rob Benjamin (36:32)

  • “Figure out how players learn with respect to stable components of their swing.” - Rob Benjamin (41:47)

Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show 
May 2, 2019  

98: Marty Smith- Head Baseball Coach, The College of Central Florida

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.


In this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I welcome Marty Smith, the Head Baseball Coach for the Central Florida Patriots at the College of Central Florida. Marty Smith is overflowing with essential experience, going into his 25th season, and having won two FCSAA state championships, rewarded twice as FCSAA Coach of the Year, and is also a five-time Mid-Florida Conference Coach of the Year. Gain some applicable training advice, ways to personalize methods to players, and what it takes to shape a successful team culture.


Show Notes:

  • Guest: Marty Smith, Head Baseball Coach at the College of Central Florida

  • What has Marty Smith’s career in baseball consisted of

  • How has Marty put his training team together

  • What are some intentional things that Marty Smith has done to built the team culture?

  • What are the expectations that Marty has for his players

  • How does his fall training structure look

  • Marty gives players the chance to eat during practice

  • How are players trained to address individual issues

  • What numbers are they tracking for their players to monitor success

  • How is his typical spring training program look

  • Which baseball machines does Marty Smith utilize for his team

  • What machine did Barry Bonds use that Coach Smith has learned from

  • What advice would Marty Smith give to his younger self and current coaches

  • Dive into useful Twitter feeds and keep reading about strategies to get better

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes...and learn from those mistakes

  • “The Performance Cortex” is a heavy book that Marty Smith is reading now

  • What are the training drills that Coach Smith’s players love


3 Key Points:

  1.  Establish the work ethic, credibility and respect that will last beyond your time on the team.

  2.  If you had a bad game, let your team know that it wasn’t because you didn’t work hard.

  3.  Be a coach for the love of the game and keep making yourself valuable.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Last year, breaking our records for home runs, it was crazy. We hit 95 home runs in 46 games. Our record before that was like 55.” - Marty Smith (07:39)

  • “I’ll take the credit for being smart enough to trust my assistants.” - Marty Smith (10:22)

  • “We want our culture to be a happy, content, smiling fun group to be around that want to play for each other, whether we win or lose.” - Marty Smith (11:21)

  • “When you’re winning and your hitting home runs, and all of your guys are 90+ throwing. And you know that they’ve developed and have gotten better, and they are going to go to good schools from here. That’s kind of the culture we want.” - Marty Smith (12:08)

  • “Be on time. Go to class. Work hard. Lift hard. Be a good guy.” - Marty Smith (14:58)

  • “There is a fine line between killing your confidence and getting some confidence.” - Marty Smith (38:18)

  • “You can move up by being a smart guy, and being a nerd, and getting jobs in pro ball because you know things that other guys don’t.“ - Marty Smith (41:11)

Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show 
April 25, 2019  

97: Cage Work with Doug Latta and Craig Hyatt Ep. 4

Episode 4 video

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.



In this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I proceed forward in the discussion with Craig Hyatt, the Hitting Coach at East Valley High School in Yakima Washington, and Doug Latta a hitting trainer from Bally Yard based in Northridge California. This fourth episode covers topics related to drills to improve movement of the heel and foot kicks during the swinging process. Gain some guidance on how to create more consistent hitters that can self-correct their process.

Show Notes:

  • Guests: Craig Hyatt, the Hitting Coach at East Valley High School in Yakima Washington, and Doug Latta a hitting trainer from Bally Yard based in Northridge California

  • Craig and Doug discuss a beneficial heel drill

  • How to create a backside drive into a front side brace

  • What is the “kick drill” for swinging

  • Any move that doesn’t allow your foot to release will jeopardize your line

  • How do you fix holes in your swing

  • What is a good process to hit a baseball

  • How many different body types do they see in high school

  • Hitting the ball hard is a myth

  • Get consistent in your hitting path

  • Learn how to self-correct your swing

  • Avoid cookie-cutter coaching advice

  • Move forward from mistakes

  • Getting upset and emotional makes a player unbalanced


3 Key Points:

  1. It is natural for the body to want to kick during a swing.

  2.  All we can do as a hitter is go on time, find a good balance point, and take a swing.

  3.  Vision and timing are a part of balance.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “If the front foot comes up underneath my hip, I carry athletically.” - Doug Latta (2:45)
  • “I’m going to keep the foot, knee, and hip together, even in a practice.” - Doug Latta (3:54)
  • “A lot of people say ‘keep that foot down’ Don’t you dare, that’s an anchor.’” - Doug Latta (8:12)
  • “You’ve got to be able to do damage on any pitch.” - Doug Latta (10:14)
  • “He just missed that pitch. Don’t throw it again because he won’t miss it twice.” - Doug Latta (11:40)
  • “Why do people quit playing baseball? Because they can’t hit. This game is no fun when you can’t hit.” - Doug Latta (14:13)
  • “Strength compliments a swing. It doesn’t define a swing.” - Doug Latta (16:50)
  • “The key is, the more they understand their body and feel it, they're going to be able to fix.” - Doug Latta (19:22)


Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show