This time of the year, most of the sports world is focused on football, basketball and hockey. With the World Series a distant memory, it's easy for the casual sports fan to overlook baseball until the first signs of spring. This isn't the case for the Central High School baseball team.
The Red Raiders have had a busy off-season, working to grow stronger in 2019. Starting this past Fall, Coach David Martin has been implementing a new regimen to target areas of improvement.
"Every year I get with my coaches and we evaluate on our strengths and weaknesses," Martin said. "There's a lot of areas for growth, especially when you're in high school baseball."
Martin, who is entering his fourth season as the CHS head coach, noted that one area of improvement for this year was hitting. He noted this after a fall off in 2018 of the offensive power the Raiders had his first two seasons.
"In my first two years we were the top-scoring team in our district," Martin said. "Last year, we had a tough year offensively."
The Raiders finished a disappointing 2018 season with a 14-15 record, including back-to-back losses to rival Tullahoma on April 3 and April 4. Adding insult to injury was a 12-9 loss in the 10th inning to Lincoln County in the District 8-AAA Baseball Tournament on May 6.
To return to the offensive prowess of the past, Martin added a new hitting program this Fall. The new hitting drills involve a large amount of independence for players, focusing on constraint movement to improve body output.
"That's the biggest thing that we've worked on this fall is moving our bodies more efficiently," Martin explained. "Starting to learn how to use the ground, throwing and hitting, to take some stress off our arms and get a little bit more pop."
Other tools used to maximize efficiency have included new core training belts to improve hip mobility. Through January, the coaching staff has noticed how the new techniques have been paying off.
"We had growth all across the board," Martin said. "In every metric swinging the bat, every metric in our conditioning and our quickness drills and our weight lifting."
The CHS coaching staff is not alone in noticing these results. Red Raider players have also seen how the new workout routines have brought changes to the team.
"We've been a lot more intense and we got into it really early this year," Skyler Bratcher said. "We've hit it hard ever since and haven't looked back."
Unified by the improvements to mobility and strength, the team is excited to see what they will be able to do in 2019. The new season is just around the corner, kicking off with a preseason match on Feb. 16 against Grundy County.
"I'm confident that we prepared about as good as we can for this coming up season. We've really been focusing on strength because strength is everything," Bratcher continued. "You've gotta hit the ball hard, you've got to throw the ball fast. That's the name of the game."