SPORTS

Jock Up Your Horizons Part 2: How to Hit a Homerun, Spike a Volleyball, and Drive a Race Car

4/3/2006

HIT A HOMERUN



HIT A HOMERUN

“Hitting a homeRun is quite simple, you just hit the ball fat,” says Pat Phelan, the head instructor at Grounder's training facility in Ottawa, and a former scout for the Seattle Mariners. Easier said than slugged. The key to hitting a homerun is to not to try to crush the tar out of the ball, because then not only will you over swing but you'll likely lose your sense of balance and strike out. Popping one out of the park is all about generating bat speed. “People think it's the big guys, the ones with an eye in the middle of their forehead that the coach has to throw raw meat at to get on the field that get the homeruns but it's really the guy who generates the best bat speed and makes good contact,” explains Phelan.

To get your nickname changed from 'Tubs' to 'Babe' you're going to have to get all the parts of your body working together and channel that energy into your swing. To be a heavy hitter you don't need to be a beefy-bodied bloke with pythons for arms. You are going to need strong wrists, hips and lower body strength to swing for the fences, but there is no need to bulk up. A baseball player's weight training routine consists of lots of reps with lightweights. “The most pure homerun player I ever played with was 6'1, 145 pounds” adds Phelan.

Cost: Free if you can find an unused public diamond, otherwise join a beer league. Batting cages are baseball's equivalent of the driving range, so hit them as often as you can. Inspirational Ink: “In both life and baseball, the secret of hitting a homerun is not wanting to hit a homerun.” – Mike Piazza, New York Mets

SPIKE A VOLLEYBALL

“You should be 6'3"” jokes Burke Sasaki, co-owner of North Beach, the first indoor beach volleyball facility in Canada and the training sands of the Canadian Olympic team, when I ask him how to pull off a game-breaking spike that hits nothing but beach.

Don't fret, plenty of less vertically endowed players (myself included) can get up over the net. Laying down a firm spike is all about footwork and timing. “The key is timing, if you don't time it properly you're going to be underneath the ball or too much in front of it,” Sasaki explains.

“Wait for the set, do not move until you see the set.” Once you've gathered the ball's trajectory, plan your path, then take a two-step approach, jump to meet the ball and snap your wrist downwards on impact, aiming the ball away from the reach of your opponents. Spiking a volleyball is much like pitching a baseball. Not only is the arm motion the same, but you can also make up for lost velocity with good location. It's going to take some practice to get your super-spike v-ball shot down, so head to Wasaga Beach, Sauble Beach or anywhere where the sand is soft and the drinks are cool.

Cost The Toronto Central Sport and Social Club is offering up coed beach volleyball this spring at a cost of $75 per person (seven weeks) and $395 per team. Go to www.tcssc.com for more info.

DRIVE A RACECAR

Quench your need for speed this summer by getting in the cockpit of a real road rocket. Watching drivers thunder around a motor speedway in hot-dogged pursuit of a checkered flag can be a visceral, albeit vicarious thrill, but seeing 180 on the speedometre while your foot is mashed on the pedal blitzkrieging down the straightaway a few inches above the asphalt, now that's a life altering experience. “It just blows you away. Unbelievable,” says Tom Wheatley, operations manager of the Bridgestone Racing Academy at Mosport in Orono, Ontario. You can get behind the wheel of a nifty Reynard Formula 2000 in the Academy's half-day Thrill of a Lifetime course – a beginner's primer to life in the fast lane.

You'll learn racing's unique heel-and-toe shifting technique, how to groove to the tracks, and most importantly, what it feels like to be Paul Tracy for a day. More advanced programs are also available. For more information call 905-983-1114.

Cost The Thrill of a Lifetime can be yours for $565. Fitness Note: Drivers over 6'3" and/or 220lbs may not fit in a formula car. www.race2000.com


Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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