Cards Expand Minors Strength and Conditioning

In an innovative new program, the St. Louis Cardinals are adding strength and conditioning interns in every minor league location starting this season. Assistant general manager John Mozeliak explains how the new program was developed and how it will roll out.

Over the recent weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals have been putting the finishing touches on an innovative proposal to better protect their considerable investments in the athletes competing for their minor league affiliates.

New for 2007, the organization will be adding strength and conditioning interns at every level of the minor league system. These individuals will be missioned to execute a consistent organization-wide conditioning program. The goal is most simple and straightforward – having healthier, better-conditioned athletes.

The program is the brainchild of Cardinals assistant general manager John Mozeliak. "It's exciting. It is very positive news for the Cardinals. If you are a player, it has to be refreshing to know that the Cardinals are willing to invest in this, because it is so important," he explained.

The new internship program will roll out under the supervision of the big club's strength and conditioning coach Pete Prinzi. "Pete will be heavily involved in the recruiting, the hiring and then dictate the program," said Mozeliak.

The benefits from having these new interns should expand even beyond the direct scope of their job, both as an asset for the manager and a partner for the trainer. As the interns and trainers work side-by-side, the latter group should see significant time freed up. That will enable them to better focus on injury prevention as well as treatment.

Mozeliak evaluated several approaches before deciding on the one that offers the organization the broadest reach for the investment. He explains. "There were two possible strategies in setting this up. One was to establish a minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and the other was to go with this internship program."

Mo quickly determined which way he wanted to go and why. "I've done a lot of research into what other teams do and what makes sense. While having a minor league strength and conditioning coach would be nice, what if they are not coordinating anyone other than players? After all, they can only be in one place in any given day. I decided that wasn't going to be effective to the group as a whole. So, in thinking more globally and trying to touch everybody, we decided to put someone in every minor league city."

Expect to see these individuals on the job very soon. Mozeliak says, "We're in the process of hiring right now. We're actively looking for suitable candidates and are blessed in having a major university or college in almost every one of our cities. I would like somebody who is a post-graduate. They actually do have their license and they can go to work right away. A lot of these students would be in the masters program. Hopefully, they would view this as a great opportunity."

Assuming the program realizes its initial objectives, Mozeliak already has mapped out ideas about its possible future expansion that combine the best of both of the initial approaches considered. "As we look at the vision of this, we hope that eventually one of these candidates, once they have time to get settled and we get a look back at how this program works, could step up and become the minor league coordinator at some point. And then that person would oversee the intern program," Mozeliak explained.

The Cardinals' program is apparently a most innovative one. Our baseball injury expert, Rick Wilton of www.baseball-injury-report.com is impressed with the Cardinals commitment and is unaware of any other organization with such a program.

"Minor league teams, especially lower level ones like in single-A, have little resources to provide any medical/health care other than an athletic trainer, who also usually servers as the traveling secretary, and a contracted doctor.

"The positives of this plan are obvious. It will allow the Cardinals to implement a program of uniform conditioning. In theory, players should be stronger and remain healthier the entire season," Wilton explained.

And that's what it is all about, isn't it? Time will indicate the level of success of this new internship program, but it seems like a strong and positive step for the Cardinals organization.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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