As cliché as it might sound, consistency and a strong work ethic are truly the ingredients of success. Want proof? Look no further than Tyler Phillips.
Phillips—a 6-foot-5, 195-pound pitcher out of Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken, NJ—was recently selected in the 16th round of the MLB Draft. It was an accomplishment years in the making. Phillips' preparation to play at the highest level began when he first stepped foot in the STACK Velocity Sports Performance center in Cherry Hill, NJ. That was over eight years ago, when Phillips was just 9 years old. Roughly 350 training sessions later, Phillips is in prime position to chase down his hardball dreams.
Phillips started off in Velocity's youth program, which focuses on balance, coordination, body control and fundamentals.
"With our youth classes, we're doing things with balance, coordination and bodyweight strength and also teaching proper speed and agility mechanics," says Cherry Hill's sports performance director Dave Yansick, who has worked with Phillips for the past eight years. Instantly hooked, Phillips attended youth program sessions three to four times a week. He says, "Even at that age, I couldn't wait to get to the facility and work out."
Once he turned 12, Phillips moved into Velocity's D1 program (short for Developmental 1), where the training intensity increased. He started making serious progress toward his goals of getting bigger, stronger and faster. His routine expanded to include Olympic lifts and strenuous core exercises.
"When I left a session, I was soaked with sweat and really tired. But it felt good—I knew I was getting where I wanted to be," Phillips says.
All the while, Yansick and his staff made sure to cater to Phillips' needs as a pitcher. "We always made sure he was taking care of his arm. We worked on shoulder stability and focused on good thoracic rotation, making sure he had the stability and the range of motion pitchers require," Yansick says.
After a couple of years in the D1 program, Phillips moved on to D2, where a combination of his physical maturation, personalized training and constant hard work paid off with big results. One of D2's biggest focuses was to increase his lower-body strength and power—critical to success on the mound.
"As a pitcher, that's where your force comes from," Yansick says. "The more work you can do with your legs, the less stress you're going to put on your arm. With his long frame, we knew he could generate a ton of force if he had a powerful lower body."
They attacked this goal with movements like Deadlifts, Squats and single-leg exercises. But lower-body strength doesn't mean jack unless it can be effectively transferred to the rest of your body through your core.
"There's no sense in having strong legs and arms if you've got nothing to connect it. We worked on core stability and core function through exercises focused on rotation, anti-rotation and stability," Yansick says.
Phillips embraced the pitcher-focused strength regimen and found himself filling out as a result. "[Tyler] had always been lean. He was a skinny little kid. But over the years, he really filled out. He developed physically, and you can tell just by looking at him he's been doing all the right stuff," Yansick says.
Years of preparation culminated in an unbelievable senior season for Phillips. His domination produced a 9-0 record and a 1.02 ERA, numbers that earned him Olympic Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-State honors. Days after Bishop Eustace finished third in the state tournament, Phillips was selected in the 16th round by the Texas Rangers. At only 17, he was one of the youngest players selected in the draft.
Phillips is quick to credit the staff at Velocity for playing a big role in his success—although Yansick says it was all thanks to Phillips' amazing work ethic. "He just puts his nose to the grindstone every time he comes in here," Yansick says.
Phillips hasn't decided yet whether to begin his professional career or hold off and play in college. If he does go to school, he'll be heading to the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota—a junior college with a dominant program that's produced 28 major league players. No matter where he lands, Yansick is confident Phillips will continue to excel. He says, "Knowing how hard he works and how bad he wants it and how strong he is, his ceiling is very high. You can't teach work ethic."
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