By Kirsten Karbach /californiawinterleague.com
Of the close to 300 players showcasing their talents at the California Winter League, the vast majority have already garnered at least a decade of baseball experience prior to setting foot in Palm Springs.
Jordan Thliveris is not one of them.
The 24-year old had not played a single game on the diamond before graduating high school.
“No, never,” Thliveris says. “Always cricket back home.”
A native of Sydney, Australia, Thliveris switched to baseball less than five years ago.
“We played grade cricket back home in Sydney, and I was playing second grade, which is pretty high-level, so we played a lot of state teams and representative teams.
“I just kind of always had an interest in baseball, and I’m glad I moved down this path now.”
Both cricket and baseball are bat-and-ball games played between two teams, but the similarities from the pitch to the diamond hardly extend much further.“Hand-eye coordination is pretty similar, but in terms of swings, it’s very different,” Thliveris says.A natural right-hander, Thliveris serves as a switch-hitter while playing for the Toronto Rush in the CWL.
He says that developing his left-handed swing was actually simpler. Growing up as a right-handed cricket player, Thliveris had to rework his mechanics for baseball.
“Learning from the left side was a lot easier because I learned from the ground-up, whereas from the right side it’s kind of a bit rigid because of that cricket style,” he says.
The game of cricket entails a much different approach.
“A lot of the time you want to hit the ball into the ground, so your body’s kind of out on your front leg,” Thliveris explains. “Mainly if I ground out, it’s to third base because of that reason.”
With an opportunity to focus on developing his swing from both sides at the CWL, Thliveris has become even more valuable in the eyes of his coaches.
“Anytime you can hit from both sides of the plate it adds another dynamic to your game,” Toronto manager Matt Rusch says. “I encouraged it for sure after he came to me, and he can swing it from both sides. He looks very comfortable.
“Usually guys are stronger from one side or the other, but with him, he’s very balanced.”
Thliveris took to baseball quickly, and has relished all opportunity to continue to progress.
His journey to baseball has taken him around the globe – including a stop in Europe as a member of the Greek National team in 2014.
Born Yiorgos Thliveris, his Greek decent and athletic prowess led him to an invitation to join the Greek National team at the European championships.
While initially not guaranteed a spot, Thliveris tried out and won the job as a starting second baseman for Greece in the European Cup, competing with teams from the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Croatia, Sweden, Russia, and Spain.
“The Dutch guys, most of their guys were Single-A ball/Double-A ball players, I think (former Major League outfielder) Roger Bernadina was on their roster as well,” Thliveris says. “Some really good competition.”
That opposing talent also included names such as Sharlon Schoop, the brother of Baltimore Orioles’ infielder Jonathan Schoop, while longtime minor league hurler Pete Sikaras joined Thliveris on the Greek roster.
Two years and more than 6,000 miles later, Thliveris arrived in Palm Springs to play for the Toronto Rush in the 2016 California Winter League.Primarily an infielder at Anne Arundel Community College and with the Greek National team, Thliveris began another transition to a new position over the past couple of months.Rusch is impressed with his early development as a receiver.
“He’s a quick learner, first of all.”
“He has a great knowledge for the game, so that makes it easier to convert positions like that,” Rusch says. “He’s really coming along quickly, a lot quicker than I really imagined.”
Donning the tools of ignorance is perhaps the most mentally and physically taxing position on the field. As a catcher, Thliveris is involved in every pitch, every play.
“It’s a pitch-to-pitch kind of thing,” Thliveris says. “You’re always in the game. You’ve got to know what pitch is coming. You’ve got to know what your pitcher wants to throw, in what count. It’s a lot more complicated, but I’m really enjoying the learning process.”
While developing his skills behind the plate, Thliveris has also continued to serve admirably as a middle infielder in the CWL.
“He’s a very athletic kid and a great utility player for us,” Rusch says. “He’s definitely one of the driving forces behind why we’re playing some good baseball right now.”
Like all CWL players, Thliveris aspires to a professional contract, completing a conversion not unlike that of Jarryd Hayne – a fellow Sydney native who successfully made the switch from highly-competitive rugby to the National Football League. Having just four years of experience, Thliveris’ potential is still far higher than the output he has already shown.Although he has certainly found success thus far in the CWL – a .333 average and no errors committed in his first seven games – Thliveris knows he is far from a finished product.“I want to keep improving. I feel like I’ve got a long ways to go until I kind of reach my peak in baseball, so I’ll be patient for another couple years,” Thliveris says.
“See where it takes me.”
How to get yourself back on track at the plate
Hitting a baseball has and will always be a very humbling experience. No matter how well you may be hitting the ball it can all take a turn for the worst. The good hitters tend to be hot and cold while the great hitters are consistent. Consistency at the plate is the holy grail of hitting. A slump is a difficult time for any player and we at Diamond Dreams know that supporting our players through these patches is the key to fixing their mechanics, regaining their confidence, and getting them back on track.
When you are hot at the plate, you feel that no pitch will beat you, the gaps are bigger, the grass plays faster, and the fielders move slower. So why does it all seem to reverse so quickly when the slump rears its ugly head? Many say hitting is all about “confidence” and, for the most part, they are spot on. I like to think that confidence is a by-product of practice and preparation. Mechanically, a player can enter a slump when a mechanical error in the swing creeps in. Either you have developed a bad habit while you were swing the bat so well, or you have simply gotten away from your good habits.
Live, laugh, and be active! This is the motto many preach for today’s kids, so why is this generation statistically overweight and, for the first time in recorded history, have a shorter life expectancy than their parents? The theory behind the motto is great but the interpretation can be a little grey for many parents regarding physical activities for their kids.
All parents want what is best for their children’s health and well being, so when it comes to choosing a sport or activity there are many things that need to be considered, for example: type of sport, physicality of the sport, limitations and attributes of your child. All sports are not equal. It may not be enough for the average child who plays sport as something to do with friends on the weekend and once during the week at practice.
Let’s face it, cricket, lawn bowls (yes I said it!), golf, and even my beloved baseball, during the game itself, none of these do a lot for the average Joe from a cardiovascular standpoint. Whereas soccer, cross country, ultimate Frisbee, and football, the games themselves are a great workout and can meet your child’s daily and then some!
Shin splints have been around as long as sports have. They can be extremely painful with no actual defined cause or cure for them.
Often teenagers who suffer from them do so through their “growing years.” In my experience, it is when an athlete adds body weight through natural growing or poor diet then runs long distances or performs a lot of sprint work for their sport or to lose weight.
As a strength coach, my experience has proven that adding strength to the ankle, knee, and calf as well as decreasing weight (in some cases) will alleviate the pain and discomfort while being physically active.
A helpful tip: Don’t use running to drop weight when you are heavy. Use elliptical machines and bikes that are smoother on the body until you get down in weight.
The treadmill is a common fixture in any commercial gym across the country and while, for the regular fitness enthusiast it provides many advantages, for the baseball player who needs explosive speed it presents some disadvantages. I will attempt to outline why the treadmill is not a baseball player’s running mate.
Baseball players are required to run as fast as they can, as efficiently as they can for generally 10 to 120 feet. Speed is of the utmost importance. When preparing for any sport, the training environment should be similar to the actual sporting movements required. It is obvious that there are significant differences between the treadmill and beating out an infield single, or going first to third on a ball hit to right field.
When you run on a treadmill, the moving belt is moving as your foot is pressed down on it and is actually moving that planted foot backwards as opposed to the propulsion forward that would be happening if running on solid ground. The ground, after all, isn’t moving backwards for you and this you are supplying 100% of the push forward.
The treadmill belt will be the same stride after stride and therefor your body doesn’t need to make adjustments. On the baseball field where you are frequently transitioning to different surfaces and where turning corners at high speeds is incredibly important. Practicing running on different surfaces enhances the ability of the neuromuscular system to recognize the impact of the different surfaces in muscles, joints, and the body in general. Running on a treadmill eliminates this very important aspect of running for baseball players.
When running on the baseball field, you will always have to run to certain points, run amongst people, and change directions. On a treadmill you will not encounter any change in direction or angles therefor never challenging your visual perception.
So what should I do?
For the most part, the treadmill is used for distance running and those who use them tend to enjoy the comforts of the air conditioned gym, music playing, and the TV. For the baseball player, short sprints that promote explosive movements requiring you to generate 100% of the force needed is by far the way to go. Running angles is even better as the game-like conditions in training will help you avoid injuries. Remember, if you train like you play then you will always give yourself the best chance to be the best you can be and to also avoid injuries.