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Globe West Sports

Training for on-field rewards

Local ballplayers flock to Hudson gym

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / May 4, 2008

Sahil Bloom has a bounce in his step when he makes his frequent visits to the gym on the third floor of a once-abandoned mill in downtown Hudson. He lifts dumbbells in a number of directions, stretching out with the help of a PVC pipe, and sometimes wrapping some chains onto the ends of weights. He rarely uses traditional workout routines like the bench press or back squat.

The results have been impressive. Eight months ago, Bloom weighed 165 pounds. He was skinny, but said he felt flabby. Now, the Weston High junior pitcher checks in at a cut 195 pounds and his rising performance on the field is attracting attention.

His fastball has been clocked at 91 miles per hour on the radar gun, and at the plate, he's already belted 2 home runs, the first of his life at any level.

Bloom is one of a number of area high school players who have been working with Eric Cressey, a Hudson-based trainer, and have seen noticeable, and sometimes dramatic, improvements in their on-the-field performances.

Cressey has become increasingly popular among athletes for his "mobility-before-stability" approach.

"You have to have a certain base level of strength before you can do anything really at a high level," said Cressey, who will be named one of the nation's top 50 personal trainers in next month's Men's Fitness magazine. "I think, to a degree, baseball doesn't appreciate strength training the way that it could."

A year ago, Cressey worked with four players from Division 1 state champion Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, including ace Kevin Scanlan, the Globe's Division 1 Player of the Year who is now pitching for the University of Maine as a freshman. In the wake of his success and those of others, Cressey has a full house.

This winter, 96 athletes from 32 high schools, 16 colleges, and eight minor league teams were working under his tutelage.

Lincoln-Sudbury senior Sam Finn has put 20 pounds of muscle on his 6-foot-5-inch frame. He hits the mid-80s often, and pitched a no-hitter on April 14, but he is also batting .500 as a lineup regular after striking out in his lone at-bat last spring.

Finn "is a whole different person this year. Last year, he'd be gangly, unathletic, trip over his own feet," said Lincoln-Sudbury's head coach, Kirk Fredericks. "This year, he's strong; he's got quick hands, he's very fluid with his movements. Eric's done a very good job at making Sam an athlete."

Bloom, one of Finn's workout partners, perhaps has undergone the most dramatic change. He went 13-1 with an earned-run average of about 2.00 during his freshman and sophomore seasons, topping out at 82 miles per hour; but he never struck out more than six batters in a game, and the lack of strength was noticeable on his figure.

"I was 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, but looked like a fat kid," Bloom said. He has considerably more zip on his fastball this spring, hitting 91 last month against Tyngsborough. With little run support, he has started the season 1-3, but his ERA is under 1.00 and he's struck out 11, 12, 11, and 10 batters in his four outings. And he has the 2 home runs, after never hitting a home run in his life - "even in Little League," he said.

Bloom has been contacted by scouts from several big-league baseball teams, including the Yankees, and has a scholarship offer from Stanford University.

John McKenna, a junior righthander at Algonquin Regional, saw his offseason work pay off dramatically on April 16 when he tossed a perfect game. He relied mostly on an 87-mile-per-hour fastball in silencing host Leominster in a 2-0 victory.

As he made his way to the team bus that day, he did what any teenager nowadays would do after such a rare feat: He pulled out his cellphone and starting calling people. His first phone call, as one would expect, was to his father. His next was to his pitching coach.

His third was to Cressey. He wanted to schedule a training session within 24 hours.

Brendan Hall can be reached at bhall59@hotmail.com.

'I think, to a degree, baseball doesn't appreciate strength training the way that it could.'

Trainer and a cofounder of a Hudson-based workout center

GETTING RESULTS

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