The Real Story on the Navy SEAL Training Isn’t So Crazy

We’ve heard about the Pittsburgh Pirates putting their players through Navy SEAL training. We heard the original story, the repeat of the story, the re-repeat of the story, and all of the national attention that the story has received. We’ve heard from anonymous players, coaches, parents, agents, and members of other organizations who have spoken out against the reports of the training. There is one group we haven’t heard from: The Acumen Performance Group; the group that conducted the training.

There’s a reason we haven’t heard from them. No one has contacted them. Throughout the initial investigating of the story, no one contacted them to get more details on the training, or on the goals of the training. Despite national attention and local and national articles written by the Tribune Review, NBC Sports, Yahoo, and almost every other outlet, no one got in touch with APG to find out more details. The guys at APG have been sitting back and reading all of the articles that have been written on this subject. They were amazed at how far off some of the articles were. And yet no one called. Everyone was taking the story and running with it, but no one, not even the originators of the story, called to get the details on the company, the training, and what other clients they work with.

As a result, we were presented with a story where the Pirates were going through this extreme training that was completely unheard of in sports. We were led to believe that dangerous drills were being conducted against the will of players in the system, and that the risk of injury was high in each drill. When Pirates Prospects contacted the Acumen Performance Group this week, not only did we find out that no one else had bothered to contact them, but we also found out that a lot of what has been reported on the drills and the training has either been exaggerated, or completely uninformed.

 

The Company

I interviewed three of six founding members of Acumen Performance Group (APG): William Hart, Scott Brauer, and Mark Walker. APG is a veteran owned small business with over 115 combined years of cutting-edge experience and expertise from several retired Navy SEALs, Special Operations personnel and an Olympic sports psychologist.

Hart spent 20 years with the teams, and in that time had six overseas deployments. He worked as an instructor for several years at the SEAL Qualification Training Course, and is currently going into his sixth year in a Ph.D. in General Psychology. Walker recently retired after 20 and a half years with the teams, in which he had seven combat deployments total, serving in Iraq, South America, Asia, and Africa. Brauer has 21 years of service, and 20 with the teams where he deployed primarily to the Middle East throughout his time in the service.

The Navy wanted to research historical attrition issues with people making it through SEAL training. They started looking at the stats of guys who were successful making it through the training, and the stats of guys who weren’t successful. In that research they started identifying the ideal candidates to make it through the training. A lot of those candidates were high school and college athletes. Brauer, Hart, and Walker began working with those athletes, doing some mental toughness and leadership skill exercises.

Prior to forming APG, the members of the group were contacted through the US Navy by the United States Olympians for the 2008 Olympics. The training got on the map after working with the men’s water polo team. The team was ranked 10th in the world and had their fourth coach in four years. After going through the training, the US men’s water polo team went on to win the silver medal. Following the win, the group started getting media attention, including a three-part series on The Today Show.

APG wasn’t officially formed until later. The group started getting calls from professional teams about the training. The Navy said there was no return on investment working with professional teams, and thus decided training those teams wasn’t worthwhile. The professional teams started offering for APG to come in during their off time and be paid for the training. The group put together a business, teamed with a sports psychologist they worked with during the Olympics, and APG was born.

 

The Clients

Brauer, Hart, Walker, and APG’s other founders have worked with many clients across several sports both before and after APG was formed. Their experience even goes to sports where you wouldn’t think SEAL training would apply, such as BMX biking, rowing, lacrosse, and field hockey. Through the US Navy they worked with the USA men’s swimming team for the World championships, and have worked with the US men’s water polo team three times. That team took the gold this year. They’ve worked with many other teams as APG. Their clients aren’t limited to college teams and the amateur sports. APG has also worked with professional teams, such as the Buffalo Sabres.

The work with the Pirates didn’t begin during the Fall Instructional League. Prior to the three-day training in September, APG worked with the Pirates for five days during extended Spring Training. Most of the players in that training went on to the Gulf Coast League and the State College Spikes.

APG has been contacted by other MLB teams. Some of those teams have been referred by the Pirates after hearing about the training. Other teams have been referred through other sources. Due to confidentiality reasons, APG wouldn’t say which teams contacted them.

 

The Training

When the story first came out about the Pirates going through this training, many people read it as the Pirates going through training to try and turn their players into Navy SEALs. The focus of the training isn’t to create Navy SEALs, and the training isn’t exactly like the training that one would go through to become a Navy SEAL.

“We’re not putting these guys through SEAL training,” William Hart explained. “We’re using some tools that we have used going through training to meet the client’s expectations and their problem areas.”

A Google search on the subject will show plenty of results of teams going through SEAL training, or something similar. Most of that is APG, although there are other groups that offer similar training.

“There are a lot of guys, a lot of retired team guys out there, that are offering some version of SEAL related training,” William Hart said. “Some of it is pretty good stuff. Some of it is ‘hey, come on out here and I’ll beat you down for a few hours’. That’s not our deal. Our program is built around getting the kind of results that you see when you see a SEAL platoon deployed overseas for a purpose. You would never say ‘Oh, I hope they come out alright’, because you know these guys are tuned up to a level of excellence where they’re going to perform well. Those are the qualities that we try to capture, not just the physical beat down portions.”

One key difference between APG and the rest is that they take a doctoral psychologist approach, focusing on the neck up. The training involves carrying logs, flipping tires, and getting wet and covered in sand. You might ask what that has to do with baseball. None of those activities have anything to do with the actual game of baseball. In the same way, none of those activities have anything to do with shooting a gun, yet the SEALs go through the activities for a purpose. That purpose is to focus on being in the right mindset to succeed, paying attention to detail, and using the right strategies and coping mechanisms needed to get through a tough situation.

If you go back a hundred years, things like sprinting or weight lifting would have been viewed as a waste of time that had nothing to do with getting better at playing baseball. Now we know that these activities lead to being a better baseball player. APG believes that focusing on making someone stronger in mind can have the same benefits, and while it may not be viewed as something that can help swing a bat or throw a ball right now, down the line we could view it in the same way we currently view exercise and training.

“When we do these programs, we’re not looking at giving them a workout,” Brauer said. “We’re looking at developing their mind and how they cope with things with tough situations.”

Most professional baseball players have been playing the game since they were kids. By now they know the basics of the game. There’s a difference between executing those skills in practice, and executing in a game in front of tens of thousands of people in a key situation. It’s impossible to simulate the big game atmosphere, especially at Pirate City where a busy day has less than 100 fans in attendance. To create that type of situation, APG focuses on getting players out of their comfort zone, to a point where they are uncomfortable and stressed, and then working with them to achieve goals in that mindset. That last part is key. The training is useless if players are only getting stressed and uncomfortable. The goal is to get them comfortable achieving tasks in that uncomfortable setting.

Many of the drills you’ve heard about are meant to get the players out of their comfort zone. The reason the training goes for so long is because it takes professional athletes so long to get uncomfortable. APG provides the athletes with tools and strategies, so that once they’re at this uncomfortable point, they can employ those tools to get through the situation in a successful manner. Ideally that would carry over to a stressful situation in the actual game, where they use the same tools and strategies to come through in a key situation.

One of the strategies used is visualization. That’s a process where players see themselves doing what it is they want to do. After seeing it in their mind, they go out and try to do it on the field. This applies during the drills, but also carries over to situations in the actual game. If a player needs to execute a bunt, the focus is visualizing the bunt being executed, then making that become a reality. This isn’t a new concept in sports, and it’s not a new concept to the Pirates, but some would argue that it is an important strategy to be successful, especially in high stress situations.

The training is accomplished over a short period, which raises some questions as to whether it can be retained over the long-term. After APG leaves, it is up to the coaches and the players to continue using the tools that were given during the training.

“This is not like an immunization, where you show up, you have the experience, and then you walk away and you understand how your head works,” Brauer said. “This is just like working out. You have to get introduced to it. You have to stay at it, you have to keep it sharp. It’s a perishable skill.”

 

Safety is the Number One Concern

The controversy surrounding this training has been the fear of prospects being injured. The drills have been described in a manner where it sounds like players are being beaten and abused, with the potential for injury around every turn. In getting the details of the drills, they don’t sound nearly as sensational as they’ve been previously described.

As an example, Gregory Polanco is reported to have been injured during a drill where players “sprinted across the outfield, through an above-ground pool of ice water, then leaped into a sand pit”. Here is the actual drill.

The players sprint across the outfield to a kiddie pool of ice water. Because it is hot in Florida, most of the ice in the pool melts immediately, although it is still cold. Once they arrive at the pool, players are instructed to go to their knees, then lay down on their belly and slide through the pool. Someone is stationed at the pool to make sure this happens, and make sure no one is entering the pool while running or diving. After the pool they go to a pile of sand, where they once again slow down, then enter the pile and roll around in the sand.

The focus of the drill is similar to the focus of a lot of drills. It is meant to get players wet and covered in sand, which helps to make them uncomfortable. That’s much different from a situation where they’re warm, clean, and dry. APG noted that no players were injured during the training, and in knowing the details of the “water and sand” drill, it’s hard to imagine how that could be an injury risk to any athlete.

You’ve probably also heard about players being sprayed with a hose. That hose is a simple garden hose that hooks up behind the pitcher’s mound, and is normally used to water the infield. Again, the purpose here is to get players uncomfortable, then get players used to being uncomfortable to the point where it isn’t an issue.

Water is a great tool that is used by APG. It’s safe and doesn’t cause injuries, but it also makes people uncomfortable. Water can trigger an uncomfortable response, whether it’s getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, being sprayed with a hose, or having to slide through a pool of cold water. Aside from making players uncomfortable, water is used for safety reasons. Players are out training in the heat for several hours. The main focus of the water drills is to make sure players avoid heat injuries, while keeping the training going. APG monitors what the weather will be like that day, and considers the activities the players are doing. Before a player can reach a point where he could suffer a heat injury, they will put him in a water activity, allowing him to cool down while also keeping him in an uncomfortable mindset to continue the training.

These activities have been presented as something that happens against the will of the players. We’ve heard anonymous players, parents, and agents complaining about this training. What we haven’t heard is the most important aspect in that discussion: this training is fully optional. That is made very clear to the players all throughout the training.

APG spends the entire first day and the night before with the coaches and the players, explaining what is going to happen. They do this so that there’s no shock once the training begins.

“The first night we tell them, and we tell them before every training block,” Hart explained. “We say ‘this is a voluntary block of training. If you are not interested in participating in this, you can stand off to the side and watch. You can see your team get stronger. And when you see them start to work together as a team, start to get stronger, you feel free to contact your training staff, they’ll let us know, we’ll put you back in. But if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here.’”

“We also tell them that ‘if any time you see something that appears unsafe, you have concerns that you or another player might get hurt, raise your hand, let us know. We’ll stop training, we’ll address the concern, and we’ll move on.’”

Throughout the training, APG eats with the players during every meal, and talk to the players like regular guys, answering any questions they may have. They make it clear that no one has to do the activities if they don’t want to. In the past they’ve had some situations where players sat out.

One example they gave was when they were working with a football team. A star player on the team felt the training was beneath him, and sat out of a drill. On the sidelines he watched the six man team he was with performing better a man down without him. When he saw this he got back in.

The training has been presented as dangerous and an injury risk, but that’s not the case. In fact, this training hasn’t been limited to sports teams. APG also works with corporate settings, including working with government employees who spend their days in cubicles. The exercises are tailored to each individual client’s needs, so a sports team and a corporate office wouldn’t go through the exact same exercises. However, the only focus of the exercises is getting people uncomfortable, then getting those people comfortable in that uncomfortable mindset, to the point where they’re comfortable achieving tasks in stressful situations. Safety is a huge concern, and none of the drills are designed in a way which would cause injuries. If middle-aged corporate employees who spent eight hours a day in a cubicle can do the training, then professional athletes should have no issues. The Pirates even had injured players who wanted to participate in the drills, but couldn’t as they weren’t cleared by their trainers.

The focus in all of this is to get players to an uncomfortable place, knocking them down, and then helping them to get back up. The focus of the criticism has been on the “knocking down” part. That part doesn’t work without helping the players get back up by achieving goals in an uncomfortable and stressful setting. Once they’ve achieved this, some players can be changed for the long-term, to the point where they can emerge as leaders.

“One of the things that we teach guys is leadership at every level. We force guys to lead,” Walker said. “We see a lot of younger guys who are ready to step up. Coaches come to us and say ‘That guy surprised me.’ And it was just that he was waiting for an opportunity. So we teach guys that it’s their responsibility to lead at every level.”

When you actually look at this training, what you’ll find is that the exercises are safe, the training is optional for the players, and the focus is on teaching players how to succeed in stressful situations, while building leadership and communication skills.  The training represents a different method to approach these goals, focusing on strengthening the mind of an athlete. That method is being adopted by more and more teams, and other MLB teams are starting to show interest in this training. The actual story is informative, but it’s not going to draw a national reaction without sensationalized details. A story where players are constantly at risk for injuries while being forced to do extreme training drills against their will is going to draw a lot of attention. The real story is that the drills are optional, safety is a huge concern, and the training drills aren’t nearly as extreme as they’ve been described. Unfortunately, that story probably doesn’t get a lot of attention.

You can find out more details on the Acumen Performance Group by visiting their website at acumenperformancegroup.com. Media who wish to contact APG for an interview can do so through the site.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    In the industrial sector, injury rates would be measured as Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR). Did you ask these guys what their TRIR (or however they would benchmark injuries) is? While I’m sure they are doing everything they can to prevent injuries, I would have to guess that they don’t have a TRIR of zero.

    Also, to say that water is ‘safe and doesn’t cause injuries’ is somewhat misleading. Sure it is safer to be sprayed with water than with caustic soda or concentrated sulfuric acid. But, in the history of the game, some players have slipped on wet grass and hurt themselves. One safety rule in most industrial setting is that if there is a spill (whether it be chemical or water), you stop whatever else you are doing and clean it up right away so that you prevent people from slipping. So, sure, spraying them with water can make them uncomfortable and saying there is something to be gained from being uncomfortable is fine. But saying that there isn’t an injury risk from doing so seems to be incorrect. I would think any industrial safety expert would disagree with the thought that purposefully and actively running/working/moving in a wet environment is safe, unless you are wearing appropriate footwear to deal with slippery ground.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      They said they have never had an injury. Keep in mind that these drills are also done in the corporate setting. They’re not the extreme drills that they were portrayed to be. It’s less about a physical workout and more about the mind and team building.

      As for the water, the risks you mentioned aren’t present. Spraying someone with water, or telling them to lay down and slide through a pool don’t bring risks. Another drill is having everyone lay down at the beach and lock arms while the shallow waves crash over them. None of these pose any risk or harm, as they’re not doing any physical activities during the water drills. The water drills are actually meant to be a break for players to cool down, all while they maintain the training by staying in an uncomfortable situation.

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        They said they’ve never had an injury? I’m confused. I thought Taillon suffered a minor injury during similar training last year. Was that training conducted by a different organization?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          That wasn’t this group or this training.

        • http://twitter.com/jlease717 jlease717

          I guess Polanco really wasn’t hurt. What a pathetic attempt this is to validate the idiots running the Pirates.

          • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

            What a pathetic attempt to invalidate actual facts when you know absolutely nothing first hand about the situation.

            Oh yeah, we’re all fools over here as you have stated on a certain other blog.

            Tim isn’t defending the practice, he is presenting factual data so the reader can decide for themselves. A totally different approach than the headline grabbing blowhard that so many are following akin to Rush Limbaugh.

          • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

            jalcorn……..WELL SAID!!!

            Never let facts get in the way of a juicy headline!

            Foo

  • RTJ02

    I’m glad you feel like you need to conduct an unnecessary amount of research to make an attempt to justify the pirates using this type of training to help them with their baseball players. I’m not suggesting that this type of training isn’t beneficial, but it is not going to help this laughing stock of an organization win games at the Major League level. If that was the case, then other successful professional baseball teams (keywords successful and baseball) would be doing the same thing. Working on the fundamentals of baseball would probably be a better idea, such as stealing bases as a simple example which the buccos did at an alarmingly terrible rate this past year. Save the “Hoka hey rah rah” stuff for college. Like I previously said on another article, this is Kyle Stark’s circus and being that he is an ex-volleyball player that had zero experience running a farm for a pro baseball team before the head clown hired him with the pirates, it really doesn’t mean it’s a great idea.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Why do you consider this unnecessary research? To date all of the talk has been without any specific information on the training program. You don’t think that’s relevant?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

      I agree with you RT…some people somewhere ought to lose their jobs. I mean, after a month of practicing baseball, 6 months of playing an practicing, then another month of practicing baseball, I don’t understand why they’re wasting like, 3 or 4 afternoons a year doing team building exercises put on by guys who essentially resemble the epitome of team work.

      How long do these guys have to have ground or fly balls hit to them with a fungo, or take batting practice before they get it? Player choice via the draft is a much more relevant argument than, why aren’t they focused on fundamentals?! Do you think even assistant coaches in the GCL don’t look out on the field and say hey….we need to focus on this particular fundamental because we’re weak in that area?

      In regards to SEAL training, I don’t care unless they’re doing that training exercise where everyone stands in the building and they release tear gas. I mean, worst case scenario, if they were going harder, e.g. Running through a shallow pool, at least it would be more physically demanding. If an athlete is going to get hurt, they’ll get hurt. What’s the difference between running trough a pool, squatting 400 pounds, or swinging a bat 300 times a day?….in my observation, absolutely nothing. They’re all things athletes do in the attempt to take a little step forward to improve. I could roll an ankle or pop a knee tomorrow morning getting out of bed tripping over one of my son’s toys….there are risks inherent in all physical activity. With SEAL training, how many more guys who’ve actually experienced it have to come forward and say it’s a good idea, or at least not dangerous, before it drowns out the noise of reporters too lazy to even ask what the hell they’re even writing about.

      Thank you, Tim, for actually bothering to say, hey, what is everyone actually talking about. This is of course in sharp contrast to what most Pittsburgh reporters do, which is read someone else’s article from another publication and essentially just write a reaction to that. It’s no wonder people have stopped reading the paper and watching the local news. It’s mostly sensationalist nonsense. It’s not a story to say how ridiculous a specific event is. It’s a story to say what things are ridiculous and how or why they correlate, and then provide a specific example(s).

      But I digress….this and the previous article is about SEAL training and the reaction thereof…Don’t get mad at Tim just because he bothered to ask a question that probably should’ve been asked the day before the first article on SEAL training was even published.

  • bqjd

    You lose all credibility when you start your article attacking other reporters, especially when the rest of the article sounds like something the Pirates themselves would put out.

    Second, DK’s recent article was not about the SEAL training. It was about “hell week”, run by the Pirates’ front office. While the “training” was similar to what the SEALs did, it was not the same.

    How you can continue to defend this front office is amazing. The only good thing they do now is signing Latin American players, and that’s on Rene Gayo. The drafting has been atrocious. Anyone could have picked Allverez, Cole and Taillon after reading DK’s blog or this blog. On top of that, it appears they still did not draft the best player, Posey, machado and Bundy.

    The development has been terrible. The poor execution of fundamentals from guys brought up from the minors is an indictment of the development team. Just because some guys in low A, who had a bunch of talent, start to flourish does not mean that Stark and Co. know what they are doing. Show me a bonus baby developing, you can’t. Show me guys who can run the bases, you can’t. Show me a pitcher, who can hold runners on. You can’t.

    If it is assumed across the industry that the Pirates are nuts, which appears to be the case, the Pirates will have trouble signing non college senior draft picks. With the new draft rules, obviously, they will not be able to just throw money at picks to get them to sign. Now thy have to convince picks that their philosophy will help the get to the majors and a big league career. That is not going to happen with all of the hoke hey nonsense.

    Lastly, a move needs to be made to show that status quo is not acceptable. not to the fans or media, but the players on the team. He team either under achieved or a good enough product was not put on the field. Either is unacceptable.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      There have been so many articles and so much outcry over this, and you don’t think it’s noteworthy that no one has contacted the company that conducts the training? It’s not so much an attack on other reporters. It’s just showing that in all of that, no one went to the people doing the training to see what is actually going on and what it’s all about.

      I don’t know where to begin with the rest of the comment. You’re covering a ton of topics here, and only scratching the surface on each. I feel you’re correct in some areas, incorrect in others. But this article is about the SEAL training, so I’ll keep it on topic.

      • bqjd

        I don’t disagree with you that the info is relevant, but you start the article attacking other reporters/columnists. not needed. are you defending the bucs or jut reporting?

        While I disagree with the seal training, I’m not adamantly opposed. However, and correct me if I’m wrong, DK’s last article was about hell week. My reading was that was on top of the seal training. Even you have to agree, at some point, the military stuff has gone too far, and hell week was surely too far.

        The FO has to go for more reasons then I can write.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I’m just reporting.

          If you read my “First Pitch” article, you’ll see that I originally went in to this interview trying to get answers on the training, while thinking everything that has been reported about the dangers of the drills has been accurate.

          I was surprised when I was told that no one had contacted them to get information. And I felt that was relevant. It wasn’t an attack. It was pointing out that in all of the articles written, no one has bothered to do this simple research. And that’s led to a lot of inaccurate writings.

          As for “hell week”, from what I hear that is also exaggerated. That’s something they do every year during the last week of instructs, and it’s not called “hell week”. This is not a surprise, since everything else so far has been exaggerated.

          If you think the FO has to go, that opinion shouldn’t come from this stuff.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Also, most of the last article was about Polanco and the SEAL training. As pointed out in this article, the description of the “water and sand” drill was misleading. As I’ve pointed out before, the “injury” to Polanco has been exaggerated.

    • mbrannagan

      I must have missed where time attacked anyone. If the fact is that APG was not contacted then Tim is right to point out that fact.

  • JayhawkDuke

    I don’t understand why anybody has a problem with this particular training regimen. Have the Pirates made mistakes developing their players? Absolutely. And I think Tim would be the first of any of us to point those mistakes out. The point of this article wasn’t to justify EVERYTHING Kyle Stark and Neal Huntington have done developing players. The point was to provide actual facts about this particular aspect of the development that none of these other news outlets thought was important. Coming from a military background and also having played collegiate sports, I can tell you that drills like these are the BEST team building and leadership training exercises I’ve ever experienced. If Kyle Stark’s email hadn’t leaked out, this would be a total non-story. That email along with some potentially sensationalized reporting blew everything way out of proportion. It’s totally preposterous to expect organizations NOT to try new techniques and methods for training athletes. This company has shown results training athletes in numerous other sports, and if the Pirates didn’t try it, some other MLB team would. I just don’t understand what they had to lose!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremiah.ewing.9 Jeremiah Ewing

      As a vet myself, I 100% agree with this.

      The outlined benefits in the article are spot on. Activities such as this are meant to show the participant that they can achieve beyond their ‘quit threshold’ which I could be significantly beneficial to those who take it seriously.

      Many of these athletes have been carried rather easily to the Pirates by their tools. It’s a natural reaction to quit when that isn’t enough to be successful anymore. If you can help show a player that they are capable of more than they had perceived, then that can absolutely carry over into their development cycle. This mentality training has to be significantly difficult to accomplish by throwing and hitting baseballs… succeeding in something you are completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with goes beyond the immediate and can be a very successful teaching point and/or reminder.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107500598404660809214 Kerry Writtenhouse

    Thanks Tim for doing the work so many media outlets failed to do. It’s good to hear that these drills are blown way out of proportion. It’s no wonder newspapers are going under. For them, it’s all about breaking a story rather than reporting a story factually.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Kerry…I agree 100%!!!

      Good research Tim. Glad someone actually, you know, took the time to get the facts!

  • brendansdad

    “If Kyle Stark’s email hadn’t leaked out, this would be a total non-story. That email along with some potentially sensationalized reporting blew everything way out of proportion.”

    Wow…You know if those small time burglars wouldn’t have been caught breaking into the Watergate building and if those two reporters Woodward and Bernstein had let it die and if Mark Felt hadn’t leaked information to Woodward as Deepthroat…yada… yada… yada….

    So basically you want to blame the reporter for covering a story that the Pirates obviously didn’t and still don’t want to talk about. All the while Tim continues to hold the Pirates blameless in this fiasco.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      wow…comparing Watergate to this?

      Reaching….at least Bernstein had some, you know, facts.

      All this ‘reporter’ has are his ‘sources’. And then he misrepresents the actual events?

      I also find it incredible that this reporter is being found wrong time and time again. They even joke about that over and over on his blog.

      To the tune of “Windy” by the Association

      “And Dejan has stor-my picks
      His sure things all turn to bricks
      He once got one right, how slick
      To fool the crowd (to fool the crowd)
      To fool the crowd (to fool the crowd)
      .
      Who’s losing post all over the city
      Predicts with everybody he sees
      Who do we know whose picks are all sh***y
      Everyone knows it’s Dejan

      .

    • VaPirate

      What fiasco? Now that you have some actual facts, can you please tell us what is “THIS fiasco” you are talking about?

      Please keep in mind the definition of your work choice – “a complete and ignominious failure.” Other than DK’s utter failure to write a fair, accurate and balanced article, can you please tell us what “THIS fiasco” might be.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        Agree…the fiasco was that it ever became a story!

        .

      • brendansdad

        What fiasco? I guess having my favorite team being the laughingstock of the industry isn’t a fiasco? I guess agents telling their clients to not complete pre-draft questionnaires for the Pirates isn’t a fiasco? Keep drinking the cool aid. Enjoy losing season 21 in 2013.

  • brendansdad

    “APG has been contacted by other MLB teams. Some of those teams have been referred by the Pirates after hearing about the training. Other teams have been referred through other sources. Due to confidentiality reasons, APG wouldn’t say which teams contacted them.”

    Hey Tim why don’t you and your staff of start calling all 29 teams and see if someone will confirm this? I’m sure that Kristy make a few calls can’t she?

    I want to see who these other MLB teams are. Frankly, I believe this company is lying through their teeth. Also, I still haven’t read about one other MLB team that send their best prospects to this have I ever heard of one MLB organization that treats their best prospects to this “hell week” nonsense.

    When a team loses for 20 straight years that just isn’t bad luck. There is a real reason for it,

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Wow…you probably believe we faked the moon landing!

      You conspiracy theorists are something else!

      • VaPirate

        Haters gotta hate.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “Hello (insert MLB team here). I spoke with APG and they mentioned that they’ve been contacted by some MLB teams about their training. They wouldn’t give me names due to confidentiality reasons, and that’s not enough for brendansdad.”

      “Who is brendansdad? I have no clue.”

      • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

        Rita seems to have lost the phone number for Alan Stanwyk’s realtor in Utah.

        I’m sorry, who are you again?

        I’m Rita’s boss.

        And who is Rita?

        My secretary.

      • brendansdad

        Tim you could simply say that you have no idea on how to be a reporter. I could understand your reluctance to actually investigate APG’s claims.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Or I could say that I neither work for you, nor do I care if you need more proof. So there’s no reason for me to take time following up on something that doesn’t need to be followed up on.

          • brendansdad

            So APG tells you that many teams have contacted them about their training methods…which to the lay person are highly controversial. However, it appears that no successful MLB team has done this training despite claims to the contrary made by APG. Why would that not be an avenue of inquiry by you? I would think that if their claims are true to would bolster the Pirates claims that their training is innovative and not laughable.

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

            I’m now wondering if you have any reading comprehension skills at all.

            First, no one said “many” teams had contacted them. You added the “many”.

            Second, I noted that teams had contacted them since the Pirates news. No one said that other teams have done this, just that teams have expressed interest.

            You’re reaching here.

    • VaPirate

      YOu can’t even stick to the article’s point – someone (DK) INTENTIONALLY misrepresented facts, failed to do due diligence, failed to make even the most obvious inquiry. But you’re backing DK all the way? Maybe you are (an embarrassed) DK. At a minimum you should be an embarrassed Dad of Brandon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        Va Pirate…Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        On his blog today, DK INSISTS the truth will come out.

        Sooooooo….Tim publishes the truth!

        And they STILL say the ‘REAL truth will come out’!

        Unbelievable!

        Foo

        .

      • brendansdad

        Just so I have your claims clear. You, Tim, and the rest of the pro front office group believe that Dejan Kovacevic who has been a reporter and journalist for over 15 years in this market…in essence made up this story? That he is lying about the emails. That he is lying about the claims of agents steering clients away from the Pirates. That he is lying that players were hurt with this Hoka Hey nonsense. That he is lying about other major league teams laughing at the Pirates player development methods. I also guess that Keith Law is lying when he makes the same claims about the Pirates being laughingstocks to other teams. Everyone is lying…do I have that right?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I think you have so many things wrong in that statement that I wouldn’t know where to begin.

          • brendansdad

            What is wrong with the statement? In essence many of the posters here are believing that Dejan is “wrong time and time again…” Well if he’s wrong then I guess he’s lying. What was DK wrong about?

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

            You’re taking the words of people in the comments and applying them to me?

        • http://twitter.com/jfranco77 jfranco77

          I completely agree with this. Sorry, but if I have to believe someone, I’m believing Dejan and Keith Law.

          It is great that someone talked to these guys. It’s also clear why no one bothered to do it before, their responses are nothing but spin and fluff.

          To be clear, I don’t really think these guys are in the wrong, I think the Pirates are.

    • mbrannagan

      I do not believe that DK lied in his article. I do believe however that I would be more likely to believe a journalist would lie to produce an article, than a group of veteran Navy Seals would lie to protect the image of their business. I promise you that those gentlemen have nothing to prove by lying.

  • http://twitter.com/bwedz bwedz

    Who wrote this? I was kind of intrigued in the article until this paragraph which started with “Water is a great tool that is used by APG. It’s safe and doesn’t cause injuries, but it also makes people uncomfortable… ”

    That doesn’t sound like it was written by someone who just got off the phone with a company for the first time. That sounds like it written by APG or someone who has been around this training and observing for a while.

    This article is written too much like someone who has been there and observed this activity for sometime. You are writing it like this is all first hand knowledge.

    You also reply to a comment saying Taillon didn’t get hurt while this company performed the training. So how many different companies have come in to do this? In an article on Sept 23, 2012 from the PG – Neal Huntington indicated that APG was the firm that in fact worked previously and at the start of spring training. So are you saying Taillon got hurt while yet ANOTHER Seals training firm came through?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      We had a lengthy conversation, as well as a few follow up e-mails. I asked about a lot of water drills that they did. I could have posted quotes from any one of the individual drills, but the quotes would have been talking about that drill and not the overall concept of using water. So I summed it all up, since the purpose of each water drill was the same.

      Taillon was hurt in 2010. They didn’t do SEAL training until extended Spring Training this year.

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 jlease717

    It’s yet another incredible attempted perfume job on this stink pile. Gee Tim, I guess Polanco didn’t hurt himself, because the guys offering this said so. It’s so great, all teams should do it! This is pathetic. And you were oh so pathetic defending it before! Maybe you can do another big meeting and show how much better of a reporter you are? Or just keep on spewing out this crap, and keep in good with the worst management team in baseball.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Jlease….yeh…believe someone’s ‘sources’ over THE FACTS! You’re just upset because Tim printed some facts that actually put the FO in a good light!

      Sheesh!

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I post things that are positive and negative about this organization. I always want my articles backed up with facts. Yet you only get up in arms about the articles that are perceived as positive. Do you ever stop and think that maybe you’re wrong? While there are negative stories about the Pirates, perhaps not every story is actually a negative.

      And Polanco didn’t hurt himself. He just experienced swelling.

    • VaPirate

      “Or just keep on spewing out this crap, ”

      How can anyone possibly write this when comparing the above article to a completely unattributed article by DK. “Carp” starts with the words “unnamed sources”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        Va…sorry, but you’re incorrect….’Carp’ start with ‘fish’

        (Sorry, couldn’t resist….otherwise, I loved your line.i HATE ‘unnamed sources’ or ‘high ranking official’.)

        Foo

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    This just in for you conspiracy theorists who think Tim is spewing crap:

    Kristy Robinson ‏@Kristy_Robinson
    Gregory Polanco has appeared in two winterball games so far. 2-for-6, 2B; ”

    I guess he’s all recovered from that devastating injury!!!!

    Never let facts ruin a good story.

    Foo

    .

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Kristy is probably just making this up since, like Tim, she is a front office ‘shill’.

      Foo

      .

      • http://twitter.com/donaldorris donaldorris

        Foo,

        Touche’

        For every “shill” there seems to be at least one corresponding “hack”. I found Dunlap’s comment to be tasteless, classless and certainly unwarranted.

        Not sure why, but he comes across to me as very bitter.

  • gonfalon

    Thanks for the interview/article on APG. I think it would have been more informative if a few key questions had been answered:

    - How many other baseball teams/programs (college or pro) have used APG? Surely they can maintain “confidentiality” and still provide a number?

    - I have no doubt that APG succeeds in “getting players out of their comfort zone, to a point where they are uncomfortable and stressed, and then working with them to achieve goals in that mindset”, especially the “uncomfortable and stressed” part. But aside from the curiously downplayed risk of injury (I’m guessing the risk/consequences of tripping while running in the outfield are lower/less severe than tripping while carrying a telephone pole, or tripping while running through a kiddie pool of ice water), what is the “collateral damage” to (apparently) being the only MLB team to embrace this training? For example, are the unsolicited emails DK has reported receiving from parents of recent draftees insignificant in the big picture? Knowing that this bullshit, I mean training, is ahead for them, do you think 2013 draftees will be less likely to sign with the Pirates?

    - Finally, the article pretty much admits there is no proof this training will help a baseball player: “while it may not be viewed as something that can help swing a bat or throw a ball right now, down the line we could view it in the same way we currently view exercise and training.” Thus, could APG provide any documentation that their training has helped other teams/athletes?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I don’t think the amount of MLB teams really matters. I don’t even think it matters if any MLB teams are participating. The focus of this training is to strengthen the mind, to the point where players will succeed while being uncomfortable, and get to a point where an uncomfortable situation doesn’t impact their performance. That is useful in all sports.

      As for the second question, you’re still going with the old descriptions of the training. For example, you mention “running through a pool of ice water”. As pointed out in the article, that wasn’t happening.

      The success story is difficult to answer. There were plenty of examples given where teams had success after the training. I mentioned the US men’s water polo team. They were ranked 10th and went on to win the silver. They’ve done the training three times, working through the Navy, and they just won the gold. But that raises the question, is that due to the training? I would think the training helped, but I wouldn’t think it was the sole reason.

      • gonfalon

        Tim, I am trying to keep an open mind that this type of training could help the development of Pirates lower-level prospects, but your article didn’t really provide any evidence that was true.

        Consider the doctor’s credo “first, do no harm”. The risk of injury is laughably downplayed in this article, and there is no mention of other (safer) activities that could also “strengthen the mind”. Is there a way to build mental toughness without a player being injured, and without potentially alienating future draft picks (and their parents)?

        In addition, consider the current emphasis in medicine on outcomes and results-based accountability. Not only is there no proof this works for baseball players, but there also doesn’t seem to be a good way to measure if it works. The apparent lack of any other baseball teams using this training is important in this context.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          “I am trying to keep an open mind that this type of training could help the development of Pirates lower-level prospects, but your article didn’t really provide any evidence that was true.”

          It’s not my intention to provide evidence that the training could help. I’m still not sold on the long term benefits. My focus here was just giving insight on the training.

          • gonfalon

            Fair enough; thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/donaldorris donaldorris

    As I mentioned in a previous tweet, if this program was used by the Rays and Joe Maddon or the Rangers and Nolan Ryan, they would be hailed as innovative and forward thinking. In contrast, if the Pirates ignored pitch counts like Ryan or if they did “themed” road trips like Maddon has they would be mocked and ridiculed. Any sense of objectivity regarding the Pirates, specifically this front office, is immeasurable clouded by the hatred that so many “fans” carry.

    I think Dejan is a fine reporter. He was a great source of info while the Pirates beat reporter. As a columnist, at least in this case, I thought the story was overblown and apparently a little sloppy in its research and premise.

    There is plenty to criticize Huntington for. One doesn’t need to make things up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      donaldmorris….well said….and like Tim said, it remains to be seen whether this is helpful or not.

      Not sure it will be, but since it is safe (as safe as batting, fielding and BUNTING) then it is worth a shot.

      Can you imagine the outcry if NO teams had EVER practiced bunting and then AJ injures himself?

      lol

      Foo

      .

  • Mark Baes

    Please tell me that you asked “What, exactly, is jumping into sand pits?” exactly like that, followed by a laugh and a simple explanation.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    Tim, DK is calling you out on his blog for ignoring his invite to be on his radio show tomorrow. Yet another dismissive move.

    Nice work on this article, nothing like actual research over sensational claims.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Actually I was considering it, but just declined. He spent the entire round table accusing me of “pouting”, “whining”, and “stomping” about this situation. I can only assume this would be more of the same.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Tim….discretion WAS the better part of valor.

      You would’ve been in a ‘lose lose’ situation had you gone on his show.

      “nothing like actual research over sensational claims.”
      AMEN!!

  • pdad

    Being new to the site, let me make my first comment an obvious one. If we were talking about a Giant’s prospect in A ball allegedly hurting his ankle in these drills, no one would or should care. When you are talking about a franchise with 20 consecutive losing seasons (5 under the current GM), two late season collapses, and a minor league system which had little to offer at the upper level, there should be lots of scrutiny of this issue. Stark’s email might have been eccentric in a winning organization but sounds crazy when you organization has been loosing for so long.

    It good to have two sides of the issue reported on but it needs to be reported on

  • Swany31

    I wonder how many SF Giants rolled around in pools of water and sand to feel uncomfortable. Probably none, they were too busy working on situational hitting, bunting, baserunning, etc. Aren’t these guys uncomfortable enough being property of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for the first 5-6 years of their professional careers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Didn’t we just have 30 days of Instructs?

      The SEAL training was in addition to the Instructs.

      But, you knew that, right?

      Sheesh.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Btw, can you provide some links saying these players are ‘uncomfortable’ being Pirates?
      Other than some sports writer’s opinion (or his unnamed sources’ opinion)

      foo

    • michaelbro8

      I wouldn’t dismiss the value of mental toughness and self confidence as a great asset for a baseball player to have.
      “90% of the game is half mental.”

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        agreed

  • https://profiles.google.com/108052838757004515293 Possum

    Tim,

    I believe that the deck is stacked against you and the Pirates for thinking outside the box when trying to increase team chemistry and the team work idea as a whole.

    Due to the rant by the “Pro” who works for the reader based daily rag called the Tribune Review everyone is taking his words as the gospel and saying that this type of training should not be done.

    I thank you for your professionalism in contacting Acumen Performance Group about what they provided for the Pirates. Of course you seemingly did not ask the right questions of Acumen as suggested by some of the commenters but at least you did do more than the “Pro”. You actually asked the questions of the service provider.

    Whether this was the correct way to go about this task of team building is up in the air and we may not know how it will work out for some time. But at least the Pirates tried something and I give them credit for that at least.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Possum…what questions did Tim not ‘seemingly’ ask?

      I’m confoozed about that one.

      • https://profiles.google.com/108052838757004515293 Possum

        If you read the comments there were some respondents who thought Tim should have asked a few more questions.

        As for me, I am just fine with what Tim asked and the answers he summarized for us.

        Sorry for the confusion. Actually trying to be a bit sarcastic.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Possum…thx…re-read it and I see your point.
          ;)
          Foo

          .

  • http://www.facebook.com/markwhittaker Mark Whittaker

    Tim … thanks taking the time to do the research for this article. A simple enough thing to do, and I was also surprised that none of the “mainstream” media types bothered to look into it. Thank you.

  • https://profiles.google.com/104537269257278527098 Peter Panza

    I appreciate Tim putting the time and effort in getting feedback from APG.

    However, I’m curious why you avoided the other side of the story. Surely you could have sought out someone in another major league front office to get their views on the drills/Pirates’ methods. Or given your team contacts what about talking, even if they only agree to do so anonymously, to a former Pirates minor leaguer no longer with the organization? Good or bad, you’d think that they would have something to say on the matter.

    Sorry, but the way this piece was presented — multiple sources, but one uniform, one-sided point of view — doesn’t tell the whole story. Dejan and Keith Law touched on the other side, the kind of stuff that might paint the Pirates in a negative light, but why didn’t you?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      This story isn’t meant to be the end all of this discussion. It’s just meant to look at a side we haven’t heard from, which is the company that conducts the training.

      I tried getting in touch with members of the organization to do an article with their take on the training, but no one wanted to discuss it right now.

      As for the anonymous players, parents, and agents who have come forward…they’re more than welcome to get in touch with me. I know that plenty of players, parents, and agents read this site. I haven’t had anyone send me a comment with their thoughts on the subject.