Elite baseball competition offers lots of opportunities to perform under stress.

Skills pay the bills. What is a skill? Simply put, it’s something that you do well repeatedly without thought under stress. In my blogs, I continue to reinforce the importance that having the right skills play in your quest to be an elite hitter.

Here, we again visit the art of building skills:

How to convert a habit to a skill?
A habit is what you repeatedly do without thought. There are seven parts to the swing, and we know that it takes 3,000 reps to build a habit. That’s 21,000 reps to build a habit. You convert a habit to a skill by doing tough stuff under stress. It also takes 21,000 reps to convert a habit to a skill.

When should you convert a habit to a skill?
The best time to build a habit is during the winter training months (November-January). The best time to convert a habit to a skill is during the spring training months (February-April).

Why do you need a skill?
You need a skill in order to execute without thought under stress. Elite baseball competition offers lots of opportunities to perform under stress.

There are seven parts to the swing. Remember – it takes 3,000 reps to build a habit. That’s another 21,000 reps to convert a habit to a skill. The parts of the swing include:

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

Here’s one of my favorite Skill Build Drill, because it allows you to develop all seven parts each rep.

Do this Skill Build Drill for 100 reps for the next 30 days, which equals 3,000 reps.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

___________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

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I train my hitters to execute the fundamentals. But I also make sure I don’t coach their athleticism out of them by preventing them from doing tough stuff.

Some coaches, scouts and fans refer to players as being athletic as if it’s a four-letter profane word. Athleticism is all about being able to think critically and respond quickly. Good athletes do three things very well:

  1. They get things done even when they don’t have all the fundamentals.
  2. They handle stress and pressure exceptionally well
  3. They never complain and blame, because their ability to adjust is a must

I train my hitters to execute the fundamentals. But I also make sure I don’t coach the athleticism out of them by preventing them from doing tough stuff.

Doing tough stuff forces you to rely on four A’s:

  1. Attitude – How you act
  2. Awareness – Knowledge about situations
  3. Adjustments – How you respond
  4. Aptitude – Your ability to learn and apply

Here are three things that coaches say that don’t phase athletic hitters:

  1. “You can’t”
  2. “You won’t”
  3. “Don’t”

Athletic players are often misunderstood and under-coached because most coaches weren’t as good as them. So coaches will say things like…

  1. “You can’t lunge and hit those pitches.” Two pitches later the kid hits a walk off home run by lunging at a pitch that was out of the strike zone.
  2. “You won’t be able to get a lot of base hits starting your hands in that position in your stance.” Meanwhile that same kid led the league in batting average by 75 points.
  3. “Don’t swing at pitches on a 2-0 count.” During the season the kid hits five home runs off 2-0 count pitches that were strikes.

Having great hitting fundamentals is a great thing. But when all else fails, be athletic.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

__________________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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C.J. Stewart: “The good news about stress is that achieving success in spite of it helps develop skills.”

We all have an uneasy feeling when we have to do tough stuff. That uneasy feeling shows up in moments of stress and pressure. Under stress, you have that uneasy feeling because you don’t have the knowledge, time, resources and/or energy to get something done.

If you attempted to fly an airplane right now, I am guessing that there would be a certain amount of stress there.

Stress is also felt by hitters when they visit my Hitting Lab for that first-time assessment.

The good news about stress is that achieving success in spite of it helps develop skills. Doing tough stuff over and over under stress causes you to learn what you don’t know. Learning how to think this way eventually leads to some level of development. When you learn how to think under stress, you can be positioned to achieve success under pressure.

Under pressure, you have the same uneasy feeling that you had under stress. But under pressure, you do have the knowledge, time, resources and/or energy to get things done.

For some hitters it is stressful to come up to the plate in the last inning with the bases loaded, a full count, no outs and down by two runs. For other hitter that’s pressure. The difference comes down to training, which is different than practice.

  • Systematic – What all are we doing?
  • Sequential – What are order are we doing it?
  • Simple – Is it is easy to do?
  • Specific – This will help me do what?

When we practice, what we are doing must be systematic, sequential and simple. In order to train, it must also be specific.

November through January is the time my hitters build habits and strength by the thousands. February through May is the time they convert their habits to skills by the thousands.

And, as you can see, stress is a must.

Remember it like this: You must apply stress to wooden trees in order to produce wooden bats.

Stress: “I got to make this happen.”
You: I can’t.

Pressure: “I got to make this happen”!
You: I can.

Remember, it takes 3,000 reps to build a habit and there are seven parts of the swing. That’s 21,000 reps to build a habit and another 21,000 to convert the habit to a skill. Here are some Skill Build Drills that you can master in a effort to have a productive spring:

  1. Stance/Load 
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish 

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

___________________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

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It’s the end of December and we’re days away from a New Year. Is there any better time of year to reflect? I don’t think so. As you reflect on what this year has offered, here’s my advice for 2018. It’s about being REAL.

R – Ready and not raw
E – Empowered and not enabled
A – Action-oriented and not arrogant
L – Loose and not lazy

Be ready
Being ready to perform in the spring starts with your ability to practice in the winter. The winter is where you get thousands of reps. And it better be 21,000 reps to be exact.

Remember, a habit is what you repeatedly do without thought. There are seven parts to the swing and it takes 3,000 reps to build a habit. That’s 21,000 reps to build a habit.

You convert a habit to a skill by doing tough stuff under stress. It also takes 21,000 reps to convert a habit to a skill.

Will you eat raw meat? Will raw hitters be ready to compete against elite pitching?

It takes skills to pay the bills.

Be empowered
Empowered hitters have proven themselves trust worthy and are trusted by their coaches to follow the “75-20-5 Rule.” Empowering is good and enabling is bad.

Coaches can unintentionally create an environment that stunts learning for their players because of their own ignorance. I’m raising my hand high to this statement, because I was the king of “faking it until I made it.”

These were my three mantras as a young, inexperienced and developing coach.

  1. Scream & Dream – This is when you scream to kids the things to do at the plate knowing full well you haven’t really prepared them for success.
  2. Hit & Get – This is when you give kids tons of reps and expect them to get a hit every at bat simply because they got tons of reps.
  3. Hope & Cope – This is when your hope for success for your players as a coach is stronger than your baseball coaching acumen, and you lean on the, “We’ll get ’em next time” philosophy to cope with the failure.

Be action-oriented
Being action-oriented means you’re willing to actually take action. On the other hand, arrogance causes some hitters to simply believe they can believe their way to success. Hope is a gift, but turning hope into reality is a journey.

The journey toward leading your team in hitting in the spring when the flowers are blooming happens in December when it’s cold outside and the flowers are dead.

Be loose
Coaches and parents tell you to “be loose” all the time, like it’s really a thing you can turn on. For a fact, lazy hitters can never turn it on because they haven’t earned the opportunity to be successful.

“Be loose” can be turned on after you’ve received 63,000 reps.

  • Fall (August-October) x 21,000
  • Winter (November-January) x 21,000 reps
  • Spring (February-April) x 21,000 reps

And just when you thought it was over, it takes another 21,000 reps in the summer to maintain your skills.

That’s 84,000 reps on the year. Lazy hitters can’t even dream of taking this many reps.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

___________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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Practice. Play. Perform. These three P’s are separate, yet support each other.

Practice
Practice involves the systematic and sequential way of doing something that’s simple, so that you can achieve success when you play.

Play
Playing is when you test the habits in games that you’re working on in practice.

Performance
Performance is the execution of skills when the stakes are high, such as championship games, and in front of college or professional scouts. Skills are developed under stress for tests that invite stress.

More about practice
It takes 3,000 reps to build a habit and there are seven parts to the swing. That’s 21,000 reps.

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

More about playing
Baseball is an individual sport played in a team concept. You play games to win as a team. You must also use games to determine what works and what doesn’t, so that you can know what to do in your next practice.

I believe that a hitter needs at least 250 in game at-bats per year in order to remain competitive. Success during these at-bats should be based on them being productive, which leads to the outcome that we all want – lots of hits.

A productive at-bat is based on four things happening:

  1. Draw a walk
  2. Executive an offensive strategy, such as advancing the runner to any base with less than two outs
  3. See at least six pitches, regardless of the outcome
  4. Hitting the ball hard, regardless of the outcome

Achieving a productive at-bat 50 percent of the time can allow you to get a hit 30 percent to 40 percent of the time, and more or less depending on the league you play in.

More about performance
It takes 10,000 of deliberate practice to develop a skill. Think about Martin Luther King., Jr., giving speeches. Michael Jackson entertaining sold out crowds or Derek Jeter getting the game winning hit in the World Series on several occasions.

All three of these icons have performed over 10,000 hours.

As a professional instructor, I’ve trained hitters for over 30,000 hours. Can you see where your priorities are?

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

____________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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All coaches need coaches. We especially need coaching helping to ensure that we are good at three things that will help you become a great hitter. Players and parents can be coaches best coach when the right questions are asked of us. Those questions center on:
  1. Focus
  2. Patience
  3. Communication

Focus
Focus is the center interest of any activity, and you can’t get it until you know everything that must be done. Coaches can always find stuff to do, but we can also be masters of wasting time. There are only seven things that my hitters are ever developing:

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

It takes 3,000 reps to build a habit, which means there are seven things to work on. That’s 21,000 reps.

Each part of the swing needs 1-2 simple drills to execute in order to develop a habit. There are no more than 3,000 reps required to develop your habit.

When coaches aren’t focused, they have their hitters taking swings at random, hoping that they get better under the overly used mantra, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

But you can coach your coach with this question: What parts of the swing are we focusing on this winter, and how many reps will it take to build the habit I need to meet your expectations this spring?

Patience
Patience is to wait without anger. As a coach, I find myself losing patience with my hitters when I want them to get better faster. My vision for their development must be met with patience or they will get frustrated and the development stops.

I also struggle with patience when I don’t trust my hitters are putting in the work to get good. There is no way a player will get 21,000 reps in my presence.

In order to regain my patience, I must trust my hitters adhere to the 75-20-5 Rule:

  • 75 percent of a hitter’s development must happen alone and outside of the presence of a coach, parent or anyone
  • 20 percent of a hitter’s development must happen in the presence of a coach
  • 5 percent of a hitter’s development must happen in games where he tests what’s being worked on at practice

Commitment and discipline are two keys to success that leads to patience:

  1. Commitment – making and keeping a promise to yourself
  2. Discipline – doing the things that need to be done especially when you don’t want to do them

Coach your coach with this question: What hitting drills should I be doing at home that will prepare me for an effective practice with you and how will you hold me accountable for doing the drills Coach?

Communication
Good communication is clear, concise and consistent. Good communication is often a challenge for us for three reasons:

  1. We often like to hear ourselves talk.
  2. We often initially talk too much to buy ourselves time to figure out what we’re talking about.
  3. We often don’t realize there are three major learning styles.

I firmly believe that there are three major learning styles for baseball, schooling, etc. They include: kinesthetic, visual and auditory. Here’s the breakdown that I also believe exists among players at the collegiate and professional levels:

  • 50 percent kinesthetic – Learn best by doing
  • 40 percent visual – Learn best by seeing
  • 10 percent auditory – Learn best by hearing

The most damage is done when coaches don’t understand all three of these learning styles. When a coach doesn’t understand all three, he defaults to communicate based on the way he learns.

Coach your coach with this question: What’s your dominate learning style and what do you assess that mine is?

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

__________________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

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The 11th Annual L.E.A.D. Celebrity Clinic at SunTrust Park featured (far left) Milwaukee Brewers’ scout Steve Smith, (middle) C.J. Stewart, UGA head baseball coach Scott Stricklin and UGA Assistant Coach Sean Kenny, along with some L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.

A habit is something that can be done repeatedly without thought. A habit can be broken down into three parts:

  1. A cue
  2. A routine
  3. A reward

Common reasons that hitters struggle to develop good hitting habits is as easy as solving A, B, C and D:

  • Attitude
  • Blameless
  • Commitment
  • Discipline

Attitude
Our attitude is simply the way we act. Nobody is perfect, so nobody will ever be able to act good all the time. Awareness allows you to check yourself when you’re having a bad attitude so that you can make the adjustment.

Without a good attitude, developing good hitting habits that will last is likened to trying to drive a car without gas.

Blameless
To be blameless is to be without guilt. Fortunately for baseball players, you only need to get a hit three times out of 10 at the collegiate and professional levels to be considered among the best. There are lots of mistakes to be made and learned from as a hitter in baseball.

The blameless hitters are the ones who struggle the most to develop good hitting habits because they are often blaming others and circumstances for their failure.

Commitment
Commitment is a promise that you make to yourself. There are seven parts to the swing and it takes 3,000 reps to build a habit. That’s 21,000 reps:

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

Discipline
To be disciplined is to do things you don’t want to, but need to do. It takes a lot of discipline to develop hitting habits. It also takes discipline to complain and blame when things aren’t going our way.

How do we combat these in order to develop good hitting habits? Using E, F, G, and H:

  • Energy – it’s more valuable than time
  • Focus – deliberate and unwavering attention to the task at hand
  • Grit – the relentless pursuit of purpose
  • Help – you can never get enough of it from the right people who are present for the right reasons

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

______________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

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Within the game of baseball, both Strength and Power play important roles in determining success, both at the plate and in the field of play. They often cross over one another within an athletic performance training program, yet have separate characteristics that define one another.

This article will help distinguish one from the other.

First of all, Power maybe defined as the ability to generate as much force as possible, and with the proper technique or form. It cannot be performed too slowly. The load (or resistance) must be heavy, but not to the point where the exercise (or movement) is compromised.

You must be able to repeat the exercise/movement more than once in a short time frame, effectively. It is lower resistance and higher, faster, more explosive repetitions. Power is going up to the plate and hitting the ball out of the park.

Power = Strength x Speed

Examples:

  • Swinging a baseball bat
  • A 2nd baseman diving one way to catch a line drive
  • Jumping up onto a box/platform
  • Throwing a medium weighted medicine ball
  • Track & field (javelin or discus throw)

Strength, on the other hand, is defined as the amount of force a muscle, or group of muscles, can exert against an external load. The tempo is slow, the load/resistance is heavy, repetitions are low, requires 80 percent or greater of an athlete’s one repetition maximum (1-5 repetitions) and needs more rest between sets (3 minutes or more).

Strength in baseball doesn’t mean you have develop big muscles, like in bodybuilding, for example. Strength is required in baseball to help your body survive a long season without breaking down (pulled or strained muscles), due to all of the continuous overuse certain muscles receive on a daily basis (example: rotator cuff from throwing, hamstrings from base running, abdominals/obliques from batting, etc).

Examples:

  • Weightlifting/powerlifting competitions (not for baseball players)
  • Squats
  • Bench presses
  • Deadlifts
  • Body weight plank holds (core exercise)
  • Body weight single leg squats (weighted vest resistance)

Also, see the Force-Velocity Curve:

Here are three exercises that will demonstrate both Power and Strength:

  1. Sample Exercise 1: Front SquatStrength
  2. Sample Exercise 2: Box JumpsPower
  3. Sample Exercise 3: Medicine Ball Squat TossesPower

To be a successful baseball player, both Power and Strength must be implemented into a strength and conditioning program. The game requires both. Injuries will be prevented, balls will be hit, runs will be scored, and careers will be defined. Know the difference and see what happens.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

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Roger A. Scott, MS, CSCS, RSCC, is a former strength & conditioning coach for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets and Chicago White Sox organizations.  He currently is a Kineti-Flex coach for Flexogenix (Corrective Exercise/Strength & Conditioning Specialist) in Atlanta, and available for private consulting and training for both athletes and non-athletes. Roger has also been a frequent volunteer strength & conditioning coach for L.E.A.D. in Downtown Atlanta. He can be reached at roger.scott2626@gmail.com or at 404-803-0222.

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Good character habits are needed in order to become and remain a good hitter. Character is who you are and determines what you do, while habits are things that we repeatedly do.

“If you think that your Prius is a Hummer, you are going to get stuck. And if you think that your Hummer is a Prius, you are going to run out of gas.” – Keith Eigel

There are six character habits that all hitters must master in order to become an elite hitter and person of significance:

  1. Excellence – Meeting expectations
  2. Humility – Not thinking of yourself less, so that you can serve others more
  3. Integrity – Doing the right think, even when you can do the wrong thing
  4. Loyalty – Doing the right thing for the right reasons, even if they’re not popular
  5. Stewardship – Protector of your values and people
  6. Teamwork – Being your best within a group of people who are being their best for a specific purpose

With these values serving as your core, commitment and discipline will serve as the protective walls.

Commitment is making a promise to yourself to do something, and discipline is doing things you need to do, even when you don’t want to do them.

There are seven parts to the swing. Remember, it takes 3,000 reps per part to build a habit. That’s 21,000 reps to build a habit:

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

If you are committed to having discipline, here’s a simple Skill Build Drill you can do now to build a habit for Contact, Extension and Finish all in one drill.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

_____________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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What is a habit? Why do you need it? How do you get it? How do you keep it?

  • Talent is what you do well.
  • A habit is something that you repeatedly do without thought.
  • A skill is something that you repeatedly do without thought under stress.

How much thought did it take for you to brush your teeth this morning? How much effort is required for you to blink your eyes? You are fortunate to have a habit of doing these things.

I️ know that there is a habit you’re longing to have. You dream of having a swing you can repeat in games without thought. My Major League clients can repeat their swing approach 70 percent of the time, as in 70 times out of 100 times that their bat moves back and forth to drive a pitch.

It takes 3,000 reps to develop a habit and there are seven parts to the swing.

  1. Stance/Load
  2. Timing
  3. Tempo
  4. Tracking
  5. Approach
  6. Contact
  7. Extension/Finish

That’s 21,000 reps required to develop a habit. Hope is a gift, but turning hope into reality is a journey.

What is a habit?
A habit is something you can repeatedly do well without thought.

Why do you need it?
You need good habits for hitting so that you can perform based on instincts that removes the stress of performance.

How do you get it?
You develop habits by being committed and disciplined with your practice. Commitment is defined as making and keeping a promise. Discipline is defined as doing things that need to be done even when you don’t want to do them.

How do you keep it?
You maintain habits by continuing to remain committed and disciplined with your drills.

Here’s a simple Skill Build Drill that you should do 3,000 times to develop a habit for your load.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine, Changing the Game.

___________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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