Denied a Season, Some Ivy League Athletes Craft a Baseball Gap Year

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Burley, the catcher from Central California, typically wakes up by 9 a.m., checks his email, eats breakfast and makes the 20-minute drive to the workout center. He goes through a catalog of exercises prescribed from an intake examination, using foam rollers, bands, baseballs or mobility balls to help activate his quads, hip flexors, adductors, hamstrings, gluteus, calves, peroneals and virtually every other muscle that might be used to play baseball.

Sufficiently warmed up after 60 to 90 minutes, he runs through (depending on the day of the week) a potpourri of exercises like ice skater lunges, bowler squats, high knee skips, box jumps, side shuffles and sprints, and a variety of contortions.

“I’ve never felt more athletic in my life,” Burley said. “I want to get on a basketball court and dunk on people.”

In the afternoon, the work on his body is translated to the game. Burley catches pitchers who might range from high schoolers to his Brown teammates to minor leaguers. Sometimes they work against hitters in simulated games or in scrimmages. “I’m seeing guys that throw 95 with nasty breaking balls that college guys don’t have yet,” Burley said. “And I’m learning to read swings better, which has helped my pitch calling.”

Some days, he works in the batting cages on his swing.

By 3 p.m. Burley drives back to his apartment, showers, eats and turns his attention to school, attending classes that are mostly recorded and doing his homework until he goes to bed. The other players have followed a similar daily routine — except on Sundays, when they often go to the beach if they’re caught up on schoolwork — for nearly two months.

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