Muscle man

Jake Beiting ’06 helps strengthen and condition the baseball players who play for the Houston Astros

By Benjamin Gleisser

It’s five hours before the first pitch at Minute Maid Park in Houston. In the stadium’s exercise room, Houston Astros players loosen up before that night’s game. Weights clank against weights in the machines as the athletes flex, press, and curl their biceps, triceps, and quads. The player jogging on a treadmill nods a hello to a teammate who has come to use an elliptical.

Standing among the machines, Jake Beiting ’06 scans the players and makes mental notes of their workouts. Beiting is the Astros’ strength and conditioning coach, a job he’s held since 2013. It’s his responsibility to keep the team free from muscle strains, pulls, and aches – and, when asked, offer advice about the best way to hit 30 home runs or pitch more than 200 innings in a season while avoiding shoulder trouble.

“What I like best about my job is working one-on-one with each player,” Beiting says, as he walks onto the field to watch the players stretch before the game. “I design 25 different programs. I begin with a basic template, and then adjust the model to fit a particular player’s need. For example, maybe one guy has a history of shoulder injuries, or another guy is strong but not fast, so I’ve got to work on how to improve his on-field defensive performance. When working with a pitcher, one goal is to make sure his legs are strong, so his upper body can endure making 100 pitches a game, plus the 50 or so he’ll throw when he’s warming up.”

Beiting helps stretch an Astros player before a game against the Los Angeles last year.

Beiting helps stretch an Astros player before a game against the Los Angeles last year.

When asked if he can use his expertise to create a team of supermen, he laughs.

“You’ve got to know your players, and what’s healthy for them,” he says. “If a player is expected to be a power hitter, he needs training that concentrates on building his lower body, so he develops explosive abs. But when someone who’s 5 feet 5 inches tall and usually hits five home runs a year wants to hit 30 or more, well, I try to encourage that player not to be something he’s not.”

When it comes to playing baseball, the rules are the same for professional athletes as they are for weekend warriors and summer softballers.

“The two most important things are staying hydrated and warming up before you play,” Beiting advises. “Do a little jogging or biking before going onto the field. Break a sweat. Then stretch the muscle groups you’re going to use in competition. Soft tissue injuries can result when playing hard the first time without warming up.”

Beiting grew up in Akron, Ohio, in an athletic family. His father, Mike, played college football, and his mother, Mary Ann, was the principal of Archbishop Hoban High School. He accompanied his parents to dozens of football, basketball, and baseball games.

“When I was young, I fantasized about being a professional baseball player,” he says. “In high school, I played baseball and football, but a neck injury in my senior year required me to stop.”

Beiting joined the Blue Streaks’ football team, but his injury caused him to miss the first half of his freshman year. To prevent further neck pain, he learned about exercise and injury prevention. The subject fascinated him so much he switched his major to physical education. During his junior year, with the help of Ron Dolciato, John Carroll’s coordinator of physical education and exercise science, he secured an internship with the Cleveland Indians in their weight room. Later, Beiting earned a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of South Florida and was promoted to the Indians’ minor league strength and conditioning coordinator, where he served for five seasons before going to the Astros.

Beiting is proud of the way the exercise science program has grown at JCU, from 11 majors when he graduated to more than 50 now. And when he knows of openings in his organization, he looks to Carroll for qualified candidates.

“The guy who helped me get my first position in professional sports – Brendan Verner ’03 – is now my assistant,” he says. “He’s the major league strength and conditioning coach who oversees the Astros’ minor league system. I try to hire as many JCU grads as possible.”

Beiting’s connections to JCU are deep. His brothers Tony ’03 (accounting) and Steve ’08 (English) are graduates, and he met his wife, Maggie ’06 (marketing), who played basketball for the Blue Streaks, during their undergraduate years. The couple has two children.

“I met her in my second semester as school, in my Religious Studies 101 class,” he says. “Her older brother was on the football team with me. Our lifestyle is pretty challenging because I’m on the road so much, traveling with the team. But we touch base with a lot of conversations every day.” JCU

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