COLLEGE WORLD SERIES: Hogs take strength in coach's methods

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Blaine Kinsley, Arkansas's new assistant strength and conditioning coach for baseball, poses Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at the Arkansas baseball practice facility in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Blaine Kinsley, Arkansas's new assistant strength and conditioning coach for baseball, poses Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at the Arkansas baseball practice facility in Fayetteville.

OMAHA, Neb. -- More than one guy named Blaine has helped the Arkansas Razorbacks surge into the winner's bracket at the College World Series.

Ace right-hander Blaine Knight has done his share from the mound with a school-record tying 13 victories, and strength and conditioning coach Blaine Kinsley has helped the Hogs hold on to their power throughout a long season.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (45-19) will put Kinsley's season-long work to another test tonight at 6 against Texas Tech (45-18) at TD Ameritrade Park.

Kinsley, speaking behind his ever-present sunglasses Saturday during a Hogs practice at Creighton University, was confident in the other Blaine and the Razorbacks' hitters on the eve of their College World Series opener.

"We had a team lift yesterday, and then after we get this win tomorrow, we'll lift Monday and get ready for the week," said Kinsley, who took over the strength and conditioning duties for Arkansas baseball in August.

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn included Kinsley in his shout-outs to the coaching staff on the night the Razorbacks punched their ticket to the CWS with a 14-4 victory over South Carolina.

"Blaine Kinsley, I just told him how much I appreciate him two minutes ago," Van Horn said. "He elevated our team physically and mentally. Guys didn't get hurt, but they got stronger.

"We weren't pulling muscles because we weren't big and tight. It just all came together."

Kinsley, a former baseball and football player at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., was aware of Van Horn's praise as he sat in a Creighton dugout Saturday.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Kinsley said. "My whole life I've always wanted to come here, and I told myself I wouldn't unless I was part of a team. I'm just here to complement. I'm support staff.

"They're very good players. I'm just here to complement them. I just want to help them correlate to the field so we can win games and they have a long career. That's my whole thing."

The Razorbacks have bought into Kinsley's thing, which is a focus on the core and on leg strength, which folds into pitching coach Wes Johnson's philosophy.

"He's huge," said senior designated hitter Luke Bonfield, the home run hitting hero of Arkansas' 11-5 victory over Texas on Sunday. "I say it all the time. He literally ... saved my season or career, however you want to put it.

"I was really struggling with getting my body right. My body was hurting. He put together a plan and it's been incredible. My knees were bothering me. I had never really squatted before, and he had me start squatting and it's like overnight it stopped hurting and they haven't hurt since."

Kinsley, 30, said he jokes around that Bonfield "was struggling, like really bad, and now he's a guy that, it's unbelievable how far he's come since day one with flexibility and being efficient in the movement. So his joints feel better. His knees feel better."

Kinsley honed his techniques during a diverse career in the industry, from serving as assistant strength coach for NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports team, to helping the Chicago Cubs become a World Series champion, to four-plus years at East Carolina, and a stint with the St. Louis Cardinals at the major league and Class AA level.

Several Razorbacks have testified to Kinsley's impact, including Eric Cole, who had struggled with back issues in previous seasons.

"Blaine's been a huge help for me," Cole said. "He's kind of written me my own program to avoid stuff that's stressful on my back for playing every day. It's been really nice having Blaine kind of getting a nutrition program and a weight program. I've pretty much stayed within 2 pounds of what I was at at the beginning of the season."

Weight maintenance had been a critical component for the Razorbacks.

"The past couple of years you could tell our hitters lost a little weight, a little strength and kind of dwindled down at the end of the year," pitcher Isaiah Campbell said. "But this year we've stayed level all season and been in the weight room hard from the start. Blaine has been a very key thing to this run we've made."

Today’s game

ARKANSAS VS. TEXAS TECH

WHEN 6 p.m. Central

WHERE TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.

RECORDS Arkansas 45-19, Texas Tech 45-18

SERIES RECORD Arkansas leads 45-14

Hitting coach Nate Thompson thinks Kinsley has provided more than strength training and flexibility.

"The strength aspect, for the pitchers and the hitters, is absolutely critical," Thompson said. "You can't get to this part of the year and be down 10 or 15 pounds and have lost strength if you want to keep rocking and rolling. So really great credit to him and his hard work and the players and their buy-in with him. He's developed a great relationship with them.

"The other piece ... is a toughness thing, I think. He's added another element of toughness to us."

The Razorbacks have weekly weigh-ins, with guys who have lost weight being sent to the breakfast club to get it back.

"We haven't done that for a while because guys have kept their weight on," Kinsley said. "They've done a really good job. This is the first team I've been with in my whole career that we've kept our weight on as a team."

Sports on 06/19/2018

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