Success starts in the weight room for SIU baseball

Success starts in the weight room for SIU baseball

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

A different attitude and a fresh face in the weight room helped SIU baseball become swole this past offseason.

Dash Buntjer, a graduate assistant, has brought a new energy to workouts and given the players a new direction to focus on.

“We didn’t really have a structured workout plan last season, we just showed up and lifted and that was it,” said sophomore first baseman Logan Blackfan. “When he arrived it was much more organized in the fall. He pushed us to work hard and we got stronger and faster as a result.”

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Buntjer, the former strength coach at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, arrived at SIU after serving as an intern with UCLA’s football team. 

Buntjer said he learned everything he knew from his previous stops and mentors, including his time as an apprentice coach with Derek Hansen, Sal Alosi on the UCLA staff and former head strength coach Clete McLeod. Without them, Buntjer said he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“I brought a lot of the speed development and weight lifting I learned from all three of them in my time spent in both places,” he said. “I’ll have the players do anything from box jumps to explosive medicine ball drills as well as lift weights. Overall, the goal is to create a positive atmosphere and talk to the athletes and make them realize it’s about the team and not the individual. My coaching philosophy is simply help people improve.”

And they have improved. The team’s 25 wins are 13 more than the 12-45 record it finished with last season. As a team, the Salukis are batting .263 through 44 games after hitting .249 last year.

Junior shortstop Will Farmer said because of the rigorous fall workouts, the team experienced more gains from workouts than from the previous year.

“[Buntjer] is such a fiery guy and he’s always pushing us to work harder,” he said. “I remember one time I did three sets of squats and he asked me to do one more,” he said. “It was really exciting in the fall to see some of the smaller guys putting up a lot of weight and crushing the ball out of the park, which they don’t normally do, so we’re really thankful for all the things he’s done.”

When Buntjer first arrived he said he hadn’t earned a Saluki baseball hat until the first game of the season. 

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“I wanted to show by example that nothing is given and I, even as a coach, had to earn the gear,” he said. “In season is when we wear our game day attire, so that’s when I chose to wear it.”

He said although he comes from a football and rugby background, it wasn’t difficult getting used to baseball culture.

“All the athletes have to get up at 6 a.m. and being up early they’re a little grumpy,” he said. “But once they get going, they get hype and really get into the workout.”

Buntjer said he gave players a plan he created with the staff based on where all the players were physically when he arrived.

He said players executed it and he is happy to see them continually breaking weightlifting records. The team has broken most of the records in squats as well as the 60-yard dash.

“I don’t train athletes to break records, I train them to be more athletic and if breaking records happen a long the way and they see their name on the record board, it gives them more incentive to work harder,” he said. “This is a great group of kids and they’re the ones who put in all the work. I’m just the guy who gives them that direction.” 

The Salukis will try to muscle up on Illinois at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Champaign. Senior pitcher Bryce Sablotny (3-4, 5.52 ERA) will take the mound for the Dawgs.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or 618-534-3303 

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