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You’d think baseball would come easy to Austin Stephens, whose dad, Mark, played for the Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and the Montreal Brewers. The lanky lefty is six-foot, four-inches and weighs in at 185 pounds. Growing up with a dad as his pitching coach, Stephens was nevertheless frustrated as a freshman and then sophomore on the Rockford junior varsity baseball team because he hardly ever was called in to play.

Austin Stephens, a 17-year-old Rockford senior, has opened his own business to share core training with other athletes.

A year later, he is a starter on the varsity team, and has increased his pitch from 75 miles per hour to 80. He increased his vertical by one foot, shaved a half-second off his 60 time, and can bench press 35 pounds more than he used to be able to. He has his eye on professional baseball with hopes to go as far as his dad and farther, and is willing and able to help other athletes discover the training workouts that he credits with his improvement.

“Eighty percent of pitching is core strength,” Stephens stated.

He said it is a common misconception that throwing hard is about arm strength. The core—bottom of the ribs to the top of the kneecaps—training that has improved his performance in pitching can improve virtually any athletic performance, whether it is in crew, football, or any other sport, Stephens stated.

Stephens said he talked with his dad on what he could do to get more time playing, and the two of them discovered a core-training program, which other professional ball players believe in. He ordered his own copy of the program and began working it diligently. He was so impressed with his improvements, he decided to hone the regimen into one-hour workouts and offer it to other athletes. The result is Sports Power Training, Stephens’ own business.

Stephens teaches his core-training workouts three days a week in the facility opened by family friend Bob Simonson, who used to play on the same professional baseball team as Stephens’ dad. Stephens began offering the workout—which he said is also a full-body workout—three times a week, although athletes can come just one or two days and still benefit. The classes are held at the location of Power Baseball, 8181 Graphic Drive (off Ten Mile Road), Rockford. The cost varies depending on how many sessions athletes purchase, and there is a money-back guarantee if anyone decides to back out after the first session.

Stephens said his inspiration in sharing the program isn’t in earning extra cash after school, but by the opportunity to help others improve their physical strength and well-being.

“I feel better since I’ve been doing it,” Stephens stated.

He said he talks to his athletes about healthy lifestyles, healthy choices, and mental health. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease while in third grade, Stephens could have opted out of athletics, but instead the incurable disease pushes him to make the most of his talents.

If anything, the challenges presented by Crohn’s—learning what to eat, how to naturally alleviate symptoms, how to be physically active—have given Stephens a strong vision of his future. Although he would like to play ball professionally, and plans to, he also knows sports careers don’t last forever. Because of his years of learning about food, vitamins and supplements, he is interested in a future in health science and nutrition.

“That’s what inspires me. With Crohn’s you have to be nutritionally aware. I’ve become a nutrition expert,” Stephens described. “They wanted surgery for me and I turned them down. Now I’m doing better than those who had surgery.”

His mental determination plays a large part in physical success, and Stephens said that’s why he is working out now for spring tryouts for teams, and believes any athlete that puts in the hours off season will also see results. He has received scholarship offers and invitations to play for a half-dozen college teams and has played with some already.

The passion for baseball has always been a huge part of Stephens’ life, and he said his first word was “ball.” He said his dad has always felt the same way and was offered both a basketball scholarship and a football scholarship, but chose to play baseball. Stephens said he shares that dream, but knows many more athletes would like a career in sports than actually make it.

“I want to be able to say I did everything I could to be totally prepared,” Stephens said.

He extends the invitation for Rockford area athletes to join him at Sports Power Training. Sessions are three to eight weeks, and take place Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m.

“I remember my eighth-grade wrestling coach telling me, ‘You always have another gear,’” Stephens said of his determination to continued improvement. “Find that other gear and push past the pain. Pain means a good workout, and you’ll see the results of that tomorrow. My students went from hating pain to loving pain.”

To find out more about Sports Power Training, e-mail Stephens at austinstephens@charter.net or stop in to see a session in action or call (616) 866-2708.

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