Mariners trying a new way to build a better ballplayer

A few reporters just finished a demonstration of the Mariners’ revamped spring training weight room, which you can’t really call a weight room anymore.

Most of the big weight machines have been cleared out, and except for a rack of dumbells and a few other apparatus, the place looks more like an aerobics room than a weight room.

It’s a program developed by Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder of Peak Performance Project, a science-based program in Santa Barbara, Calif., that implements science to develop workouts specific to various sports. The Mariners, in fact, have named Elliott their director of sports science and performance and they are the first team in baseball to use his program.

In very basic terms, the program gets away from the heavy lifting that’s been prevalent in baseball and uses body-weight movements to develop strength, particularly in the core muscles and legs. One exercise, for example, is the “skater jump” that helps the horizontal explosiveness a hitter needs with his legs.

Elliott, who has worked with the New England Patriots and Utah Jazz, believes the program is perfectly suited for baseball because the sport is so dependent on rotational mechanics.

“There’s no other sport where there’s one movement that’s so essential to being successful,” Elliott said. “You can have guys who don’t seem like they should make a college sports team in terms of athleticism but are these beautiful rotational athletes. That’s the anchor of building a great baseball player, is understanding how to build a great rotational athlete.”

How have the players reacted?

“Ken Griffey walked in here and the first thing he said was, ‘Where’s my weight room?’ ” said Danny Garcia, a former infielder who is the Mariners’ coordinator of sports science and performance.

Catcher Rob Johnson raves about it because of the increased strength in his legs, and he believes it has helped him recover more quickly from offseason surgery to both hips.

“It’s intense I feel incredible with the power that this program generates,” Johnson said. “I’m feeling muscles I haven’t even felt before. I’m happy with the way my body has responded. Conventionally, we had always done weight. This is more extreme explosive stuff — box jumps and movements like that. There’s a lot of explosive stuff, which is really baseball. Everything you do in baseball, you’ve got to be powerful and quick.”

The proof is in the results, so the impact to the Mariners isn’t conclusive. Elliott, however, speaks in guarantees that you might hear on an informercial.

“We’re going to develop so many great athletes out of your system,” he said. “I absolutely guarantee it.”

Elliott has worked with numerous baseball players on an individual basis — including M’s pitcher Garrett Olson the past four years. But team-wise the Mariners have him under contract the next three years, meaning no other organization in baseball has access to the program.

“This hasn’t been done in baseball before, but we’re going to create a big competitive advantage here,” Elliott said.

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