2010-09-03 / Community

Hetzel Goes From Rockaway To Sports Training

By Miriam Rosenberg

Ken Hetzel Ken Hetzel We have all seen trainers in sports who attend to the on-field injuries of athletes. What we don’t see is the person behind the scenes who makes the player more powerful, stronger, quicker, faster and in general a better athlete. That is what Ken Hetzel, who grew up in Rockaway, now does.

Hetzel, 28, has worked with the Mets organization as a strength and conditioning coach and is currently working with the head strength coach of the Yankees. He has sports in his blood. His uncle, Thomas Hetzel, who is also from Rockaway, swam the English Channel eight times and is in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. His father and cousins played baseball, and Hetzel and his brother James were standout athletes throughout their youth.

“We grew up with it, me and my brother,” said Hetzel. “We always were very competitive. We always played a ton of sports. We always, I like to think, were pretty good and we took it and we ran with it.” Both young men also played in the Rockaway and Ozone Park Little Leagues. While he played baseball and hockey at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, Hetzel turned to the performance end of sports when, as he said, “I didn’t know if I had a future after college [Westfield State].” Next month Hetzel will head off to Massachusetts to finish his master’s degree. “I’ll be doing some work with one of the colleges there,” Hetzel said. I’ve talked with a few of the colleges about strength conditioning up there [to work] with their teams.”

During his four years with the Mets, Hetzel helped in the rehab of such big team names as Jose Valentine, Billy Wagner and Marlon Anderson. He mostly worked with some of the prospects that are now becoming a big part of the major league team’s future such as pitchers John Niese and Bobby Parnell, first baseman Ike Davis, second baseman Reuben Tejada and catcher Josh Thole. In 2006, Hetzel was with the Mets’ minor league team in St. Lucie when it went through the playoffs undefeated to win the Florida State League title.

“During a season the number one goal I have for guys is injury prevention,” explained Hetzel. “How to take care of your body …. The most important thing is staying healthy. I’ll talk to guys about preparing your body, warming up, recovery after a work out and recovery after a game.”

After living in Florida for four years he returned to New York this summer to work with the head coach of the Yankees, who has a company called Major League Strength, which is based in Melville, NY.

His current position has him speaking at coaches clinics and different organizations to “help [them] talk to their kids about sports performance,” he said.

He is also training a few teens in New England and three here in New York. He also spoke at a New York State Public High School Athletic Association softball clinic in Utica this summer as part of his association with a company called Baseball Factory.

Hetzel has three main goals for the future on which he wants to begin working as soon as possible.

“I want to teach strength conditioning at the college level,” he said.

He also wants to “own a performance facility and I’d like to be a head strength coach of a college. I’d like to teach at a college but also be the head strength coach. Preferably at a D1 school in the northeast and New England that has hockey as well as baseball.”

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