Pitch­ing coach: Stay­ing pre­pared when no one is watch­ing

The Dundalk Eagle - - POLICE BEAT - By RON WOLFORTH Texas Base­ball Ranch

Sum­mer is when base­ball re­cruit­ing is in full swing, but the COVID-19 pan­demic has greatly re­duced it. The Na­tional Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (NCAA) ex­tended a ban on in-per­son re­cruit­ing through July 31, and only re­cently has Ma­jor League Base­ball per­mit­ted scouts to go back on the road to watch play­ers in showcase events.

Cou­ple those re­duc­tions with the fact that high school and col­lege base­ball sea­sons were al­ready cut short by the out­break, and play­ers hop­ing to be seen by scouts and coaches have got­ten lit­tle to no ex­po­sure.

That hurts their chances of get­ting schol­ar­ship of­fers or draw­ing big-league in­ter­est. But in the mean­time, it’s cru­cial that they train prop­erly so they’ll be pre­pared for when col­lege coaches are al­lowed to hit the re­cruit­ing trail again, says Ron Wolforth (www.Tex­as­Base­bal­lRanch.com), a long-time pitch­ing trainer who is founder of Texas Base­ball Ranch and au­thor of Pitch­ing with Con­fi­dence: A Par­ent’s Guide To Giv­ing Your Elite Pitcher An Edge.

“This is usu­ally a piv­otal time for coaches to eval­u­ate prospects,” Wolforth says. “But while some show­cases and tour­na­ments have re­mained on the sched­ule, many par­ents naively be­lieve that the pri­mary rea­son their son hasn’t gar­nered more at­ten­tion from col­lege or pro­fes­sional scouts is lack of ex­po­sure. The pri­mary rea­son is that the ath­lete lacks the spe­cific skill set re­quired at the next level.

“Spend your time, ef­fort and money de­vel­op­ing skills with proven in­struc­tors in­stead of at­tend­ing a showcase. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for young pitch­ers, who may lack the throw­ing ve­loc­ity or con­sis­tency re­quired to per­form at the next level. This ex­tended wait­ing time is ex­tra time to fine-tune skills and get ready to be seen.”

Wolforth sug­gests pitch­ers pay at­ten­tion to the fol­low­ing fun­da­men­tals if they hope to at­tract scouts’ and coaches’ at­ten­tion:

Wake-up, warm-up. “One of the most fre­quent mis­takes made by pitch­ers to­day is be­ing sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­pre­pared for the in­ten­sity of the stress on the body,” Wolforth says. “Throw­ing hard at any age re­quires the full uti­liza­tion of all our body, not just our arm. A pitcher who doesn’t take suf­fi­cient time to warm up the en­tire body is at greater risk of in­jury. De­velop three dif­fer­ent per­sonal wake-up/warm-up rou­tines of at least 15-30 min­utes.”

Me­chan­i­cal ef­fi­cien­cies. A pitcher pro­gresses to­ward his po­ten­tial when he stream­lines his ef­fi­ciency of move­ment, from windup to de­liv­ery. Wolforth says in­struc­tors should in­cor­po­rate con­cepts such as mo­bil­ity, sta­bil­ity, holis­tic train­ing, syn­chro­niza­tion, de­grees of free­dom, and de­cel­er­a­tion. “The truth is,” Wolforth says, “no two pitch­ers in the his­tory of base­ball have ever thrown iden­ti­cally. In­sist­ing there is one ideal me­chan­i­cal model and cloning your pitcher for that model is one of the worst things one could do to a young man. Yet we see this scene play out again and again. Stay away from any in­struc­tor or coach who wants to place the pitcher into a spe­cific mold. It al­most al­ways ends poorly, in un­der­per­form­ing or in­jury.”

Com­mand of the ball. “A pitcher who can put the ball ex­actly where he wants it is ahead of the game,” Wolforth says. “Com­mand is pre­dom­i­nantly about de­vel­op­ing a re­peat­able out­come. One builds re­peat­able out­comes only by a lot of de­lib­er­ate prac­tice; thou­sands and thou­sands of hours. What we are seek­ing is a me­chan­i­cally ef­fi­cient move­ment pat­tern and then train­ing that pat­tern so our out­come is more and more re­peat­able

“Show­cases make sense for only about 15-25 per­cent of all base­ball play­ers ac­tu­ally at­tend­ing the showcase,” Wolforth says. “That doesn’t mean that many of the oth­ers will never have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of reach­ing the next com­pet­i­tive level. Those who de­velop those ca­pa­bil­i­ties do so by putting in the work con­sis­tently un­der the right, fo­cused guid­ance.”

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