Scenario 1: You are in the midst of a busy summer season…..games are going on 2-3 times a week…..you are now a year older in school and just finished up being an underclassman and are an upper classman. You are half way through your HS career and have aspirations of playing in college and beyond. Coach told you at end of spring season that you need to improve your pitching by throwing harder…throw more strikes….and develop a better breaking ball. But there are Jr. Olympic tryouts and games….Perfect Game showcases….scout ball leagues….you name it, it is there for you to participate in because that is what everyone else is doing.
Scenario 2: You have just finished your spring season. From January tryouts / beginning of travel ball season until now you have played anywhere from 20 to 75 games. Practices have been 2-3 times a week. But now, because you are in the midst of all star season / Cooperstown trip / USSSA, AAU, Little League world series time, your coach has now called on you and your teammates for 4-5 days/week practice so that by some grace of God you will now become a better player and team. Remember, the 8 – 13 year old age group is chalk full of collegiate and professional players just waiting to be offered the scholarship to BSU (Big Shot University) or the signing bonus to the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees or whichever organization can show up to the little league field to watch and scout you………btw, I’ve got a little bit of a sarcastic streak running through me right now.
Sounds reasonable….however, when are you going to have time to develop all of that with all the games going on? During games? Not a chance…. During practice? Not much of a chance… What about when……uh….uh……wait, I really do not have a chance to work on improving my pitching because I have games going on……I have to go to practice….I have to chart pitches for the other pitchers on the team……I have to be in Arizona for a week in 110 degree weather for the remote chance that I will make the USA baseball team (side note: the players are already chosen by the advisory board much before the ‘tryouts’ go on….they are just another tournament in the long list of tournaments) and the list and reasons go on and on.
For all intents and purposes, by doing what every one else is doing, you are following the sheep in front of you and are walking off the proverbial cliff into a sea of wasted ROI (return on investment). Sorry, but I have been down that road as well as many other of my colleagues. It is a road to nowhere.
It is in your best financial interest and the career interest of your baseball developing child to decide what is the best route to getting to college or professional baseball.
It is a matter of choosing between the games or your future development.
If you want to improve your velocity and the command of your pitches WHILE improving the health of your arm and body then you will have to commit yourself to finding time to improve those areas in your ability and skill set so that you can become the player you and your coach envision you to be.
Let’s take a look at playing vs. development. In over a week of games at a tournament vs. practicing and developing your craft, here is what you will accomplish when you play vs. developing:
Playing in games:
*Pitch in 2 different games. Saturday for 3-4 innings and possibly Tuesday/Wednesday for 1-3 innings. This is if you have a responsible coach who is putting the interest of your arm health at the forefront of the team concept.
*Day after: Rest / do nothing but play some light catch.
*2nd day after: Throw long toss the 2nd day after the outing.
*3rd day after: Light bullpen day before your outing.
*4th day after: Pitch again.
*5th and 6th day after: Rest / Travel / do nothing for at least 2 days until you decide to play some catch at a practice.
Development over the same time frame:
*Full body warm-up..workout…agility, speed, strength work / Arm care routine, throwing development (decel work, weighted balls, radar, objective measurement)….long toss for as long as you can go….20-25 pitch bullpen
*Day after: See first day
*2nd day after: See first day
*3rd day after: See first day
*4th day after: See first day
*5th day after: See first day
*6th day after: See first day
The same scenario happens again and again and again with 97% of players. And statistics show that after high school exactly 3% of players move onto the next level of ball and 97% of baseball players stop playing. It is no accident that these numbers correlate.
Let me give you a little secret……playing in games all the time does NOT help in any way in development. Playing in games gets you better at putting on your uniform and either standing or sitting around during the game and listening to your friends talk about what you all are going to do that night after the game is done.
But allowing yourself the time to work on your body strength….arm care….flexibility routine….throwing to targets to work on your fastball command…..find different ways to improve the break of your pitches and find the right grip for your changeup.
This is how you become a better pitcher. Very simple but a strategy that most people discard.
A perfect example of this type of training comes from my first student ever: Trevor Bauer.
For those they may not know, Trevor is currently a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. If you are in the Los Angeles area this week, his ball club is playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Trevor will be the starting pitcher on Wednesday, July 2 at the 12:05pm starting time. If you can get there early to watch his warm up routine then you are in for a treat. But be there before 11am because it takes him 1 hour to prepare for his start.
He decided early on along with his dad, Warren, and I that he would consistently work on his development and not pay as much attention to the games. The games he played were a measuring stick on what he needed to do to get better. But we decided that in order to progress he was going to have to do more on developing than playing. So he attended our group classes during the year and stayed in Houston during the summer for 3-6 weeks at a time to train at the Texas Baseball Ranch.
In fact he was so sure that what he was doing was right that he told his HS coach that he was going to be on vacation for 6 weeks during the summer and stopped about worrying about his mound time during summer league games and what his coaches thought…….then he worked…and worked and then worked some more outside of the ‘traditional’ pitching methodologies and pitching for 2 innings at a meaningless summer league game.
And we all can watch him pitch at Dodger Stadium this week while most of players are involved with their
summer team or standing around watching batting practice so they can get ready to play 3-6 games over a 3 day weekend. Mind numbing to the network of people who I associate with and constantly mumble about the 97% of players who are not going to be playing beyond HS.
The development of a baseball player is predicated on a number of different factors:
A ‘Grinder’ Mindset
Love of the game
But if we do not allow ourselves the chance to develop the ability and skill set required of a pitcher then playing in game after game after game is just a course for injury. And as we have come to understand more as we study the intricacies of the game, if you are in pain or injured because you are not developing then you will not improve.
Being a stud ballplayer at 8-12 years old is not a ticket to becoming a college or professional ballplayer. It allows you to get more opportunities in the game but if we don’t practice our craft and improve our bodies for the rigors that the game requires then we will be stuck like the 97% of those who stop playing before these highest levels.
We at ThrowZone are currently running a velocity / strength / conditioning class that will run through August 7. It is a 3 day/ week, 2.5 hour /day warm up, flexibility, arm care, arm strength and total body conditioning workout that has yielded more miles per hour than any other program in Southern California. These are tested and proven programs that have worked for 100’s of players over the past 10 years. Our goals for the player is to improve their arm health while add velocity to their current speed. Plus condition them to become a beast in the field and on the mound. It is the epitome of what development is all about.
Our mindset videos at the beginning of class set the tone for the rest of the day. But it is not for everyone. In fact, we turn down those who we feel are not serious enough about training. There is loud music and constant movement of the player. We take breaks to get a gulp of water and then we are moving again. By the end of the class, we like to joke that if your underwear isn’t wet then you aren’t going hard enough……but by the rear end marks on the turf we know that they are going at it hard!
Contact us today for an opportunity to become better than your competition.
Also, look for announcement regarding our So Cal Elite Pitchers Bootcamp with the Texas Baseball Ranch on October 17 -19 here in Santa Clarita. It promises to be our best camp ever with even more nationally known instructors and guests!!
Also, follow us for continuing content on Facebook (Jim Wagner’s ThrowZone Academy) and Twitter(@Throwzone).
We look forward to seeing your continued progress. There will exciting things to be announced in the next month or two about our business. We hope that you will be part of the exciting changes!
Until next time….