February 1981: It was my sophomore year in high school, and the excitement of the baseball season was more than I could take.
Our high school basketball team was eliminated in the playoffs, and the minute that game ended, I was beaming ear to ear with excitement for baseball. I wasn’t playing a whole lot that sophomore year of basketball. I was 6’1” and weighed about 145 lbs. My body looked more like a bean pole than an athlete, and older players were shoving me around like a rag doll.
But once we got knocked out in that first round game, my mind raced to throwing and hitting every day. This is one of those moments where an older person says, “Back in my day..,” but here goes: Back in my day, the sports seasons were very much separated between fall, winter, and spring sports. You played football only during football season, basketball only during basketball season, and baseball corresponded rightfully in its own pecking order.
I did very little baseball throwing during the months of November to January in 1981, so once the sports season changed, it was 100% baseball. I would throw every day getting myself ready for our first game. Now, that particular year in January and February there was an inordinate amount of rain. So much so that we just couldn’t throw because there was no indoor throwing area. I would sneak into our gymnasium and toss the baseball around there, but there was maybe sixty feet of throwable area to build up my arm strength. Not a lot there, but we did what we could.
When the sun did come out, then it was game on. I would go to the local batting cages every day, throw at practice, and, of course, pitch to a catcher until my arm got too tired.
This particular year, I knew I was going to be the top pitcher on my team. I’d bided my time during my freshman year, and it was time to shine. Unfortunately, after two games and way too many pitches, my arm felt like I got hit by an errant bullet. My bicep was killing me, and I had no idea why.
This seems to be a common theme with many youth players today: How could my arm hurt at the beginning of the year?
I was very fortunate that another huge rain storm hit SoCal for about a week straight. During that time I rested my arm, and, fortunately, had a great season on the mound, in fact winning league MVP and CIF honors.
But I learned my lesson about ramping up my arm, so I prepared accordingly and started throwing during basketball season. And this is a big lesson that I teach and advocate to our many players, particularly our high school players. If you have not given your arm a chance to build up over the last 6–8 weeks, then you are putting yourself in a position where an injury will happen sooner than later.
We must teach our baseball playing sons that it’s ok to not be a hero in February so that we can be available for the entire season as well as into our next season, whether that’s in high school or college. Continuous throwing with our team at practice or going outside and throwing with a family member on a daily basis is practicing good throwing habits while continuing to build up your arm strength.
I’m working with players who have already had Tommy John surgery in high school. Never in my life have I seen so many players at such early ages have elbow ligament replacement at record speed, more than even 5 years ago. Too many pitches and innings during early travel ball games, where sometimes these little guys as young as 7–8 years of age are going out and throwing 80–90 pitches in one game, all the while celebrating a ridiculously stupid tournament win or championship. Those young elbows are going to break down if we do not do something about it today. It’s literally turning into an epidemic of baseball injuries.
Our training classes are more important now than ever before. We train young arms to be stronger and return to normal better than ever, and we can still increase velocity while teaching better throwing technique than anyone else around. I’m sorry, but going to a pitching guy who sits on a bucket or simply tells you to balance on your leg for more than ten seconds at a time is not what young arms need. They’re just not, and, believe me, I’ve been there before. It’s all fool’s gold, and the fact that our training schedules are getting fuller each week is a testament to the good things we’re accomplishing with our players.
Reach out to us today about our training classes. Those that have done this have not been sorry with the results.
Until next time…