Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Ron Wolforth’s Texas Baseball Ranch and take the opportunity to learn how they go about addressing and correcting mechanical flaws in pitchers. Coming from a strength and conditioning background, I may approach certain things a bit differently on the strength and mobility side of things, but I was there to learn more about how the other side lives… and I did.
From a mechanics standpoint , Ron Wolforth, Randy Sullivan, Flint Wallace, et al have identified crucial “disconnects” in the delivery and have devised a system (with great success I might add) of correctives to help coach “throwers” (Ron likes to use this term instead of “pitchers”) out of their respective individual issues. “Individual” is the key word for me here because it’s a mantra we live by at RPP. As far as program design goes, one size doesn’t fit all and cookie cutter programs simply don’t work for everyone. The best part about the whole event is that Ron has found a way to individualize his programs for approximately 40-50 athletes at a time, over a 3-day camp. Below are my 5 biggest takeaways from the weekend.
1. Ron’s not just a baseball guy, he understands anatomy and movement – While sitting in on coach Wolforth’s video analysis, he not only made me feel welcome, but he used the opportunity to address me specifically on several occasions to talk kinesthetically about what we were watching. The Texas Baseball Ranch, first and foremost, looks at the art of pitching as “movement”. It has built it’s reputation as one of the most renowned national baseball camps without any actual “pitching instruction” in the traditional sense. It’s all about movement.
2. Kids in the South may throw too much and kids in the Northeast may throw too little – A majority of the athletes attending the camp reside in the South and Southwest. As a result, the climate enables them to throw year round, which I believe gives them a quicker arm action. I also, noticed that most of them were currently having some sort of shoulder or elbow pain rating higher than a 5 on a RPE scale. This is probably also due to the fact that they throw year round. My takeaway on this is finding a throwing volume somewhere in between that of the south and what we consider normal here in the northeast.
3. First question they ask you… “Where is the pain and how much?” – This for me was a big one. Before they reviewed anything, they identified and address any pre-existing pain. Wolforth is very conscious not to try to overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics unless he feels it’s either causing pain or could do so further down the line. As a result, if pain is minimal, mechanical disconnects that are minor are left alone leaving time to focus on the bigger ones.
4. Flint Wallace is an amazingly engaging coach – Being the former Director of Baseball Operations at TCU, as well as a pitcher in the Oakland A’s organization seems to have served Flint well. He seamlessly spoon feeds detailed cues to the athletes while making sure that each one gets a little one-on-one attention. I found myself spending the most time at his station.
5. Great programs take the time to assess – Assessments are the building block of any great program (no pitcher trains at RPP until they have received a complete Pitchers Assessment, please click here for more on this topic) and a dead giveaway to me as to whether a pitcher’s training program is legit or not. Watching Randy Sullivan (Director of the Florida Baseball Ranch) “power assess” 10 athletes an hour was making me tired just watching him! Even with a limited amount of time Randy has narrowed it down and hit many of the main areas where poor movement strategies generally exist.
I’d like to thank Coach Wolforth and his crew for making me feel so welcome and sharing their passion during my visit.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)