An inside look at pitchers training at Rockland Peak Performance in Sloatsburg N.Y. (Andrew Maclean | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
By Richard Greco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com on April 20, 2018 7:30 AM, updated April 20, 2018 12:20 PM
There’s no rest for the weary. Bergen Tech junior pitcher Tyler Cirone knows that well.
After a long week of school and work, Cirone doesn’t spend his Saturdays parked on the living room couch of his Midland Park home watching SportsCenter over and over.
No. Cirone heads down the street to the pizzeria to work a shift. When he’s finished tossing dough and busing tables, Cirone still isn’t ready to rest.
He gets changed as quickly as possible, and by the time he’s in his workout gear, his mom has the car running, ready to drive him half an hour up the N.Y. Thruway for one-on-one pitching training.
No time to shower.
“The grind is real,” Cirone said. “I come from practice (in Hackensack). I come from work. I’m sweating. I’m tired. But it doesn’t matter. I’m at RPP (Rockland Peak Performance) to really put the work in. Balancing everything is very hectic and crazy, but I find it fun because I’m someone who always loves to stay busy. Knowing that every night I have a place to be where they’ll welcome me is amazing.”
That same welcoming place is where over 100 N.J. players from Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties go to train for specialized training.
Most of the training is done in the off-season, otherwise known as basketball season for a couple of other pitchers, two-sport athletes Paul Sullivan and Jack Brodsky, who are part of a Pascack Hills pitching staff that’s allowed just 11 runs in nine games.
Paul Sullivan is batting .285 with seven runs scored and six walks for Pascack Hills. (Steve Hockstein | For NJ Advance Media)
If the best friends didn’t have games, they had basketball practice from 3-5 p.m., stopped home for a quick dinner and got to RPP by 8 p.m. They stretched and threw for an hour before spending another 90 minutes lifting. They’d get home no earlier than 11 p.m. Next morning, they’d wake up at seven to head back to school and do it all again.
“It’s definitely draining in the moment, but you love seeing the improvement,” said Sullivan, who is committed to Iona. “Without baseball, it would be very tough to get up and do this every day. I was coming here four times a week with practicing basketball six times a week. It’s tough, but you have to do it to get better.”
And they did get better.
Sullivan’s fastball gained five miles per hour and he now tops out at 88.7 mph. Brodsky was throwing in the high 80s over the summer and headed into this season topping out at 92.9 mph.
“It was crazy satisfying to hit 90,” said Brodsky, who is committed to Emory. “I hit 89 once in the summer and my parents were telling me, you gotta hit 90. It was all I had been working for the entire winter season. Seeing that 90 on the screen, my heart rate just jumped.”
Senior righty Jack Brodsky throws a pitch for Pascack Hills. (Courtesy of Kevin Kirkby)
Cirone has seen similar results and increased his fastball from 86 to 89.8 mph.
Josh Loeschorn, a Long Island University-Post recruit from Butler, put on 20 pounds over the last year and increased his velocity from 85 to 90 mph.
The significant improvement came under the watch of RPP owner Nunzio Signore and his training staff. Signore played soccer and studied exercise science and anatomy at Temple University before opening RPP in 2011.
Using four different cameras – all at different angles – Signore dissects each pitcher’s mechanics and positioning as well as ball-spin efficiency and spin rate.
“Learning how somebody moves and helping somebody get in better position on the mound is not so much only the job of a pitching coach,” said Signore. “We’re finding now that biomechanical analysis and studying how the body moves are equally, if not more important for getting guys into positions to succeed.”
The video study helps the pitchers internalize the adjustments they need. “When I’m pitching, there’s the moment when your hips have to move, and they have to move fast,” said Cirone. “When you’re here and see the specialized movements on the cameras, you’re kind of like ‘there it is’. That’s where I get my power from.”
The focus on body movement is also key in RPP’s weight room. It isn’t about lifting the most weight. The emphasis is on teaching the athletes the proper ways to maximize efficiency for baseball and long-term athletic development.
All four pitchers took what they learned in the weight room and incorporated it into their daily routines and gym sessions.
Brodsky completely revamped his pregame warmups from just stretching and throwing in the bullpen to working with rubber bands. He also uses a foam roller and lacrosse ball to relax the muscles in his legs and arms, which has helped him get off to a 2-0 start with 25 strikeouts, three walks and a 0.41 ERA in 17 innings pitched. He’s gone five or more innings in each of his three starts.
The training has done wonders for all four of these pitchers, but they know that in order to continue succeeding, there is much more work to do.
“I want to be the best and be able to go as far as possible,” Brodsky said. “Being able to go on the mound and pitch no matter where I am, whether it is a practice, a game, next year in college or even at RPP, that being the ultimate goal makes all the work leading up to it so much more worth it.”