By Nunzio Signore (BA, NASM, CPT, PES, FMS)
Today my interview is with Pitching Coach Scott Foxhall at North Carolina State, one of the top baseball programs in the country. I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at the Inside Baseball Coaches Clinic in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In 18 years as a collegiate coach, Coach Foxhall has seen 33 of his pitchers selected in the MLB Draft, including seven in the first 10 rounds. He is the real deal.
Nunzio: It was great to meet you the other day and thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about yourself.
Scott: Sure, this is my second year as the pitching coach at NC State. Prior to NC State I was with Auburn for six years in the SEC and before that I was with the College of Charleston in South Carolina for 13 years as an assistant coach. NC State is my third school and my favorite so far. Raleigh is a great area and really great for guys in the Northeast looking to come South. It’s a great fit and we have a number of guys from the Northeast. I primarily work with the pitchers now but I have also been a recruiting coordinator in the past. My main focus and responsibility now is the NC State pitchers.
Nunzio: How big of an emphasis do you place on a pitcher’s size and strength when you are recruiting them?
Scott: Size not so much, strength is an enormous factor. I think pitchers come in all shapes and sizes but whatever their shape and size they need to be strong and functionally strong to be able to perform at a high level.
Nunzio: What gaps do you see in a pitcher’s performance that has weight room experience as compared to a freshman with little or no weight room experience when they arrive on campus?
Scott: I think that’s the biggest difference between the high school level and coming here. In high school you are only asked to get two or three good hitters out in the line-up each time you pitch and you only have to pitch seven innings. When you get here and you have to pitch 9 innings and get 9 good hitters out in the line-up and you are asked to compete and win spots against guys that are just as talented as you, a lot of times the thing that separates them is the weight room. The guys that know how to work hard and have a good work ethic and good technique in the weight room and understand the importance of getting stronger usually are the guys that rise to the top and are the guys that make the most strides as freshman. If they don’t understand that then hopefully we can teach them that. Getting back to your question, the differences become apparent when they get to be upperclassmen.
As a high school player, if you can be at a facility like yours and get ahead of the game before you show up here it will be a much easier transition when you get to our level because as I said earlier strength matters. It is a separator and it is a difference maker when you get to this level. Everyone is talented.
Nunzio: We always tell our guys that when your posture and stature is strong, that exudes confidence on the field. When a recruiter is looking at you as opposed to a kid that’s thin and weak you will stand out if you have put in your time in the weight room. Bad posture and looking thin and weak can come across as lazy when a coach or a scout is looking at a prospect.
Scott: No question, the eye test is a big part of recruiting. If a guy pops when we are there and he looks good in uniform and walks around with confidence and a different demeanor it can definitely get our attention right off the bat. The thing about college strength and conditioning and one of the main reasons it is a huge ingredient is because the way the NCAA rules work. Our strength coaches probably spend more time with our guys than we do, so we try to do go a good job using the strength and conditioning program. We use the weight room not only to promote and teach good mechanics and obviously to prevent injury, but also try to do a lot of teaching through the exercises that can help and translate into pitching, whether it be for arm action, range of motion, or using ground forces more efficiently. All of those things are huge for us with our strength and conditioning program.
Nunzio: We do the exact same thing. We have two complete dirt mounds with a 4-camera video shoot right next to our weight room. We do 4-camera video analysis on all of our pitchers and analyze the mechanics of all the pitchers in great detail. Along with a physical assessment we build our programming around our pitchers’ strengths and imbalances. We address all these issues through our program by giving them their movement correctives in the first 20-25 minutes. Like you said, just strength training is great but to also get all the proper mobility work, addressing the specific issues that each pitcher has within in the weight room, is huge.
Nunzio: I only have one more question for you today. When you see a noticeable size and strength difference in a pitcher from year to year… so let’s say you saw him in his freshman or sophomore year and then you see him again in his junior year and he is a much bigger and stronger specimen. What kind of a message does that send to you about the kid.
Scott: As a recruiter and a pitching coach that transition sends a message to me that this kid has dedication and work ethic. This kid cares about getting better and he is passionate about baseball. And those are the kind of pitchers that we want in our program. All of those qualities embody what we are looking for in a pitcher. We want guys that understand that it takes more than just performing in between the lines. They have to put in the time in a strength and conditioning program that helps transform their body so they can be bigger, stronger, more efficient and more consistent. That sends a 100% message to me that that’s the kid that we want to recruit and have in our program. It also predicts the future. We obviously want the guys to be doing that when they are in our program and if they are already doing it before they get here, then we know they have the chance to take off even more. That is exactly what we are looking for.
Nunzio: That’s awesome. Thanks so much for your time Scott. Best of luck in the new season.