This article is going to piss some people off, but I can’t keep it to myself any longer. I can’t tell you how many times, young pitchers (and/or their parents) come to us and say they have been throwing 79-81 mph for the past three years. NOW, in their junior year of high school, they’re asking us “what can you do?”
The reality is that they’re starting to worry about their college recruiting prospects. And yes, 79-81 mph is tough on the recruiting front, and yes, we can do something about it. But we need more than just a few months to make significant improvements.
First question is why you are here. We know the answer to that question. You’re not throwing hard enough to get recruited at all, or by the schools you’re interested in.
The second question is why didn’t you come earlier. The answer to this question is more complex and it varies from pitcher to pitcher, but here are some common themes:
- I’m attached to my pitching coach
- I already lift weights at school (basically the football lifts)
- My coach said if I keep working on my mechanics my velo would also improve
- My travel team offers an off-season program
How do I know? I was a baseball dad and I lived these, first-hand.
As my partner, Nunzio Signore, has written in the past, long term athletic development is fundamental to developing athletes, but even more so for developing pitchers. Why? Because you can’t improve velocity in a short span of time (well you can, but the end-result will probably not go well).
Let’s go back in time.
Your son is 8 years old and you begin to take him for pitching lessons. You put him on travel teams, and perhaps switch a couple times by the time he’s done with Little League. Middle school comes, and you’re beginning to get advice from his coaches and perhaps even other parents. He is now 13 years old, 10 inches taller, weighs 135 lbs. and his velocity is up nicely.
Luckily, natural growth brings velo along with it. So far so good!
Around 7th grade things begin to change, as expectations creep in from all sides. Suddenly, things begin to get more serious. Some are talking about showcases. Pitchers are talking about rankings (PG, PBR, etc.). But still no worries, his velocity has been improving every year, all is good!
Now, he’s about to begin high school, his velo is up to 75 mph and things are still good. Ninth grade comes and goes, 10th grade comes and goes. In the back of your mind you know his velo hasn’t improved by much. But, you’ve stayed in line and succumbed to all the obligations.
You’ve probably asked yourself “will my son get playing time if we don’t stick with this system?” Somewhere between obligation and fear, you stick with it, even though it may not be the best decision long term.
At some point, you call his pitching coach and broach the velo topic. He says, “why don’t you come in and let’s take a look”. You make an appointment, he makes a couple tweaks, velo ticks up 1-2 mph. You feel good that things are back on track and you go home.
Fall of junior year arrives. Your son is now throwing 79-82 mph and the full realization sets in that his velo really hasn’t changed much in 3 years.
Let’s stop right here and think about that for a second…
Throwing gas is about four basic topics:
- Good pitching mechanics
- An efficient kinematic sequence
- Lean body mass and weight gain
- Strength and mobility in all the right places
If you want to get out of the 79-82 zone by the time you’re a Junior in high school, you need a long term plan that addresses not one, but all topics listed above. Each is important if you want to throw hard. So, when is the best time to begin to address these topics? Yesterday would be good.
By Bahram Shirazi (BSEE, MBA, Co-owner RPP)
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