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I always know the student who has been practicing his delivery and the one who has not. It’s impossible to fool me. I can tell within the first 5 throws playing catch, whether or not the student is making progress.
I work with 75 to 100 different kids a week, all of have a unique set of talent, personalities, intelligence, and work ethic. The students are the variable and my teaching methodology is the constant. Initially, the foundation of information given to each student is primarily the same, and when I first start working with a new student, I say “I go, as fast as you go. Take it upon yourself to learn the information, practice it, and find out how good you can be”.
Unfortunately, that line doesn’t sink in to every student as quickly as others. However, the ones that grasp the concept, flourish. The student pictured above is a 10 year old RHP who has “flourished” in my program. He’s living proof of his t-shirt; #OUTHUSTLE. He always walks in focused, moves directly into his warmup, activates his shoulder, and if I’m still in a lesson, he practices his delivery in front of the mirror. His first 5 throws; always consistent. Therefore, we #KEEPROLLING. He’s a great student, loves pitching, and has fun while getting better. But he’s the minority. A larger majority of kids walk in, breeze through a warmup, and sit and wait until I’m finished with a lesson. No extra time has been spent working through their delivery and remember every kid is given the same information. This student’s rate of development is much slower. If they don’t practice in front of me, I doubt they do it on their own time.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn over the years is I can’t give a student the desire to be better. He has to arrive at that destination for himself. We’ve all heard the line “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You want to believe you can reach every kid, but the ability to be something greater is what separates us as humans.
When I attempted my brief comeback in 2011 with the Dodgers, I was astonished at the genuine lack of effort among many young professional pitchers. Each day, I witnessed an increased volume of individuals who complained about the conditioning, lifting, and overall demands expected in their profession. When drafted in 2004, I can remember a few isolated individuals who would always complain, but never the volume I saw throughout my comeback. Did something change? Do they realize they are the employee of an organization, and this is their career/job? I’m talking about the overall mindset of a larger percentage of players compared to years past.
YES, something has changed. Now that I teach and develop pitchers both in person and online on an everyday basis, I see a pattern. Today’s baseball culture is now a destination sport and youth baseball players no longer grow up learning to practice their craft without the crutch of being driven to practice, personal lesson, or game. Neighborhoods are no longer filled with kids meeting up to play sandlot ball, and parents hesitation to let kids roam free on their bikes throughout the day and expect to see them arrive home when the street lights come on has fueled the problem.
The game of baseball should always be fun, but if you expect to play at the highest level, you must ask yourself some very honest questions.
However, this doesn’t mean you practice your delivery in a bullpen or a game. The time to practice your movement pattern can best be utilized with removing the variable of the result of the throw. If your pattern is practiced properly, you can make significant gains that will directly show up the next time you venture to the bullpen or mound. Hard to believe? Whether practicing lower half momentum, timing, or trunk rotation, take 5 minutes before you pick up a baseball and I guarantee the quality of your throws will improve.
I’ve had several students who enter into my program with significant control problems and I never let them throw a baseball until I see a positive change in their overall trunk rotation. The student with control issues shows characteristics of being anxious, timid, highly analytical, and most importantly thinks about force output by firing the ARM. I don’t let this student pick up a baseball until I see a positive change in their overall trunk rotation and we absolutely utilize the mirror over and over until trunk rotation is consistent. If you rotate your trunk properly, your arm will follow in the correct manner. This is a learned process and not one that can be rushed. I’m sure many of my students and parents wonder how long will he/she have to do this before they are allowed to throw the ball. But, when the time is right and the pattern of the rotation is consistent, the ensuing result of the throw always starts building confidence in the individual moving forward.
The same process works if you are trying to work on a specific component of your delivery.
I hear far too many excuses, from young pitchers who “don’t have enough time”, “couldn’t make it to the field’, “weather was too bad”. My answer is your living room will suffice, or a mirror inside of your home will do the trick. Set up your cellphone and capture some video of you going through your delivery. See what you are doing right/wrong and keep grinding until you get it right. Again, you must improve your overall pattern outside of the competitive atmosphere. Once you do, the consistency of your results rises, and the rate of your development on the field drastically increases. My advice is make it a point to get in front of the mirror for AT LEAST 10 minutes a day and see your results flourish. Here’s a sample drill to get you started.
Do you know if you are working towards training a pattern that utilizes your entire body or a pattern that relies on the speed of your arm? If you are currently working with an instructor, coach, or parent, do they consistently explain the “WHY” behind the information? If not, start doing some research and begin to understand the art of pitching. Work towards finding your own style and develop a training regimen where you continually blend and repeat the chain of moving parts within the body.
Do you currently look like the clip on the left or the right? If it’s the right, I suggest you start working on your rotation immediately.
You must have the desire to want more and be better than your teammates. Try and set a new standard of work ethic among your peers and make everyone want to be just like you. Don’t wait for a teammate, coach, or parent to lead you down the path. Carve your own path and see where it takes you.
If you read through this article and are having doubts about your work ethic, you better get rolling. Someone is always working harder than you and will eventually pass you somewhere along the way. Don’t be the guy who says “Man, I was great in high school, if only…..”. No excuses, just put forth genuine effort with smart training practices and see where your innate ability will take you.
When I was a freshman at George Washington University my coaches insisted I needed to be more consistent. After fall practice ended, I took it upon myself to work in front of the mirror each night for 30 minutes. Armed with my portable CD player, bulky headphones, and a desire to be better, I went on to be a Freshman All-American later that year. The nights spent up in the “white gym” at the Smith Center directly changed the course of my career. I never envisioned I would eventually become a first rounder, but my willingness to take control of my delivery at that time, set up the foundation of how I perceived my value of work.
Coaches love pitchers who throw strikes. Always have and always will. Too many pitchers get caught up focusing purely on velocity gains and lose perspective on what it means to be able to pitch. Take control of your delivery through mastering the technique involved with throwing the baseball and you can have both velocity and command. Your career will be thankful.
–Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Baseball Pitching Rebellion