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For the better part of half a year, I have got to know and work with a nine-year Minor League pitcher named Seth Simmons. In October of 2018, he messaged Baseball Rebellions twitter account asking what we offer for pitchers. I texted him back telling him in a nutshell what we had to work with.
Needless to say, the pitching Baseball Rebellion pitching program has enhanced in the last six months with Seth here. In this case study, I will go over the things we worked this off-season and it all started with a social media text. Here is the first conversation we had over Twitter.
Seth is from Lewisville, North Carolina. He graduated from Calvary Baptist Day School in Winston Salem, NC. Seth attended East Carolina University where he was a star closer for the pirates from 2008-2011. As a senior, Simmons had a 2.78 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings pitched.
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Simmons in the 40th round of the 2011 MLB draft. Seth has impressive stats throughout his minor league career. He has 500 innings pitched with a 2.94 era with over 570 strikeouts.
Simmons was named to the United States National team for the 2015 WBC Premier 12. Premier 12 was an international baseball championship that was held in Taiwan and Japan.
Seth got released by the Diamondbacks in 2016, where he signed with the San Diego Padres and was assigned to the San Antonio class AA. He became a free agent after the 2018 season. This season he will join fellow ECU teammate and pitcher Seth Maness in the Atlantic League where he will be a starter for the High Point Rocker's.
The videos above are of Seth Simmons evaluation. I met Seth on October 22, 2018, where we talked a little before we got into the evaluation. He seemed a little skeptical at first about some of the concepts that we teach. He has been done other throwing programs in the past and had his own point of views, which I was fine with.
Being in a minor league organization myself, I have seen many different types of athletes. Seth showed up at 5'8" 190 pounds, a headband, spandex, and two different socks on. My impression of him was less than stellar. Never judge a book by its cover.
Seth went through the evaluation with open ears and full of questions. This was one of the first times working with a pro athlete so I tried not to stumble on my words. We slowed his video down and went over the movements with a fine tooth comb. What we saw was that Seth could use his lower half more efficiently, change his posture into front foot strike sooner, and brace up his front leg better. So that is exactly what we worked on!!
The work that Seth put in this offseason is second to none. I knew from day one that it was going to interesting and fun to work with him. The reason I say interesting is that right away Seth came off as very analytical. Which a lot of professional pitchers are stuck in their ways.
We meshed together well while going through each phase of the pitching progression even when he tried to sabotage his own lesson. He did a few reps bad on purpose to see if I would catch it and correct him. I did not catch it because he is a professional athlete and does not net constant reinforcement. We talked about the situation and moved forward where he trusted me completely.
I put together a little video of the phases we worked on and how Seth improved his movement quality.
When we talk about pitch design two things come to my mind. How can we FEEL the repetitive delivery to create a TUNNEL for the arm slot and release point? The answer is technology. For Seth, we wanted to make his 2-seam fastball and a changeup come out of the same tunnel.
We used Rapsodo Pitch unit to measure spin direction along with horizontal and vertical break to get the two pitches to mimic each other. The only big difference between the two is speed. This is devastating to a batter when seeing the same pitch out of the hand in the same place, but 8mph different.
The layover shows the same release point with similar spin out of the hand. What is so tough for hitters is where the two pitch's start and end. The 2-seam runs and stays inside, while the changeup dips low away to a lefty.
Seth made an unbelievable amount of progress this offseason. These are just the physical changes he has made. More importantly, he is away with a far more superior mental approach to pitching. Getting over an injury such a totally torn UCL and going through Tommy John Surgery is one of the hardest things to overcome by an athlete. I got to interview Seth on his last day here, his answers speak for his work ethic.
"After my last season, I was pretty lost mechanically. It was causing a lot of problems with my ability to recover as well as my actual effectiveness on the mound. So I was willing to try just about anything to get back to the pitcher I was prior to having Tommy John surgery."
"When I first walked in the door I was blown away by the facility. Absolutely top notch. The environment created by the staff is second to none and that is also amplified by the people that train here. From 8-year-olds to pro guys, there is a complete buy into the philosophies that are preached at Baseball Rebellion."
"At first, it can seem like a complete revamp of your movements and abilities. But the philosophy here is to build on what you do well and clean up areas that you were missing or were taught wrong. Trusting the process and attention to detail is how they approached helping me, and it worked above and beyond what I imagined. The movements you learn become your movements and your delivery there isn’t a cookie cutting philosophy here."
"There is an abundance of tools to use at Baseball Rebellion to help me become a better pitcher. We used slow-motion cameras to study my delivery, as well as K-Vest to get a better look at all of my movements in my delivery. We also used these cameras to show action on pitches to help me tunnel all my pitches at an elite level. Along with that, we used Rapsodo to track data to know how my pitches leave my hand and how they should be used in competition."
"I would recommend Baseball Rebellion to anyone for the reason that hitting or pitching no one is a finished product. To become the best version of yourself it takes time and effort. The staff at Baseball Rebellion gives you all the tools you need to progress in your playing career and they treat every player no matter what age the same way. The staff at BR cares so much about the individual that when you hit certain goals it is like they achieved it as well. They invest in the player and that to me matters the most."
"Today I feel like I’m the best version of me that I have ever been. I have also learned to self-correct faster and make better in-game adjustments. The guessing game is out the window and everything I have learned here will translate throughout the season regardless of stats."
Max recently turned 12-years-old. He has been in the Baseball Rebellion pitching /hitting program for the last three years. Max plays for Evoshield Canes 12U team where he plays middle infield and is one of their starting pitchers. He attends Immaculata Middle School in Durham, NC and plans to go to Cardinal Gibbons High School. When he is not playing baseball he is tearing it up on the basketball court. Max is 2026 draft eligible, a straight-A student and hopes to attend UNC-Chapel Hill in the future.
The first time I met Max was when he walked into our now retired name ITSbaseball facility in Hillsborough NC. He was decked out UNC Tarheels gear and shaggy hair.
I was 30 at the time and Max was going to be 10-years-old. It was funny because during the whole evaluation he was telling me that he could throw 70 and throw it harder than me. For his age, Max did throw fairly hard. 50 mph was his hardest throw that day. Granted he just got up on the mound and chucked it at the target.
For just meeting him he made it seem like we knew each other for years. Almost like he was competing against me and I wasn't even throwing. At this point, I realized the confidence in Max was second to none. Needless to say, we accepted Max into the program instantly and got started trying to utilize his talents. Here is the video of his evaluation two years ago.
As we started to see Max more and more you can tell he was going to be something special. Watching him throw a baseball is much different than watching him run for the first time. Let's just say you could hear Max's footsteps on a construction site with every machine on.
His upper half was pretty solid to start with, however, his lower half needed a ton of work. If you are familiar with Baseball Rebellion, most people around the area can tell when you take lessons here. The rhythm of the windup and leg kick gives it away.
The video below shows how we utilized a mirror on the side of the pitcher's mound. We want kids to be able to see their heel as they are driving down the mound. In this rep by Max, he shows his heel a little soon. This creates false energy which makes him want to jump out of his delivery. Even though we made tremendous strides in just one year, we had much more work to do moving forward.
I mentioned in Max's bio at the beginning, he has recently turned 12 in early March. He plays for the 12U Evoshield Canes National Team where he pitches and starts at shortstop.
Whenever Max comes for a lesson nowadays it is mostly not a focus on body movements. We have to tweak somethings, but never a revamp of his mechanics. For example, In the video below we focused on creating speed down the mound. By driving the hips and then kicking out to increase velocity. This made him have a little more intent through the pitch which translated into 70mph on the radar gun.
The things we have to focus on with Max is how to stay out of his own head. He gets frustrated when he gives up hits and walks guys. When Max is on I would put him up against any 12-year-old in the country. Getting back in the game when he is struggling is the biggest things we talk about.
I love working with Max and seeing his family in the facility. Having the trust from not only mom and dad but grandma and grandpa as well. We are all on the same page on how to make Max the best he can possibly be. The ceiling for this kid is as high as they come. Every time I see him he wants to challenge me to a pull-up contest, or a push-up challenge.
The funny thing is he never gives up and actually bet me in a pull-up contest. His heart is crazy big, his personality is even bigger, and oh he is great a the game of baseball. Put those three together and you get a chance at being a future Big Leaguer. It's so fun to be part of young kids like Max's life and help them reach their dreams. Talent is not always the greatest tool of an athlete, but learning how to hone the simple skills I mention in this article gives a kid like Max a chance.
The relationship between a pitcher and his catcher should be the foundation on which a successful baseball team is built. The communication between the two should be like clockwork. Being able to read what the other is thinking and feeding off one another's energy makes for better baseball. Building that relationship can be hard but we will go over some simple steps to make it easier to communicate from both sides.
There is a huge difference between a pitchers and catchers relationship from middle school, high school, college, to the pros. Here at Baseball Rebellion, we take pride in teaching young players how to communicate even at the youth level. We try to throw live bullpens with a catcher as much as we can. Live batters are even better to help the pitcher and catcher communication as it forces the "silent language" to occur between the pitcher and catcher even more.
I will be going over some simple signs to help pitchers relay signs to their catcher so that you never have any cross-ups. A cross-up is when your throwing partner whether in practice or a game doesn't know what the pitcher is throwing. Bad things can happen when this occurs such as injury to the receiver or a bad outcome on the pitch (wild pitch/pass ball).
If throwing just four-seam fastballs on every throw, there is no need to tell your partner what is coming. When mixing in other pitches like a two-seam or curveball it is necessary to communicate to the catcher what is coming. Here are the signs a pitcher will use from Little League to the Big Leagues to relay those pitches to the catcher.
DO YOU KNOW the silent language between pitcher and catcher? I am talking about the communication between each other to what pitch is coming. The signs are simple and practical in telling the catcher what you are throwing. No need to yell out "Hey here comes a fastball".
It's amazing how many kids don't know these signs and or forget them from week to week. These are the signs form a pitcher to catcher, or their throwing partner when at practice or before a game. Here are some examples of silent signs.
Before the game starts, the pitcher and catcher should go over signs. When there is no one on base the signs be easy for both the catcher and pitcher. The usual signs that most team use are simple and to the point when there are no runners on base.
The main reason to have a separate set of signs when runners are on base especially second base is so the runner can not relay what pitch is coming to the hitter. Some examples of what pitchers and catchers use are; second sign, chase the two or any number, and outs plus one. Here is a great video of Gabe Dimock going through the proper way to give signs and why it is important to have a separate set of signs when there are runners on base.
The last thing you want to do as a pitcher or catcher is to show the other one up. What that means is when the other makes a mistake, you visibly show your frustration towards them for everyone to see. This is not only a quick way to ruin the pitcher/catcher relationship you've already built, but a quick way to lose a friendship as well.
We are all human and we are all going to make mistakes throughout our playing career and our lives. If you work hard to build an unbreakable relationship and foundation with your pitcher or catcher, great things can happen.