Each week we bring you articles about pitching development we don’t want you to miss out on. It’s stuff pitchers should read.
Our Dynamic Velocity off-season pitching training groups have welcomed over 39 pitchers. One of the main things we are focused on is collecting as much objective data on our pitchers as we can. Throwing velocity is obviously one of those data points that we collect and analyze. After analyzing the data from 39 pitchers we have seen every pitcher gain velocity – with an average MPH increase of 5.5 MPH. In our high school pitchers we have seen an average MPH increase of 6.4 MPH as the chart below shows.
In the chart below, you’ll see the MPH differences from when they entered the training group (shown in light gray) and their current MPH (shown in green).
Our youth pitchers – which includes all pitchers in 8th grade or below – have experienced on average a 4.7 MPH increase.
In the chart below, you’ll see the MPH differences from when they entered the training group (shown in light gray) and their current MPH (shown in blue).
Overall, we are encouraged by these results. The differences between the velocity increases at the youth and high school levels could be explained by the amount of time we spend at the youth level on biomechanical changes compared to the high school pitchers. Meaning, we want youth players to focus on motor control over velocity. As the players mature into high school players the emphasis moves up the developmental pyramid to speed, strength, and power which is why I think we see a high average velocity increase in the high school pitchers.
Eric Wordekemper brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Tom Oldham Baseball staff as the current pitching coach at Creighton University. An 11-year veteran in the professional ranks, Wordekemper was drafted by the New York Yankees following the 2005 season, pitching at the A, AA & AAA levels for the Bronx Bombers. Wordekemper pitched at the AAA level for the Yankees in 2006 (Columbus) as well as from 2009-11 (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Sidelined by Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2013, Eric returned to Creighton to complete his undergraduate degree (2015) in leadership studies. As Wordekemper worked to return to the professional ranks, Coach Servais saw an opportunity to help a former player as well as his current squad by bringing Eric on as an undergraduate assistant in for the 2014 season.
You can read more about Eric by visiting his bio page.
“If I was given eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first six hours sharpening my axe.” –Abraham Lincoln
I can still remember Spring Training like it was yesterday. Not so much the games, but the practices. Early morning conditioning in the desert followed by PFPs (Pitchers Fielding Practice). Day after day after day.
I remember thinking, “Ok. I got it. I can field a ground ball and throw it to first. Can we mix this up a little?” But, we didn’t.
We practiced the fundamentals over and over again until we could pick someone off of first with our eyes closed. Interestingly, though, the veterans didn’t say a word. They knew the drills were part of the process. They were at the highest level of baseball and they never stopped focusing on preparing for the season. In fact, they’d show up weeks before Spring Training started to get a jump start on their preparation.
Witnessing this helped me realize that you achieve success by trusting the process.
Trusting the process ultimately comes down to two things – preparation and patience. You must be prepared mentally, emotionally and physically in order to play your best baseball when spring rolls around. Patience is important because achieving your dreams doesn’t happen overnight and there are no shortcuts to success at the highest levels of baseball.
As you continue or begin your off-season development, remember to trust the process. There will be exciting days when you crush your personal records and frustrating weeks when you experience plateaus and question everything. Both are important and both are part of the process. Just keep working hard.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Angela Duckworth, recently conducted research to better understand why successful people are…well, successful. Her research indicates that wealth, talent, or titles aren’t good predictors of success. What is? Grit. Grit is the ability to work hard for a long period of time toward a focused goal and keep moving forward in spite of challenges, obstacles and failures.
Duckworth says, “Grit is passion and perseverance for long term goals. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”
So if grit is so great, how do you become “gritty”?
I believe it starts with first understanding what you want.
Are you trying to make your high school team?
Do you want to become the Friday night starter at your college?
Are you focused on getting drafted in the top 10 rounds?
If you’re clear on what you want, you’re on the right path towards developing grit. But, it’s not all about having lofty goals and dreams. You have to put some action behind it.
As author, Jon Gordon, puts it – You need to have a telescope and a microscope. Your telescope looks at the big picture – it’s your inspiration. The microscope looks at the details of your day – your habits.
Your habits as a player will be the best predictor of your success.
Do you show up late to practice?
Do you show up prepared?
Do you own your mistakes or do you blame others?
If you want to develop grit, remember the telescope and the microscope – inspiration and action – together they will set you up for success.
Write out your top goals for the upcoming off-season. Then right next to each goal write one thing you are committed to do every day in order to reach that goal.
You open the locker room door and hear everyone talking and laughing amongst themselves. Then you walk in. Conversations stop and heads turn. The proverbial pin drops and you hear it. Joining a new team can be uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to be.
Over the years, I have been on many different teams and experienced meeting new teammates many times over. I’ve also experienced being on a team and having a new teammate join the team. In fact, one time, I experienced a new teammate walk into the locker room only to greet his new teammates by saying, “Your new captain is here!” That experience and many others helped me realize what players should not do when joining a team. More importantly, though, it helped me realize what they should do.
Here are five ways to win over your new teammates:
1. Be around the team. When you join a new team make it a priority to spend time with your new teammates. Focus on getting to know each of them first. Connect with each of them on a personal level. Great teams are filled with players that have great relationships with each other.
2. Learn from them. You have just joined a team that has a certain team dynamic. Work to learn what the dynamic is and how you can fit into it. New teammates will appreciate your desire to learn about the team and will take the time to explain the culture and the expectations.
3. Be humble. At first I wanted to write shut your mouth, but be humble has the same meaning. Let your new teammates ask you questions about yourself and your experiences. Don’t offer them up first. And, when you do answer their questions, make sure you mention the others that contributed to your success. It’s never just about you.
4. Be the hardest worker there. Show up early and stay late. You don’t want to give the impression that you think you’ve already solidified your place on the team. Let your hard work show that you desire a place on the team and that you know you must earn it.
5. Care deeply about the results. Teams win and lose together. Focus on the team’s results rather than your individual accomplishments. If the team is winning, your personal success will happen.
If you’re joining a new team, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, it can be a great experience. Follow these five ways and win your new teammates over.
I love watching tough players. I loved competing against tough players. The toughest players make you raise your game; they make others around them better. If you were to visit locker rooms across the country you would hear coaches telling their players they need to be tough. They need to show toughness, both mentally and physically. But what do they really mean? What makes a player tough?
If you watch games on television or in person today, it is hard to cut through all of the flash to recognize a tough player. Crazy hair, 2-foot-long beards, and oversize jerseys present players as more concerned with their appearance than their play. Throw in the ridiculous bat flips, players jawing at each other, and other forms of “big leaguing” and it becomes even harder to understand if players truly know what it means to be tough.
I often wonder if these players realize how they come across – not only to other players and coaches, but to recruiting coordinators. Over and over, I hear how important it is for a player to get recruited – by a college, a university, or a professional team. Everyone is focused on getting recruited. It seems that if being recruited is a top priority, being a tough player should be a top priority, as well.
I was fortunate to learn what it means to be a tough player at a young age. My parents were incredibly supportive of my desire to play professional baseball. My father spent hours upon hours working with me and talking through the various aspects of baseball so I could better understand the game. And it paid off. At an early age, I was playing against players four to five years older than me and doing well. My father never let that go to my head, though. He always said to me, “Remember, there is always going to be someone out there better than you. Just focus on getting better each day.” He wanted me to be a tough player.
This desire continued through my high school years when I transferred high schools to Omaha Westside to play baseball for Coach Bob Greco. That transition was one of the hardest transitions I have made in my life. I lived away from home, knew only a handful of people when I started, and went back to my hometown of Fremont, Nebraska, on the weekends. It wasn’t ideal, but I knew I had to be tough. Luckily, my family, close friends from Fremont, new friends from Westside, and all the families that let me crash on their couches supported me. Looking back, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I would have missed out on some of the best years of my life and might not have met my wife (you’re welcome, honey.)
Coach Greco is the best high school baseball coach in the country. And that’s not just my opinion. Last year, he deservedly was named the top high school baseball coach in the country by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Year after year, Coach Greco produces winning teams and championships for Omaha Westside. His intense focus on creating tough players and building tough teams causes that to happen. Coach Greco has no time for soft players, and he made that clear to me one day during my junior year. I remember him pulling me into the dugout during practice and saying to me matter-of-factly, “Tom, you’re pitching like a scared little boy. If we are going to win the state championship, we need you pitch like you can. You need to pitch like a man.” And that was it. He told me to get back to practice. His words were to the point and incredibly impactful.