I first was a player in this game. My story goes, 18 years old signed full ride to local Junior College to pitch. I was hoping Junior College would give me a few more years to develop because I was a late bloomer. Problem was my arm pain was so bad I couldn’t sleep at night. I just used pain killers and fought through it because I didn’t know any better. First college appearance, 4th inning it happened like out of a movie, threw a pitch and my arm went dead. Really dead, couldn’t move it. My coach took me out and sent me straight to the doctor. MRI said torn rotator cuff.
This was a pivotal time in my life because the doctors said after the surgery that I would never play again because I didn’t have the college eligibility to recover from such a serious injury. To make matters worse I got mononucleosis just before the surgery. At this point in my career I had two options; quit or prove the doctors wrong. I didn’t want to give up at 18 so I took the ultimate challenge.
In the process of recovering from this career ending surgery I decided to take a different road. That road was NOT the conventional wisdom. I experimented with everything from bodybuilding workouts to trying to throw a javelin when I could use my arm again. The only time I started to make progress was when I discovered and committed to Olympic Lifting with a well know strength coach Kurt Hester. Kurt is in the strength and conditioning hall of fame. It change everything from my body size to my motor control. It was revolutionary to me and I was blown away baseball had no experience with it. Most coaches forbid there players from doing it. The only reason I was willing to do it was because I knew I had nothing to lose.
Two years following the surgery and many long Olympic Lifting training days later I could throw a baseball again about 80 mph. This was enough to get me playing in college again. I finished my college career in the NAIA and was offered a contract to play independently in the Frontier League or in Europe. I chose Europe because I didn’t think I had the chance to play in the MLB with a mid 80’s fastball at best. The best thing about Europe was I pitched in the European Championship and gained more velocity in the process.
The moment I took my recovery to the next level was when I came back from Europe September 27th 2001. Yes, a few weeks after September 11th. I decided not to continue to play in Europe because of the state of the country, so I took a 9-5 job and decided to actually learn the biomechanics of pitching, I started reading case studies on baseball and the biomechanics of throwing. I also started to follow the National Pitching Association with Tom House. I became so convinced that the NPA’s discovery of hip to shoulder separation was the secret to pitching velocity that I moved from Louisiana to California to be closer to this out of the box approach. I met an NPA certified coach Mike Layseca in Glendale California and we started really figuring this stuff out over the next few years together.
To turn a long story into a short essay, I began to separate from the NPA’s teachings when I was NOT convinced hip to shoulder separation was influenced by shoulder orientation which they preached. I truly believed it came from the lower half. This is when I decided to take the power comments of Olympic Lifting into pitching and used the movement of Triple Extension and learned how to change my Force Vectors to power the lower half. This was the beginning of a huge technical transformation for me. This lower half approach along with my elite Olympic Lifting abilities came together and produce 94mph for me at a MLB tryout. I was 28 years old and finally scouts wanted to know who I was and where I had been. Due to my age the Twins advised I go tryout for the Golden League. This was a top independent league at the time where I was drafted in there first round for the San Diego, Surf Dawgs. I was drafted by a well known MLB catcher Terry Kennedy and played with Jose Canseco and had the time of my life.
They traded me the next season and I decided to hang it up. The reason was I was going to be almost 30 and didn’t see much of a chance to make it into the MLB. I knew it was time to make another transformation in my life and I was ready to become a coach. My grandfather was a famous football coach and I always looked up to him. I also knew I had a program and an approach that was revolutionary and no one was using it. This approach and program not only helped me prove the doctors wrong but gave me almost 10mph post surgery in ball speed. Enough to grant me a professional career and a short time to leave the dream. I called the approach and program 3X Pitching which stands for Triple Extension pitching which is the foundation of the approach.
This is when I launched TopVelocity.net in 2007 and quickly learned that baseball wanted to learn this approach and the 3X programs. Since then I have worked with thousands of pitchers. All who have committed to the programs and approach, have gained the 5-10+mph. I have had the University of Georgia, Central Arkansas and the University of New Orleans attend my camps and use the approach along with many other colleges and high schools. I have a list of 3X Certified Coaches and I have been a Biomechanics analysts in the MLB for the past two seasons.
Most of the pitchers and position players who come through my 3X and 2X programs are high school, college and professional. I am looking for the serious athlete. I have had 10-13 year olds attend my camps as well but these are very focused 10-13 year olds. I recommend my programs for the ball player who wants to make the high school team, college team or professional team.
Your website has a tremendous amount of information on it, and could keep a player or coach busy for a long time. For somebody who is wondering what the one or two keys are to being a more dominant baseball player, what would you say?
Velocity and technique! That means you need both a baseball specific strength and conditioning coach and a pitching mechanics coach. It's best if they are the same person, which is why I became a USA Weightlifting Certified Sports Performance Coach and a Biomechanics specialist.
Are there elements of strength training that baseball players typically neglect in their programs before they see you? Are there a few workouts you universally recommend to baseball players?
Baseball players typically neglect strength training in general. Most high school baseball players have poor joint integrity, core strength, and functional strength, which is most of the reason for high injury rates in High School baseball over MLB.
If I am going to recommend specific workouts, it is Olympic Lifting. You do need to develop a base level of strength before advancing in the training but it provides all elements for developing the high velocity pitcher. Joint mobility and integrity, core strength and functional strength, all is developed to an optimal level with Olympic Lifting. The problem is you need a USAW certified coach to learn it first because it is highly technical like baseball. This is why they work together so well.
Should pitchers train for strength and power as much as the other players on the field? Are there any special considerations they should make on the field or weight room in terms of pitching specific movements or arm health factors?
If pitchers do not train for strength and power then they will not be pitchers for much longer. It is the fastest movement ever recorded in a lab. The internal rotation speeds have been recorded as high as 7,200 degrees per second. That means the arm could spin around the shoulder 20 times in one second. This means there is a higher demand for strength and power for pitchers than any other position.
Pitching is a multi-planar movement. This means the movements that should be trained are frontal or lateral movements, transverse rotational movements and sagittal or forward movements.
What are the major mechanical considerations that you immediately look for when you're analyzing a pitcher? Are there any of these movements that you find are very commonly lacking in the general pitching population?
In my 3X PITCH BioMetric breakdowns I am first looking for linear speed and the correct timing of that speed. Then I look at hip to shoulder separation and separation timing, and trunk dynamics and the timing of the trunk to arm path.
The movements that most young pitchers do not perform well, or at all, are the lower half and trunk movements. They either have poor linear speed or timing of this speed or poor linear trunk movements and timing of these movements. This usually is the case because most young pitchers have spent most of their time just working on the upper body and arm path.
Is it possible for everybody to increase their pitching velocity, or are there some athletes who have already maximized what they're capable of doing on the mound?
Most pitchers have not come close to optimizing their pitching velocity potential because this is a sport that promotes poor physical development, overuse, and upper body pitching mechanics. I rarely find a pitcher who is maxed out.
How much of your thinking relates back to health and injury prevention? What are your thoughts on the current increase in elbow injuries?
Injury prevention is a huge part of the pitching velocity training I promote. It is a rating that I use with the MLB in my biomechanics analysis. It has to always be a major piece to the puzzle because how many throws you can make at a high velocity is as important as the velocity. For example, who wants to throw 95mph only a few times before they hurt themselves or pass out? Who can build a career on that? The goal is always to be able to repeat the movement, as much as it is to just create the movement.
Your programs are based primarily on power and throwing velocity, what effect does this training have on command and accuracy for pitchers? What types of work do your pitchers do to train better command of their pitches?
Command or accuracy is the result of consistency and the direction of energy. Consistency is the ability to repeat the exact same movement every time. You can be consistent and precise with poor mechanics but it is easier to be precise with consistent mechanics that have a linear direction of energy. This means the body is moving towards the target.
You will have a better chance of throwing to a specific location if the arm is internally rotating towards that location as opposed to throwing across that location. Therefore mechanically you must be more linear than rotational at release. This is best accomplished in a biomechanics system like 3X Pitching. In this system, the delivery starts linear with the stride then converts to rotational forces with hip to shoulder separation and transfers back to linear again with the forward trunk movements into pitch release.
To train for these better precision focused mechanics and to make them consistent takes the 3X drills we use to teach the movements and enough reps to create the muscle memory. No excessive bullpen pitching or mental training. Just efficient and effective precision focused movements that are repeatable.
Are there any tools or implements that you use on a regular basis and recommend to pitchers or coaches?
We use a 2lb medicine ball with two hands for our velocity drills, along with sleds, ankle weights and recoil bands. I also am a big believer in the “King of the Hill” pitching trainer which I developed a program for. Check it out here!
What do you think most pitching instructors are doing wrong? How are your training programs different from the others?
Most pitching instructors are coaching the arm path and expecting pitchers to make changes in a movement that lasts only around one tenth of a second. Yes, once the arm moves forward from the cocked position it takes a little over one tenth of a second to release the ball. Because most of the pitching delivery is in the stride and much of science proves the kinetic chain theory that energy is generated from the ground and moves up the body into the ball, what you do in your stride has more influence over your arm path than your arm.
This means you must learn and perfect the stride and the conversion of the energy in hip to shoulder separation or you are just wasting your time.
The 3X Programs is built on the kinetic theory and develops a dynamic explosive stride as the foundation which most programs either barely cover or avoid all together. This is why it is the only pitching program that marries an Olympic based power development program with an advanced pitching mechanics system.