Important Thoughts from Coach Bill Thurston

As mentioned in an earlier post (Coaches/Pitchers/Parents - Part 2) I had not yet heard from noted pitching authority, Bill Thurston.

Of the comments requested and received from the four pitching “experts/authorities” I contacted (House, Mills, McFarland, Thurston), his will probably spark the most debate.

They follow:

"Let me give you my personal thoughts based on my experience of working with young pitchers. I only work with the 9-13 age groups doing “throwing clinics” more then pitching clinics. I have video analyzed close to 1,500 pitchers aged 14-18, plus many non-Amherst College pitchers and a few pro pitchers.

I have never been a supporter of the concept of Little League Baseball. Kids are attempting to play the game before they develop throwing, catching, and hitting skills. The emphasis has been on the results (winning) not on the process (learning the skills of the game). Little Leaguers do not practice enough, even throw enough to develop a good throwing rhythm, arm strength, or arm stamina.

The injuries referred to by Mike Marshall do occasionally happen to a very small percentage of the “elite” youth pitchers who are pitched too often, throw very hard (effort and velocity), allowed high pitch counts, have poor mechanics, and throw breaking pitches. The average Little Leaguers (90-95%) do not throw enough to learn and develop a good motion and arm strength.

I would prefer that a young player not pitch until he is 12-13 years old depending on his body and arm development (particularly the muscular development of the biceps, triceps and upper forearm muscles).

Youth players would be better served in skill development programs then “competitive-win championship” programs.

I do not disagree with Mike’s observations if he is referring to the elite, top 5% of kids who are over pitched on travel and out-of-season programs. I know Dr. Andrews is really concerned about pitchers who pitch year around and do not have a down-time (2-3 months) from pitching, I agree with him. Young athletes should play multiple sports. They will become more athletic and compete better in the long run.

I hope my thoughts are helpful."

They certainly are. Thanks Bill…and “Thanks” to each of the other respondents.

Right you are, Coach Thurston and skwezeplay.
When I was a kid we learned to play the game by playing the game—no rules and regulations other than the rules of the game, no would-be coaches who thought they knew it all trying to tell us to do this and that. We would simply choose up sides and get to a sandlot and play till our parents called us in for dinner. We learned by doing—bunt, hit-and-run, running the bases (and maybe stealing a few), and as far as pitching was concerned we did what old Satchel Paige used to say—keep the ball as close to the plate and as far from the bat as possible, and throw strikes—home plate didn’t move.

When I was eleven years old I discovered that I had a natural sidearm delivery, and what came attached to it was a nice little curve ball, and that was what decided me on pitching. I read a lot, applied what I could to what I was doing, acquired a couple of nice changeups and, of all things, a knuckle-curve (I think Mike Mussina picked his up the same way, not being able to throw a standard knuckler because of a sharp wrist snap that came with the curve, so experimenting with different grips, and voila, the knuckle-curve!). I hooked up at fourteen with a very good team that might well have been called semipro except that no one got paid, we had a manager who had been a former infielder and had good baseball savvy—and then, at sixteen, the big breakthrough. I felt I could use another pitch (remember, I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of so I had to go in the other direction); in that year I met Yankee pitcher Ed Lopat and learned how to throw a good slider—and that began a wonderful pitching relationship in which he saw where I was coming from and what I wanted to know, and he took me in hand, worked with me and helped me become a very, very good snake-jazz pitcher.
And by the time (ugh) Little League had come to New York I could only laugh and sometimes yell “Ouch” as I watched those kids, in pursuit of victory at all costs, fail to grasp the absolute essentials…
Yes, indeed—Little League is very much overrated and in many cases a source of injury because a) the kids are too young to learn even the basics, and b) they are pushed too hard. No wonder so many of them get soured on the game and drop out. I think that ages 11 and 12 are soon enough to start, and even then go slow.
My fifty cents worth (inflation, you know). 8)

I trained with Bill Thurston from the time I was 15 through pro ball. Met with him 4 or 5 times at Amherst, and then another 2 or 3 at clinics in NY. I’m glad he took the time to respond so thoughtfully.

I find it refreshing that Coach Thurston made a brief response yet it was so thoughtful and dynamic. In that one response is the answer to countless questions that have arisen over the years here at LTP. It is the “Gettysburg Address” of LetsTalkPitching…

Four score and seven years ago …

lol

(That’s how the Gettysburg Address begins, right?) :lol:

Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg is 271 words and is THE most famous speech in American History with only one other speech in my time whose popularity is close. That would be the “I Have A Dream” speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. Not coincidentally, Dr, King stood at the Lincoln Memorial delivering his speech…

At 304 words Coach Thurston was a little verbose but got the job done nicely. Any plans for a Thurston memorial in Amherst?
:twisted:

That quote was from Bill Thurston.

That one was from Mike Marshall.

In essence, they’re both saying exactly the same thing, but isn’t it interesting MM is treated like some kind of nut in many circles, while Thurston like a saint? :wink:

But that aside, the problem with both of their statements is this. The failed to make clear that they weren’t against immature kids pitching, but rather something else. Bill failed to explain how any kid would every play a game of baseball before he was 12-13, be it in organized ball or on a sandlot someplace.

As far as I know, Mike hasn’t never really defined what he meant by “competitively”. Does that mean organized ball where there’s a league with several teams in it, rules, umpires, coaches, etc.? Or maybe it means where the pitchers is giving everything he has, both physically and mentally?

I hadn’t seen the Thurston comment before, and thought it was interesting to contrast it with what Marshall’s said as long as I’ve been aware of him making comments about youth pitching.

I would suspect approach has everything to do with it SK…Thurston never called any parent a child abuser for allowing his kid to play ball. You’ve said it yourself, MM is very blunt and comes off through his Q&A’s as the only knowledge in the room. My opinion is that now that he’s “retired” and other, less intense…perhaps more moderate in their speech, folks are carrying his thoughts forward…he’s getting a modicum of respect, particularly his injury prevention techniques. Unfortunately…due to the particular groupie following he has…exemplified by folks like Yardbird and Kharma on other sites, he still provokes much disdain. So to me it isn’t a surprise that an old gentleman of Bill Thurstons caliber is revered while MM still generates much in the way of angst.

Bill Thurston is quoted in the OP as saying:

But, Dr. Andrews and his team of medical experts appears not to have any problem with u12 pitchers, as their study specifically provides game pitch counts for ages 9 through 11 and other recommendations for prepubescent pitchers:

http://tinyurl.com/drjamesandrews

What medical authority, if any, supports Coach Thurston’s view that “a young player not pitch until he is 12-13”?

Also, where and when did Coach Thurston actually say these things? For I googled two of the unique phrases from the quote attributed to him (“I have never been a supporter of the concept of Little League Baseball” and “I would prefer that a young player not pitch until he is 12-13”) and the only place on the entire Internet where they show up is in this thread on Let’s Talk Pitching. :?:

jd,

I’ve never held any doubts that Mike’s biggest obstacle to acceptance has always been him. I’ve always maintained that if his theories did in fact hold any real water, they’d eventually gain acceptance because its hard to hide truth under a bushel forever, and that seems to be what’s been happening to at least a small degree over the last few years.

But Bill’s tenure as a college head coach predates Mike’s ML debut, so unless he’s only recently come to the conclusion in his statement, one would have to believe he’s been espousing much the same thing for at least as long as Mike. If that’s true, there’s something other than Mike’s inability to conjure up believers going on. On one side there’s Mike with all the venom he draws, but what’s the reason someone as well known, well respected, and well liked as Bill couldn’t get anyone to listen to him?

I suspect its much more that people don’t want to believe there’s just no good reason for little kids to be pitching enough to even think about needing a private coach. That flies in the face of one heck of a lot of people, as we’ve witnessed even in very recent threads here. And not only is there a very vocal faction out there who thinks that no matter whether its MM or Thurston saying kids shouldn’t pitching much until they’re physically mature, there’s a definite $$$ aspect to it as well!

Can you imagine how much $$$ would be lost in videos, books, web sites, equipment, and for sure the price of lessons for little guys? I suspect that’s a major reason that philosophy hasn’t gained a whole lot of traction. :wink:

Actually I don’t find the statement all “that” revolutionary (My son for example threw his first game at the very end of his 11th yr season). Yes absolutely money talks and there is scads of it in the “training” of pre-pubescents.
I have heard other very successful D-1 coaches deride the current state of affairs…My good friend Dusty Rhodes did it prior to his retirement and throughout the multi-decade time frame in which I was associated with him.
Who can blame them…by the time the kid was to them…the parent had all these expectations and the kid, all the road weariness and jaded spirit that all of that travel and speciality bring with it.
The problem is that the same Mizuno, Nike and Louisville Slugger that sponsor colleges…sink huge cake into the little ones also…None of them wants to bite the dollar that makes their life easier.
I’ll tell you that I stand steadfastly against this uber-control thing you advocate, I don’t think that creating an entire industry to count pitches is the way to correct this (I’m not anti-Canadian by any means ehhhy :wink: but they’ve not shown me anything that I’d want America to emulate)…I’m a market sided person…but that doesn’t mean that I want 6-12 yr olds playing 100 games a year, I’ve written on how I believe that could be best changed…it is more a parental responsibility grass roots thing in my view…changed by the likes of a Thurston or Rhodes or theorhetically a Marshall…and parents sick of seeing exploitation.
To your point though…MM is/was his worst enemy and unfortunately he and the world will have to deal with it the same way the world dealt with the strangeness of a Nicola Tesla or Henry Ford…history will determine his niche.

[quote=“south paw”] But, Dr. Andrews and his team of medical experts appears not to have any problem with u12 pitchers, as their study specifically provides game pitch counts for ages 9 through 11 and other recommendations for prepubescent pitchers:

http://tinyurl.com/drjamesandrews[/quote]

Don’t confuse them having made a determination about pitch counts for that age group, with them having no concerns about it from a risk or safety perspective because of the lack of the growth plated having closed. Look at what the study was doing. Was it commissioned to In 1999 it commissioned the Birmingham based American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) to perform a prospective study of youth players throughout Alabama.

It wasn’t asked to make a judgment about whether or not anyone should be pitching, and they didn’t. Instead, they made recommendations as to what they believed would be best for the groups they looked at. But, if you really want an answer, why not go to http://asmiforum.proboards.com/index.cgi? and ask the question yourself. Dr. Fleisig who took part in that study is a regular poster there and would very likely answer you.

If you’re going to attack what he said, don’t quote out of context.

I don’t know. Do you know of any medical authority that recommends players engage in unrestricted pitching at all ages?

And? You’d have to either ask skwezeplay to show the e-mail, if he still has it, or contact Bill yourself to see if he’ll either verify or refute what skwezeplay said. I have no reason to believe he’s a liar, do you?

I’ve also read several things Bill has written, and I see nothing that leads me to believe what was posted was a lie. I can’t say for sure. But I suspect the point I was trying to make in the 1st post I made in the thread is what’s confusing. You seem to be taking what he said “literally”, when I suspect he meant it in an entirely different context.

He comes from a generation that played a great deal more ball that wasn’t “organized”, i.e. LL Inc, CR or whatever. While of course everyone wants to win every game they play, when the most riding on a game is bragging rights on the field for as long as it takes to choose up teams for another game, there’s no way I’d ever call it “competitive”. I also suspect his perspective on kiddie pitching is much the same as mine, where he’d just as soon see every kid on the team get to pitch as win the game! So when he and Mike make statements like that, its really difficult for people who didn’t come from that era to understand their mindset.

As I said, go to the ASMI site and post the question, or drop a line to Bill yourself to see what he has to say about it.

re: "I’ve never held any doubts that Mike’s biggest obstacle to acceptance has always been him. I’ve always maintained that if his theories did in fact hold any real water, they’d eventually gain acceptance because its hard to hide truth under a bushel forever, and that seems to be what’s been happening to at least a small degree over the last few years. "

--------------Common sense suggests that the obstacle of Marshall’s personality, while a factor, is certainly not the “biggest” obstacle to his acceptance.

It is a profound lack of demonstrable results, over many years and many failed attempts, that have kept Marshall Mechanics out of the mainstream.

It is really amusing to think that many, many people would do almost anything for a chance at an MLB career–ride buses in the minor leagues for 10 years, shoot themselves up with steroids and HGH, focus year-round on little else than getting better at baseball, etc…but almost no one would seriously explore using Marshall Mechanics just because Mike Marshall is a difficult and abrasive person? On the contrary, Marshall Mechanics appear to have been the primary career-ending factor for several otherwise-promising players that staked everything on MM’s failed ideas.

When you see what happens after the guy in front of you jumps into the path of a moving bus, are you gonna follow his example? Hey, if you powerfully pronate, you can turn that bus over…go ahead.

More lately, realizing that repeated public failure doesn’t recruit very well, Marshall and his sycophant followers have taken a very different tack: Now they spend a lot of time spinning the idea that various successful pitchers at elite levels actually pitch with fractional amounts of the “Marshall tenets”–clearly not as good as “full Marshall” but good enough to get under the conspiracy radar of MLB, and fuzzy enough logic to keep the internet debate going, and going, and going. Their current approach seems to be largely based on co-opting the success of pitchers who have nothing whatever to do with Marshall. Yes, yes–they all pronate after release!!! (Earth-to-Marshall: All humans pronate after making an over-hand throw…it’s part of our physiology.

Anyone who has bothered to read ASMI’s motion analysis study report of four Marshall pitchers, hand-picked by Marshall and including Jeff Sparks and Joe Williams, should have enough information to see where the future of the Marshall cult is really going----nowhere.

Still, in the internet fantasy world it may just be more fun to keep the Marshall foolishness alive than it is to get past it.

Well la, you certainly have your opinion as to what has been the biggest obstacle of MM gaining credibility, and since there’s absolutely no way to prove what the truth of it is, you’re opinion is a valid one. But, that means mine is too.

Why you have to take every opportunity to pound on the man by hijacking any thread that mentions him, I have no idea. This thread wasn’t about him at all, but rather Bill Thurston, and how what something they’ve each said is so much the same. But if it’ll make you happy I’ll agree that it’s the lack of success keeping him from gaining credibility. Does that make you happy? May we move on now or would you like to take another shot at him?

That’s pretty funny, the original post is from 4 years ago and the subsequent additions to the thread in 2010 discussed Mike Marshall and/or his ideas…ummm, how many times?

But I hijacked the thread…oh my, oh my!

Re: “I have no idea.” We do agree on that particular statement of yours.

[quote=“laflippin”]That’s pretty funny, the original post is from 4 years ago and the subsequent additions to the thread in 2010 discussed Mike Marshall and/or his ideas…ummm, how many times?

But I hijacked the thread…oh my, oh my!

Re: “I have no idea.” We do agree on that particular statement of yours.[/quote]

To tell the truth, I didn’t even notice when the OP was made when I first read the thread. I just saw something someone very respected in the game said, and was taken about how closely it matched what someone much disdained said as well. I neither defended or attacked either one, but tried to point out why the thought they both seem to share has never been received very well.

What you did is what you’ve always done. Piled on with the same kind of garbage everyone’s heard 100 times before. He’s a failure and the fact that no one using his purely his techniques is in the ML is proof positive. Well his techniques have absolutely nothing to do with his thoughts on when kids should start pitching competitively, so all you did was attempt to start a flame war over absolutely nothing.

re: “…Well his techniques have absolutely nothing to do with his thoughts on when kids should start pitching competitively,…”

------------More useless baloney. If you would take the trouble to study the Marshall approach, you’ll find that MM not only believes that kids should be allowed to begin pitching competitively only after a certain “biological age” in post-adolesence, he also insists that every kid should complete a lengthy and very specific course of training using Mike Marshall conditioning, drills, and mechanical reps before they ever pitch competitively.

Earth-to-ScoreKeeper: The Marshall drills and the Marshall conditioning program for pre-competitive youth pitchers do not prep them to pitch with traditional mechanics…

[quote=“laflippin”] ------------More useless baloney. If you would take the trouble to study the Marshall approach, you’ll find that MM not only believes that kids should be allowed to begin pitching competitively only after a certain “biological age” in post-adolesence, he also insists that every kid should complete a lengthy and very specific course of training using Mike Marshall conditioning, drills, and mechanical reps before they ever pitch competitively.

Earth-to-ScoreKeeper: The Marshall drills and the Marshall conditioning program for pre-competitive youth pitchers do not prep them to pitch with traditional mechanics…[/quote]

Go on and keep firing off you’re spurious and unwarranted attacks. That’s the kind of garbage that fires up the true MM followers, and it sure seems as though that’s the only reason people like yourself do it. I’m neither pro nor con MM but just my mentioning of his name causes you to run around with your panties in a bunch and hair on fire as though God forbid, I’m gonna sway someone into becoming a MM believer.

Why not just admit you hate the guy and everything he stands for, then tell us all why? What has he done or said that’s a threat to any player or the game? No one needs you to tell them who to listen to or follow, so why not just stick in your two cents about his philosophies and then shut up.

Jeez! The only thing more annoying than some of his disciples going of the deep end, is guys like yourself treating the entire topic as though its somehow earth shattering. Give it a break.

Scorekeeper,

You appear to be hardly capable of understanding a clear and direct response to your goofy assertions and fuddled logic. But, don’t let my opinion stop you from waving your hands and blowing smoke…

A forum like LTP has some terrific potential for real-world learning and development of pitchers. At the same time, it is also fertile ground for people who bring little more to the table than their fantasies.

Hi, flippin.
A few years ago I presented a paper on pitching coaches at a meeting of the Jack Graney chapter of SABR in Cleveland. In the course of researching this paper, I kept hearing about this Mike Marshall—who, by the way, wasn’t even that good a pitcher, despite the career year he had in 1974—lost more games than he won—and I decided that the thing to do was go out to Zephyrhills (about half an hour from my home in Tampa) and talk to him, see where he was coming from. After two hours I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Let me quote verbatim a section of the paper I wrote concerning this character.
[The trouble with this Mike Marshall, not to be confused with the outfielder of the same name, is that he is one of the most aggravatingly opinionated individuals I have ever run across. As he talked about the various programs he has worked out for the different age groups I couldn’t help thinking about these various religious advocates we’ve all heard about, each one saying that this way or that way is the only True Path to the Lord. And to be sure, he has his own True Path. I’m not even going to mention the various mechanical contrivances he has pitchers working with, because their value is at best questionable. He seemed to be locked into the concept of throwing “over the top”—straight overhand—as the only way to go, and as he described this approach in the same mind-numbing detail (as his writings) I marveled at his obliviousness to the mere possibility of there being other ways to deliver a pitch! He even has names for some of his pitches—“maxline” this and “torque” that, for example. And as I was watching a couple of guys who seemed to be in their twenties working out with this stuff I was very hard put to keep from laughing out loud, because I was instantly reminded of a very funny story Jim Brosnan tells in “Pennant Race”. He speaks of a fan—not even a lovable kook—who hated the Dodgers with a passion and who sent to all the visiting teams coming into Los Angeles a mimeographed letter in which he told them how to beat said Dodgers, speaking of his “Method Laboratory” in which he developed the “Orbit Swing” and the “Astronaut Pitch” along the principles of “gyroscopic Space Age balance”.
And here is where Mike Marshall lost me. In response to a query of mine regarding other deliveries, including the three-quarters, the sidearm and even the submarine, he summarily dismissed them as “silly”. I said nothing, but when the two hours were up I thanked him for his time and got out of there fast. For one who is supposed to be so erudite and knowledgeable regarding this subject of pitching, he seemed to be operating with either a closed mind or holes in his head. Imagine!—not recognizing, or not wanting to recognize, that not every pitcher will be successful with throwing over the top, that there are other deliveries that work much better for a lot of pitchers. Not to mention that for those two hours he just sat on a bench and made notes in a notebook and never bothered to get up and over to check on what the pitchers were doing. So much for him.]
I don’t know. Maybe he has mellowed, as some say—but in that portion of my paper where I classified various pitching coaches the way one would designate creatures in a zoo, he was an oddball and then some. So let the pros and the cons regarding him go at it hammer and tongs—I will stick to the commonsense, thank you very much.
And that is my 75 cents’ worth—rampant inflation, you know. :roll: