Coach XJ’s mentioning of “intent” on a separate thread reminded me of the inspiring story of how Rich “the goose” Gossage developed his delivery. He gave a great deal of credit to his brother Jack, who wasn’t a mechanics expert but provided perhaps the most important ingredient in any velocity enhancement plan.
Apparently his sibling rival had the habit of evaluating his velocity while being careful to always add encouraging words during those friendly games of catch.
[quote]I remember pitching to my brother Jack in his front yard winding up and trying to throw the ball as hard as I possibly could throw. He’d say, “You’re not throwing very hard. You’re throwing like a sissy.” I’d have tears in my eyes I’d be trying so hard, but looking back, that’s where my wild delivery came from, all arms and legs, flailing, coming right at you[/quote].
If by “look like that” you mean the look of great “intent” I would agree. Gibson, Koufax, Seaver, Feller, Ryan, move every inch of their bodies at a speed, and range of motion, which makes it appear as though they are trying to throw the crap out of the baseball. Blyleven, a curve ball artist, not so much.
If by “look like that” you’re implying their deliveries all look alike, then I would have to disagree. They may have similar characteristics, such as a step back wind-up, hands overhead, etc. but each has discovered their own unique way of executing those movements.
As the Gossage story suggests, the common driving force is not to be found in the specifics of the delivery but rather in something more fundamental. Remember, at that time, there was very little of what we now call mechanical instruction.
I don’t think Koufax or Feller had brothers ….so that might not be it either…although it could help! :lol: :lol:
Roy Oswalt had mentioned one of his goals growing up was to be able to throw a rock over the MS river. As a kid, he would go out and try to make it across. Never heard if he was successful.
Last year I went out to watch a couple of guys down in MS that were supposedly mid 90’s JUCO guys. I finally made the trip and it was incredible. The first guy was a 29th round pick of Detroit and was up to 96mph. His intent was to throw it through the backstop. The 2nd kid was a 19 yr old that was 93-94 and both without any formal “instruction”.
I spoke to the kids afterwards and they shared basically the same story when I asked them what they felt like helped them throw the ball hard, the answer “we try to”.
The 2nd kid from MS said as a kid that he and some other boys approached their pastor and wanted to learn how to play baseball. The pastor got a bucket of baseballs and had the boys go out in the open field behind the church. His only instructions: throw the ball as far as you can and as hard as you can everytime and when your done throwing, pick em’ up and come back in.
I LOVE this thread!! Makes me think of my own experiences a lot. I was raised on a farm, and used to throw against the side of the corn crib, and after I broke a lot of boards, my dad put a makeshift fence in fron of it to throw against. I also used to stand at the edge of the field and try to see how many rows into the field I could throw a ball. As a kid, i always threw hard, but was wild. All of the instruction ever I received as I got older focused only on controlling what I had, and that actually reduced my velocity, as I look back on it. When I look at coaching now, even at the very young ages, I see a kind of paradox, in that coaches are constantly telling kids to just throw strikes, and not to overthrow, don’t try to strike everyone out, blah, blah… Yet, what do coaches at higher levels admire, and look for in a pitching prospect? The kid who throws gas, and strikes people out. If you’re a high schooler, and you have good control, a good breaking ball and change, and you throw 78 max, you’re never going to be getting paid to play the game. On the other hand, the kid who is a little wild, but throws 88 is going to probably get a college scholarship offer.
I don’t know why your post reminded me of this, but Ross Ohlendorf was getting looked at by a scout while he was at Princeton. The scout asked Ross: “How hard do you throw?”
Ross said “Oh generally about 88-89.”
The scout was not too enthused, but he heard that Ross had good pitchability and was really smart, so he talked to the Princeton head coach. When the scout asked about his velocity and told the coach what Ross had said, the coach started laughing and had to put the phone down. The scout feared the worst and said: “That bad? More like 82-83?”
The coach said: “Ross hasn’t thrown a fastball as slow as 88 miles per hour since he was 15 years old.”
My guess is if the prettiest girl in the school were watching, Roy would clear that river, and then some!
Thanks for the examples…. no instruction clearly better than bad instruction.
Indeed a problem, are coaches being paid to develop players or win games? In a perfect world both, but it doesn’t always work out that way as we know.
A few thoughts on some of the less recognized origins of intent…
No sane parent would wish misfortune upon their loved ones, and yet the “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, philosophy appears to find many examples among elite level athletes. Those who survive tough upbringings often appear to demonstrate a kind of furious intent that buries the majority of their competition. As the goose once said,
Gossage may have had it tough, but few have had to overcome more than Billy Wagner. He was born right handed but…
His parents broke up in poverty, and his early life was spent mostly in turmoil.
In light of these examples we might ask the following question:
Does Technique beget Intent OR Intent beget Technique?
Many of these deliveries appear to be born more out of redirected anger than any kind of formal instruction. Yes these men appeared to have an “attitude” and a goal, and we are looking at what that combination produced.
I’m not suggesting we should abandon formal instruction entirely. That’s impossible with the ending of sandlot ball; besides, all these pitchers received help, of some sort, along the way. Perhaps the best purpose these examples can serve is to remind us that analyzing video, training, and formal instruction are only part of the answer. Without some serious intent you won’t get there.
[quote=“Baseballthinktank.com”]Roy Oswalt had mentioned one of his goals growing up was to be able to throw a rock over the MS river. As a kid, he would go out and try to make it across. Never heard if he was successful.
We were hiking a few months back and came across a small, frozen pond, easily three or four several football fields wide. Good skipping rocks abound, so we skipped rocks on the frozen pond. I could get a rock about half way, and was quite satisfied with my efforts. My son would chuck the rocks as hard as he could, with one goal - to reach the other side. Sure enough, he gets the perfect rock with just the right weight and off it goes - hits the bank on the other side.
If there’s water, my son wants to throw a rock across it.
I think the two primary influences on mechanics are intent and environment. Intent to throw can mean more than just throwing hard. Intent is what makes each individual unique.
The movement patterns (pitching mechanics) are unique to each individual. Before we can discuss the actual movement patterns we need to understand what influences our mechanics? Let’s start with Intent. Our body moves with a purpose based on what the brain tells it to do. The brain gives the body a goal and the body executes the movements based on the intent of the goal. Our actions are dictated according to our intent.
Too often I feel that mechanics are overcoached and made to complex. As coaches, we feel the need to “coach em up”. Unknowingly we begin to mold and shape an individual’s mechanics based on what we view as pleasing to our eyes. Believe it or not, there were Major League Pitchers before their were pitching coaches and scientific studies. If you look back years ago, the deliveries were much different than they are now. There was knees and elbows flying everywhere. The commanilty they all shared was freedom of movement. There was no preconcieved notions or studies to dictate how a pitcher should look or move. The deliveries were centered around the intent of the pitcher.
The second factor is environment (coaching). Often it is strongly influenced by our culture. You can watch the Japanese pitchers and see the balance and finesse that is different than in the states. It is reflected in their delivery and work ethic. Their delivery is predicated on offsetting the hitter’s timing and feel for more off speed pitches and breaking balls.
Satchel Paige is another example of intent. His intent was to allow himself to pitch more frequently and you don’t see the intent as you do in Gossage and Feller. He once started 29 games in one month. Obviously his intent was centered around deception and durability
Great post. Will respond at greater length tomorrow… but a quick thought for now.
Provided the Billy Wagner story is true, I found it interesting that in addition to throwing with angry intent, for hours at a time, his cousin sometimes counted balls and strikes. He was throwing to a marked zone and getting feedback on his strike percentage… a far cry from just mindlessly heaving the ball against a wall. The dual intent of throwing hard and throwing strikes was something he was apparently doing from an early age.
Does this account for why Billy was not nearly as wild early in his career as some other hard throwers throughout history?
Although I must add that I once came across another story where Wagner said he also enjoyed throwing a ball from one end of an open field to another. As he has stated…
No surprise that we find coaching styles will often reflect current cultural tends. You speak of over coaching which has many of the same characteristics as over parenting. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “helicopter parents”. We may have used the expression “over protected” in the past, however, while this kind of parenting was once in the minority it has become more the norm the last 20 years.
Much has been written about this for those who are interested, so I’m not going to elaborate much here. I’ll just mention that an obsession with trying to control outcomes so as to avoid the pain of failure is one of the primary motivators. The result is young adults who can’t think for them selves and are afraid to take risks.
Does that sound like a great psychological make-up for a future pitcher to you?
I was listening to a young parent the other day expressing the sentiment that many of the older coaches today had lost touch with he younger generation, and all I could think of was the crusty old college coach from Rice who realizes baseball is a form of education.
[quote]Wayne Graham, head coach at Rice University, is considered one of the top pitching minds in all of baseball and has rarely called pitches. He is the quintessential teacher who believes that the educational value of having the catcher and pitcher working together to call the game is extremely important in the development of both athletes.
“I grew up believing that educating the catcher on how to call a game was extremely important, and I have done this for the past 32 years with pretty good success,” said Graham, Collegiate Baseball’s National Coach of the Year in 2003.
Graham, who led Rice to its first national championship in baseball last June (2004), and his system prevents potential problems from cropping up.
“Everything we do is to try not to create robots,” said Graham.[/quote]
How different is coach Graham from some of the younger coaches today who call all the pitches, all the defensive plays, position all the fielders, etc…and then complain that players don’t have “baseball instincts” anymore? :roll: :roll:
Coaches will tell you they are not going to entrust their jobs to an 18 year old calling pitches, and travel team parents will tell you they have too much invested to allow kids to decide things for themselves.
Recognizing that the hundreds of hours of unsupervised trial and error in sandlot ball is no longer possible have we over reacted in trying to fill the void?
We have little choice but to teach and instruct, the question is how shall we go about it? When to instruct and when to do nothing? What does the word “play” really mean and why is it important?
You know what’s lost in all of this coaching and parenting? The intent of the athlete! Pitching coaches can coach a kids mechanics to a fault, parents can protect their kids arms and their egos, youth coaches can “coach em up” all they want.
You can’t coach INTENT. Intent has to be driven from within the athlete. A pitcher has to have that drive to not only win a game but to win against every batter faced. This drive is what fuels his intent. His intent migh be to throw the ball through the backstop or to throw the nastiest breaker ever thrown. It’s all intent. Some guys aren’t blessed with + fastballs, but carry the same intensity as the hardest guy on the staff.
Coach Graham hit it out of the park. [quote]“Everything we do is to try not to create robots,” [/quote] Each kid has their own strengths and weaknesses, and contrary to some are each individuals. Development of those strengths can be accomplished more by letting the athletes play the game. Let them learn from their mistakes. That’s way more valuable than coaching every play, swing, pitch or by trying to turn these kids into robots or a carbon copy of their favorite ML player.
Nothing wrong with emulating players, we all did it, but, today it seems alot of parents watch similarities between “Johnny” and TL and all of a sudden they have to find the PC who’s going to turn their kid into the next great thing. What seems to happen way too often is the kid gets burned out trying to please daddy, loses his desire to play the game and guess what? There goes his intent.
My son, HS Freshman pitched Saturday night in a varsity game. Threw 6 innings, 86 pitches, 3 hits, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9Ks. Velocity in the 1st was 83-84. Velocity in the 6th was still 80-82. He was lifted for our closer. I mention this not to brag on my kid, although I am proud. I mention this as an example of intent. His intent was to throw every pitch with the intent to beat the batter. Sunday morning he was sore from his legs, through his core to his arm. I asked him how he felt and his answer was, “Great, I’m sore in all the right places.”
Intent can be coached? Why couldn’t it be? Many times intent can be to please the coach. “I want you to just worry about throwing strikes”.“I want you to throw this one A’s hard A’s you can”. Many times it’s the culture surrounding a program or team that directly influences a players intent. I don’t think it is an innate attribute that you are born with, I do think more often it can be a product of environment but definitely can be coached.
My experience with coaching is that I don’t do a whole lot to provide motivation for kids. It has to come from within, and the best way to foster that - I’ve found, anyway - is to provide a sense of accountability with measurable gains. Everything must be measured if it is to be improved on.
How much they weigh, how much they can squat, how fast they can row 500M on the Concept2, how fast they run the 60, how hard they throw, how many workouts they missed this month, etc.
When you force kids to own up to measurables, suddenly everyone has goals they have to hit. And that provides motivation, in a sense.
If they need external motivation, videos about poor kids from the ghetto making it in the pros, and other stuff like that, they’ll never consistently get their work in. “You can’t take it out of them and you can’t put it in them,” as a well-respected coach here says. You can stoke the fires, but they bring the flame.
Yes and no. As in Kyle’s post, I believe a coach can stoke the flames but the fire has to come from within. The coach can certainly help a player bring out the “fire” he needs to compete and be successful. By the same token if the player doesn’t have the drive or intent, the coach isn’t gong to manufacture it, nor should he have to.