The pleasure of learning

I just wanted to share with the forum an interesting session I just had with my son. He’s a 17 yr old Jr., pops upper 80’s…me and his pitching coach think he’s broken into the 90’s (Plural not just) in a couple of training sessions this year. All of that background aside… As we normally do we were out throwin this morning (Flat ground in the yard) and well for 3 seasons, I’ve been harping on him to work in a real sinker into his arsenal. He’s not really resisted, just said that he hasn’t felt comfortable with it. (He has an outstanding change (7 to 10 mph difference) that he pronates off of, but never the sinker).
Today we were just workin loose, tossing and talkin about his District playoff appearance he’s scheduled for tomorrow. We got into the nature of what a true sinker is (My book has it as a 2 seam fastball varient). I explained how it was that I have seen it thrown and thrown it for myself, (In between lace two finger pronate) and threw a couple that had that old left handed fade (I’m 47 so when I say old…brother I mean it). Right then I saw it click for him, what he related to was “reverse slider”. Now he has what is termed a “plus” curve and his slider is a true devastator (A good percentage of his K’s), so he really relates to the action of a slider. Well long story just a little shorter. He worked it at about 80% for several pitches and when he saw the 3 dimensional aspect of how the pitch really works, it lit him up. Now he is just chewin at the bit to work it into his pen and possibly break it out in a positive situation tomorrow (Needing a ground ball or possible K on a lefty on the inside or righty on the out).
Man talk about getting the old juices flowing…for me it proves once again that those who think flat ground work has no value are just pushin garbage, how really important it is to keep on playing catch no matter what the age and that if you work at it, a pitcher can develop whichever pitch he’d really like to, you just have to be able to relate to it in a way you as a pitcher understand.


I couldn’t agree with you more. This last summer I had the normal repertoire of Fastball, Curveball, and Change, and a Two-seamer if anyone wants to split hairs. Well my Curve isn’t all that great and even though my Change is very consistent I didn’t have the pitch that quite complemented my Fastball as a solid out pitch. It was then, that my dad who claims he can still catch me, (I’m 22 and in college so you can imagine how old he is) to tell me to try out the Split/Forkball. In just a few flat ground sessions (maybe even just playing catch) I began to see the movement and deception I needed for a good out pitch whether it would be a Strikeout and or a big DP. Needless to say it worked and is now used when I need a big out. Jd thanks for posting this story i COMPLETELY agree with you.

Can relate to your story about dad, son and baseball. It can also happen with anyone who wants it to happen. Your last paragraph had a lot of great information. For us east coasters whats wrong with throwing on a cleared street with snow on the ground. Even hitting pitched snowballs. Our neighbors thought we were crazy for such action; when the story came out about son signing his contract with the local pro team their response became “you guys must know something” Keep up the good work guys, it is all worth it.

‘that my dad who claims he can still catch me’

I don’t even attempt it indoors under artificial light anymore, his stuff and velocity make it necessary that I gave it up. He can certainly leave a bit of a "tingle’…I never let him know it though 8)
My day is made if he catches it too deep in the pocket and I give him a little “tingle”…hehe…worth a ribbing for an afternoon or so.

I know I’m risking my neck here but I’ll do it anyway. Flat ground work is fine and I wouldn’t go so far as to say it has “no value” but I will say that my oh so humble opinion is that, if you want to work on locating that splitter/forkball or cutter or sinker or fastball, the “bang for the buck” is in mound work in terms of effective use of practice time. Remember, I’m talking about location here. Also remember that Dick Mills is the guy who has come out so strongly against flat ground work and he’s doing it in his usual way of taking a good idea and expanding it to the extreme, to the point where he can’t be taken seriously by most people. He does have the seed of a good idea though, that being that, if you’re working on location, mound work trumps flat ground since there’s direct transfer to the game situation, if the practice environment equals the game one as much as is possible or practical. I think people are really willing to throw out those seeds of good ideas that Mills sometimes has because people have a real hate on for him.


You are not risking you neck at all. I see your point and its very valid. I think working off a mound is better than anything. I can’t speak for Jd, but I know for myself there are occasions where I can’t get a solid bullpen session of a mound so in that case just simple playing catch and or flat-ground work is sufficient. At my school really thank goodness I am a starter because only the 3 guys in the rotation ever throw bullpens in between starts. So as a person who sees guys not get the chance to work on stuff in the pen because its more important to shag batting practice than to work on your pitching, ( anyone who has any experience in college or maybe even the lower level minor leagues will know what I mean) flatground work can be very helpful. What I may be missing though, and probably most important is the effort you put in. Again, I would say bullpens are best but in some cases if you cant get one in or whatever, flatground can be a useful tool.

No really, what I see you advocating is what I consider logical progression, note I said he was; “chewin at the bit” to work it into his bull pen.
My jab was at Millsites who discount certain drills and by implication, everything not designed by them. I think we publicize extremes much in the way, for example, Chris O has said you need to prctice 1000 curves to throw 10 in a game, it’s not true, but the gist is extreme and a reason not to throw the pitch, you’ll never be a great pitcher if you only do one aspect of mechanical conditioning, i.e. flatground (As a single training method), drillwork (Without follow-up activity), bullpen only.
One point is that you have to have the “experimental laboratory” which will allow the widest amount of experimentation and creativity with the least physical impact, my son and I tend to consider mound work a more formalized setting than the yard and catch…it’s just our personal experience, other folks may have more ready access to a mound in a private setting.
I don’t know anyone on this site who gets severely passionate over flatground work one way or the other DM…I recently went to Mill’s site, and he makes me wonder how serious folks could take him seriously…he’s passionately against it, long toss and many other drill work which he believes has zero or less value (Less= Harmful), it’s ironic to me that I’ve seen most of that very drillwork incorporated into D-1 programs, programs that really develop pitching for the next level and not just put out theorhetical posturings.
And you know I’d never give you a hard time brother :wink:

Nick and I work on flat ground, on the street in front of my house, all the time. We still will. Helps get him loosened up, maybe even conditioned. Heck, we just worked on his splitter for a while yesterday. (Weather finally breaking around here. :stuck_out_tongue: ) Coming along nicely, by the way. I still feel the need to recount the experience we had last year where, after years and years of being the kid who throws a ton but can’t hit the side of a barn, to being in the strike zone consistently. I had built a mound at the right height and hung a net at the right distance with a strike zone on it. I stood an object (piece of wood) on one side, then the other after a while, to represent a hitter. He practiced there for a couple of weeks and I was amazed at the improvement in his ability to locate the ball. So, long story short, we still work on flat ground but much, much less than on the mound. I find it to be very effective use of the limited amount of time we have to practice.

hah nothing like father and some working together eh? I had somewhat of this expereince. My dad abouts a year and a half ago was watching tv and said “see this pitch? i want you to learn this pitch” it was the splitter. He was always a catcher as a kid and knew nothing of pitching it wa sup to me to learn it and him to catch it. The first day we tried when i was just playing catch and i got it by luck. it started off at his head and ended up by his hips. His eyes lit up. I’ve never seen my dads eyes light up during a pitch. So after that i just coultn get it and worked out different ways in my head to be able to do it. when my dad gave up i decided to try something different and sneak it in when he thought i was going to throw a fastball. His eyes lit up the same way ti did the first day and we both just fell in love with ths pitch. if i had to choose my best form its when im pitching almost Bruce sutter-ish when its more splitters then fastball. it’s became my bread and butter.

Reading this series of posts concerning learning a new pitch set me off on a trip down memory lane—back to September 17, 1951 to be exact. I had just turned sixteen, and all through the spring and summer I had been thinking I needed another pitch, and I thought that pitch might well be the slider. To make a long story short, I played hooky from school on that day and went to the ball game at Yankee Stadium, where I watched Ed Lopat outpitch Bob Lemon 2-1—and suddenly, don’t ask me how I knew, but I knew that Lopat was the one I would need to ask about that pitch. After the game I asked him, albeit with some trepidation because I had had no idea what to expect, and his response was to motion to me silently to follow him away from the crowd outside the clubhouse and out in front of the ballpark. And he showed me how to throw a good slider.

While I was familiarizing myself with the pitch he watched me and made some mental notes—about the fact that I was a true sidearmer who used a slide-step and had a consistent release point, all sorts of things like that. He was forming in his head a jumping-off point from which he could work with me. And that started a wonderful pitching relationship that lasted almost four years; he knew where I was at, and he took me in hand, worked with me and helped me become a better pitcher than I had been. I was thrilled to pieces, and at the same time I felt comfortable and relaxed with him, and I will never forget that experience. What a high point it was when I used that slider for the first time in a relief appearance in which I got my side out of a jam!
Believe me, there’s nothing quite like learning a new pitch and making it part of one’s arsenal, using it in games and winning with it. That slider became my strikeout pitch. :slight_smile:

How could anyone ever be against long toss and say it has no value? To me that’s just astounding. When I started pitching I had no arm, no pitches, nothing and that was not that long ago. It was probably 75% long toss and flat ground work that allowed me to even believe I could throw from a mound at sixty feet six inches. I ended up making a yard mound and I like to think that I’m coming along pretty nicely. I throw six different pitches now and my favorite is the sinker BTW. The point I’m trying to make is that discovering and unlocking long toss and flat ground work’s potential for my development was a huge turning point that turned me from basically someone with nothing but desire and the will to work into a viable, serious pitcher.

So long toss improves velocity? That is something I got to try.

There’s all kinds of different long toss programs to check out. Before I started doing long toss, I could barely throw 100 ft. Now I’m throwing about three times that with accuracy. If somebody told me to pick one thing that took me from nothing to viable pitcher, It’s long toss.