Till I Collapse -My Journey to D1 Baseball and Beyond


#701

Threw well in my final outing of the season… three up three down with a K in the top of the 9th in a 4-2 game vs. Boston College, which we would go on to tie in the bottom of the 9th. I went back out there in the 10th, and the batter hit a swinging bunt that bounced right in front of the plate and rolled down the 3rd base line…an in betweener that our catcher hesitated on, then bobbled and couldn’t make the play. If I had gone for it from the very start and called him off right away I could have maybe made the play, but it is what it is. I was taken out and our next guy got me out of the jam with no harm done. We went on to win the game with a walk-off.

I never found out what my velocity was that outing, but I’m going to say it was about 87-89…nothing special like I was hoping for, but still plenty good enough to get some really stupid looking swings and be hard to hit.

Ended the season with 6.2 IP, 5H, 1ER, 3BB, 9Ks and something like a 1.50 ERA

Factoring in my intra-squad outings during the season and taking away my first outing against LSU (where I actually pitched well but gave up 3H and 1ER in 0IP) my stats looked something like 9.2 IP, 3H, 0ER, 4BB, 14Ks

The problem is, my first 3 or so outings are where all (one) of my earned runs occurred, in addition to most of my walks and hit batsmen. There is something to be said for earning a coach’s trust early in the season, because it is all but impossible to earn back once he lacks faith in you. That is when the mid 80’s strike throwers start taking priority, despite batters hitting near .300 against them.

fast-forward…

I’m in Bloomington Illinois now, ready for our summer season to get underway.

My first day here I threw with Dan in his facility where he has a wall mounted gun, and sat about 87-88 on flat ground and 88-89.6 off the mound in turfs. The gun misred a handful of times at something ridiculous like 135mph, some of which looked noticeably harder out of the hand, so it’s possible I hit higher than 89.6mph.

I felt like that was pretty decent, but I looked at the video and I’m still not getting my hips open all the way and I’m leaking a lot of velocity there. My hips are getting locked and I’m not staying back long enough to get to that fully triple extended position. Still, it was nice to see easy 89’s show up on the screen, which is where I was last summer and a good sign going into the coming months.

Yesterday I threw a bullpen to one of our catchers, and was spotting up most of my pitches. The velocity was probably 87-88 off a similar indoor mound and although I felt good during the bullpen, I stiffened up on the posterior/lateral part of my elbow afterwards. I am not nearly as stiff today but it is still very noticeable and I’m going to take a couple days off from throwing just to nip it in the bud. Still hoping to get my first outing this weekend if possible, but I’m going to play it smart, since this summer is more about me developing, training right and staying healthy, not putting up dominant stats in a crappy summer league.

That all being said, I’ve learned a ton from Dan already and I hope to keep everyone updated on how everything is going here in Bloomington


#702

Sounds good lanky, looking forward to hearing from you over the summer.

All the best.


#703

Hey Ben,
Lost track of you been so involved with my own kid and trying to keep him progressing. He’s going into Sr year of HS so I got him on a showcase team. His velocity’s in the 80-84 range off the mound and I made the mistake of having him do a velocity workout Friday thinking Saturday was a washout… he got the start on Saturday. Didn’t do horrible but his arm was a little tired.

I know you were on a venture to gain weight which is also my son’s challenge. He’s 6’5" and 182 now… curious how much wright you were able to put on and how it helped your overall strength and velocity?

Regards,

Ed


#704

So we shut it down for a couple weeks just to be safe with my elbow. I’ve been throwing again for about 2 weeks now and hopped on the mound again yesterday.

I threw 30 pitches at 50% according to my program. The first throw I lobbed in there at what I was sure was 60 mph, and the gun read 76. I had to back off even further and make sure I was in the 68-72 mph range for this pen. The fact that 76 felt so unbelievably easy is a good sign though, heading forward. Better, is the fact that I was throwing about 80% strikes with my fastball and actually felt like I could locate to either side of the plate. We stuck mainly to fastballs this first pen.

https://vimeo.com/69823000

It took a lot of hard work over this past month to get to the mechanics you see in those videos. Here is Dan explaining some of the things we’ve been working on:

I’m excited to continue ramping back up to 100% over the next couple weeks, which coincides with one of the pro tryouts I was hoping to attend on July 24th (Reds).

If all goes well, I will either

  1. Come back throwing slightly harder (91+)
  2. Come back throwing just as hard (88-91) with better command of at least 1 pitch

The arm won’t be in tip top shape, and I will only be a week into max effort throwing, but I’m hoping to show well at the tryout (92 with command) and have something to show for the summer of hard work.

In other news:

I’ve bulked back up to about 212, up from 205 in about 4 weeks. I was a ripped 205 going into the season, a slightly softer 205 by the end of the spring season, and I’m now as strong as ever, aside from the left arm which I have been largely resting for the time being from lifting.

My legs have gone from being neglected to being huge again thanks to lifting total body 5 days/week and keeping workouts shorter and more condensed. I really feel like this is the optimal way to train, and I have not put on any noticeable fat. Read about how we trained around my low back issues here: http://www.treadathletics.com/1/post/2013/06/building-lower-body-strength-without-squats-or-deadlifts.html

I plan to SLOWLY get up to a lean 215 by the end of october (nearly 4 months from now).

This will require adding about 8-10lbs of muscle in 12 weeks (let’s assume I put on 9lbs of muscle, 4lbs of fat). 212 at about 10% to 225 at 12%, no small task.

Then dropping about 4% body fat over the course of the next 4 weeks to be an intimidating and shredded 215lb specimen.

Other Random Stuff:

Forearms:

Dan loves grip training, and I’ve been making some absurd gains in this department, with my right arm at least. Using the captains of crush grippers, I’ve gone from barely being able to close the 1.5 (167lbs crushing force) to being able to close it 14 times in a row easily and closing the 2 (195lbs crushing force) for reps. I went ahead and orders myself the 1 .5, 2 and 2.5 to continue using while I’m back at school.

Calf + Neck training:


just for the hell of it, and because I have the time, I’ve been training these body parts bodybuilder-style for aesthetic purposes. About 8 sets per week for each. I’ll give more details on this if anyone is interested.

HEAVY Rotator Cuff Training:


On top of some really cool new rhythmic stabilization, blackburns and band scap work, one of the most interesting arm care tidbits I’ve learned is concerning heavy external rotation work. Please take the time to at least skim over this article: http://strengthology.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/weightlifting-101-the-overhead-athlete/

This is something we have incorporated in my routine at Warbird Academy, and I’m hoping that it carries over into better arm health and velocity. I’m up a few lbs on these (~20-25lbs), but nowhere near the 38lbs matt harvey is reported to have been able to do for 8 reps. We use the PACE weights to incrementally increase weight on these. http://paceweights.com/products/pw-0300.htm

Some other really cool stuff in the works as well. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress, training and the tryout!

Ben


#705

Interesting stuff

Thanks for the clips and links looking forward to reading more about your summer.

I tried to find part two of the heavy rotator cuff article and couldn’t find it, do you have the link by chance?


#706

[quote=“Wales Diesel”]Interesting stuff

Thanks for the clips and links looking forward to reading more about your summer.

I tried to find part two of the heavy rotator cuff article and couldn’t find it, do you have the link by chance?

I don’t have the link unfortunately. We do lots of heavy Y’s T’s and L’s here to work the low and mid traps, in addition to the blackburns series (with weight of course). This is one of my favorite new variations that we do here (heavy incline Y’s)


#707

Thanks for the additional info lanky.


#708

Finally home from the internship with Dan Blewett. What an awesome experience! I felt like I really improved on every front and that a career as an independent strength coach can be a reality someday.

My elbow is healthy, and I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.

Bodyweight is only about 215-216 right now, plateauing a bit in the past month. I am going to have to refocus on my nutrition.

My strength has been steadily rising as well.

I’m up to 35lbs on the shoulder dumbbell external rotations, and my shoulder feels strong as hell.

Today I had a massive long toss session, reaching out to an estimated distance of 368-380 feet. It was far and away the best long toss session I have ever had, and all my throws were from a slide step delivery (no crow hop)

On a somewhat related note, here is an article I just put out on Fernando Rodney
http://www.treadathletics.com/1/post/2013/08/what-we-can-learn-from-fernando-rodney.html

I’m hoping to keep getting stronger, maybe throw a ball 400 feet and transfer that velocity to the mound. I need to keep working on my offspeed pitches as well, but until my delivery as a whole is back that is my primary goal. Getting back to school and having a regular throwing partner is going to help a ton.

Ben


#709

Great stuff lanky

So you personally feel the heavy shoulder work is beneficial?


#710

[quote=“Wales Diesel”]Great stuff lanky

So you personally feel the heavy shoulder work is beneficial?[/quote]

It’s too soon to tell. While my weights have gone up a lot on the seated external rotations (from about 20lbs to 35) they have only gone up a couple on the sidelying external rotations (15 to 17lbs). I’m not sure if I have just gotten better form on the seated rotations which has allowed me to feel comfortable adding more weight, or if my shoulder has actually gotten significantly stronger. I think once I can hit 20-25lbs on the sidelying rotations I’ll know if it has helped or not. Also, when I get gunned again and when I see how my arm holds up this fall and winter.

That being said, it can’t hurt as long as you use strict form, and the theory behind doing heavy shoulder work is sound.


#711

Sounds good man thanks for the explanation


#712

I’ve been getting more comfortable with my lower body “drive” recently. This is the single change that has gotten me to 370-380 feet in my long toss. I keep my torso upright (not hunched over), stay closed and initiate the move towards the plate with my lateral hip. No active quad involvement (there is some), but I’m not “pushing” with my quad I’m getting the body moving directly towards the target with my hip abductors.

Think about how guys like Fernando Rodney, Tyler Clippard or Clayton Kerhsaw move down the mound. All of those guys have very distinct but simple drives to the plate. Some guys mix in momentum during their leg lift, which kind of complicated things for me as far as figuring out how to properly move down the mound into footstrike. These guys include Nolan Ryan and Aroldis Chapman. Both guys still get a very good drive, but they combine that active energy from the forward momentum they attain during their leg lift. My observation is that it isn’t an either/or type of thing, but that the pitchers who have less forward momentum to the plate during leg lift (think Rodney or Clippard when they literally just slide step 95+ mph or Kershaw with his up and down leg lift that generates little linear momentum) “compensate” with an ever more aggressive drive from the back hip.

Bottom line is there are multiple ways to move towards the plate and still throw 95 mph and as always, it isn’t a black and white issue.

I went for a momentum-only approach this past spring and was able to throw 90 and long toss a max of 350. My back leg was largely passive, because every time I tried to “drive” or “push” I would end up going into knee extension and using my quads, not the glute medius/lateral hip.

Driving this way instinctually “feels” right, and it looks smoother subjectively. That a week into trying this I was able to throw a ball 380 feet and pull down throwing 300 feet on a 10 foot high line is a good sign. Early flat grounds look promising as well, because the drive gets everything moving straight at the target and seems to force my upper body to follow, forcing a smaller window of error. Top Velocity . net, (not to plug or promote their website) calls this the aligning of the “force vector” which basically means getting the back hip driving linearly at the target. Doing this right actually forces good “triple extension” and “hip shoulder separation” which are the other things he talks about, but seem to take care of themselves when that initial drive is done properly. It was very easy for me to stay closed, my glove side looked better and most of my throws are more accurate because I have that aggressive but controlled power now coming from my backside, instead of a quick, rapidly accelerating leg lift that led to wildly inconsistent release points.


#713

So the mechanical change has (so far) revolutionized my game. My catchplay is almost flawless, I haven’t had a bad flat ground all month and the ball jumps a lot more effortlessly out of my hand.

All of my pitches are noticeably better and more consistent due to the leg drive. The slider is not only a swing and miss pitch like it showed flashes of being in the spring but it is consistently in the zone, and the change-up has gone from being a poor inconsistent pitch to an average pitch that I can locate decently, showing tons of dive and plus potential every once in a while.

So far, my bullpens have all been 68-81% strikes (all 3 pitches) and my live performances have been perfect.

First outing was live BP, faced 5 hitters each one got a regular at-bat. Throwing predetermined pitches (they knew we were throwing sets of doubles e.g. fb-fb > ch-ch > -fb-fb > sl-sl) I struck out all 5 hitters with some absurd swings and misses on the slider.

Live scrimmages today marked the beginning of fall ball. I had some nerves going in the bullpen but those quickly went away once I got to work. By rule pitchers were only throwing fastball-changeup today in the scrimmage. I worked 2 innings, 6 up 6 down 1K. All fastballs, no 3 ball counts and the innings were each about 2 minutes long. Thought I was throwing slow today, ball wasn’t jumping as much as it has been but I was 89-90 consistent on the gun. I was itching to throw the slider as that is a pitch that has been really on for me lately.

Got some great compliments from the coaching staff and it looks like I need to just stay consistent and healthy and all will take care of itself. Feeling really good about where my strength, mechanics and command are right now. I also know I’ll be pumping 90-93 consistent when fresh and not totally beat down. There is not a doubt in my mind.

Stay focused. Stay driven. Set the example and bring others along for the ride.

Ben


#714

This journal is pretty amazing.
You have a book in you at some point for sure. Whether that is training related or a book about the journey.


#715

Nice work and wishing you all the best.


#716

Lanky,
Would that mean that guys with a more sweeping stride are more quad oriented and less hip flexor oriented?
Watching a guy like Verlander or Kershaw seems to be more hip drive.
Do you find being more linear and hip drive oriented helps with control issues or is that a non factor?


#717

Good stuff lanky keep it up


#718

[quote=“Turn 22”]Lanky,
Would that mean that guys with a more sweeping stride are more quad oriented and less hip flexor oriented?
Watching a guy like Verlander or Kershaw seems to be more hip drive.
Do you find being more linear and hip drive oriented helps with control issues or is that a non factor?[/quote]

The important facet is not whether the front leg is extended (like k-rod) or flexed (like kershaw, gerrit cole, etc.) but what the back hip is doing.

People will say “oh but don’t you need to focus on keeping the front hip closed as well?” In my experience, getting that linear drive from the back hip takes cares of this. In other words, it is very difficult to drive properly with the back hip and have that front leg open up early. It is impossible to not lead with the hips when you drive properly off the back hip. From my experience so far, it is very difficult to NOT land in a hips open shoulders closed position when done properly because that drive is creating an internal rotation torque of the back hip.

For those of you who can’t visualize what I’m saying, stand up and get into a stride position, feet flat on the ground. Now take that back foot, and without picking it up off the ground, try to rotate it so that the toes face the front foot. This torque should be occurring at the hip, not just at the ankle for the sake of the exercise. So as I stride out, this internal rotation torque is necessary for getting the hips open into landing. Paul Nyman described it as “pinching the back hip joint into front hip joint.” This is how high velocity throwers get their hips open so damn early. So I ride that back hip, not driving with my quad, while keeping that back hip torque / “pinch.”

Without the hip internal rotation torque during the stride phase, (if a pitcher just drives out laterally like doing a skater jump or lateral heiden) then there is no force acting to open up the hips and convert that linear momentum to rotational momentum.

Riding that linear drive while maintaining a torque at the hip joint allows you to seamlessly convert that linear momentum into rotational (angular) momentum. Again, Nyman described this same thing, I’m just now feeling it for myself and trying to put it into words a bit differently because I think it will help people understand better how to actually do it.

Second intersquad appearance went well. Gave up 1 hit and 1 unearned run in 2 innings of work. No walks, 1 3-ball count. Throwing strikes and throwing hard (no gun, today but it looked a bit harder than last time).

Bodyweight is now consistently 217 in the morning (219 at night). I’m going to get to 218 morning weight and then go on a brief cutting phase to drop down to about 210 and ripped. From there I will get back up to a cut and jacked 215, gaining that last 5 lbs of muscle slowly between november and january and maintaining that through the spring season.

Ben


#719

My bodyweight has risen slightly, to where I am hovering around 217-219 morning weight, 220-221 night time weight. Instead of going all out and cutting on a very low carb diet for a set time, I’m going to try something that my buddy from Warbird Academy this summer tried.

He has similar height, weight and metabolism to me and managed to drop down about 10lbs of fat in several weeks following this protocol.

Essentially, I will be keeping my calories HIGH (5,000/day) and macros the way they are (carbs about 500g/day, protein ~300g/day, fat ~200g/day) but manipulating it so that ALL of my carbs come in the 4 hour post-workout window, with NO carbs coming throughout the rest of the day. Similar in theory to Jason Ferrugia’s Renegade Diet, I will be keeping my body in fat-burning mode for most of the day, and then manipulating my insulin spike (from ingesting carbohydrates) so that it occurs when my body is MOST insulin sensitive and I will get the greatest anabolic effect from it.

In other words, a typical bulking diet will have an athlete eating high carbohydrate meals all throughout the day, constantly driving insulin (a fat storage AND/OR muscle building hormone depending on context) levels up. While a traditional bulking diet (like I’ve been following) will keep the body in fat storage and muscle rebuilding mode throughout most of the day, we only really need those carbohydrates in the immediate post-workout window to replenish muscle glycogen stores when the muscle is most sensitive to carbohydrates and the response will be the greatest.

Unlike some of the intermittent fasting protocols out there, which say to fast for 16 or 20 hours and then feed for 8 or 4 hours respectively, this will be more like a carbohydrate intermittent fasting program, in that my carbohydrate intake (the real important factor) will only last for a 4 hour window immediately post-workout, while my protein and fat intake will extend as long as needed, making it MUCH MUCH easier to get sufficient calories in over the course of the day without keeping insulin elevated and suppressing fat burning.

Typical Bulking Diet:

-3-6 meals/day
-high carb/high protein/moderate fat
-constant insulin spikes = muscle building + fat storage
-hard to burn fat from constant carb intake

Typical Cutting Diet
3-6 meals/day
-low carb/high protein/moderate fat
-few insulin spikes = little muscle building or fat storage
-easier to burn fat at rest, but hard to build strength

My Plan (Jake’s Plan)
-3-6 meals/day
-high carb/high protein intake for 4 hours post-workout
-high protein/high fat intake for other 8-12 hours of feeding
-high insulin spikes = lots of muscle building for 4 hours when it counts the most
-low insulin = fat burning during rest of the day
-SAME OVERALL MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
-improved insulin sensitivity (carb tolerance) from only eating carbohydrates for 4 hours a day AND after heavy exercise

This will be a great chance to see if I can make as dramatic changes as my friend Jake did (from 234 to 225 in several weeks) while drastically improving strength and most importantly, keeping calories and carbs high.

Is nutrient timing more powerful than overall carb intake when it comes to manipulating our metabolism in terms of fat burning and muscle building? We’ll find out.


#720

I had my most recent appearance on saturday during our “Scout Day” intersquad game in front of 26 MLB scouts.

My arm felt fresh going into the game, and pre-game long toss was a solid 330 feet without much effort.

Perhaps surprisingly, there were no nerves as I took the mound, and I settled in nicely as I expected. The goal: to attack the strikezone for 2 innings, stay dialed in and let whatever happens happen.

Both innings went by fairly smoothly. Inning 1 I gave up an infield chopper that was scored a hit on a bounced 4-3 throw that our first baseman couldn’t handle. While the runner would advance to third on a stolen base and fly ball, I would strike out two of the next three batters (both freezing on sliders) and make it out of the inning. Inning 2 was a 3 up 3 down quickie, pitching to contact and filling up the zone.

Line: 2.0 IP, 1H, 0BB, 2K, 0ER

Live intersquad fall stats: 8IP, 6K, 1BB, 1R, 0ER, 5H, 1HBP

The 1 walk is the biggest improvement so far, and I haven’t been getting into many 3 or even 2-ball counts this fall. Of the 5 hits given up, 3 are infield choppers hit by our speedy CF who stole 45+ bags last year, 1 is a suicide squeeze and 1 is a bloop to the outfield. I have yet for a batter to barrel a ball up this fall knock on wood.

My bullpens have been going well too. My most recent “short box” which is a 55 foot bullpen off the mound in the middle of the week between regular bullpen and live outing days, I threw 96% strikes over 26 pitches, missing just once on my final pitch. Typical values are 70-85% strikes on these, slightly higher than most regular bullpen percentages, as you can imagine.

Last thing:

I was sitting 90-92 mph during the intersquad with my 2-seam, and generated some interest from the scouts in attendance. I was told my slider needs to be less sweeping at 73mph and a little shorter and harder in the upper 70’s. I’ll be experimenting with that to see if I can get a tighter, sharper break that will be more of a power slider instead of a loopier one with almost a 20mph differential from my fastball.