The Throw Center

THE THROW CENTER is about one man’s struggle to find perfection in the game of baseball.  To win in baseball, it is good to have excellent defense in the field and power in the bats. To win consistently in baseball, you have to have outstanding pitching that is very consistent game after game and healthy throughout the season.  MLB considers soreness, pain and injuries to be a normal part of baseball.

If your pitchers are sore and injured, you can’t win in baseball.  Not a theory, but a fact.   My early years in coaching baseball began with searching for articles and books on coaching the pitcher. I found many coaching points were not valid; they were someone’s theory.  They were teaching what it looked like the pitcher was doing.  I proved these theories to be wrong by trying them out myself before testing them on my pitchers. Again and again, I found the same erroneous coaching points.  Major league pitchers and players wrote many of the books

When a pitcher is in the groove “all the way” he cannot tell what is going on. He feels like he is throwing real easy.  He looks at a spot and the ball goes there.  His legs are in the groove providing all the power and velocity of the delivery and he does not think he is even throwing hard.  There is no stress on his arm and he feels like he could throw all day with no soreness afterwards.

Playing the game of baseball is easy, but to coach it, you have to have a broad education and I was trying to get mine.  I read an article of an interview with Casey Stengel when he was in his 80’s.  One writer said, “Mr. Stengel, you must know all there is to know about baseball?”  Casey Stengel replied, “No, I don’t.  I learn something from the new players that arrive during every spring training.”  His comments gave me a lot of hope. He had managed in major league baseball for 25 years including 10 World Series.  If he is still learning from players, so could I. 

Throughout the history of baseball, players have made it a science of trying to copy the great players of the day.  I used to think Mel Ott must be the most coordinated hitter of all times for he hit 511 home runs with a .304 lifetime average.  He looked like a pitcher with his leg wind up before taking a stride.   Look at the successful hitters today that have the high leg lift and coil before taking a stride towards the pitcher.  Are they copying Mel Ott?

My next learning experience came from a very large first baseman by the name of Mike Fox.  He was much larger in build than the other players, but could hardly hit the ball out of the infield.  I had a very small shortstop that was putting them over the fence.  One day in batting practice I found the answer.  What he was doing was one of the errors I had found in the many books I had read. He stood facing the pitcher with his stride foot toe pointing at the pitcher. This left his hips and shoulders open to the pitcher. When he took a stride, his toe was moving towards the pitcher. His hips and shoulders were completely open during his stride forcing him to swing only with the arms.  Leading with the toe towards the pitcher during the stride is still in baseball books today and the many little league coaches are still teaching this technique.

Two theories that are now being applied in baseball: “Every action has an equal but opposite reaction” and the other, “the longer force is applied to a moving object the greater the velocity”.   For years major league baseball has applied one of these theories incorrectly and the other is not emphasized enough.

I had also learned in science that a “theory was a theory till proven to be true and then it becomes a law”.  Major-league baseball today, along with the doctors, orthopedic surgeons, and everyone in baseball is trying to make an age-old theory become a law.  If you repeat a story long enough, even those doubting Thomases will begin to believe it. 

Major league baseball, the trainers, doctors, orthopedic surgeons and the professors that teach the same rhetoric are trying to convince the world that all stress, pain, soreness, swelling and injuries incurred while throwing a baseball come from “overuse.”  Major league baseball’s pitching rotation is every four or five days. Why don’t they rotate catchers? They make many more throws and longer throws, and they catch every day.  Many catchers have greater velocity when throwing the ball than some pitchers. “Overuse” is not the answer – it is only an unproven theory.

 Since 1975 I have been trying to convince the baseball world that “errors in a players throwing mechanics” is the cause of all throwing injuries.   All of my efforts have fallen on deaf ears.  The only takers are the players that are in pain or injured when throwing a baseball and there is no one else to help them.

Along comes the big kicker.  Since 1884 major league baseball has continued to overlook, and try not to mention the one event that they can’t explain, and neither can the orthopedic surgeons, and all the authorities connected to baseball.  The only problem is the newspapers publish local events.  I am sure MLB would like to suppress some of these articles.  We are talking about an event that took place 122 years ago and today in 2006.  All the doctors and authorities associated with MLB can’t explain it with the simple “overuse” theory.

In 1884, Elmer Foster, who was pitching for the St. Paul Unions, Minnesota’s first major league team, broke his humerus (upper arm) while pitching in a game.  The team was doing well until this event.   When Dave Dravecky with the Giants did the same in 1989, the authorities tried to explain it was the cancer in his arm that had weakened the humerus bone. Sounds good, but does not explain twenty other broken arms while pitching or throwing and one was throwing a softball.  You don’t have to throw with great velocity for the humerus to break.  I have a whole chapter on the broken humerus.  The broken humerus while throwing comes from mechanical errors in the delivery.  These errors can be corrected and the arm grooved for throwing without stress, pain or injury to the arm, shoulder or elbow.  Many doctors will tell a player with a broken humerus that his pitching days are over.  You can find about twenty five incidents of breaking the humerus while throwing, even while throwing a basketball.  One young man, age 26, wrote that he was throwing at seventy percent, just lobbing the ball back into the infield after a single to left field.  I have heard from about ten players that have broken the humerus since 2005.

I have proven my theories to be true by working with over 200 sore and injured players since 1975.  These were players I had never coached.  Injured players, or those in pain are the only listeners.  My hope is that one-day, players in all of baseball will be able to play the game without stress, pain, soreness or injuries incurred from throwing a baseball.   I do not agree that soreness, pain and injuries incurred while throwing a ball are normal.  These conditions are not caused by overuse.  Stress, pain soreness and injuries incurred when throwing a ball are caused by errors made in a players throwing biomechanics and can be corrected.  Each and every player has a natural throwing groove and can be taught how to get there.