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General  | Blog  | 2/23/2023

Wolforth Throwing Mentorship: Article 27

Ron Wolforth     
                                                               Velocity Enhancement Is NOT a Scavenger Hunt

In my opinion, too many parents, athletes, and even coaches view velocity enhancement as a type of treasure or scavenger hunt.

“Look… I went online and I found velocity!”

“We went to our local academy, and we found the secrets to velocity!”

“We went to Texas in search of more ‘pop’ on our fastball!”

But in the quiet of our own minds, we KNOW something is amiss about this thought process.

We know deep in the logical, reasonable side of our brain that there is no quick fix, nor an instant solution to consistent, long-term, high-level performance. Elite performance is a very deliberate process. It can’t be hacked, cheated, or duped, no matter what is promised on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok.

Certainly, good coaching and instruction can accelerate the process, but true skill development takes time. It takes intention and attention.

We KNOW in our heart that any velocity gains we make, the ones we can actually sustain over time, will require arm health and durability. Period. Full stop.

We can’t HOPE arm health happens, or somehow our soft tissue just magically STOPS “barking” when we step on the accelerator.

Arm health and durability, in our opinion, must be coveted. It must become an obsession. We must make it priority number one.

The essential element so often missed (in other words, “the elephant in the room”) that most seem to go to considerable lengths to ignore is that arm health and durability are the prerequisites to long-term success and performance.

The harsh reality that, in my opinion, many baseball coaches, parents, and players keep trying to dance around is that without a healthy and durable arm and body, high-level performance is far more difficult to obtain and literally impossible to sustain.

Yes, I wrote impossible, and I really mean impossible.

If your goal is to have a leading role on your high school or select travel team, a college scholarship, or be drafted by professional baseball, then you must be on the mound at game time, performing well, over a three to six-month period.

As they say in professional baseball, the best “ability” is “availability”. Meaning, of course, that it is profoundly important to be available to your team to perform in a game when your team needs you.

If you are not routinely available to your current team in their moments of need, why would anyone at the next level then covet your services for their organization? They, of course, need the exact same thing… A consistent, durable, reliable performer. Failing the current test does not get you a pass to the next level test.

In fact, it’s just the opposite; failing today’s test will actually often exclude you from getting chances at the next level.

The stories are now so frequent that they have actually become cliché to us here at the Ranch.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A young man gets a velocity program online or goes to a local academy for a weighted ball velocity program.

He makes some modest gains in velocity. His arm pain flairs towards the middle and/or end of the process. In fairly short order, he slowly gives back his velocity gains and/or is unable to transfer the gains to the mound at game time. However, what does persist is arm pain. So, in truth, even with months of hard work, he is further behind than when he began the process.

Ok, Coach Wolforth, that’s velocity. What about command and/or accuracy?

How does one actually get better at throwing more strikes? Well, by throwing of course. But if your arm is always tender or “cranky”, you simply can’t throw as much.

You don’t get better at command by reading a book or watching a video on Twitter or TikTok… You don’t get better by getting a 400lb squat… Or by simply firing a three-ounce or a seven-ounce ball into a wall… Or even by conforming to some mechanical ideal model espoused by a guru. You make lasting improvements by deep, deliberate, purposeful throwing. (By the way… To make any sustainable improvements in command, arm health and durability will be required. Just saying.)

What about stuff/spin/movement/deception? In other words, breaking balls and change-ups – how do you get better at throwing sharper, nastier stuff?

By throwing. See the trend?

So many young people sit in front of me for their video analysis and I ask them… Every single one of them… “Why are you here?”. They almost all say, “To gain velocity!”. And roughly 65% of the time, I look at their information in front of me and I say, “I see you have arm pain in your anterior shoulder or medial elbow at a four/five out of 10. And you’ve had to shut it down two times over the past 18 months. Is this correct?”

I then say, “If I had a magic wand and I touched the top of your head with it and ‘presto’ your arm and body generate five more miles per hour to your throw… But we changed NOTHING else… Everything else was the same… What do you think are the chances that your arm pain would go up with an added five miles per hour?”

“Would you agree with me that it’s pretty darn high?”

“Let’s say, on the other hand, I used that magic wand to take your pain away… All of it… Your arm felt absolutely amazing… And the pain would never come back. You had zero chance of UCL tear or labrum tear… Would you possibly immediately throw one to two miles per hour harder?”

“I will tell you the answer is almost ALWAYS a resounding yes, you would.”

“So now let me ask you… Where would you like me to use that magic wand? On velocity or on health and durability?”

1) I do not have a magic wand.

2) If you gained five to seven miles per hour over the next six months, but then you had Tommy John or a labrum tear, have we done you any good? Absolutely not.

3) If we really improved your arm health and durability and you gained, let’s say, two miles per hour, aren’t we now in a much better position to actually start a velocity enhancement program and safely add an additional two or three more miles per hour?

You see, we are, in fact, often chasing the wrong rabbit. We should be obsessed with creating a healthy durable arm and finding a movement pattern that has very little or no pain at high intensity.

My 25-year-old son is a AA catcher in the Diamondback organization. He has thrown a baseball 103 miles per hour and 89 miles per hour to second base. From high school through college, and through four years of pro ball, Garrett has been unavailable to play in only three games. Two because of sickness and one because he got hit by a pitch on the leg and it swelled up. He was the only position player in his AA, High A teams that was available every single game last year.

Why? I completely believe that, by making health and durability while moving at full speed your obsession, then you have your best chance at gaining and then sustaining velocity.

As a trainer and as a father, I would NEVER place my son’s remarkable and elite arm at risk for a quick hit of three to four more miles per hour. I would NEVER treat your son any differently than I would my own.

The great news is, there are far better alternatives than one-size-fits-all weighted ball velocity programs.

With the right process, everyone can gain velocity, improve their command, and enhance the effectiveness of their secondary stuff.

That’s the great news!

What I can’t tell you is how quickly or how much you will improve. It has been said that the way we view the problem is often the main problem. My heartfelt call to all of you reading this:

                                              Do not view velocity enhancement as some sort of scavenger hunt.

Instead, give it the careful and hyper-personalized attention it deserves.

Coach Wolforth is the founder of the Texas Baseball Ranch® and has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence. Since 2003, The Texas Baseball Ranch® has had over 543 pitchers break the 90mph barrier, 194 have topped 94mph or better, and 129 students have been drafted in the MLB’s June Amateur Draft. Coach Wolforth has consulted with 13 MLB teams, dozens of NCAA programs and has been referred to as “America’s Go-to-Guy on Pitching” and “The Pitching Coaches Pitching Coach”. Coach Wolforth lives in Montgomery, TX with his wife, Jill. They are intimately familiar with youth select, travel baseball and PG events as their son Garrett (now a catcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization) weWolnt through the process. Garrett still holds the PG Underclass All-American Games record for catcher velocity at 89mph which he set in 2014 at the age of 16.

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