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General | General | 7/29/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 14

Jerry Ford         Ron Wolforth        
Photo: Johnny Tergo/Truth Baseball
Ron Wolforth probably knows more about the throwing arm and arm care than anyone we know. Many of you may have heard about the famous Texas Baseball Ranch that Ron has been running for many years. We have built a great relationship with Ron and his wife Jill over the years.

It all started a few years back when Ron sent his son Garrett to a Perfect Game event. His son was a catcher/infielder and set some all-time PG records for pop times (1.75) and velocity (89 mph) at the time. He also threw mid-90s across the infield. He is now playing professionally. Being an average-sized kid, this really drew our interest. Once we realized who his father was, it became clear.



Since then we have followed the Texas Baseball Ranch closely. Ron is a very humble man, which is a reason so many speak highly of him. We have never run across a single person that shows any disrespect for him or the Ranch. So we decided to ask him to help our millions of followers.

Over the years he has helped thousands of pitchers, including many that became Major League All-Stars. Yes, he teaches velocity gains, better control and command, and everything a pitchers needs to be successful. However, unlike many others, he is an absolute stickler when it comes to doing it safely. His interest doesn't just involve velocity gains and other improvements, all of which are very important. He wants his students to understand arm care and how to throw and stay healthy. He does this without a cookie cutter program. He understands that all players are different individuals.

Perfect Game's interest in prospects, arm care and keeping young kids healthy is the major reason we have decided to work with Ron Wolforth.

Below is the 14th of an ongoing column he will be doing on our Perfect Game website. This information will be gold for any player interested in improving their throwing ability and staying healthy. Make sure you read every column he contributes and feel free to comment on them.

If you want to attend one of his camps and improve your throwing ability, here is the link to the website:
https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/


Jerry Ford
President
Perfect Game

. . .

Article 1: Where the Sidewalk Terminates
Article 2: The Exact Location of Your Arm Pain is Incredibly Valuable Information
Article 3: No Pain, No Problem...Right? Not Quite So Fast.
Article 4: The Secret to Accelerated Skill Development: Hyper-Personalization
Article 5: The Case Against Weighted Balls?
Article 6: The Truth About Pitch Counts, Workloads, and Overuse
Article 7: Velocity Appraisal: How 'Hard' Is 'Hard Enough'?
Article 8: Command Appraisal: How 'Accurate' Is 'Accurate Enough'?
Article 9: Swing & Miss Appraisal: How 'Nasty' Is 'Nasty Enough'?
Article 10: 5 Common Mistakes Baseball Players Make In Their Training
Article 11: The Truth About Curveballs, Sliders, and Cutters
Article 12: What is Involved in Deep, Deliberate Practice vs. Traditional Practice
Article 13: The Truth About Long Toss?

Two of the more endearing aspects of baseball are its quaint traditions and esoteric customs.
 
Historical precedents are often quite difficult to change.
 
Unfortunately, our customs and traditions are occasionally built upon faulty logic, inferential leaps and half-truths.
 
Nowhere in baseball is this more pronounced than in how baseball still conditions its pitchers.
 
‘Poles’ and long distance running as a primary process of conditioning for pitchers is still common in the baseball universe despite clear, indisputable evidence that such work is not conducive to performance and in many cases counterproductive.
 
So, before we critique these flawed processes, let’s start by considering how they became entrenched in the first place.
 
Following is the traditional baseball pitching conditioning narrative.
 
•   Baseball pitchers need to get the lactic acid out of their system after they pitch.
•   Baseball pitchers need to be very fit so their recovery between starts can be accelerated.
•   Baseball pitchers need stamina and endurance to pitch for 7-9 innings each start over the 4-5-6 month season.
•   Baseball pitchers need strong legs for power.
•   Baseball pitchers need mental toughness because, as we all know, fatigue makes cowards of us all.
 
Ergo…The Perfect Answer: Running Poles and Long-Distance Running
 
But what if our presumptions and assumptions are incorrect or flawed? Albert Einstein might have said it best, “Often times, the way we view the problem, is the problem. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
 
Let’s unpack these one by one.
 
#1. Lactic acid. Shouldn’t pitchers take a good long run to ‘flush the system’ and get rid of the lactic acid created during pitching which causes some of our stiffness and soreness after our outing?
 
One troubling detail: Lactic acid buildup occurs when there’s not enough oxygen in the muscles to break down glucose and glycogen. This is called anaerobic metabolism. It takes a minimum of 30 seconds (more often 1-3 minutes) of continuous intense activity to actually create any significant levels of lactic acid. The problem with this paradigm is the act of pitching a baseball requires less than 2 seconds. Lactic acid therefore cannot be the primary cause of soreness or stiffness for pitchers. Micro trauma to the muscle and connective tissue is instead the primary cause.
 
Therefore, ironically, the only time most pitchers ever get lactic acid in their system is during the flush runs and poles they do to… get rid of the lactic acid.
 
As they say in East Texas… ‘That dog won’t hunt!’  Many pitchers actually report more stiff backs and aching knees from their ‘recovery’ runs than from pitching in the game itself.
 
In our opinion the running poles philosophy needs to be reexamined to make certain the training is adhering to the principles of exercise physiology and kinesiology. At the Texas Baseball Ranch® we never run poles or long distance. Ever.
 
Instead, when we are doing our recovery or conditioning work, we use active flexibility, movements which support full range of motion, activities that do not create additional trauma to soft tissue and most importantly, training protocols which remain inside the ATP/CP energy system which is the same system pitchers perform in during the game itself.
 
#2. Fitness. Fitness is important to recovery and pitcher’s need stamina & endurance to successfully compete.
 
Without question this is true.
 
One critical distinction however: For what specific type of activity are we trying to be ‘fit’ and or develop ‘stamina/endurance’?
 
Fit enough to run a marathon?
 
Fit enough to swim a mile?
 
Fit enough to lead an aerobics class?
 
Fit enough for 4 quarters of basketball or 2 halves of soccer?
 
Fit enough to wrestle, box or fight in the octagon?
 
These activities all require quite different demands and levels of fitness, stamina and endurance.
 
First of all, the great news is that a pitcher can be trained well enough inside of the demands of his energy system to have a level of general fitness that is more than sufficient for optimal recovery.
 
Secondly, the only way we have found that a pitcher can be sufficiently prepared to pitch in a game, is by actually throwing.  
 
Case in point: From 1999 to 2005, Lance Armstrong was one of the most ‘fit’ men in the world, but I sincerely doubt Lance Armstrong could have lasted more than 15 full effort throws at one time. The reason? Endurance and stamina are very skill specific.
 
Certainly, a solid level of cardiovascular fitness and proficiency is both helpful during the activity and for optimal recovery, but after a certain level of fitness is achieved, more is often not helpful…it is simply just more. Our pitchers need to be fit ‘enough’ and that level of fitness can easily be obtained by simple circuit training inside the ATP/CP energy system. 
 
#3. Power. Pitchers need strong legs for power.
 
Indeed, they do.
 
One critical distinction however: Close your eyes and visualize the following elite athletes; First imagine an elite level track sprinter. Let’s say an Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin or Maurice Green. Then imagine an elite long-distance runner. Let’s say elite long-distance runners from Ethiopia and Kenya.
 
What do you see? With which set of athletes do you believe you would like your pitchers to be more closely aligned? Which ones are more powerful?
 
Not a tough choice is it?
 
Clearly running long distance does not give us the type of ‘strength’ in our legs that we need to compete as an elite baseball pitcher.
 
Bottom line. Pitchers do not get the power they need to perform well by running poles or long distance.
 
#4. Mental Toughness.  Pitchers need to be mentally tough.  
 
Developing mental toughness is certainly a worthy endeavor.
 
One critical distinction however: We do not need to use long distance running, which actually is counterproductive to our physical preparation, to develop mental toughness.
 
Bottom line: Utilizing conditioning and recovery to develop mental toughness may be a good strategy in some sports and activities, but we believe it to be very ineffective and counter-productive plan for pitchers.
 
In the next article, I will discuss the activities we should substitute for long distance running and poles for pitchers.
 
Ron Wolforth
CEO - The Texas Baseball Ranch
 
Coach Wolforth has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence.  Since 2003, 122 of the players Wolforth has trained have been drafted and 467 have broken the 90 mph barrier.  He 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 Cincinnati Reds organization) went 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.

If you would like a free copy of Pitching with Confidence, go to freepitchingbook.com.
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