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General  | General  | 4/15/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 3

Jerry Ford      Ron Wolforth     
Photo: (Jill Wolforth/Texas Baseball Ranch)
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 third 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:

Jerry Ford
Perfect Game

. . .

Article 1: Where the Sidewalk Terminates
Article 2: The Exact Location of Your Arm Pain is Incredibly Valuable Information

It is surprisingly common for players (or even more frequently, their parents) to come up to me when they arrive through the gates of the Texas Baseball Ranch and say something along the lines of:

“Hey Coach Wolforth! It is so nice to finally meet you. We have heard from other people how much you stress arm health and durability as the essential principle in the Ranch philosophy, and we are excited to tell you that our ‘Johnny’ has always had an amazingly healthy arm. And you’ll be happy to know, we’ve got that base covered so you won’t have to concern yourself with that element. We can just get straight to the velocity enhancement/pitch design. Etc.… Etc.…”

Of course, while my 25+ years of experience has proven time and time again this is very unlikely, I immediately take them at their word and hope that the way they answer the next few questions will reinforce that their confidence in their son’s health and durability is well founded.
I respond along these lines:
“Well, that’s wonderful news! Having that level of health and durability is so very critical to being able to put in the needed volume of work to be an elite thrower and ascend in competitive levels. That is truly a blessing and, from my experience, that type of physical soundness and resiliency doesn’t happen by accident. That tells me a great deal about your work ethic and process.
It’s fantastic that your son has no arm pain or arm health issues. Let me ask you three ‘next level’ questions that turn our attention to your son's ‘recovery’ and his ability to bounce back to full functionality after either a strenuous training session or game time performance.
Answering these three basic questions as precisely as you can will go a long way in helping us understand how exceptional your son’s arm health and durability really is.”
Question #1: If your son threw 75-100 pitches in a game tonight, how much would his fastball velocity vary from fastball #1 to the last fastball of his outing?

- 0-1 mph

- 1-2 mph

- 2-3 mph

- 3-4 mph

- 5 mph or more sometimes

- I have no idea.

Question #2: How much velocity variation on his average fastball do you see from outing to outing?

- 0-1 mph

- 1-2 mph

- 2-3 mph

- 3-4 mph

- 5 mph or more sometimes

- I have no idea.

Question #3: If your son threw 24 pitches in a game or in a game intensity bullpen tonight, what would his throwing look like tomorrow? (Our Ranch Recovery test is 12 pitches, 5 minutes rest, then another 12 pitches.)

- No throwing whatsoever - I need to take the next day completely off of throwing.

- Very light tossing to a partner for a short period of time.

- Light throwing, going out to 60-75 feet.

- Fairly light throwing, going out to 90-120 feet.

- Moderate throwing, possibly going out beyond 120 feet in catch play.

- Ability to throw with intensity or volume is not specifically limited or curtailed

 - The 24 pitches had little or no affect. I am ready and capable of repeating the entire 24 pitch process today without a marked decrease in performance.

- I have no idea.

What Do the Answers Tell Us?

In Short...A Great Deal!

Let’s begin with the most common answers.
Most frequent answer: I have no idea/I do not know.
We have a saying at the Texas Baseball Ranch ®, “I don’t know is a perfectly legitimate and acceptable response… in the beginning. It is a horrible answer to finish with.”
Your honest answers or discoveries to these answers will tell us how durable you are.
If, for example, you experience little to no pain, but your velocity often drops 3-5 mph during an extended outing, or you regularly experience rather significant variation (3-5 mph) from outing to outing, it is a true red flag that your arm health and durability may not be nearly as sound as you might believe. By simply just adding volume to your workload, real substantial issues are on the immediate horizon.
If, after only 24 pitches at full intensity, the throwing athlete must completely refrain from throwing the next day or can only endure light tossing for a short duration, it is a clear alarm that the athlete, for whatever reason, cannot recover from that specific dosage of stress in a 24-hour period. (And we should diligently attempt to ascertain that reason.) This is important because this current status in the efficiency of his recovery makes his development and ascension unsustainable over a longer period of time.
Unfortunately, I see this phenomenon play out every single week at the Ranch.

- A minor league pitcher who threw it 95 mph in high school or college, is now only able to throw it 88-90 mph. He calls it "dead arm".

- The high school or select pitcher who never had any arm issues whatsoever before now, "all of a sudden" in the middle of the season is experiencing acute pain to his forearm, medial elbow, or anterior shoulder.

- The college pitcher who had a "rubber arm" in high school now is constantly in the training room with posterior shoulder pain as he is asked to pitch several times a week instead of just once.

Bottom Line: Recovery is almost as good of a predictor of arm health and durability as is abject pain. Pay attention to it!

Case in Point:

If on the 88th pitch of the game, your fastball is the exact same velocity as the fastball you threw on pitch #5…that is a very good sign of a healthy, durable arm. If, on the other hand, your average fastball velocity drops 3 mph or more later in the game or inning, in our experience, it is just a matter of time and volume until you will have a problem. We believe if you recognize the problem and address the issue now, it is very possible you can avoid the more severe repercussions of the issue.
If your average fastball in a game today is the exact same velocity as the average fastball you threw in previous games this week and month…that is a very good sign of a healthy, durable arm. If, on the other hand, your average velocity varies 3 mph or more between outings, in our experience, it is just a matter of time and volume until you will have a problem. Again, we believe if you recognize the problem and address the issue now, it is very possible you can avoid the more severe repercussions of the issue.
And, if after only 24 pitches or less, you require an extra day or more time to throw without discomfort or fatigue, in our experience, it is just a matter of time and volume until you will have a problem. We believe we must address the issue now so you can avoid the more severe repercussions of the issue further down the trail.
As with almost all things in life:

1) Awareness Itself Is Curative. If we are made aware of 'X', we can prevent a further escalation in the core problem.

2) An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure. If we can identify the potential problem and head it off at the pass, we very well may avoid thousands of dollars of money spent on medical procedures, hundreds of hours lost rehabbing from injury or surgery, and multiple sleepless nights and mental anguish over our recovery and reestablishing our place back into the competitive baseball universe.

I look forward to continuing our discussion.

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 458 have broken the 90mph 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, Texas 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.