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General | General | 6/17/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 11

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 eleventh 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

I’m fairly certain by now, if you are a parent of even an eight-year-old pitcher, you’ve heard many of the horror stories regarding curveballs, sliders, and cutters.
 
In fact, one nationally-known orthopedic surgeon, who also happens to be one of the team orthopedics for an MLB organization, five years ago called for the banning of all curveballs and sliders for prepubescent populations. This doctor even went as far as calling for the ejection and suspension of pitchers and their coaches who utilize any form of the breaking ball in an organized game.
 
Many in the media, as well as other prominent members of the medical profession, have applauded and echoed his “courageous” and “principled” stand. As injuries and surgeries to young pitchers increase, in my opinion, the clamoring for legislation to “protect” the youth athlete will inevitably increase as well.
 
So… am I, as a non-medically certified individual, going to dare to “cross the Rubicon” and actually disagree with the orthopedic oligarchy and many in the medical establishment on the topic of curveballs, sliders, and cutters?
 
My answer is: If not the Texas Baseball Ranch®, with our track record of years of keeping young men healthy, then who?
 
If not now, then when?
 
In our opinion, it is not so much that some of what the medical experts assert is wrong, but rather that what is sometimes forwarded as absolute unassailable truth is often far too simplistic and incomplete.
 
As Mark Twain once wrote, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.”
 
Here is what we, at the Texas Baseball Ranch®, believe are the commonsense elements regarding the utilization of breaking balls.
 
Over my 25+ years’ experience in training pitchers, in my personal opinion:
 
1.    Curveballs, sliders, and cutters are not the bane of select or travel baseball. Their uses are frequently forwarded as universally dangerous and are often a very convenient whipping boy for injury and all sorts of throwing maladies. However, in our opinion, this archaic hyperbole and overstatement unnecessarily foments fear and anxiety and fails to address the full spectrum of challenges to a pitcher’s health and durability.
 
Instead of developing a fear of breaking balls and completely avoiding them altogether, we suggest a much more measured, holistic approach. If you are a parent of a young select/travel ball pitcher, we urge you to become familiar with the following six contributors, which we have found are the primary obstacles and impediments to arm health and durability.
 
Understanding these will serve you much better than having a phobia on breaking ball usage.
 
I actually have listed them in the exact order we view their impact and importance to health and durability.
 
Type I Contributors Structure Related: Physical misalignments, asymmetries, strength imbalances, constraints in mobility/flexibility and/or strength/stability.
 
*Type II Contributors Movement Pattern/ Mechanical Efficiency Related: The movements, sequences, synergy, coordination, and motor control related to actually throwing the ball. (*Throwing a curveball incorrectly would actually fit in this category.)
 
Type III Contributors Preparation Related: Ramp up to Season, Ramp up to Session/Game, Wake-up/Warm-up, Pre-training, Pre-game, Post-game, Arm care.
 
Type IV Contributors Training Related: How your training process affects your abilities (Strength, Mobility, Conditioning, Throwing programs).
 
Type V contributors Internal Systemic Related: Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration.
 
Type VI Contributors Workload/ Recovery Related: How much, how long, how often, how many per inning, how quickly you return to full speed.
 
2.    Totally avoiding breaking balls until the pitcher "shaves” is, from our perspective, naive, foolish, and an overreach. Curveballs, sliders, and cutters, when taught incorrectly, can indeed become catalysts for unnecessary stress and contribute to injury. However, the exact same thing can be said about fastballs and changeups, but I rarely see or hear the same intense scrutiny for the utilization of both of these.
 
3.    Throwing a curveball, slider, and/or a cutter are very specific skills. These skills can be learned and polished. There are better, more efficient, more effective ways and there are less efficient, less effective, more dangerous/stressful ways to throw these pitches. If thrown correctly, the stress generated on a breaking ball IS NOT more than on a fastball. In fact, the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) found that thrown correctly, the stress generated on a breaking ball can actually be LESS than a fastball.
 
Bottom Line: The topic of whether or not to throw curveballs, sliders, and cutters falls just below politics and religion in terms of the degree of angst and heated debate. There are many, many ways to place your arm at higher risk than simply the act of throwing a breaking ball, yet we rarely address those. I believe we should, as a force of habit, consider them all.
 
It is my hope that our weekly conversations assist you in separating the wheat from the shaft and making the best-informed decisions for our young athletes.
 
Until next time,
 
Stay curious and keep reaching for the stars.
 
Coach Wolforth
CEO - The Texas Baseball Ranch®  

P.S. Our next lesson… “What Is Involved in ‘Deep, Deliberate Practice’ vs. Traditional Practice?”


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.
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