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General | General | 7/15/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 13

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 13th 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

The internet is replete with thousands of ideas and opinions on the efficacy of long toss for pitchers. Some coaches and gurus contend long toss is one of the most dangerous activities a pitcher could possibly engage in from a health and injury perspective.  Others claim it’s simply a waste of valuable training time because it doesn’t follow the principle of specificity, confuses release points and encourages inefficient game time mound mechanics.  Still others insinuate it’s a Godsend and is the answer to almost any pitching ailment with which your athlete could possibly be confronted.
 
The result is that many parents and coaches get frozen by this myriad of wide-ranging opinions.  They don’t want to hurt their young man or place him in unnecessary risk; yet on the other hand they know how closely tied having a power/electric arm is to opportunity and advancement; so, they often become frozen with indecision and choose a middle course which all but guarantees mediocrity. 
 
A few internet gurus even claim they have a specific recipe which overrides or shortcuts the long toss route.  To me personally, most of these recipes are simply attempts at marketing their product, attempts at simply being provocative for effect and/or are a flat out “red herring”.
 
So where does The Ranch fall on the long toss continuum?
 
The answer is WAY, WAY, WAY toward the “long toss is a Godsend and the answer” end of the spectrum.  While we don’t quite view long toss as the ultimate answer for EVERY ailment; long toss, in our view, is an exceptionally valuable instrument in our toolbox for developing the power/electric arm.
 
For those who knock long toss as a valuable asset in one’s development toolbox (and in fact they are many, including many in professional baseball), I find they most often fail to grasp, recognize or accept these primary truths.
 
Truth #1.  One can throw without pitching, but one can never pitch without throwing, meaning clearly that throwing begets pitching, not the other way around.  Therefore, to become a prolific pitcher, one must first become a prolific thrower.  This truth is simply not debatable.
 
Truth #2. There are two primary elements involved in being a world class pitcher.  One is skill.  The other is ability. You will need both. Long toss is an “ability“ creator/augmenter/enhancer/developer.  The body is forced by its goal of maximum distance to organize itself differently and recruit body parts/potential contributors differently.  This assists us in creating the training effect we often seek.
 
Neither one of these truths is insignificant.
 
I personally find those who rail against long toss are often obsessed or stuck on the “skill” side of the equation and simply can’t see that it will be in the freedom, the experimentation, the self-discovery, the expansion and the body’s organization for length where multiple benefits of skill specific strength, range of motion, neuromuscular firing, accommodation and recruitment can and will take place.
 
Motor Learning Pioneer Russian Nikolai Bernstein, the man responsible for coining the term “biomechanics”, had a hypothesis (later referred to by engineer Pauly Nyman as the Bernstein Principle) that we use as the core of our training at The Ranch.
 
The Bernstein Principle: The body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity.
 
In other words, if the brain’s goal is for the body to throw the ball for maximum distance or maximum speed, the body will then organize itself to achieve that goal.  In essence the goal or intent of the activity directly affects how the body responds.
 
This is specifically why long toss, in my opinion, is a very beneficial activity.  It encourages the body to recruit and organize itself for higher end point velocities.  Does THAT sound like a good idea to you?  Yes or no?
 
Let me close with a story I often tell at clinics or when I’m consulting to make my point on the efficacy of long toss vs. all the naysayers out there who literally pick the activity for death.
 
The anti-long toss people’s primary criticism of long toss can most often be boiled down to the fact that it is not game-like enough and actually interferes with the “ideal mechanics and release point” needed to pitch a baseball at the highest levels.  In their opinion, the only way a pitcher can develop into a high caliber pitcher is to actually pitch off a mound at game distance.
 
I counter this argument by taking them precisely at their point.
 
Let me explain.
 
Imagine we have two identical twins.  At the age of three we begin to let them throw.  Twin A, we’ll refer to as The Freedom Twin.  Twin B, we’ll refer to as the Specificity Twin.
 
Twin A, we encourage and allow to move back as far as he can every single session he throws.  In essence we will allow him to throw long toss every time out.  We measure his distance and the next time he throws we encourage him to see if he can exceed his distance from his last time out.  The only stipulation we place on him is that he cannot back up until he can hit his partner 10 consecutive times without his partner moving more than one step in any direction.
 
Twin B, on the other hand, we limit to never going further back and throwing even one foot further than we would actually pitch in a game at his age level.  So up until he is 12, Twin B never throws a ball beyond 46 feet and spends his time focusing exclusively on mechanics.  By the time he reaches 14 years of age, the specificity twin is working primarily off a mound 60-feet, 6-inches away.  So, from the age of 3 until he is 18, Twin B has NEVER thrown a ball more than 60-feet, 6-inches away from his target…and I repeat never, under any circumstances will the specificity twin be allowed to throw a ball beyond 60-feet, 6-inches.
 
From the age of 3 until they are both 18, these two boys throw three times a week, 40 weeks of the year for about 45 minutes a session.  They throw the same exact number of throws.  The only difference is their process.
 
You tell me, which twin has the strongest and most powerful arm.
 
You see the anti-long toss people would scoff at the 60-feet, 6-inches limitation as ridiculous, but I’m just forcing them to strictly adhere to their stated principles.  If specificity is indeed the be all and end all of pitching, I’m simply not allowing them to have it both ways.  From my perspective, most of these self-proclaimed experts obviously fail to recognize the difference between skill and ability.
 
Elite performers certainly do need high levels of skill – no question.  But they also need exceptionally high levels of ability as well.  And just like any other animal in nature, if constrained to a much smaller space than is ideal, they can never and will never grow and expand to the limits of their natural ability.
 
I will state for the record that long toss in not a panacea.  It does not cure all pitching ailments.  Long toss is simply a tool.  It certainly can be misused, misapplied, mishandled, have an improper emphasis or be improperly executed or administered.  All that said, the risk of utilizing long toss pales in consequence to failing to use it as part of your total development package.  In my opinion, long toss is an absolutely invaluable tool for any aspiring young pitcher.
 
I look forward to continuing our discussion.
 
Ron Wolforth
CEO - The Texas Baseball Ranch
 
PS. Next time my topic will be “The Truth About Conditioning of Pitchers”.

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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