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General | General | 1/6/2022

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 18

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 18th 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?
Article 14: The Truth About Conditioning of Pitchers?
Article 15: Simple and Effective Post Throwing Strategies for Pitchers
Article 16: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 1

Article 17: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narrative For Pitchers, Part 2

12 Common Pitching Narratives That Often Sideline, Impede, and Constrain Thousands of Young Men from Approaching Their God-Given Potential:

•    Mass = Gas. (Size and strength are everything)
 
•    Simplifying the Delivery Is the Key. (Minimize movement to maximize efficiency) 
 
•    Poles and Long Distance Are Good for Pitchers. (Strong legs and mental toughness)
 
•    Weighted Balls Are Dangerous. (Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson didn’t need them)
 
•    Weighted Balls Are the Key to Success. (Builds arm strength)
 
•    Long Toss is Bad for Pitchers. (Wrong release point)
 
•    Long Toss is an Absolute Must. (Develops arm strength)
 
•    You Need to Take 3 Months Off from Throwing. (Overuse is very bad and soft tissue needs a break)
 
•    Pitching in Games Is the Only Way to Develop as a Pitcher. You Need to Pitch. (Learn to compete)
 
•    You Need to Stop Pitching and Start Training. Take a Gap Year and Develop Yourself as a Pitcher. (Develop your skills and abilities)
 
•    Scrap Your (Curveball) and Go to (Slider)/Scrap Your (Slider) and Go to (Curveball). (Pitch design is the key to success)
 
•    Drop Your Arm Slot/Raise Your Arm Slot.  
 
I have heard the above 12 phrases articulated on an amazingly regular basis, forwarded as if they are straight out of the Holy Bible for the past 45 years.
 
How do they hold up to scrutiny? Let’s continue our discussion from last month and find out.
 
 
You Need to Take 3 Months Off from Throwing
 
Shutting down an athlete is decidedly not the same as recovery or rejuvenation, and a complete shutdown, in our opinion, would align far more closely to atrophy and degeneration than any other description of motor skill development.

In fact, your grandfather was 100% correct when he would quip, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!”

Imagine not walking for three months? How would your body/legs respond? You would probably need at least 12 weeks to get back to the level you were at when you stopped walking. Soft tissue responds to stress. Too much stress or too intense of a degree of stress, and injury may result. Too little or no stress, and the robustness of soft tissue will decline. Many athletes are injured because they are underprepared for the specific stress, and not simply because they hit some arbitrary workload limit.

There are certainly times when mental breaks, deloading, or time off is very appropriate. We certainly do not advocate pitching in games for more than six months in a calendar year, however, pitching in competition is very, very different than training and throwing.

In the event of returning from time off, understanding the ramp-up/return to performance mode and allowing the soft tissue the time to respond to the increasing intensity, frequency, and/or volume is absolutely critical.

Furthermore, if you are behind your competitive peer group in terms of velocity, command, or creating swings and misses, taking three months off from throwing may indeed actually doom your career. The offseason is where champions are developed and where underachievers can catch up – I urge you to think very, very carefully about taking considerable time off from throwing entirely. Rarely would I believe such a decision to be a wise one.

Finally, if you do take more than two weeks off from throwing in the offseason, be very conscious and intentional in regard to working back up to competition mode. It takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks for soft tissue to respond and make its adaptation to survive and thrive in the intensity of competition.

The most common months for UCL and labrum tears and strains in professional baseball is March and April. Clearly, workload wasn’t the primary problem in those cases. We believe one of the major contributors to this phenomenon is the steepness of the ramp up. In other words, the soft tissue is expected to mitigate and manage stress that is beyond its body’s current ability to do so. When that situation arises, we shouldn’t be surprised when injury is a frequent result.     

Pitching in Games Is the Only Way to Develop as a Pitcher.
 
You Need to Stop Pitching and Start Training.
 
The truth is… it just depends! Sound familiar? There are times that pitchers need to stop training, take their proverbial Maserati out of the training garage and onto the open road, and see how it performs. There is something to be said about the importance of 1) How the hitters react to what we are throwing 2) How the athlete responds to success and failure 3) How consistently we perform day in and day out 4) How we bounce back/recover from the physical and emotional demands of the previous game.

Pitching in games is the only way these questions can be adequately answered.

On the other end of the continuum, simply pitching in more games is often not the answer to solving specific performance limitations or constraints. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over again and again, and this time expect a different result.” Many coaches demand that their athletes pitch in more games in the summer, fall, or offseason, hoping that somehow, in some way the player finds lightning in a bottle and figures it out.

This type of process rarely succeeds. 

Almost every pitcher that we have ever worked with – from 8-year-olds just beginning to pitch, to future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander – need dedicated training and development time, as well as time in competition to see how that training is applying itself when the bullets are flying.   
 
Scrap your (Curve) and Go to (Slider)/Scrap Your (Slider) and Go to (Curve).
 
Drop Your Arm Slot/ Raise Your Arm Slot.  
 
These two phrases return us right back to the recurring problems of choreography and cookie cutting. It is not that experimentation and trying different things is wrong or bad – they most decidedly are not – but far, far too often, well-meaning but misguided individuals attempt to impose their ideas of ideal on athletes. A vast majority of the time, this does not go well. Individual human beings are very unique and are not pieces of clay to be molded or puppets on a string.

There is a significant and critical difference between suggestions on experimentation and self-exploration vs. imposing specific movement patterns and strict choreography.

Whitey Ford, Clayton Kershaw, Tom Glavine, Cliff Lee, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, and Aroldis Chapman are eight of the greatest left-handers of all time, yet each one is absolutely unique. Still, people somehow believe they have found the secret to performance… I think not.

In closing, I suggest in the future when you hear any of these 12 brilliant philosophical tenets being forwarded as truisms, you smile and recognize that the paradigm is not new, progressive, or even impressive. It is simply someone repeating an old line that, to the presenter, seemed “astute”. Reading this 3-part series may have possibly saved you from chasing a false choice down a dead-end street.

I look forward to continuing our discussion.

Coach Wolforth
CEO - The Texas Baseball Ranch

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Coach Wolforth has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence. Since 2003, 127 of the players Wolforth has trained have been drafted and 488 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 www.freepitchingbook.com.

If you would like to learn more about the Texas Baseball Ranch and its training programs, go to www.texasbaseballranch.com.
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