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Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 19

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 19th 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) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 2
Article 18: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 3

Things To Consider When Embarking On A Velocity Enhancement Program This Year

In 2003, we created the Athletic Pitcher Program™ and started down this road of performance enhancement and velocity creation for baseball athletes. Initially inspired from the work of Paul Nyman, an engineer at SETPRO, over these past 19 years, we have experienced firsthand the bumps and obstacles of such a trek. It has been an amazingly challenging and fulfilling ride.
 
On our journey, we, of course, have failed many times. We have figuratively chased many a rabbit down the wrong hole. We have made assumptions and inferences that have since proven to be incorrect or overstated. On the positive side of the ledger, through those very failures we have learned, adapted, and grown tremendously.  We have succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings.
 
As the baseball universe’s understanding and sophistication of player development has grown tremendously over that time, so has the utilization of performance enhancement and velocity enhancement programs. Just one example of this growth was our rather primitive and rudimentary utilization of overweighted and underweighted balls in 2003 that was actually viewed at that time as edgy and dangerous. Now, this practice is commonplace at every level of baseball, including several MLB teams.
 
The purpose of this article is to share several things we have learned over these past 19 years in regard to velocity enhancement that might help maximize your efforts and, just as importantly, minimize the risk of injury or training corruption.
 
In 2022, it is not difficult to find velocity enhancement programs on the web that promise amazing results. While I have long since stopped searching for and/or critiquing such programs, I will tell you that some of them are solid and a few of them I believe are very, very good. While, of course, there are several that are not worth the paper they are printed on, I wanted to direct my efforts on some critically important distinctions to note while embarking on this path of velocity enhancement.
 
#1 Beware of Anything That Is ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL

We intuitively know that one size will not only not fit everyone, one size won’t even fit one person forever. As we grow, develop, and change, so do our needs, strengths, and limitations. One-size-fits-all programs are popular because they are easy to implement. Unfortunately, efficiency is not the same as effectiveness. Designing a program customized to the individual athlete is often a daunting task, but the results are always worth the extra diligence. 
 
I see the following scenario play out again and again in this arena. Let’s say 10 young men engage in a generalized velocity enhancement program taken from a “Hot New Program of the Month” on the web.
 
Here are how the results typically play out: 2-4 participants make tremendous gains and are subsequently thrilled and excited. 2-4 participants make little or no gains and are slightly disappointed by the process. 2-4 participants actually regress, experience pain or discomfort, or (even worse) become injured.
 
Those results often spawn predictable reactions that play out on message boards, in chat rooms, and on Twitter feeds.
 
• The success stories of the first group are trumpeted by the program’s author, and testimonials are offered as proof positive of the incredible efficacy of the program.
• The second group quietly accepts the fact that this program might not have been the right fit, or maybe they just somehow didn’t quite do everything that the first group did. Those athletes now begin the search for the next “hot program of the month” on the internet.
• The last group feels duped or betrayed and blames the program and its author. The interactions often get incredibly vitriolic and nasty.
 
Each competing program heralds their achievers as undeniable evidence of the superiority of their process, while often discounting their underachievers or malcontents as merely incompetent or inept. On the flip side, they point to the failings of the competing programs as evidence of their inferiority. The vicious cycle is often repeated, animus is raised, and battle lines are drawn.
 
In reality, both programs could indeed be solid processes. 
 
“How can that be,” you ask?
 
That leads me to point #2.   
 
 
#2 Assessment Is Absolutely Essential


I will promise you, not every one of those 10 athletes were equally prepared for what we refer to at The Ranch as “The Push.” Over the past 19 years, we have learned to NOT proceed without an assessment to assist us in knowing where each individual athlete currently is in several key areas. Simply taking time to assess, correct, and prepare for “the push” before we actually push has made the average gains higher, the percentage of underachievers lower, and the injuries far fewer.
 
Here are the facts as we see them: Every athlete must reduce/remedy his constraints before any velocity program can have its full effect. Failure to do so will minimize the athlete’s gains and could place him at significantly increased risk of injury.
 
What are the common constraints?
 
Some athletes are constrained by their current levels of pain and discomfort.

Some athletes are constrained by their levels of recovery/ability to bounce back.

Some athletes are constrained by their physical structure, asymmetries, and significant strength imbalances.

Some athletes are constrained by their levels of mobility/flexibility.

Some athletes are constrained by their levels of strength/stability.

Some athletes are constrained by their levels of mechanical efficiency and poor movement patterns.

Some athletes are constrained by their levels of readiness and foundation. Countless athletes haven’t built up an adequate throwing foundation comprised of volume and/or intensity prior to the push. Their soft tissue needs some lead time to prepare for the ramped up demands of the program.
 
Most athletes are actually constrained or limited by a mix/combination of several of the previous variables and/or by a few others I haven’t mentioned, such as nutrition, sleep, bad information, misapplied or mismanaged training processes, etc. Identifying and reducing or eliminating those constraints will allow your athlete’s ability to take off, and your velocity enhancement program will have its optimal effects.
 
#3 What the Athlete Does Between “Pushes” Is as Important as the Push Itself
 
What escapes many people is: What do you do until the next push? In our 19 years of developing pitching athletes, we have found that what an athlete does between those pushes is every bit as important as the push itself.
 
Obviously pitching at the highest levels of competition involves much more than simply throwing harder. While velocity increases are almost always welcome, in truth, they are one of the more simple, straightforward things we do at the Texas Baseball Ranch®. In fact, we view velocity increases as the “easy part”. 
 
What is far more involved is keeping the arm healthy and durable, increasing levels of command, improving secondary pitch offerings, and enhancing recovery WHILE adding a few mph to the fastball.
 
When an athlete pushes his neuromuscular limits and cultivates a new movement pattern that represents his new goal of throwing harder, he runs the risk of swerving headfirst into his personal constraints and becoming disconnected. This causes him to lose his modicum of command and forces a new organization of his secondary offerings, and places his normal recovery under duress.
 
If a velocity enhancement program is utilized early in an off season, typically the body has time to “right the ship” and reorganize its new pattern for gametime competition… which, of course, includes “command,” “stuff,” and recovery.  However, with the off-season seemingly shrinking in today’s year-round baseball universe, I see more athlete’s pushing their velocity enhancement work closer and closer to the season. The results often are, unfortunately, poor fastball command, loss of feel for secondary offerings, and real difficulties recovering on schedule.
 
This doesn’t have to be the case. 
 
Through simple, forward-looking programing, an athlete can structure his work to compliment rather than contradict or interfere with his intended final outcome. Unfortunately, such training synergy in today’s world is rare.  Nonetheless, I remain hopeful.  History is replete with examples of uncommon ideas that have revolutionized thought paradigms to forge a new norm.  19 years ago, weighted ball work was both rare and unsophisticated. In 2022, through the collective efforts of many insightful instructors and coaches, I see the emergence of dozens of high-quality programs utilizing these tools effectively.
 
The following is one sample of the many ways we structure our throwing program so that it complements our ultimate goal and does not contradict or interfere with it.
 
 
Sample of One of the More Common Texas Baseball Ranch® Weekly Throwing Cycles



Velocity (Push) – The actual day when the athlete pushes his neuromuscular limits. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we are very cognizant of our pushes. If our volume on that day involves more than 15-18 full effort throws, we require a minimum of 48 hours of recovery before we push again, and we never push more than twice in a calendar week (with volume greater than 15-18 full effort throws). This sample is one of my personal favorites – it is a sound 5-day cycle to which an aspiring professional pitcher might want to become accustomed.
 
Recovery/Connection As the athlete pushes his limits, he runs the risk of 1) Traumatizing soft tissue and inhibiting recovery or 2) In an effort to create added energy, his body begins to disconnect. He recruits strength out of sequence or places parts of the body in physically disadvantageous positions – most generally the humeral head in the glenohumeral joint. Therefore, the day after we push, we have a recovery/connection day.
 
If the athlete has pain, discomfort, or has difficulty recovering after the push, we have him follow our Recovery Day Protocol.
 
If the athlete has no pain or discomfort and recovers nicely after the push, we have him follow a Connection Day Protocol.
 
Command The second day after the push, our athlete’s emphasis in his throwing program from start to finish is command. That can mean command exclusively of his fastball or command of all of his offerings.
 
Spin/Secondary The third day after the push, our athlete’s emphasis is on developing a feel for secondary offerings – blending 2 and 3 pitch sequences is the most frequent choice (i.e., fastball/changeup or curveball/changeup/fastball). Our goal is to improve feel, spin rate, and shape of each secondary offering. Just as importantly, to also have it blend into our fastball tempo., fastball movement pattern, fastball arm action, and fastball tunnel as well. 
 
Precision The fourth day after the push and the day before the next push, our athlete’s emphasis is precision. On this day, the athlete revisits each drill he utilizes as if he was a beginner. Our athletes are trained to be very specifically aware of drill execution and the possible corruption that can result from sloppy, casual, or unfocused drill execution. Thus, during each athlete’s micro-training cycle, we can revisit and reemphasize each drill’s intent and process. While this is no guarantee of precluding any bad habits from creeping in, it is a very valuable “firewall” from training corruption and training corrosion.  
 
By taking these 3 guidelines into consideration 1) Avoiding a one-size-fits-all model 2) Identifying and reducing each athlete’s constraint(s) 3) Planning what occurs between pushes most velocity enhancement programs can be significantly maximized.


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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