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General  | General  | 3/29/2022

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 21

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 21st 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
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
Article 19: Things To Consider When Embarking On A Velocity Enhancement Program This Year
Article 20: Is Your Pitcher Headed Straight Toward An Injury?

The following scenario is quite common. I hear a version of this story dozens of times every March and April.  

You’ve worked hard in the offseason developing your arm strength, improving your velocity and enhancing your off speed. You’ve thrown your bull pens and feel like you are all set to have a very good season. You are super excited.

Then the games start. At first you thought it might be nerves, the umpires and or catcher struggling early in the season, the colder weather, the poor condition of the mounds…or a combination of all of these…but whatever the case the command is just not there. Walks are up. Pitch counts are up. You rack your brain but for the life of you, you just don’t understand why this is happening. It’s never been an issue before but now it’s starting to become a real thing.”

Sound familiar? Well, you are not alone.

The mistake made literally by thousands of pitchers, their parents and their coaches is they fail to understand and to get in agreement/alignment with three basic command imperatives.  When you recognize, understand and apply these three basic imperatives into your daily throwing routine, command immediately improves.

Imperative #1. Command is not a sometimes thing. To have elite level command, command is an all-the-time thing.

In other words, every single throw, from our drill work to catch play, to long toss, to our bullpen session, should have a very specific target coupled with a keen awareness of how close we came to accomplishing our intended goal.

This is the first and primary failure of traditional throwing routines. A vast majority of throwers have a ‘general’ idea where they want to throw the baseball. For example, their goal is to hit the pad or throw it toward their partner.

As you can imagine, having a ‘general’ idea of where you want the ball to go will get you a certain degree of command. It, however, will absolutely never assist you in developing elite level command. Elite level command ONLY comes with regular deep, deliberate, intentional practice coupled with a very specific goal and an acute awareness of where the throw actually ended up.

A phrase that snipers, marksmen, archers and hunters know all too well, and Mel Gibson’s character famously articulated in the movie ‘The Patriot’ is, “Aim small, miss small.”  In other words, your ability to consistently hit a target will never be enhanced beyond the specificity of that target.

Yet, every week I see and/or hear from athletes all over the USA and Canada that they are struggling with their command and they just don’t know why.

We often suspect why.

They keep doing the same general, bland, sterile, unaware throwing routine over and over again and are surprised their command is substandard.

It certainly isn’t a surprise to the Ranch staff. Most of time we are actually surprised athletes got away with these poor habits for as long as they did.

Throwing a bullpen must not be your primary command development process. To us at TBR, the bullpen session is a test to see how well our throwing routines are developing our ability to command the baseball. If the only time or the primary time you work on your command is during a bullpen session, in our view, you are setting yourself up for failure. Bullpens by themselves are not near enough volume to develop exceptional command.

Command must be an all the time thing.

Imperative #2. Paying Attention- Awareness Itself Is Curative.

In certain baseball circles many people mistakenly believe since I utilize the phrase so often that I’m the originator of it. I was not. That brilliant insight comes from W Timothy Gallwey and his Inner Game Series.

Here is what I believe is the gist of Gallwey’s philosophical tenet when we apply it to throwing a baseball: If we are simply aware of precisely where the ball landed in relationship to our intended target…for example…how far did we miss and in what direction…that information will help us adjust and problem solve. In other words, simply paying close attention to our result vs our goal will naturally and innately help us improve and close that performance gap.

While that may actually sound too good to be true, the challenge is that awareness is an intentional behavior, and it must be practiced in order to become highly developed.

Sadly, most athletes, parents and even coaches have developed primarily an ‘awesome’/‘sucked’ perspective of viewing results and outcomes. If the result was favorable…it was awesome…if it wasn’t…it sucked.

This perspective, in our opinion, is clearly lacking and is far less productive.

At TBR, we have found time and time again that an athlete’s command increases quickly and dramatically as soon as they develop the habit of always having a very specific target and enhance their awareness as to how close they came to achieving that goal. 

A phrase that is repeated often at the Ranch in our training barns is, ‘How far and in what direction did you miss your intended target?'

Awareness itself is curative.

Imperative #3. Every level you go up, the levels of requisite command increase.

Therefore, simply having acceptable levels of command at your current level, will almost certainly be insufficient in order to be successful at the next level.

Make no mistake, most pitchers in high school have merely an ‘acceptable’ standard of command for that competitive level. They typically range between 55-60% strikes. They walk on average of a batter every 4.5 hitters or so. They are 2-2 and 3-2 a lot.

Then they go to college or junior college and apparently all of the sudden they struggle with their command.

In truth, this should be no surprise whatsoever. It almost never is a sudden onset of bad command. 

First the college umpire’s strike zone is typically 10-15% smaller than in high school. 

Second, the hitters are better and chase pitches outside of the zone 10-15% less frequently. So logically, if you simply do the math, the command one used to have to be successful at the former level is clearly no longer sufficient to be as successful at this next level.

This cycle repeats itself again going from college to the minor leagues and from the minor leagues to the major leagues.

Bottom line, if your goal is to move up in level of play, then you must continually improve your command. 

Final comments: I have been made aware of the critique by some on social media regarding athletes who are training and throwing to targets on nets instead of throwing it to actual people. Apparently, many believe that throwing to targets is inferior to throwing to a teammate and is a cause for many current throwing issues.

My response: I don’t judge the quality of training primarily by the type of target they choose. I have seen poor throwers be trained primarily by target throwing and I have seen equally poor throwers never throw to a target and only throw to a person. I have also seen just the exact opposite.

I will say if you are going to use targets, constantly change the distance and make the target very specific.

And foremost, whatever you do, always adhere to the three irrevocable truths regarding command.

1. Make developing command an ALL-the-time thing and when you choose a target, aim small- miss small!

2. Awareness itself is curative. Pay very close attention to your result on every throw.

3. The standard for command will only increase as you go up in levels so get accustomed with needing to steadily enhance your level of command.

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.