After my freshman year in college I was cut from my team. In my coach’s eyes I was not good enough to play and at that point I couldn’t really disagree. I was 5’11 and 150 pounds, throwing 75 MPH and I also had just a 2.0 GPA--barely enough to qualify.
If I wanted to continue to pursue my dreams I needed to find another place to play and had to make some changes. I was very blessed to find a walk-on opportunity, based solely on the fact that I had playing experience at the college level. I jumped at the chance, not realizing that I was about to make what proved to be the great advancement I would make during my four years of college. During the first semester on my new team I gained 10 mph on my fastball. Going from 75MPH to 85MPH. I went from a guy used only in relief situations to one of the top starters. I went from being a walk-on to having a scholarship and I did all of this in about 6 months’ time. If you’re wondering how I made such a drastic turnaround I’m about to tell you.
I Got Bigger
During these several months I gained 35 pounds. I did this by eating everything in sight, adding protein shakes to my daily routine, and I started working out with the serious goal of getting bigger. I started doing more research on my own and also had a better weight room coach. Up until this point I was taught that pitchers weren’t actually supposed to work out and if we did it was light weight and high reps to stay “toned.” The workouts that I started doing were low reps and high weight. In no time at all I started adding muscle to my frame.
I Used a Radar Gun
Using a radar gun helped me learn what I needed to do to throw harder. I remember one specific bullpen where the entire time, I was throwing upper70’s. My pitching coach told me towards the end of the throwing session that I was not using my lower half. The next pitch I fired my hips as hard as I could and the radar gun read 82. For the rest of the bullpen I focused on using my hips in my delivery and the result was the same—more velocity. Without the use of a radar gun I would have been guessing whether or not what I was changing was helping or hurting my mechanics. Radar guns shouldn’t be used every bullpen, in my opinion, but they are great tools to use occasionally to gage how your mechanical changes are affecting your velocity.
I Hurt My Shoulder
While at first glance this seems like a setback, I could not have made the improvements that I did without hurting my arm. When I got hurt I was sent to therapy. While there, I met a talented physical therapist who set me up with a baseball specific arm-strengthening program. I knew some of the exercises that he taught me but up until that point I had only used them to warmup before throwing. He opened my eyes that rehab exercises should also be used as prehab exercises to prevent future injuries.
I Learned to Throw a Change-up
I had always been a fastball and curveball kind of pitcher until my sophomore year in college. There are hundreds of different change-ups out there but the one that stuck with me was a split change that my teammate taught me.
No one throws the same exact change-up; there is always some sort of variation. It was important to me to take what I had been taught and develop a change-up that felt comfortable and that had decent movement. After I played around with the split change, I worked on it a great deal. Repetition is key--it won’t improve if it’s never thrown.
Everyone wants a quick fix that is going to make them a better pitcher, but that simply isn’t going to happen. The changes I made didn’t give me overnight success. I had to do so many different things that I had not done before and work at them consistently to achieve the results I wanted.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” If you don’t put in the hard work, you can never expect to get any better or to fulfill your dreams. You can be the most talented player on your team but it will be wasted if your time and effort aren’t given. Put in the hard work when no one is looking and eventually they won’t be able to stop staring.