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The Next Level

This seems to be where everyone wants to be, and it’s where every coach and trainer promises they can take you. But the next level can mean have different meanings to different guys.

For some of our Ranch students “the next level” means playing division 1 college baseball and being drafted to play in the pros. For others “the next level” is cracking the starting rotation on their high school team, or making a travelball or little league allstar team. We had one 25-year-old client who had never pitched or played organized baseball of any kind. His “next level” was simply the self-fulfillment of knowing he could throw a baseball 80 mph. It was important to him. Therefore, it was important to us.

No one plays baseball forever.

It’s not what you would call a lifetime sport.

My good friend Carl Kelley is the owner of an auto sales business his family has been operating since 1942. He reared two sons who played professional baseball and now his grandsons are on a similar path. He continually stresses to them that the most important thing is to push yourself as far as you can and to milk the game for every bit of joy you can. Because as he puts it, “We all turn into beer league softball players eventually.”

beerleagueThe point is that when you finally walk away from the game (and everyone will), you want to leave on your own terms knowing that you took it as far as you possibly could. You want to walk away with no regrets. You never want to be that 40-year-old guy in the bar who sits around talking about how good he could have been if only…. I have been a baseball coach and a physical therapist for over 20 years and in my experience, many pitchers leave the game before they should, because they don’t get the opportunity to advance to their “next level”. And that failure can be attributed to 3 major factors.

The top three reasons pitchers don’t get the opportunity to advance to the next level are

  • (1) lack of velocity
  • (2) lack of command
  • (3) lack of durability

1)Lack of Velocity

You don’t throw hard enough!

This is the number one reason pitchers don’t advance. Pro scouts and college recruiters are in love with the radar gun. If you are a right handed high radar-gunschool pitcher and don’t throw harder that 90mph, you probably won’t be offered a division 1 scholarship. If you’re a lefty, you get about a 2-3 mph break on that number. I don’t care how good your secondary stuff is, how pinpoint your command is, or how many high school or travelball games you win, if you don’t throw 90 you’re probably not going to get the opportunity to play at the next level.

The reason is simple: the recruiters and scouts you see at travelball tournaments and high school games are not the ultimate decision makers in the process. Their motives for recommending a pitcher to their head coach, scouting director or general manager are two fold. They want to improve their team, but they also want to keep their jobs. If they recommend a guy throwing in the 90s and the guy flops at the next level, the bosses will blame the player…”He had talent, but he didn’t have the makeup.” If they recommend a guy throwing in the low 80s, and he flops, management will ask the recruiter or scout why they’re bringing in guys with such obvious lack of talent. And then they get fired. We all know that velocity alone doesn’t win games, but you must gain and show velocity numbers 3-5 miles per hour greater than your peers if you want the opportunity to play at the next level.

You can ignore it, or you can go get it.IMG_2943

At The Florida Baseball Ranch velocity development is one of the easiest things we do. And frankly, we’re very good at it.  So how do we do it? It’s about understanding how humans acquire and improve motor skills.

The Florida Baseball Ranch began as an extension of my Physical Therapy practice. Our methods are all based in science and are heavily influenced by what we know from rehabilitation of the various systems of the body. The same principles we use to teach a stroke victim or a Parkinson’s patient to learn to walk, or to get off of a toilet independently apply to teaching pitchers how to develop the most efficient movement patterns for optimum performance. Traditional coaching tends to be weighted toward saturation of the athlete with verbal/cognitive cues. However, we know through rehabilitation science that the motorcrazycoach domain is not most effectively accessed through cognitive input.

Words don’t help you learn a motor skill like pitching. In fact, the words get in the way. Verbal cues often create kinesthetic confusion and inhibit the free flow of movement. Our athletes use guided discovery to allow their amazingly smart bodies to figure out the best way for them to get it done. They develop their own styles. There are no choreographed movements or cookie cutter approaches.

Our pitchers are better when we give them the goal, provide objective feedback and let their bodies figure it out. Obviously, there are certain parameters of safety that all pitching movement patterns must adhere to, however there are lots of degrees of freedom within those boundaries. Every pitcher entering our facility is walking around with 2-3 mph they are not using. Those first 3 mph are gained rapidly through improvement of the pitcher’s movement pattern (what some people call “mechanics”). The second 3-5 mph are the product of building a bigger and faster motor—a motor specific to the demands of the pitching movement. And we are masters at developing workout protocols that specifically target the neuromuscular system as it is used in the pitching motion.

Pitching requires a complex movements that involves a blend of 3 different anatomical planes and most of it is done on one leg. If you want to accelerate your development, your strength and conditioning program needs to mimic these movements as closely as possible, but it needs to be laced with enough variability and load to "panic" your neuromuscular system into adaptation. We've studied this phenomenon for years and we've developed a process to develop individualized training plans that produce rapid improvement that transfers to the field.

If you want to see our leading edge training methods in action, CLICK HERE to learn more about one of our Elite Performers Boot Camps.

2) Lack of Command

You can’t throw enough strikes!

The second reason pitchers don’t get the opportunity to play at the next level is that they simply can’t make the ball go where they want it to go or move like they want it to move.

Lot's of people think that command is about have a "repeatable delivery". Well, the research tells us that a repeatable delivery is a unicorn. It does not exist. Every single pitch you make will be slightly different from any other. The key to command is to develop the ability to subconsciously adjust to every subtle deviation you make. 

If elite command is actually about adjustability, variability in your training will enhance your ability to make those adjustments without thinking. 

That said, developing elite level command is an "every day", "every pitch" thing that requires banging out all the deliberate practice repetitions necessary to improve your skill. Deliberate practice is the kind that takes you just beyond your current level. It pushes your envelope to the edge over and over again. But within that deliberate practice, you must vary the stimulus enough to train your body to subconsciously adjust to every possible route it decides to take on that pitch. It’s about making positive reaches to stretch the limit of your ability and then repeating it until you become a master.

At least twice per week, we work on fastball command. Our horizontal command days involve pitchers learning to move the ball laterally in the strike zone from pitch to pitch. On vertical command days they move the ball up and down in the zone, and on diagonal command days the alternate from up and in to down and away and vice versa. To measure our performance, we use  a device called an Advanced Command Trainer. It's is a merciless 17”wide, 17” high pad designed to replicate the major league strike zone. Our more advanced clients train on this device once or twice per week.

Fastball command has received a lot of attention over the past few years, but we believe offspeed command to be of equal or more importance. To throw an offspeed pitch for a strike, a pitcher must be completely connected and in sync with his mechanics. At The Florida Baseball Ranch, our pitchers work on offspeed command constantly. 

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We use a  system called Rapsodo to help our athletes understand their spin rates and the shape and movement of all their pitches. The Rapsodo provides excellent immediate feed back that allows our students to modify and improve pitch spin and shape in seconds.

Command is more than just trying to throwing strikes. Excellent command is the product of hours of practice to develop a feel for how to locate any pitch anywhere you want to go and how to make it move how you want it to move. 

At The Florida Baseball Ranch, we combine sophisticated, high-tech training tools with good old-fashioned, blue collar hard work to help our players take their game to levels they could have never imagined.

We'd be honored to share that highly successful formula with you!. All you need to do is call us at 866-787-4533 (866-STRIKE3)

3) Lack of Durability

You can’t play because you’re always hurt!

The final reason pitcher’s miss their opportunity to advance is lack of durability.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.21.24 PM

Let’s be clear. There will always be a risk of injury among pitchers. The only safe pitch count is zero.

But many times, when a pitcher gets hurt, the knee jerk reaction is to blame a coach or parent for overusing him. Many well-respected baseball gurus ascribe to the idea that there are a finite number of pitches in every arm. Use up all your bullets and you’ll break down. Coaches with this philosophy advocate rest and avoidance of pitching for extended periods of time to save those bullets. If your ability is below that of your peer group, too bad... you lost the genetic lottery. 

While we understand that workload is sometimes a contributor to injury, we also believe it is being given far too much  credit. . We've all seen dozens of pitchers who have been coddled and babied and were still injured. That's because the complex problem of arm pain or injury is far more complicated than just counting pitches.

HOW you throw (your biomechanical movement patterns), how prepared and conditioned you are to throw, the physical constraints you possess, your recovery plan and your sleep, hydration, and nutrition habits are also major factors in reducing your risk of injury.

We literally "wrote the book" on arm pain management and injury risk reduction. SWTP final book cover

At The Florida Baseball Ranch, we start with the pain. 

But for us, pain is neither good nor bad. It is simply information--a beacon that lights the way to dysfunction. If you tell us where you hurt, we'll help you identify all the possible physical and biomechanical constraints that could be contributing to that pain. 

phone picWe developed an app for your phone to share that information with you.

Go to your App store on your phone and search "Arm Pain Assassin" I think you'll find it an invaluable tool.

As stated earlier, The Florida Baseball Ranch was born as an extension of my physical therapy practice. logo Screen ShotSeveral of our initial clients were pitchers who were recovering from injury. I realized that although they had recovered from their injuries or surgeries, the movement patterns they exhibited were predisposing them to repeat the same problems. If they were to recover completely and return to optimal long-term performance, we would need to change the way they threw. This meant I would have to develop a means for evaluating them that was beyond the borders of physical therapy, and traditional pitching instruction.  Employing a unique combination of medical and baseball skills, I developed The Baseball Ranch Assessment Tool. Each of our clients receives this evaluation on the first day of enrollment and every 60 days after that. Phase 1 of the assessment includes and orthopedic physical screen. We check for typical throwing athlete injuries such as rotator cuff impingement/tears, labrum tears, UCL (Tommy John ligament) insufficiencies. We test shoulder mobility, hip mobility, ankle mobility, thoracic mobility, lumbar stability, and core strength. Then we perform a portion of  Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen to test the athlete’s ability to maintain core posture and stability throughout a series of functional movements. And finally, we perform a high-speed video analysis to examine 18-21 markers to identified significant opportunities for development of the pitcher’s movement pattern.

Then we gather all the information and craft a multi-dimensional training plan customized just for you. From there, it's a matter of executing your plan -- undergirded with all the leading edge motor learning principles we can deploy -- and watching the magic happen...

And it happens all the time.

If you can't make it to one of our incredible 2-day weekend camps, consider calling to schedule a Precision Strike 1-day Evaluation and Training Session (866-787-4533)

When you consider the number of guys who pitch, catastrophic injuries are rare. We always want to be vigilant in reducing the risk of catastrophic injury. However, of equal importance is the training time lost when you experience a minor tweak. If you have to be on the shelf for 6 weeks because of injury, you’ll deny yourself training time you can’t afford to lose.

But injury isn’t the only factor in durability. Recovery is also vital.

In the major leagues, a pitcher throws every 5th day. In college and high school, he toes the hill every 7 days. If you want to be great, you need to have your best stuff available every time you take the mound. If it takes you 10 days to completely recover from an outing, you’ll frequently find yourself out there with less than your best. That is a recipe for disaster. If you can’t answer the bell with your best stuff, you’ll find your coaches pitching you less and less, and soon you’ll be denied the opportunity to advance to the next level. At The Florida Baseball Ranch, we execute a world-class arm care and recovery plan after every session. We call it arm insurance. It’s key to long-term health and short-term performance.

Velocity, Command, and Durability

Those are the 3 main reason’s pitchers are denied the opportunity to play at the next level. At The Florida Baseball Ranch, we have become world-class specialists at developing all three.

Our results are indisputable.

Now it’s up to you.

IMPORTANT LINKS

SOLVE YOUR ARM PAIN!!

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In our practice, pain is neither good nor bad. It's merely information - a beacon that lights the way to dysfunction. That dysfunction can be either biomechanical or physical. That's why we developed the arm pain app and making it free to the public. Tell us where you hurt and we will tell you the possible contributors to your arm pain." - Randy Sullivan, MPT AKA "The Arm Pain Assassin" We're excited to release this app and we hope you are too! Don't forget to add your email below and we will be sure to let you know as soon as it's available.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY TODAY

 

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  • Start with The Pain
  • Map Your Pain Via our Free App
  • For Various Types of Shoulder Pain
  • For Various Types of Elbow Pain
  • Loads of Free Instruction & Explanation Videos
  • Apple Compatible
  • Android Compatible

About Us

We are among the world leaders in developing high-level throwers while threading the needle perfectly between building arm strength and maintaining health and durability. We are the nation’s top facility for managing arm pain, reducing injury risk, and rehabilitating injured throwing athletes.

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