Late Life: How Chien-Ming Wang Made It Back To The Big Leagues (Part 2 Of 3)
This is part 2 of a 3 part series. To read part 1, CLICK HERE
We earmarked the first 4 weeks for ability development – power building, mobility training, cleaning up his movement pattern and pushing velocity once per week. His throwing plan (6 days per week) included twice-weekly long toss, precision drill work, and one velo push day per week. Every aspect of his training plan during this phase — from warmup to throwing program, to weight training, scapular stability, training, yoga, and plyometrics would be coordinated across all disciplines and would be designed to build power. Recovery would involve physical modalities such as Marc Pro electrical stimulation, and manual therapy in our physical therapy clinic.
During the second phase (4 weeks in duration) we would shift to a 50-50 mix of ability and skill. Each week, one on of his long-toss sessions would be traded for bullpen session of graduated volume. His multidisciplinary workouts were adjusted accordingly to match the intent of the phase.
The final 4 weeks would be dedicated to refining his skill by completing 2 bullpens 60-75 pitch bullpen sessions per week, with recovery and drill work in between.
The plan was organized into a comprehensive document and posted in a 3 ring binder and included a spreadsheet with daily instructions across every component part. Chien kept a copy with him, and our staff used it to guide his daily training and to document his progress.
On his first velo push day his initial throw was 82 mph and after 15 max effort throws he topped out at 84 mph.
He seemed flustered. “84?” he asked. I could sense his concern. We were supposed to be increasing his velocity, but he appeared to be going backward.
I assured him that his body would respond if he would just stay the course and stick to the plan.
Then I prayed we were right.
Chien went home to Taiwan for 3 weeks in late December.
He took his notebook with him and executed his plan every day. We compiled a series of videos to remind him of the exercises and drills he should be using. He came back to The Ranch on Jan 11th,and on Jan 14thhe topped out at 87 mph.
I was concerned that at this pace he wouldn’t be throwing hard enough by February to impress anyone, but Coach Wolforth saw it differently. He responded to my report via text.
“Perfect. If he’s 87 mph indoors with sneakers on a temporary mound, he’ll be right around 90-93 when the lights go on in a real game.”
A week later, on January 21stwe checked his velo again.
He started the morning at 85 mph and after about 10 throws had made no progress. A minor leaguer and 2 college guys were training that day, so I had an idea. Maybe Chien needed the added adrenaline of competition to push him through his barriers. So I asked the 3 young men to join Chien in a wager. The loser of the velo-off would have to buy lunch.
As we entered the final 3 weeks, I arranged for Chien to throw to live hitters during an intrasquad at Durant high school, where my eldest son is the pitching coach and my youngest son a senior catcher. On the first pitch of intrasquad, the Durant shortstop, Johnny Herman, who has a career home run total of zero, took Chien deep.
A rather inauspicious start to say the least…
Chien stood on the mound with his arms open and smiled as Johnny rounded the bases having achieved the dream of hitting a homer off of a big league pitcher.
“In spring training simulated game, no one ever swing at the first pitch.” Chien would later comment.
During the last week of January, Coach Wolforth returned to Florida for another 3-day stint, observing and working with Chien. I caught a bullpen for him as Ron reviewed his plan, guided him through some strategies for attacking hitters, and helped him developed a process for regaining the sinker if it disappeared unexpectedly. His video analysis revealed improvement on all 3 key components of his delivery.
Two weeks before his report date we backed off on significantly on the intensity and volume of his workouts. During this time we focused on physical therapy modalities, manual therapy, and restorative functional movement. He left with high hopes and well wishes from everyone on our staff.
It wasn’t long before Chien became the talk of the town in Surprise, AZ with eye-popping velocities reaching 96.7 mph
With characteristic humility and class, Chien acknowledged his work at The Ranch in the off-season as the key to his new success. The day he mentioned it to reporters, the entire country of Taiwan visited and crashed our website. We doubled the bandwidth and after his next outing, it crashed again.
Seems our guy Chien-Ming Wang is a kind of a big deal in his home country.
Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened next.
Spoiler alert: he made the team (but you already knew that).
And, that’s when we encountered an emergency situation.
Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch