Can Everyone Train and Reach 90 m.p.h.?
Those of you who are familiar with the Texas Baseball Ranch know the success it has had helping athletes make incredible gains in velocity—of course, Oates Specialties equipment aids these athletes in reaching their goals. Coach Ron Wolforth has adopted a mantra whereby he believes that every single athlete that walks through the Texas Baseball Ranch’s doors (actually, it’s a gate) can reach the 90 mile-per-hour threshold. This is quite the opposite from the old world baseball people that believe you either have it or you don’t—essentially, you either have been blessed with the genetics to throw harder than the rest of society or you haven't. I (obviously) think that the latter thought process is simply a coping mechanism as a way for people to try and make up for their shortcomings—whether it’s a coach that can’t help his players increase their velocities or a player who isn’t willing to work hard enough or isn’t willing to learn enough in order to improve his velocity.
But I think that Coach Wolforth’s belief that every athlete can eventually hit 90 miles per hour should be looked at a little closer. Is that really true? Do I really believe that? The answer for me is both yes and no. Let me explain. My take is that there is a base level of athleticism that a player must have in order to be able to organize his body in such a way to produce a 90 miles per hour fastball. But here’s the rub—I think that base level is actually quite low. For example, if you take a computer nerd who is 16 years old and has never played any sport or competed in any athletic endeavor, he will likely be unable to ever throw 90 miles per hour. He simply lacks the base level of athletism.
On the other hand, an athlete who has been playing baseball for years—and has generally developed as an athlete—should be able to throw 90 miles per hour. When I hear Coach Wolforth sharing his belief that all athletes can touch 90 mph, he is generally saying this to a group of athletes at the Texas Baseball Ranch who are there to train and learn. These athletes—nearly every single one of them—have the base level of athleticism to accomplish the feat of throwing a baseball 90 mph, even though the majority of them are currently far below that threshold.
A similar point is made in Malcolm Gladwell’s tremendous book Outliers, which I highly recommend. In Outliers, Gladwell is making a point about people’s IQs. Gladwell states that the relationship between a person’s success and their IQ only works up to a point. For perspective, people with an IQ below 70 are considered mentally disabled, a score of 100 is average, an IQ slightly higher than that is needed to handle college, and research demonstrates that an individual generally needs an IQ of at least 115 to get into and succeed in a reasonably competitive graduate program. But Gladwell points out that once you reach an IQ of approximately 120, every IQ point above that doesn’t turn into any measurable real-world advantage. For example, Einstein had an IQ of 150, yet there are individuals today who have IQs of 195—30 percent higher than Einstein—who have achieved much less and are not thought of as the model of genius because they achieved far less than Einstein.
Gladwell then turns this thought process into a sport’s analogy. To have a chance at playing professional basketball, you must be at least a certain height. You have virtually no shot if you are only five foot six inches, regardless of your skill. You need to be at least six foot or six one in order to have a realistic chance. Of course, being six three is even more ideal than six one, and being six eight is even better than any of the previous heights. But we all know basketball players who are six foot eight that are awful, meanwhile Allen Iverson was an NBA MVP at six foot in height. In sum, a basketball player only has to be tall enough before other factors come in to play.
Translating this philosophy back to baseball, the same holds true. Baseball is unique in that unlike many other sports (e.g. football and basketball) size does not matter nearly as much. Pitchers especially come in all shapes and sizes. Just look at last week’s baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Tiny little Pedro Martinez was sitting next to taller than life Randy Johnson. Yet both had incredible success leading to their induction in the hall of fame. So what is the key to throwing 90 mph? In my opinion and experience, it is a combination of athleticism, determination, and proper movement patterns. Of these three, athleticism is by far the most difficult to teach. It is the one that is the closest to being an innate, God-given ability.
Yet, I know without a shadow of a doubt that athleticism can be greatly improved and average athletes can become superior athletes with the proper training and work. But I do think there is some line whereby a person lacks athleticism to a degree that they are unlikely to ever be able to become truly athletic, which limits that person’s ability to accomplish feats such as throwing 90 mph. Hence, a person simply needs to be athletic enough, and any athleticism over that amount can accomplish the feat of throwing 90 mph.
That line of athleticism is quite low though. Oates Specialties equipment—and the workouts at the Texas Baseball Ranch—are designed to increase athleticism. The key is to train the ATP energy system, which is the body’s energy system for fast, explosive movements, like throwing a baseball. Too many baseball players have never targeted this energy system. Instead, they have run poles, long distance, or simply spent time in weight rooms doing traditional lifts such as bench press and squats. These are the athletes who are currently throwing 75 to 85 miles per hour, yet with specific focus on training the ATP energy system, a focus on the proper movement patters with equipment such as the Connection Ball, and the right work ethic, these athletes can ABSOLUTELY increase their velocity to 90 m.p.h.
So my take is this. If you are a serious baseball player, one who has put in the work over the years and have at least average coordination, speed, and ability, you can absolutely accomplish the feat of throwing 90 mph. This is not to say that it is going to be an easy process. Far from it. You will have to possess an incredible amount of grit and determination in order to reach that goal. But it is possible.
In sum, my take is that the people who are serious ballplayers that have worked hard and are willing to continue working hard can reach the 90 mph barrier. I have witnessed athletes who are considered “average” do it time and time again. I’ll end with a phrase that my Dad has become quite fond of and I think aptly applies to this topic. “You can do it!”
Until next time,