This post is dedicated to a new product in the Oates Specialties lineup: the TAP Baseball Training Sock. Before I discuss how the Training Sock can be used and its benefits, it is probably best to describe its genesis. The Training Sock was developed under the guidance of Ron Wolforth and Randy Sullivan, as part of a modified, and improved, ball hold program.

For those of you not familiar with weighted ball holds, they have been touted and heavily promoted by Tom House and his group, the National Pitching Association. House claims that studying the biomechanics of a tennis player’s serve helped him develop the hold program. Notably, tennis players do not have shoulder injuries despite their overhead serving motion. A significant difference between a tennis player and baseball player’s overhand motion is that the tennis player holds on to the racket throughout the serving motion while the baseball player releases the ball during his throwing motion. Therefore, House had his athletes perform their throwing motion without ever releasing the weighted ball in their hand.

Of course, this concept is not new. Those of you who have followed Coach Wolforth and the Texas Baseball Ranch know that deceleration training has become a focal point in the last few years. This emphasis began after Dr. Mike Marshall presented at the Texas Baseball Ranch’s Elite Coaches Bootcamp, whereby Dr. Marshall discussed the emphasis his pitchers put on pronation and the deceleration of the arm. Essentially, the wrist weight exercises that Dr. Marshall’s athletes have been performing for years, and that the Texas Baseball Ranch athletes have adopted, have the same concept as weighted ball holds.

The benefits of both the weighted ball holds and the TAP Wrist Weight exercises are that they help strengthen the back of the shoulder—often referred to as the decelerators. This is incredibly important for numerous reasons. The decelerators need to be trained and strengthened in order to help protect the arm from injury. But another benefit of training the decelerators is that it will actually help improve velocity and the acceleration of the arm. The body’s primary concern is self-preservation and, as such, the body will always attempt to protect itself from injury. One example of this concept is that the body will not allow the arm to accelerate any greater than it believes it can decelerate. Therefore, even if you have strong, powerful accelerators, they will be constrained by weak, inferior decelerators, as the body will not allow acceleration to the greatest extent possible due to the inability to decelerate. But if these decelerators are strengthened, the body will allow the accelerators to generate even more arm speed.

The weighted ball holds were thought to take the wrist weights and make them more game like, as you could perform the full throwing motion while continuing to focus on deceleration. Unfortunately, the weighted ball holds still have some deficiencies. The main issue being that a pitcher performing weighted ball holds does not truly replicate the throwing motion that he has when actually throwing a baseball. The holds create some disconnects in the pitcher’s movement patterns. The most obvious disconnect is that a pitcher performing holds does not achieve any external rotation of the arm, which is the whip-like lay back of the arm that helps to generate velocity.

Instead, the mechanics resemble a more linear pushing action that if used to throw a baseball would result in generating very little velocity. For those of you familiar with the towel drills, this is a similar problem to the mechanics resulting from that drill. The reason for this goes back to the philosophy I mentioned earlier: the body will only allow for acceleration to the extent it feels that it can decelerate. If the brain realizes it has a weighted ball in its hand and that the arm will need to decelerate with the ball in its hand, the body will want to protect itself by not allowing as much acceleration, and not allow the arm to become whip-like by laying back into external rotation. Further, the goal of the holds is far different than the goal when throwing a baseball, and therefore the body goes about accomplishing that goal in a different way, which creates the disconnect in mechanics.

This is where the Oates Specialties TAP Baseball Training Sock comes into the picture. Coach Wolforth and Coach Sullivan understood that the wrist weight exercises created by Dr. Marshall are incredible tools to train pitchers decelerators. The wrist weight exercises train for external rotation of the arm and the forceful whip of coming out of external rotation and into pronation. But the wrist weight exercises do not exactly mirror a pitcher’s throwing motion. So the thought was to create a drill that can allow for decleration training with the benefits of the wrist weight exercises while training the sport specific movements of the throwing motion. The result was the Baseball Training Sock.

The Baseball Training Sock is made of heavy weight fabric that resembles a bag and has finger loops located on the inside of the bag for the athlete to hold onto with his pinky and ring finger in order to secure the bag. The pitcher will then grip a weighted ball with his ordinary grip inside the bag. The pitcher then uses the Velcro strap on the Baseball Training Sock to secure it to his arm. Now all the pitcher has to do is throw the ball with his normal throwing motion and release the ball as he would with a normal throw. At release, the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and is captured in the bag. This allows a pitcher to perform a full throwing motion with ball release so that his mechanics are game-like, including external rotation of the arm, yet it still forces the pitcher to decelerate his arm with the extra weight of the weighted ball, as it is still in the bag anchored to the pitcher’s arm.

Coach Sullivan’s athletes at his training facility, the ARMory, have seen impressive results using the Baseball Training Sock. Check out this video Coach Sullivan made regarding the TAP Baseball Training Sock.

The Baseball Training Sock is a great tool to help strengthen and train the muscles involved in the deceleration process while still enabling the pitcher to use the same mechanics as when he is actually throwing during a game. I believe the Baseball Training Sock is a must have for every baseball athlete and should become an integral part of his training regimen if that athlete hopes to maintain a healthy and durable arm.

Until next time,

Brian Oates