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Tag Archives: hitter training

  • Athlete Has Elbow Pain, Calls FBR, Then Makes Team USA - by Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS

    The 2020 Vandy commit from Boca Raton, FL was a low to mid 80s lefty when I met him on September 23, 2016. He and his father made the 3-hour drive to the Florida Baseball Ranch® for a Precision Strike One Day One-On-One Evaluation and Training session. We conducted a full head-to-toe physical assessment and a video analysis of his movement pattern. We noted a few mobility issues and a slightly elevated distal humerus and crafted a customized multi-dimensional training plan. Nelson “bought in” to the process completely and diligently executed his program. After a few tweaks, a little work on his mobility, and some power building, it wasn’t long before he was touching 88 mph.

    Nelson and his Dad returned to the Ranch for a pre-season check up in December of 2016, upon which I noted that his mobility had improved significantly. His dad Ross Berkwich, a lifetime Yoga instructor, had seen to that! His video analysis showed that he was much more biomechanically efficient and essentially free from gross constraints. More importantly, he was pain free and ready to have a great year.

    He entered his high school season with high hopes and even higher expectations. Things seemed to be progressing well. Nelson was his usual dominant self on the mound. But then one cool night in April, during a routine district game a couple of weeks before the high school playoffs were to begin, Nelson’s elbow started to hurt. The next day it was worse, and even after several days of rest, he still couldn’t muster up a full effort throw without experiencing pain. The location of the pain was right over his UCL. Fearing the worst, local coaches and medical acquaintances advised him to seek a MRI.

    Instead, Nelson’s father called the Florida Baseball Ranch®.

    After discussing the young lefty’s playing and training activities over the last 4 months, his father sent me video of Nelson making a sub-maximal flat-ground throw in an unidentified hotel parking lot. It wasn’t optimal but it was the best we could do since we needed to act quickly. Nelson’s high school playoffs, summer season and a tryout with Team USA were approaching rapidly.

    When I reviewed the video, I noticed that during the past 4 months, which had consisted primarily of pitching in games, resting, and throwing bullpens, his former arm action disconnection — the elevated distal humerus — had returned. But, more importantly, he had become quad dominant in his first move, projecting him toward the first base on-deck circle. In an attempt to compensate, he opened his lead leg early but still found himself landing across his body. This prevented him from adequately rotating around his front hip, causing his deceleration pattern to become linear, which resulted in a valgus stress on the medial elbow when he reached full extension. Click here to read more about the dangers of a linear deceleration pattern. In my view, it wasn’t one thing causing his pain… it was probably a little of all of the above.

    I felt certain we could help him if we could improve his arm action and his lower half efficiency. But, how were we going to change his movement pattern during the season, especially if he couldn’t throw a baseball without pain?

    Enter the Durathro® Training Sock.


    I texted Nelson and asked him if he had his sock with him. He said he did so I told him to go back outside to the parking and make a few throws with a 7-ounce ball in the sock and let me know how it felt.
    Within 5 minutes I received his reply:
    “No Pain!”

    When I read Nelson’s text, I let out a loud, “Whoo hoo!!” followed by, “Yes!! We got this!!!”


    In our Start With The Pain system Nelson would be classified as a Level 2 intervention. This would typically involve a 25-day return to throwing program that would include sock throws, a connection ball, and a series of corrective throwing drills. As his movement pattern improved and his pain subsided, we would gradually wean him from the sock and the connection ball and then ramp up to full intent baseball throws.

    But, Nelson didn’t have 25 days. His high school playoffs were set to begin in less than 2 weeks and I knew he really wanted to be there for his team.

    Since Nelson had trained with us extensively and had demonstrated heightened body awareness for a player his age, I felt he would be able to make the necessary changes more quickly than most. I immediately went to work and wrote a 10-day return to throwing plan. He would spend the first 3 days performing 8 different corrective throwing drills in the training sock at 5 reps each (no baseball throws). Then each day he continue with his drills, shifting the ratio of sock throws to baseball throws to 4:1, 3:2, 2:3, 1:4, and 0:5. He would also taper his use of the connection ball until it was no longer needed. As always, Nelson’s pain would be our guide. He was instructed to keep the intensity of his throws below the pain threshold and to check in with me every day with a report on his progress. By the 10th day, Nelson was pain free with all his drill throws, so we decided to try the mound. He threw a 15-pitch bullpen without pain, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was ready to answer the bell.

    Nelson continued to have a fantastic year on the summer travel ball circuit. And then last week, I got a text from his dad who was elated to report that Nelson had touched 89 mph, made the final cut and been placed on the roster for 15u Team USA. At the time of the text Nelson was on a plane to Columbia with his teammates on a mission to claim the title of World Champions.

    We couldn’t be happier for Nelson and his family. This young man exemplifies the qualities of integrity, passion for the game, perseverance and the relentless pursuit of excellence we espouse. He is truly a “Ranch Guy.”

    Good luck in Columbia Nelson!

    From fearing a Tommy John injury to representing his country on the world’s biggest stage… what a ride that must have been for Nelson and his family!

    Proud of you dude!!!

    Now go bring home the Gold!!!

    Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • The Side Step Is Satan? by Randy Sullivan, MPT

    OK, admittedly that subject line is a little extreme, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    It seems like every kid that comes in to see me – especially the ones who have had lots of pitching lessons – does one thing in almost EXACTLY the same way.

    And frankly, it’s driving me crazy!!

    What is it you ask?

    It’s this wasteful, cookie cutter little side step windup. Or maybe I should call it a non-step. I mean it’s kind of a step without stepping.

    Look I’m not against it totally. I mean, I see a bunch of MLB guys doing it too. But does it have to be done by EVERY SINGLE AMATEUR PITCHER WHO EVER TOOK A PITCHING LESSON?

    Many of the guys that come to see me are looking for increased velocity. Yet when I start the video rolling, nearly all of them do the same thing.

    Tiny step to the side.
    Lift the leg.
    Pause at the top.
    Put the leg down.
    Try desperately to come up with some sort of momentum to home plate.
    And chuck it up there about 78 mph.

    It’s mind numbing!

    If they’re going to let us wind up, why not take advantage and gain some momentum toward the plate?

    I’ve seen guys get 2-3 mph bumps by simply starting with a bit of a back step and increasing their tempo to get moving toward home plate with some intent.

    Remember back in the day when big leaguers would take those awesome “I’m about to ram this white thing down your throat” massive windups?

    So where did this ridiculous little robotic, cloned side step come from?

    My guess is that it’s the result of well-meaning yet uninformed pitching coaches with incomplete understanding of motor learning attempting to achieve the ubiquitous yet ever elusive unicorn known as the “repeatable delivery”.
    (How’s that for unnecessary flowery language?)

    They’re trying to simplify the delivery to make it “repeatable.”

    Newsflash!

    There is no such thing as a “repeatable delivery!”

    Nikolai Bernstein killed that theory with his famous blacksmith experiment that first introduced what motor learning scientists call the degrees of freedom problem.

    Every pitch is an individual snowflake and will result in its own set of deviations or errors. Instead of trying to become mechanical repeaters, we should be trying to create world-class in-flight adjusters to all of those deviations.

    But in attempt to achieve the unachievable, pitching coaches across the country have fallen prey to the mistaken assumption that the key to consistency is to “simplify” a pitcher’s mechanics. “There’s too many moving parts in that delivery,” they say. So they start taking things away.

    But many times, when you simplify the delivery, you suppress athleticism and you stifle adjustability.

    One of the finest pitching coaches I’ve ever seen is Flint Wallace. He coached both of my older sons at Weatherford College, a JUCO outside of Ft. Worth, TX, where he churned out D1 and MLB drafted pitchers like butter from a milk cow. Flint is now the Director of Player Development at the Texas Baseball Ranch where hyper-individualization reigns. But there is one thing Flint would never let any of his pitchers do…

    THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO STEP TO THE SIDE!

    He always demanded that every pitcher’s first move in the windup was to step behind the rubber.

    So what’s the potential problem with the side step?

    Well, aside from robbing the athlete much needed freedom and tempo, it could promote a quad dominant first move toward home plate.

    When you step 90 degrees to the side of the rubber, you move your center of mass weight distribution toward the heel of the foot. Then you reverse direction and head forward toward the arm side dugout. To stop your momentum from taking you too far forward, you have to shift your weight to the ball of the foot. Some guys are able to accomplish this and make it back to a more neutral position with their weight distributed across the entire foot. But many guys just keep on going. When you do this, the knee slides forward of the toe forcing your quads to become more dominant than your glutes and projecting you toward the on deck circle.

    Now your body knows it can’t throw the ball to the on deck circle so you have 3 choices:

    1. You can plant your lead foot across your body and throw hook shots toward home plate.
    2. You can fight your way back to the center line, a move that presents itself as some sort of disconnection – most commonly a lead leg opening early, a glove side pull, or an abrupt postural change.
    3. You can push with your quads and leap off the rubber, immediately stoping your trail hip rotation and forcing you onto your lead leg prematurely and into an early launch.

    None of these are good options.

    So here’s the deal.

    I’m not saying you have to take a back step, but let’s at least take it for a spin. Be willing to be a little different for a change.

    Step back, or maybe even at a 45-degree angle, gain some momentum and see what happens. It might be a little uncomfortable at first. And of course, if it hurts you should bag it and move on. But I’m guessing you might be surprised at the results.


    We still have some spots available for our Elite Performer’s Boot Camp July 15/16.

    Add some velo. We just had 185th 90 mph guy… you could be next.

    Solve your arm pain. We literally just wrote the book on arm pain management. It’s call Start With The Pain

    When you attend an Elite Performer’s Boot Camp, you’ll get a personalized plan to get you on track for greatness beyond your wildest imagination.

    CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE! 

    See you at The Ranch

    Randy Sullivan, MPT

    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

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