Archive for Pitching

Change-Up Development

As a young player with an over-powering fastball, why would you throw a Change-Up in a game? You would be throwing it right into the hitters bat speed and be giving him a better chance of getting a hit so it wouldn’t make any sense…RIGHT??

This is a trap, one that I fell into as a young player also. I worked on one in practice and remember having a decent one, but didn’t throw it often in games for the reason stated above. After I graduated HS, and moved on in Baseball, it became very apparent that my fastball wasn’t over powering anymore! So began the process of trying to find a change up that was comfortable in my hand, I could command and I had confidence in to throw in any count. This proved to not be an easy task as it took roughly 6-7 years to finally perfect it.

Fast forward to now, all young pitchers I work with, 9 years old to college, Change-Up Development is a part of each session and practice. Some make quick strides while others take a little longer. In season sessions always start with discussion about how their last game went. We discuss command, how they did with first pitch strikes, how many Change-Ups they threw with confidence and command, among other things. Most of the answers I get are either “None” or “A few.” When I ask why so few, the answers are usually either “They weren’t on my Fastball” or “I was behind in the count too much.”

Like I said, I fell into this same trap as a youth and found it difficult to overcome later in my baseball career. Now the question is, “How do we throw more in a game?” Communication and a belief in and commitment to development. The player and parents need to relay this message to their coach. The goal is to throw 2-3 maybe even 4 Change-Ups per inning (assuming they throw 15 pitches an inning). Pick pre determined counts that they will throw them in. Maybe an 0-0 count second time through the line up. Maybe you decide that each time, in a certain inning, they will throw a Change-Up every time they throw a strike with the first pitch. Maybe every time they get into a 1-1 count they throw a Change-Up. There are many options you can choose but the point is, there needs to be a plan. If you just say before the game starts that you want them to throw 10 change ups in a game, but lack a plan for how to make those 10 happen, the odds are that when that game is over, they will have not accomplished that goal.

Developing a Change-Up should be a high priority for all youth pitchers who have goals of playing beyond youth baseball. I know we are out there pitching to help our team win but we also need to keep in mind what our long term goals are. In a perfect world, the player, parents and coaches are all on the same page with this and work together to help our Dudes prepare for their future.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Arm Care

Arm Care has become a hot topic. With more and more information out there on why and how kids are getting hurt, why too many never get a chance reach their full potential, many are looking for answers. Looking for ways to help their young ones maybe take better care of their arms. Here are a few ideas for you…

1) Let’s start with icing. When I was young (I’m nearly 40 now), we did it. When I was a young professional, everyone did it. But as the years went on we saw less and less of it. More information came out that it actually slowed the healing process and many, if not all, organizations have moved towards using different arm care methods and exercises to encourage new blood flow to the areas of the arm that were just worked, while pitching, to speed up the recovery and strengthen those areas. Icing is now seen more of something you do with an injury. For me personally, I stopped icing around year 7 of my career and never used it during the last 7 unless I had a little tendonitis flair up. With that said, if a player feels it helps them, then by all means let them ice. It definitely won’t hurt them.

2) Resistance Bands. There are multiple products out there. Many ideas and routines on how to use them. We use the Jaeger J-Bands with our students and have implemented their routine as a warm up and a cool down for their upper body, before and after throwing. It is a simple routine which can be completed within about 5 minutes. It’s effective but as with anything, attention to detail is necessary. You can find the Jaeger J-Bands at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods, on their website or in our store.

Here is the J-Band Routine…

Here is the routine I used as a player…

3) Arm Circles. Another simple and effective way to encourage blood flow. These can be done during your warm ups and quickly done before they go home. Have them hold a ball or two in each hand and follow a simple routine. Here’s an example…
20-25 small arm circles forwards
20-25 small arm circles backwards
15 big arm circles forwards (slow)
15 big arm circles backwards (slow)
20-25 small up downs (think arms out to the sides flapping like wings)
15 double 90’s (forearm up at a 90 degree angle. Shoulder to elbow parallel to the ground/flat with elbow to hand up to the sky. Move hand down, forwards, to parallel and then up again.)
15 reverse flies (while bent over with back flat, move hands up to parallel with shoulders and back down.)
That’s a simple routine that will encourage blood flow and should be easy to implement into any routine. They will definitely feel the burn with this routine.

4) Proper rest. Rest may be the most vital part to recovery. Establish and implement rest periods for pitches thrown. There are multiple pitch count charts/guidelines out there. Some conservative, like ours, and then others that allow young arms to be used for upwards of 250 pitches in a four day period. Our opinion is with how many more games our pre-pubescent arms are playing these days, why wouldn’t you be a little more careful? While most pitch count charts call for days rest for pitches thrown, there are also numbers out there for hours of rest per pitches thrown. For example, if a player threw 25 pitches, they shouldn’t pitch again until 25 hours later, or the next day. If a player threw 100 pitches, they need 100 hours to recover and prepare for their next outing. That comes out giving that arm at least 4 days of rest. Both kinds of charts mean the same thing and are there for the same purpose, to make sure you have a plan for recovery.

5) Listen to those arms. If they are feeling the effects of dead arm, shut it down for at least 24 hours. If you see body language telling you that something is not right, find out what is going on. Ignoring signs because you need that arm or because this is a “big” game is a BIG mistake. Never forget this is youth baseball. These kids don’t get paid to play and youth coaches don’t get paid to win.

6) Research and educate. I encourage you to take some time to read up on this topic. Like I mentioned there is a ton of information out there and it has become a topic which should not be ignored. To be ignorant on this topic in this generation is inexcusable especially if you are a family that is neck deep in the world of 50+ games every season as a pre-teen.

We could get a lot deeper into this topic but this should give you a few good ideas. Listen, learn and understand right from wrong. Count pitches and count innings. Establish routines and communicate with your players coach. Don’t let your child become victim to arm abuse. The biggest regrets from those who have a player who has been injured from over use are…They wish they had learned more, they wish they were more involved up and they wish they hadn’t allowed it to happen.

Take care of and respect those arms!

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


You threw how many pitches?!

When your arm is prepared and conditioned for it, absolutely! When you haven’t pitched competitively in a game much recently because of little to no opportunity relating to too many arms on the team, poor weather conditions canceling games or because the coach is only throwing the same few arms every week, there’s no way your arm was ready for that many pitches.

I absolutely believe pitch count guidelines need to be in place to protect the arms from the adults and for there to be a system in place to help the inexperienced manage, protect and build arms. Truth is arms aren’t prepared to throw, weekly bullpens don’t happen, daily throwing routines aren’t established, arm health is ignored while arm abuse is rampant.

Take a HS pitcher who has pitched no more than a scattered handful of innings over a 2 week period. In any of those appearances, he has thrown no more than 40 pitches with that highest pitch count outing happening at the beginning of that 2 week stretch. As those weeks went on, if his pitch count number didn’t climb each outing, then his arm will remain conditioned for 40-50 pitches. That arm is not ready for 70-80-90-100+ pitches!! When arms are pushed past what they are prepared for, the risk of injury sky rockets for not just that outing but for the weeks following too.

What happens too often out there though is “coach” finds himself in a jam because he has either run out of arms because he hasn’t developed and prepared more, he cares more about winning that game than respecting that kids arm or he sees his leagues, tournaments or states pitch count guidelines and all he knows is the kids age and what it says his max pitch count number is so he decides to ride that arm until it reaches that number…or worst of all, ALL OF THE ABOVE!! Uncle!!

Pitch count guidelines are great but a small step. Accountability, education for players, parents and coaches and A LOT more detail to these guidelines are needed. There needs to be a whole segment within these guidelines relating to arm conditioning and how to manage time between outings, a progressional chart that details out pitch count limits for those first few outings of the year and information on what happens to the arm when too much time off from competitive pitches is taken between appearances.

If you were to go out and run 5 miles once every 2 weeks (14 days apart) and only jog a lap a couple times between, that 5 mile run is going to be really hard on your body and put it in a state of fatigue for much longer during those days following where if you had trained better between, ran another 5 miles on day 7 with 2 miles runs on days 4 and 11, your recovery time would be much more normal.

We MUST get smarter! We MUST learn right from wrong! WE MUST STOP THE ARM ABUSE!! These kids aren’t hurting themselves, we are!!

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Released

“The manager wants to see you. Please come with me…”

“We’re letting you go.” “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.” “The trainer will have your plane ticket.” “Good luck.”

The meeting we all hear about. The words you dread one day hearing. You try not to think about it but it’s a true reality in professional baseball. Most will hear these words at some point in their career with a majority hearing it much sooner than they had ever hoped.

For me personally it happened 3 times.

The first time came in my 7th season. It was my first year as a free agent. After spending my first 6 seasons in the Cubs organization, I signed with the Astros. My big league camp performance left much to be desired with my minor league appearances being very average too. With three days left in camp, I received the message. “We’re letting you go.”

With the support of a local area scout for the Rockies, I found myself in their AAA clubhouse on opening day. For those that know me well, they know I feel everything happens for a reason. That day I found myself in front of the pitching coach who would later help change my career, Bob McClure. Without this opportunity handed to me, I honestly feel my career would have soon been over and who knows where I would be today.

I went on to have possibly the best season of my career to date while pitching it what many refer to as the best hitters ballpark in the nation. In my opinion, all because I was taught how to command the inside part of the plate, how it affected the hitters, how much they hatted it and how much it opened up the outside part of the plate.

The second time came the next spring training. The Rockies did not offer me a contract for the next season and I ended up signing a free agent contract with the Giants. From what I remember my spring training performance wasn’t anything spectacular. I went with the team to their AAA city where we had a practice the night before opening day. After the workout, I got that dreaded call into the managers office. “We’re letting you go.”

There isn’t a worst possible time to be let go. All teams have set their rosters and are ready to go. I proceeded to spend the next month at home and was just a few days away from going to play independent league baseball when I finally got the call from the Rockies I was hoping for. I finally joined their AAA team a week or so later and from there went on to have an even a better year than the previous even though missing the first month and a half of the season. Somehow the stars aligned and I got to spend the last month and a half in the big leagues. Talk about roller coaster season!

The third and final release came in my 13th, and final, spring training as a player. In minor league camp I put up zero’s across the board. I got to pitch in a few games in big league camp but didn’t do much to impress. With a few days left in camp, I got the call. “We’re letting you go.”

With the writing on the wall, three children and a new business at home, I decided that was enough. I have no doubt I could have kept going but it was just time. I wouldn’t change my journey for the world.

I wanted to share this with you to tell my story of being told I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have what they were looking for. I didn’t fit into their plans. It didn’t matter where I had been, what I had accomplished or what I thought they should do, they didn’t need, nor want, my skill set.

Did I go home a whine and complain to anyone who would listen about how I think they screwed me, nope! Did I give up and quit, nope! Did I see this as the end, nope! Did I find someway to keep believing in myself and what I could do, yep! Did I keep working hard, yep! Did I use this as motivation to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do it, you better believe it!

I was “Released” twice before I got that call to the big leagues. I was told I wasn’t good enough multiple times before I was offered a life changing contract from a team in Japan. I was given a plane ticket home before the season even started two different times before the best years of my career.

NEVER give up! If you want it bad enough, the sky is the limit. You MUST believe more than anyone else does. Keep working hard. Keep learning. Keep pushing even though others may be telling you to stop. If you want it, GO GET IT!

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Video Analysis…

Video Analysis and over thinking/over coaching…

To be smart in this game is important. To know your body better than anyone else is a must. To know what adjustments you need to make physically or mentally, in the moment, are skills you MUST develop for long term success. This is one layer of Mental Toughness.

If you work hard at perfecting your swing or delivery then it’s certain that you know more than many about the mechanics of the game. You most likely watch video and probably spend a lot of time breaking down your own mechanics and comparing them to the great ones and look for similarities and differences. That’s great! You are becoming a student of the game and developing a work ethic needed for that long term success. You are learning to pay attention to those small details which is a skill you will undoubtedly need at some point later in life.

Here are a few things we ALL need to keep in mind when working with video analysis…

Getting “In the Zone”:
You will find that your best performances will occur when you are “In the Zone.” When the only thoughts going on in your mind are what you want to do on the next pitch. They are all forward focused. Your instincts are taking over and all that preparation you have done is going to work.

Often though players who train a lot and give so much focus on the mechanic side of the game have a hard time getting into these grooves as their minds have become so focused on breaking down each delivery or swing. The competitor in them is being held back as they are almost competing against themselves instead of their opponent.

Focus on the Good:
Watch video of success. Break down the GOOD swings. Analyze your delivery on those great days. And when things are off, something just doesn’t feel right, you need to compare yourself to those days.

Often players only want to watch video when things are going bad. If you are a video guy, I suggest you focus on those great moments. Ingrain those images and feelings in your head as much as possible.

Less talking, more working:
Every player is different. Some like constant feedback while most excel when allowed to get into that groove. When a player is working and things are going well, throwing strikes, executing pitches, repeating their swing, let them work. Don’t say a word. An “Atta’boy” is all that is necessary. And if they may be struggling to execute, encourage them to stop thinking and to work quicker to possibly get into that groove.

I strongly suggest not being that coach/parent who feels they need to say something after each rep. As a former player there was nothing worse than being interrupted while I was working.

“Stop thinking, visualize success and let it happen”:
Let your instincts take over. You have put in a lot of work NOW let it work. Train yourself to visualize success before each pitch, whether in the box, on the mound or in the field, learn to trust yourself. And when you make a mistake, move on as quickly as possible, visualize success as quickly as possible and trust yourself.

When a player starts talking mechanics while working, though I am happy they are thinking, they are often over thinking and they don’t even realize it. They are failing not because of a physical flaw but a mental flaw. We must help snap them out of that thought process and help them change their mindset by putting good words and thoughts in their mind. It’s always amazing what some positive vibes can do for an athlete.

Video Analysis is a great tool and a big reason why we are able to help more players get the most out of their body. Personally I use it often with my students but it’s not a staple each time we work. More like on a when needed basis.

In conclusion, be a student of the game, know yourself better than anyone else. The ultimate goal is for players to become their own coaches and to know their own adjustments. But understand this certain truth, those adjustments will more often than not need to be mental adjustments rather than physical adjustments. ALWAYS focus on your mindset. The prettiest swing or the smoothest delivery won’t mean much if your mental toughness lacks. Train to trust yourself, let your instincts take over and COMPETE!

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


What’s Best & Common Sense

IMG_6460What’s best for their safety? What’s best for their development? What’s best for their future? What’s best for the athlete? What’s best for their character? Ask 100 different grown men and you are likely to get 100 different opinions. And with those 100 opinions, you will too often find no plan or wiggle room for adjustment in those beliefs.

Here we are, not even to mid March yet, and the messages and stories have started rolling in. With our followers who have been with us from the beginning, you all know our feeling on Development. You know our passion behind what we feel should come first. You know how we feel about how young pitchers need to be handled. You know our approach to developing and maintaining confident and HEALTHY young men on the mound.

After receiving multiple messages and hearing multiple stories already, I feel it’s necessary to bring this to the attention of everyone again.

As I have spoke on before, tournament baseball is a great situation for hitters to see a ton of pitches and get in a lot of reps. On the flip side, it may be the worst possible situation I can think of for Pitchers and Catchers who are in a situation where those in charge lack a feel for the demand on a players body while playing a full game, let alone 4-5 games over a two day period. **There are some out there who know how to do it right and will do everything possible to take care of their players arms and bodies.**

A pitcher going out and throwing 30-40 pitches in their first game of the year is a reasonable number. If they have trained to be able to throw more than that, great! Truth is, most have not. Most have not been built up to that number. And no matter the age, pitching back to back days is a no brainer, shouldn’t happen until we are deeper into the season, and even then, it should NEVER happen on a regular basis and shouldn’t happen unless they are at least a mature teenager. These are kids, not professionals who have trained their bodies and arms for this amount of work.

Let me add that an amateur pitcher going out and throwing nearly 100 pitches in their first outing of the season, (yes, multiple stories have been shared with me in the last week on this) is just absurd! This should be common sense coaching. Unfortunately, it seems that most tournaments do nothing to protect the pitchers from coaches who lack that common sense in these situations. **There are youth leagues that do though!!**

And let’s not ever forget about that kid behind the plate. For every pitch made in a game, he throws the ball back to the pitcher and he squats that many times. One game is enough for the day. A team headed into a tournament needs a least 3 catchers to share the time back there, it should NEVER be put on one player to squat and throw for every pitch made over the course of a tournament over a 2-3 day period!!

It seems the desire to win leads to poor choices when it comes to what’s best for that child, their safety and their development.

As always, I will end with, Parents, this is on you to educate yourself between right and wrong. Do some research and see what is happening out there with the rest of the baseball world right now. We are in the middle of an epidemic right now and it stuff like this that is the leading cause.

NO ONE is immune to this. NO ONE is bullet proof. NO ONE is un-touchable. It’s time to wake up everyone. It’s time to get our minds right and stop these habits and foolish decisions.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


5 Ways we are Failing to Prepare THEM

Raising and developing people…

THIS is what our job is as adults. Realize it or not, most everything that happens on a ball field can be related to life in some way. The problem is, most are failing to see what this is all about. We have become obsessed with the outcome and fail to recognize and believe in the process. We often hear “The Process” referred to but then find that those that frequently use this term simply do not understand what it really means.

“The Process” requires patience. It calls for us knowing what the end goal is. It takes us ADULTS teaching, then stepping back and letting them figure it out while resisting the urge to step in at the sign of failure. Failure is THE key to long term success. They are moments disguised as disappointment and embarrassment but are actually blessings in disguise. The problem though lies with how us adults lack patience for failure and see our players and children’s failures as a reflection of our ability to teach and lead. That’s when we see the adults making it about them when we all should know what this is really all about…THE KIDS.

Here are 5 things that are happening on fields across the nation that are stunting player and individual growth…

Pigeon Holing Players:
We need to stop viewing them as “The Shortstop” or “The Center Fielder”. They are Baseball players. They are “Athletes”. The goal is for them to be able to confidently tell their HS coach at their freshman year tryouts that they can play any position they need them at. A player who played only SS his whole youth life is limited. Sure not everyone can pitch or catch but know this, we are not helping them develop “Options” when we develop them as a one dimensional player. Teach them and help them learn the game from multiple angles on the field.

Calling Pitches:
Robots don’t think, they wait for commands. Why do we feel the need to call pitches from the dugout? I congratulate you that you know how to get youth hitters out but that’s not your job. The ball is not in your hand. Relinquish control, teach them how to observe the situation and the hitter AND LET THEM PLAY SOME BASEBALL. Will they make some poor choices on pitch selection…You bet! That’s where we help them between innings to learn so they are better prepared for the next time that situation comes up. Not only is this not good for them to develop as thinkers and observers, it’s horrible for the pace of a game. Talk about a tempo killer. Teach them to work together, work fast and get their boys back in the dugout as soon as possible. Bosses tell people what to do, leaders teach people what to do. Which one are you?

Undeserved Playing Time:
When a player is involved in too many things at once and continually fails to attend team practices…When a player continually displays poor body language…When a player is disrespectful towards the umpires, their teammates or coaches…Playing time is NOT deserved. By rewarding these behaviors with the privilege of seeing the ball field, we are making a huge mistake. Talent shouldn’t matter…Opponent shouldn’t matter…The importance of the game shouldn’t matter…RAISING AND DEVELOPING THAT PERSON MATTERS. You ARE instilling ego and entitlement and you may not even realize it. Many things are bigger than the game and this may be the biggest of all. The greed of wanting to win is taking over common sense and blinding many to what this is really all about.

Ignoring Defensive Fundamentals:
Knowing how to read the play. Knowing what their job is. Knowing where to back up and where to throw the ball. Knowing how to properly run and rundown. Developing instincts through repetitions. Too many games and not enough practice. Many HS players know what they should do on a play but when it comes down to it, in the moment, they have underdeveloped instincts as they simply have not practiced these fundamentals enough. Pitchers working on their craft is often ignored because “It takes too much time”. The fact is, pitching and defense is what wins ball games. If you can’t take care of the ball (throw strikes, field and catch the ball) the other team will make their way around the bases whether they are a good hitting team or not. There should be just as much defensive work as there is offensive work, if not more.

Instilling Ego, Entitlement and Un-Coachable Attitudes:
Help them develop confidence but keep them humble. Take ability out of the picture and treat them all as people. Help them understand there are many ways to be successful in this game (and in life) and for them to grow as much as possible, they must look for as much information as possible, ask questions whenever possible and NEVER go into a situation of opportunity with a closed mind. Talking down about their teammates and coaches is a HUGE parenting mistake. It’s the good old fashioned term, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!” Realize it or not, you are teaching the skill of gossip, you are instilling a sense of being better than everyone else and you are instilling habits that WILL get them in trouble at some point later in life. Lastly, teach them that success is earned. Find different ways to make them earn their keep. Teach them that talent will only get them so far, that their work ethic, their character, their dedication and perseverance will all be the deciding factor as they grow.

ALL of these things happen on and off a field during a baseball season. Some may read this and take it personal, that’s fine. Some may read this and feel pain as they have, or are, living this. I’m nearly 40 years old, have been blessed with a life where I got to play and now teach the game of baseball. I understand I have been able to experience things that most will never get to and that keeps me humble. Now I have the privilege to teach what I have learned, and am still learning, every day. It’s up to you if you want to be coachable (yes adults should be coachable too), or if you read these words and disagree. However you take it is fine with me. I’m here to help and teach from what I have experienced, that’s it.

I’ll end with this…”The Big Picture”…Our one purpose as adults is to provide for the young. This happens in many different ways. PLEASE don’t ever let pride and greed blur your thoughts and cause you to miss out on the countless character development moments that happen on a daily basis. Lead by example, pour into THEM and help them prepare for LIFE.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Free Bases

946540_10201244063286790_1901679264_nWe would keep track of these every game. FREE BASES. Our goal was to have 5 or less per game. If we did this we had a 72% chance of winning that game. FREE BASES are…

Walks
Balks
Wild Pitches
Passed Balls
Errors
Stolen Bases
HBP (Hit By Pitch)

The best way to accomplish this goal game after game is to slow the game down mentally. “You control the game, don’t let it control you”.

Walks: Whether there is no runners on or the bases are loaded, slow it down, analyze the situation you are in and execute a quality pitch. Make them earn their way on base, give them something to hit and don’t GIVE them that FREE BASE!

Balks: Again, slow the game down. Balks usually happen when we let things speed up on us. Make sure you are ready before you put your foot on that rubber. Develop a relaxed intensity that allows for you to be locked in and focused but also prepared for chaos. Don’t panic when your opponent tries to get in your head.

Wild Pitches: To prevent these, it takes two players. As pitchers, first we need a controlled consistent delivery that allows for a consistent release point. As a catcher, we need to be confident in our ability to block the baseball. Work hard and become one of the best at it. It does a lot mentally for a pitcher knowing that they can throw an 0-2 breaking ball in the dirt and their backstop has their back and will do their part.

Passed Balls: Catchers, this is on you. Focus on every pitch. Watch the ball all the way to your glove. Give hard focus when catching bullpens. Focus on receiving. Develop your fast twitch.

Errors: The more we limit these as a team, we will always have a better chance at getting that W. Work your butt off to be a fundamentally sound player! Coaches, never ignore the importance of your team being able to take care of the baseball. Defensive fundamentals must be a weekly focus.

Stolen Bases: This is on the pitchers. We NEED to be experts at controlling the running game. Learn what counts they like to run in. Vary your hold times. Don’t get into patterns (don’t hold for the same count every pitch). Have a good pick off move. Have a good inside move to second. These all take practice. This is a must if you want to be the best at this game!!

HBP: For me, this one could go both ways. Yes it is counted as a FREE BASE but this FREE BASE can work for us as pitchers too. If we are good at pitching inside, this WILL happen. When this does happen, not only will that hitter remember that the next time they come up but when we pitch in (and happen to hit a couple batters), every guy in the other dugout will start to notice. They all might start backing off the plate opening up the outer half for us. Pitchers, develop confidence on pitching inside. That is YOUR plate!!

Limit the FREE BASES we allow as a team and our odds of winning that game go way up!!

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


What’s the Goal?

3872581959_4f84d5869fIt’s not easy. It takes certain abilities. It requires work ethic and perseverance. It demands mental toughness. It takes knowledge which can only be acquired through opportunity and experience. And if you lack confidence, self esteem and belief, well then to be brutally honest, you have no shot.

To make it to the top is the ultimate goal. It’s what we all dreamt of as kids and what our current youth dreams of on the daily. Having been truly fortunate to make it briefly and spend the number of days I did in a professional clubhouse, I can confidently tell you that it’s most definitely possible and you can beat the odds but everything stated in the first paragraph is just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m a pitcher, so naturally I notice and pay attention to what’s being taught out there and what’s not being taught. I notice the neglect both on and off the field and the lack of preparation versus the approach to preparation.

I’m realizing there aren’t many “Pitching” coaches out there but what we do have is a growing number of “Throwing” coaches. With video analysis and the exploding obsession with velocity, it’s becoming much easier to attain short term success by tightening up some things in a delivery and letting it rip.

Truth is, velocity will open some doors that command at a lower velocity will not. Most recruiters and scouts won’t give a player a second look if the gun reading doesn’t start with a 9. So with this absolute, if you’re not working on getting the most out of your body, then your not working towards that goal.

Now, let’s talk big picture…Having spent nearly 20 years in professional baseball and having plenty of teammates who had amazing arms and getting to coach absolute studs right out of the draft, the ones who made it, or will make it, are the ones who could command that 90+. These guys came into professional baseball with the ability to throw strikes. The guys who struggled to throw strikes outing after outing and couldn’t command the bottom of the zone were weeded out, no matter what the radar gun said. I can tell you with 100% certainty, that if you can’t EXECUTE, throw the pitch where you want to when you want to, YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT!

We are seeing an overwhelming focus on throwing with little to no work on pitching. Having seen what I have seen and knowing what it takes, unless they can touch triple digits, we need to help these kids learn to pitch just as much as we help them learn how to throw hard.

Throwing is physical…Pitching is mental.

If your goal is to simply get a scholarship and possibly a signing bonus, then have at it, run into your throw, snap your head to the point where you have no idea where the ball’s going, throw under 50% strikes, walk a hitter per inning and light up that radar gun. Go get’em!

But if your goal is to get as far as you can in this game, start learning your craft, develop three pitches that you can command to both sides of the plate, learn how to read hitters, make them uncomfortable and get them to hit the ball where you want them to, learn how to prepare in between appearances and learn to compete like no other.

Get strong, train hard, get the most out of your body, take care of your body but never forget this…YOU MUST BE ABLE TO THROW STRIKES, HIT THE GLOVE 2 OUT OF 3 PITCHES, COMPETE MENTALLY AND STAY HEALTHY, IF YOU ARE GOING TO ACHIEVE YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


13 Ways to Protect Your Pitchers From Injury…

img_9877First, let’s be real, injuries happen. Throwing something overhand puts a lot of stress on the shoulder and elbow joints. Coordination and genetics often play a role in a sore arm.

With that, there are things we can do to promote healthy arms and put them in a position to be strong from the beginning to the end of a season. Dedication and commitment to arm health needs to be taken seriously, especially in this generation with so much baseball being played.

1) Core strength. Baseball is a rotational sport. Developing and maintaining the strength of your core, front and back, puts the body in a position to use your whole frame to create power. Develop a daily routine that includes multiple core strengthening exercises.

2) Lower half strength. Power, power, power. Most of a pitchers power will be determined in how they move down the mound. From the glutes, to the quads, to the hammies, become a beast.

3) Hand and wrist strength. How strong is their grip? Every time they throw a baseball, they are using all these muscles. Develop these to protect all the tendons and ligaments underneath. Use a hand gripper, racquet ball, rice bucket, gyro ball exerciser, etc.

4) Shoulder and elbow strength. Resistance bands, light weights, body weight movements. There are lots of different products and routines out there. Many different exercises. I don’t care which one you do, just do something! Find something you enjoy. Develop stability in these joints. Develop and maintain strength and endurance in those decelerator muscles.

5) STAY CLOSED! It doesn’t matter how good you are in the areas listed above, if you start to rotate open too soon in your delivery, you will lose momentum and lack torque which in turn will put all the pressure on your arm joints to try and create power. Momentum all the way down the mound and late turn/torque creates most of the power and takes the strain off the arm.

6) Learn proper mechanics. Everyone looks different and some can get away with not being perfect. Focus on stride length, body position at front foot contact, body movements from there to release and what happens after release (aka, how does your body decelerate).

7) Listen to your body/arm. If it needs a break, then give it a day off. Twenty-four hours can do wonders. This can take years to fully understand but when it comes to endurance and being able to finish the season just as strong as you were when it started, this is a major key.

8) Tendonitis and dead arm is fatigue. These happen when your body wasn’t prepared for the amount you have been putting on it. Getting through a whole season at the professional level without coming down with either of these at some point is pretty much impossible, simply because it is so much, no matter how well you are prepared. With the demand at that level, it’s inevitable. If a youth player is experiencing these, there are most likely issues in the areas listed above and there needs to be adjustments made to their non-competitive and competitive workload.

9) Develop routines. Catch, long toss, bullpen, arm care, core work, strength training, speed training. Strengths and weaknesses are determined in the strengths and weaknesses of our routines. Thoughtout and detailed routines make sure that everything that needs attention, gets the attention it requires.

10) THROW MORE! Condition the arm for the demand. “Saving bullets” by taking it easy on your non pitching days and never throwing bullpens at near game speed, is putting your arm in a weaker position in regards to strength, stamina and endurance. Thus when you go out and demand 70-100 pitches from it, and it’s essentially been hibernating for the past however many days, it won’t be fully prepared for what you are about to put it through. Don’t be afraid of throwing the rock daily. Never go more than three days without getting on the mound to refine your delivery and continue to develop feel for your pitches. Throw your changeup daily, spin the baseball daily (if you are there in development).

11) Establish limits. Once a player hits their threshold of reps in a game that they are conditioned for, each rep from there on out puts them in a weaker position thus elevating the risk for injury. Understand progression when it comes to pitch counts. And when there has been too much time between competitive pitches, stamina and endurance is lost quickly and you need to back track a little in the workload that arm will see in their next game pitched.

12) Put your pitchers on a rotation. Allow for consistent work. You should know right now who will start that game that you have three weeks from now. Development is in consistency and we are here to help them develop…PERIOD!

13) Play multiple sports. Take AT LEAST 12 weeks off in the winter from throwing. Take time to focus on overall strength and develop an active rest routine for your throwing arm. Put the gloves down, put the baseballs down. Read a book on mental toughness. Read articles on how big leaguers achieve their success. Train your mind. Sit down and write out some new routines. Evaluate your season and determine weaknesses and strengths and make a plan to improve on them and perfect them. Establish goals.

Most have a goal to play this game beyond high school. The question is, are we hindering their chances of achieving those goals with the way we are using them, or not using them? Are we putting them in a position to succeed or are we risking their future by with the decisions we keep making?

Injury is the number one cause for players never reaching their full potential. Let’s do a better job at making decisions that put them in a better position to not become a statistic.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Manipulating The Baseball

img_6987Four seam fastball, two seam fastball, cut fastball, curveball, slider, slurve, splitter, forkball, knuckleball, changeup and a cut changeup. I’m sure there are others I am not thinking about.

One thing these all have in common is that there are multiple grips for each one of these. It’s up to each player to figure out which ones work best in their repertoire. Figure out which ones give them the best late movement and most importantly, the ones you can command the best.

When young players are mature enough and have shown the ability to command their fastball and a changeup, it may be time to start to add to their mix. I strongly suggest finding someone who knows what to look for in the spin of the baseball. Someone who has experience, understands different grips and finger pressures. There is definitely a right way to spin it and a wrong way and without an experienced eye, most won’t be able to see the difference.

Remember, when learning to Manipulate the Baseball, you are adding a new element to their arm/hand action at release. Most will want to start experimenting with this before they are a teenager (I started throwing a breaking ball when I was 11 or 12 back around 1990) which is a completely normal thing for them at that age with them starting to talk more and more about them with their buddies.

Many will have added a breaking ball to their pitch selection by the time they do become a teenager but my recommendation is that you keep a close eye on them not overusing it at this delicate age. Stress Fastball and Changeup confidence. If they are throwing the breaking ball properly, the strain on the arm is minimal. The extra strain comes when they are doing the wrong things with their hand at release, poor mechanics and overusing it in a competitive atmosphere.

This is for sure a sensitive subject and there is my take. Be smart with it. Find someone to help that knows what they are teaching and talking about. They are out there.

**If you can hold them off until they are 13-15 years old, that would be ideal. If you see them messing with it before then and hear them talking about it, then they are most likely throwing it with their buddies so you might as well make sure they are doing it properly.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Developing and Protecting Arms

IMG_7894It’s been asked so many times, it’s hard to keep track of.

“How do you protect arms and stick to pitch counts/limits in tournament situations?”

My answer:
Put your pitchers on a rotation. Stick to it, not matter what. Have hard limits. Being so concerned with who’s going to pitch in the championship game hinders a pitchers development as it’s not always guaranteed you will get there.

Coaches who plan like this will find that they end up pitching that kid, they are saving, in an earlier game, the day before and even worse, in the same day, so they have a better chance at getting to that championship game. And then starting that kid, sometimes in the same day, in that championship game.

What also happens is that pitcher who is being saved, ends up not pitching at all and then that pitcher misses the opportunity to develop.

Plan with the players development in mind. Stop planning for the win!!

This is one difference in Development based coaching and Win based coaching.

Coaches, stop being 50/50. If there is even a hint of you that makes decisions based on what is best for you and your ego, then it’s NOT all about the kids. If you want to develop at all costs, THEN BE ALL IN!! You either have a decided and committed heart to the kids or you don’t.

Once again, this is youth baseball, not the big leagues.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


What are they Conditioned for?

IMG_7604Who is available to pitch today? Who is going to start on the mound? How many pitches can they throw? How many innings can they throw? How many innings would we like them to get on the mound this year? These are legitimate questions that run through the mind of professional pitching coaches and managers on a daily basis.

With arms breaking, major injuries occurring, across the nation at an alarming rate, from youth baseball to professional baseball, experienced baseball minds are working through this daily to try and figure out how to slow it down and get it back to where it used to be. And word is, from those in the professional game, that things are starting to show some signs of improvement. From more rigorous arm care to better approaches on work loads, the number of injuries, though still too high, is showing signs of improvement.

With that said, it’s become an unfortunate truth that the biggest number of major arm injuries are in those who have the word “Teen” in their age. So what is the difference? Professionals throw way more innings than amateur pitchers do. They throw way harder than 99% of amateur pitchers. They throw the baseball dang near every day for 9 straight months from the start of their off season throwing programs in the winter until the end of their regular seasons in September or October.

The difference is…

– Consistent Daily Arm Care.
– Consistent Daily work on keeping their delivery on point.
– Consistent Daily work in-between appearances.
– Consistent Daily strength training.

They are consistently CONDITIONING their bodies to be prepared for the demand they are putting on their arms and bodies. Yes, sometimes even they need to give their body a day off, but unless they have endured a major injury which requires them to take complete rest, they work DAILY to prepare. And since this is their job, there is ample time each and every day for them to do this.

So, if that is how a professional player prepares for the demands the game puts on their body, how does this compare to how a youth/amateur player prepares? Truth, they can’t compare. With the daily schedule of a young persons life, it just doesn’t allow for it, plus, mentally, they just aren’t there yet in life. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the process of life.

That leads to the next point. If professionals, mature men physically, train daily (arm care routines, catch routines, long toss routines, strength training routines and bullpen/mound work routines) to prepare for 1-2 starts a week where they will throw approx. 80-110 pitches **IF THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE CONDITIONED FOR** and relief pitchers prepare for 2-3 appearances SPREAD THROUGHOUT a week where each time they are available to pitch, and how many pitches they will be allowed to throw, is determined by when and how many pitches they threw in their last appearance, THEN WHY ARE OUR YOUNG ONES BEING PUSHED TO THROW THE SAME AMOUNT OF THROWS/PITCHES THAT A PROFESSIONAL TRAINS TO THROW, OVER A WEEKS PERIOD, IN A 2-3 DAY SPAN? Common sense says this doesn’t make sense. It makes even less sense when these young arms don’t train between appearances the way they need to be training to establish and maintain arm strength and stamina. Many young arms are pushed to the max over a weekend, then proceed to take 2 weeks off without regular mound work, regular catch play, regular long toss sessions and most likely limited to no arm care. BUT…These are kids. Their job is to be kids. Their job is not baseball. If there is a strong desire when they become teenagers to excel at this game, you will see them start to take on this type of work ethic on their own. These are the ones who will most often go further in the game, but let’s be real, this passion isn’t in all of them, and that’s OK.

For an arm to maintain arm strength and stamina, it needs consistent work. When an arm isn’t used, it will quickly start to lose those after about 3-4 days. For example, if a professional pitcher is forced to take some days off because of biceps tendonitis (fatigue), and that rest turns into a weeks time, they will need to follow a 2-3 week throwing routine before they are allowed to pitch in another game. They need to build the strength and stamina back up. If that rest were to turn into a longer period than a week, then you could be looking at that rehab throwing routine lasting longer and longer. Each day that the arm sits idle, strength and stamina is lost.

Along those lines, here is another article I wrote on “Conditioning a Pitcher’s Arm”.

Let’s also discuss effort. This is a great benefit of long toss. To throw the ball a long distance and with command, you need to use your body properly and with extreme effort, effort like which you would use while competing. Long toss routines take time. Good ones can last 20 minutes. But what we often see are programs that ignore the importance of catch play and limit their players to 5-10 minutes of catch as they feel it’s not as important as the other things on the agenda. To be honest, the first 25-30 minutes of a workout should be dedicated to preparing the body and arm to work.

So we have a lack of arm care, a lack of consistent catch and long toss play, a major lack of quality mound work (these should be performed at a high effort also) and a lack of weekly game action with competitive pitches, but then push immature arms to the max for a short period of time during an inconsistent weekly/bi-weekly/monthly schedule, and we wonder why there’s a major problem with arm injuries in youth arms?? We have to educate ourselves parents and coaches and turn this knowledge into common sense. I don’t care how big or strong looking a young man appears, we are talking about tendons, ligaments and soft tissue. Let’s smarten up.

Every day, every week, we should be asking ourselves, what are they conditioned for?

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


What Opened My Eyes

IMG_6323In 2012 I accepted a minor league pitching coach position with the LA Angels. I spent the next 3 years around some great Baseball minds, learned a ton about development but was slapped in the face when over 50% of our new draftees each year came in with a zipper on their arm (that’s a name for the Tommy John surgery scar). What the heck is going on??

Before my third season, I informed them, the Angels, that would be my last year. I would be committing my time to my family, and the families I worked with back home, full time. They needed me home and my students and their families needed someone to not just help develop their kids as players but they needed someone to help educate them.

While in the pro game, the more and more I got to know my players, build relationships and helped them achieve their dreams, the more and more I started to learn why these kids were coming in as damaged goods.

The odds of a full recovery from one TJ are pretty good now. The odds from a full recovery after your second drops from around a 90% success rate to 65%. The odds of recovering from a third, well let’s just say it’s not that good.

So that means that these young men are coming into pro ball one major injury away from a dream shattered. Let’s remember that this is an injury that should only happen to grown men who have played baseball for a living for many years. Not something that kids who have just started shaving are having to go through.

Overuse as a pre-teen, teenager and college player. Not enough rest for their arm in the off season. Attending showcases in the off season months. Training to throw harder but lacking an arm care program. Poor mechanics but no one suggesting a fix for them because the player is having success and generating wins. Pitching in multiple games in the same day. Pitching multiple innings and catching multiple innings in the same day or pitching a high number of pitches one day and then catching multiple innings the next day. Continually throwing more pitches than what their arm is conditioned for year after year. The overwhelming desire to throw fast, faster and to be the one who throw the fastest. Too much down time, no mound work or pitching competitively, between tournament weekends where the arm loses stamina and strength and then making an extraordinary amount of throws over a 2-3 day period and then repeating this cycle week after week, month after month and year after year. There are so many different factors that are leading to this that weren’t present in the youth baseball world before this injury epidemic.

Bottom line, they came in damaged because of what they went through and how they were handled as a young player. Between their 9 year old season through the college years, something went wrong.

When I was drafted in 1996, it was a truly rare thing to hear about a major injury. Fast forward 5 years, the game changed. It slowly started to become the norm to see more and more of these major injuries each year. The more and more I learned about the timeline, the more obvious it became that it all started around the same time that tournament style and showcase baseball exploded. These two things can absolutely be done right, but they obviously are not. There is no one holding anyone accountable when there obviously needs to be. Adults are playing with kids’ future because their desire to win supersedes their common sense.

We will continue to talk about this. As I have said, there is no argument that anyone can bring up that will make any of this ok. It’s abuse, it’s ignorance, it’s ridiculous, it’s absurd, it’s nonsense and it’s flat irresponsible. Adults, it’s time to wake up.

It’s time to make some changes…

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.


Infatuated with Velocity

IMG_7032
We all love to see a hard thrower. Realistically, when they are younger, they can be the most effective pitchers. The hitters are scared, they tend not to swing, or you see late panic swings as the hitters are on their heels from the beginning.

What many of these young hard throwers are not prepared for though is as they get older, the hitters get better and develop a better eye at the plate and all of the sudden, those hard throwers aren’t seeing as many swings on those poorly located pitches and their strike percentage drops as their walk rate increases. You may also see them start to get hit harder because those mid thigh/belt high pitches they used to blow by the hitters are now being deposited into the gaps.

From day one, there needs to be a constant focus on commanding the Baseball, throwing strikes and eliminating walks. Players, Parents and Coaches, do not be surprised when a young hard “thrower” never ends up becoming a successful pitcher, if a pitcher at all, in HS when there was never a CONSISTENT focus on a proper CONSISTENT delivery and to CONSISTENTLY command the Baseball.

And don’t be surprised when those softer throwers, the ones who saw less opportunities because they didn’t possess as much “velocity”, but threw more strikes, become valuable pieces to their HS/Summer programs. Notice that by the end of a season, it’s the strike throwers, not the velocity guys, who have become the go-to guys as they have proven to be more reliable.

Velocity will come with time, work on developing a powerful and healthy delivery and with maturity. Trust the process. For long term success, at the youngest of ages, instill a mindset of focusing on…

“Strike Percentage & Walk Rate”

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.