Every day, or close to it, there are new subscribers to this newsletter. Usually, they are people I meet at clinics and take one of my business cards. But, I’m sure there are the occasional ‘drive by’ person who stumbles onto my site while surfing Al Gore’s World Wide Web. (Yes, that was another attempt at humor.) But, of the people who have been subscribers for a long time the most common thing I hear about is the PCM. The Pitching Coach Mafia. Like a catch phrase from a movie or TV show, it’s the way so many people start off conversations with me around the country at my clinics. It’s kinda funny. I’ve even had people make up signs for T shirt print with PCM on it and the Ghostbuster circle/slash signifying that it should be eliminated.
For those who are new to this newsletter, the PCM is a name I’ve given to the pitching coaches around the country that, quite frankly should be arrested for what they are teaching young girls. In the same fashion that the FBI vigorously pursued the Gambino Crime Family, I am pursuing the PCM. Quite frankly, I believe the PCM is a criminal organization and should be put away under the same RICO laws the FBI uses today. When I see the things these people teach, part of me gets ill and another part saddens because we’ll never know how good that pitcher could really be as she’s poisoned into doing things wrong. Again, I make no bones about it… I believe in right and wrong in everything in life. Just as there are correct mechanics to throwing overhand, there are correct mechanics to it underhand as well.
On occasion, someone will approach me claiming to be a member of the PCM. This is done with a smile and joke but, it’s still humorous to have someone ‘admit’ to that. However, the mere fact that they identify themselves as a PCM member is a pretty good indicator that they are not a PCM member. Instead, I view them more like an undercover agent trying to infiltrate the crime family. I honestly don’t know if PCMer’s are aware they are members sometimes. In 99% of the cases, people aren’t teaching things incorrectly on purpose! There’s no malice involved here. Nobody is TRYING to ruin someone’s career, especially that of a young girl. But, I also don’t know at what point common sense doesn’t kick in. Does it take someone of above average intelligence to look at what the best in the world are doing in their motions (even without slow motion video or any computer software) and compare it to what is being taught to your daughter? When I was a kid, I must’ve changed my pitching delivery 100 times. Because I would imitate the best pitcher I could find (it’s the same way that kids wanted to be like Michael Jordon “I wanna be like Mike”, they wanted to emulate the best). Then, I’d see someone even better and start to imitate them. And so on, and so on. Eventually, I realized the elite pitchers in the world used various ways to all get into the same positions. I had to find what was comfortable to me but, I HAD to get into those positions. Yet, in watching what the PCM is doing to these young pitchers most are not teaching the things that can be seen very clearly by simply watching what the world’s best are doing. The PCM will preach things like: Locking the elbow and keeping it locked, exaggeration of the wrist snap, ‘closing the door’ with the hips, slapping the leg with the glove, not controlling the glove hand, etc. Yet, when you watch what the top pitchers do NONE are actually doing these things!
The PCM has 2 great allies in their war against me. Those things are: College softball and bad hitting coaches. College softball is a great ally of PCM because so many girls (and their parents!) dream of college softball and scholarships. And with nearly every college in the country having a softball program, it’s very easy for a PCM member to post on his/her website that he’s helped 100’s or 1000’s of kids go to college for softball. I refuse to post on my website where my ‘students’ sign and go to school because: #1. They did the work, not me. In my own twisted mind, if I posted that Sally Jones is going to Northwestern, it would be like I’m taking credit for that. Whether I’m right or wrong in that thinking, it’s how I feel. Sally Jones did the work to get her school scholarship, not me. Sally Jones got the same training from me as did Jane Doe, it’s that Sally Jones did more with the training and probably wanted it more. But the 2nd reason I won’t post that stuff on my site is because having 100 kids go to school doesn’t mean I’m a very good pitching coach. Any kid with even the most remote desire for softball can find a college to play for. NAIA, Division III, Junior College, or whatever, there are plenty of places to play. If Sally Jones goes onto be on the Olympic team and she was a student of mine, the reality is she was probably pretty damn good to begin with! I can help and teach her what I know but she was going to be a stud no matter what. Remember, some pitchers are good despite their pitching coaches not because of them. All you have to do is look at what the coach teaches and find out if that’s actually what the student is doing! But, many are blinded by the scholarship thing and tricked into believing this pitching coach is the key to it. To see the numbers that “John Doe” has had 200 pitchers go to college looks as appealing as a cold glass of water to someone lost in the desert. But, it’s just a mirage. Ask yourself something; of those 200 pitchers how many are doing the things the elite pitchers in the world are doing mechanically? If the answer is none, then we have to ask how many of those 200 would’ve gone to a better school if they WERE doing the things the elite pitchers do.
The second best friend to the PCM is bad hitting coaches. While I think I have it bad with the PCM, I’m sure there is an equivalent for hitting coaches. HCM? While there is a PCM, there are also many people who want NOTHING to do with pitching and they admit so! They proudly admit to not knowing anything about pitching and want nothing to do with teaching something they know nothing about. But, almost every dad/coach believes they know/understand hitting. There are even more fierce debates about hitting than there are pitching because while not everyone was a pitcher in their youth, nearly everyone got to bat in their careers (softball and baseball). The line is getting blurred every day by whether a pitcher is throwing great or the hitting on the other team is just terrible. Sometimes it can be both. But when I see how some of these young ladies are being taught to swing a bat, i.e. hitting their back with the bat in the follow through, etc. it makes me wonder more and more about the hitting techniques being taught. I know people on both sides of the Linear/Rotational argument, each think the other is a moron. There are some who subscribe to both and they laugh at the entire debate; Linear vs. Rotational. Since I’m not a hitting coach, I wouldn’t have the first clue how to teach hitting and don’t even attempt to do so. But this much I know, working on the sweetest swing in the world is no guarantee of much success at the plate if they can’t make adjustments to hit the moving pitch. Like one of our Supreme Court Justices said about obscene material: “I don’t know how to describe it but I know it when I see it.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about bad hitting mechanics. I don’t see too many young hitters being trained the art of reading pitchers, setting pitchers up for THEIR pitch, adjustments in the swing for rise, drop, etc. But do you know who I do see doing those things? Crystal Bustos, Jessica Mendoza, etc. Do you see a pattern here?
So, what prompted this tirade against the PCM? Recently at a clinic I was doing, I was watching a victim of the PCM throw and began to ask questions to both the pitcher and her mother who was catching. “Why are you doing this? What is the purpose of doing that?” and questions like that. I was hoping they would have an answer for why the pitcher was doing something in particular and what their coach was trying to teach. In this case, the girl was slapping her leg hard with her glove as she delivered the ball. I said… why are you doing that? Her mother said the pitching coach said it will stop her from letting her glove fly out of line with her body and pulling her off her ‘power line’. Fair enough I said but, first thing is first: hitting yourself HURTS! Why hit yourself? Second, there are other (less painful) ways of correcting this. And third, by slapping yourself, you’re giving the batter another timing mechanism as to when to start their swing. So, why help the batter? While this made sense to mom, they were fearful of doing it differently because the pitching coach would get mad. Apparently the PCM would’ve put a hit out on this girl and she’d be in cement shoes. All I could think was: it’s the PCM at it’s finest! If hitting herself is the right way to go, why doesn’t Cat Osterman, Michele Smith, Monica Abbott, etc. hit themselves? That question went unanswered.
Since this was more a vent than an actual newsletter, I’ll try to do another newsletter later in the month on an actual pitching topic. What can I say, sometimes I just need to vent.