Last week, at a clinic in Waco Texas a high school pitcher came with her mom and dad from the northern part of Texas. She was a good pitcher, lots of natural ability and had the mental make up of a good pitcher. But, she has a pitching coach in her area that she sees regularly that has her doing many things, mechanically, which I am very much opposed to. The town she is from is relatively small and she was the best pitcher in her area. But as her team started to develop and advance beyond local play, it became apparent to her (and parents) that something needed to change in her pitching before she would achieve another level of success. For years I have searched for the words to describe this type situation and suddenly, the phrase necessary fell right into my lap: “When you pee your pants, it only stays warm for so long!”
This family was somewhat taken aback by me, as I was telling them things 100% different from what they’d been training to do. This is where my ability to demonstrate and my experience of being a pitcher really came into play. Instead of just using words, I showed them with the explanation of how and why things happen in the pitching motion. Using their own eyes, they can see the cause and effect of what happened to the pitches when I didn’t do it ‘correctly’. Without apology, I showed them that by doing what they’ve been taught, I am unable to get the ball to do the things I can do with it now. This makes things difficult sometimes when someone wants to learn a pitch or learn something different without the proper mechanics for it. As the old expression goes, “You can’t put a good edge on bad steel”. And it’s hard to tell people that by doing things a certain way, I’m unable to
help them. It’s kind of like asking a construction crew to build a house from the attic down. It just doesn’t work that way. There needs to be a sturdy foundation in place and things are built up from there.
To some people, it sounds like I’m an ‘elitist’ or something like that. But to me, it’s about what works and what doesn’t. Without quesiton, the most popular part of my clinics is the demonstration of things. When I demo a riseball, for example, people cannot believe the spin I can put on the ball. And it has nothing to do with my gender, and if you’ve seen me in person you know it has nothing to do with muscle either! It has to do with the way my body is moving. The reality is the mechanics being used by the majority of pitchers makes backspin on the ball impossible.
Make no mistake about it, I did not “Invent” a new way to pitch. The things I do and the things I teach are not something I created. But, it’s instantly obvious to anyone who is at a clinic/demonstration I do what happens if the things I do are NOT done right. Simple ball rotation/spin becomes impossible when the body is not in the right positions. This is not my rule about pitching mechanics, its the way the human body is designed to work. And before anyone starts, please don’t blame me for the design of your body. You need to take that up with your Creator if you’re a creationist or with your local zoo’s gorilla if you’re an evolutionist.
But a simple truth remains: someone must be correct. When 2 people are at complete opposite ends of an argument, like pitching mechanics and how it should be done, then someone is right and someone is wrong. No, I don’t necessarily think the truth lies somewhere in the middle because if it did… all the best pitchers would not be doing the same things and getting themselves into the same positions! These positions are the key points in the delivery of the pitch and if they are not done correctly, the ball will not only have bad/wrong spin it will also be difficult to control. The best pitchers in the world are not pitching around their hips and are not bending their elbows straight up.
Famed hitting guru Sue Enquist (formerly of UCLA) said something once that I respected the hell out of her for. When faced with a question about the topic she was speaking on, a person in the crowd said that she is now contradicting what she taught on her videos made 15+ years ago. And Sue’s response was: “We’ve learned a lot since then.” And she’s right. With the advent of software programs, hitters are finding out that what they thought they were doing isn’t actually what they were doing. It took a lot of guts and character for Ms Enquist to basically tell people: throw the videos of yesteryear away as they are obsolete compared to what we know now. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s got a new and improved series to sell!
This family mentioned at the start of this did not tell their pitching coach they were coming to see me. They weren’t sure if the pitching coach would encourage or discourage them in making the trip, so they made Bill Clinton proud and did the good old fashioned “Don’t ask, don’t tell” thing and came on their own. On the flip side, another group of people BROUGHT their pitching coach with them to make sure everyone was on the same page about things. That was a refreshing experience for sure! When the coach questioned something I said or did, which obviously contradicted his own teaches, he asked about it and asked why. By explaining and showing him why and how, things became very clear and easy to follow. By not only listening to my explanation and then seeing it first hand when I threw, he said he had a much clearer understanding of the things I was saying. Maybe he was just
being polite, who knows.
I encourage all the people I meet to see as many clinicians as possible or learn all you can from every source you can. By doing this, 1 of 2 things will happen and either way YOU WIN: #1. you will find a better way of doing it and fall under the opinion Hillhouse knows NOTHING! Or #2. You will watch/hear someone else, apply common sense, and realize NONE of the elite pitchers in the world actually pitch this way! Worst case scenario, you will hear something a certain way and something will trigger in your head that makes you understand something that may have been troubling you before.
Regardless of where you get your pitching info, compare that info to what you see being done by the elite pitchers in the world. (Notice I keep saying ELITE pitchers, not the very good pitchers). One of these days I’ll do a newsletter on the Paris Hilton type pitching coaches, famous for being famous not for actual substance or quality of work. Until then, let common sense be your guide to the do’s and don’ts.