For The Love Of Young Men…

I’m sick and tired of watching pitchers blow up elbows and shoulders. I’m tired of watching youngsters stand on the mound shaking their arm because of pain, only to have coaches and adults ignore it or tell them they need to toughen up. Make no mistake, I want pitchers and baseball players to be as tough as nails. Yet encouraging them to go on in the face of unnecessary pain is a terrible lesson.

For the love of the game and love of young men, it’s time to change youth baseball’s focus from winning at all costs to building whole and healthy youngsters. Judging a players’ worth and value, measured only in results on the field by viewing them as a commodity, diminishes their value as human beings. In my book, I don’t get to decide how much a young man is worth—and I don’t think you do either. I think that’s above our pay grade.

So, who gets to decide the worth of the players we coach? I think only God gets to decide how much we are worth. When God says, “What good is it for a man to gain the entire world and yet lose his soul,” I think there are clues to the worth of young men (everyone actually). I think God is telling us that he values one human being more than this entire planet. Add up all the money, mineral wealth, physical resources and real estate…this whole planet…and one young man exceeds the value. If you choose not to believe this, that’s fine, but I want you to know where I stand: I believe that young men have amazing, intrinsic, God-given worth.

Every once in a while something comes along that changes everything. I think we’re looking at this opportunity for baseball, and it rests on the shoulders of solving the nexus between arm injuries and negative culture embedded in the game. If we, as coaches and parents, value young men through a lens that magnifies their true worth, there is hope to reverse the arm injury barrage.

Right now it’s commonly held truth that high volume pitching, supposedly limited by pitch counts, is what hurts pitchers. Based on my research that’s not true. What’s true is we’re violating the design of the human body. The stresses on the elbow and shoulder are magnified by poor techniques taught by coaches embedded in a hand-me-down culture.

The impetus for me to spend a decade and a half of my life researching arm injury problems started with one of my sons. When he was drafted by the NY Mets, right out of high school, his velocities weren’t high enough for him to move on. In a quest to figure out how to bring fastball velocities up…for the love of a young man and his dreams…I learned that there were hordes of coaches with competing opinions. And none of them agreed with each other. That was true then and is still true today.

Under the tutelage of a college pitching coach, someone supposedly skilled at teaching pitchers, we quickly learned about elbow pain. For the love of a young man and his dreams, I set out to discover what’s actually true about pitching and the human body. What’s true about how best to use the human body? What’s true about how best to develop mental skills that create a fierce competitor? What are the best ways to retire hitters? Why are we focusing on lighting up radar guns when the real measure of a pitcher is how well he gets hitters out? These questions, and others, have become my constant companions.

These questions have led to one significant conclusion: pitching is broken. “Good mechanics,” a phrase we hear repeated again an again in the baseball community, bears little resemblance to what we see on the field today. “Good mechanics” involves putting the right parts of the body in the right place, at the right time. If you violate these principles one of two things is true: inefficiency or injury. And both of those consequences are painfully obvious today, we’re just not being honest about it.

It’s time to fix pitching, and in the process we can ignite a revolution that ends negativity inside the game once and for all. It’s time to stop violating the design of the elbow and shoulder. It’s time to rebel and shout, “we’re not going to take it any more.” All for the love of young men. I hope you’ll join me in this quest. If this suits you, you’re in the right place at the right time.

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