The Conundrums of the Information Era, Baseball, and Coaching
Baseball players are constantly in search of performance enhancement. The advent of the Internet, with a seemingly endless amount of content, feeds the interest of today’s players in a way that earlier generations could only dream of during their own playing days. An example would be the increase in the number of searches that occur on the topics of velocity and weighted balls over time plus the peaks in those searches that occur during January and February each year (the training season for many). Over the same years that information has become more available, baseball injuries and in particular ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries (aka Tommy John Surgery, or TJS) have been on a dramatic rise. For me this presented a conundrum. I needed to answer some very important questions:
- What is the best way to create a foundation for elite pitching performance?
- What can be done to combat what some have called a TJS epidemic and what are its root causes?
- How do we maximize skill sets while at the same time minimizing the chance of injury?
- Can we do both successfully?
Velocity programs are prolific and they all involve some use of long toss and weighted balls. Mike Reinold is a former Boston Red Sox head athletic trainer and physical therapist. He has worked with the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) and currently is with Champion Physical Therapy and Performance. At the ASMI conference in 2020 Mr. Reinold said, “Do velocity programs work? Yes, but that’s like asking if food tastes good.” He also said, “There are zero studies on the effect of long toss on velocity. Yet kids hear phrases like ‘you need to throw 300’ to throw 90mph.’” In this context, how is a player or parent supposed to navigate all the options and content available to them? The vast majority will not have the time to dedicate to becoming experts across those various professional silos and sifting through all the available information. But if they have a resource, a local hub of knowledge, to draw upon then the answers can be forthcoming. All of the experts I’ve worked with agree that we can be successful in enhancing performance and reducing the risk of injury.
I have a ravenous thirst for knowledge when it comes to baseball which springs from the humility of understanding that there are things I don’t know and may never know. Mr. Ron Wolforth of the Texas Baseball Ranch likes to quote Steven Covey in saying “the way we see the problem is the problem.” As we inaugurate our web site and our business, I’d like to say thank you to Ron in particular. Meeting him was very similar to meeting Mr. Gordie Gillespie for the first time: an epiphany if you will, in which much of what I thought I knew was destroyed and re-formed under a much better model. As I’m big on quotes and sources too, let me provide you with a quote from a monk named Abelard c. 16th century that sums up my personal philosophy quite nicely: “By doubting we come to questioning and by questioning we come to truth.” Welcome to the Edge.
Ernie Smith, Founder and CEO, Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd.