Update from the Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd.

Update from the Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd.

By: Ernie Smith

With the grand opening of our new academy a little over a month in the rearview mirror, with high school baseball tryouts in progress, and with summer baseball getting closer every day, our staff thought it would be a good time to provide an update on training activity and performance results.

We’ve now provided services to over 100 athletes including strength and mobility assessments, video assessments, performance and physical therapy, personal training, rehabilitation, and private throwing lessons.  Our student population to-date runs the gamut from 10-and-11 year old boys and girls who attend beginner camps, all the way up to professional players looking for a place to work out in their off season.  A number of our clients are position players that want to throw/move better – what we teach is applicable at any position.  There are also students who are elite pitchers and we tailor our approach accordingly.

I started working last Winter with 38 players mostly within the Lake in the Hills Thunder travel baseball program, with an emphasis upon performance, arm health, and durability.  80% of the students came into our throwing program with some arm issue such as pain, tightness, or tenderness.  To the best of our knowledge all of the players who participated in our program threw pain free in their subsequent high school and summer travel seasons.  During that training season we had an average velocity gain of 5.4mph within the first four weeks.  Five players gained 11mph over the full training season. 

It would be easy to argue that significant gains in arm health and durability last season, plus velocity, are just the result of an initial impact from engaging players in the right type of activity.  And there is some truth to this way of looking at things.  When one starts to look at the long-term data for players training over a 2-year span, the benefits of a commitment to moving better over time become clear.  The following data points are for players who trained with us to any extent last year (even if just one session), plus regular work this year:

  • 14U players – have gained an average of 12.22mph
  • 15U players – have gained an average of 11.11mph
  • 16U players – have gained an average of 10.14mph

Some of the above gains are explained by time.  Players across the entire baseball population gain, on average, 1.5mph per year.  They also gain, on average 1.2mph per inch that they grow (SGORI: JSES ’15).  But these numbers alone do not explain the growth in velocity seen above.  A regular commitment to moving better, coupled with baseball specific strength training, have allowed our players to attain higher levels of performance.

It is important to note that not everyone sees gains in a single training cycle.  On the other end of the spectrum are our “unicorns” (you know, those mythical animals that one never sees, or do they?).  These include individual players in our program who have gained 18mph, 17mph, 16mph, and 15mph over this two-year span.  We also see that players who hit a plateau and put in diligent work, or figure out what is constraining them, break through that plateau.  One player experienced zero velocity gain last year and within 4-weeks of starting training this year gained eight (8) mph.

For some players, throwing with elite velocity may not be their current goal.  One of our 15U students last year suffered a serious throwing shoulder injury in a game diving back into first base.  He had started with a velocity baseline of 74mph.  This Winter, coming off physical therapy and being cleared to throw (yes, it was a long rehabilitation) his baseline was 71mph.  He’s now up to 78mph with no pain, and is looking forward to the high school and summer seasons.

In concluding this update, we feel families should look at a training program’s overall results and not focus on the top one percent of performers.  The evidence provided above indicates strongly that as our body of work is growing, and as our process is maturing and being refined over time, that we are indeed creating impact in our training cycles.  If you are searching for better performance, desire to move better, throw harder, have better command, develop secondary pitches or make them more consistent, want better arm health and durability, want to increase your ability to recover, or are coming off an injury and want to avoid re-injury by finding better movement patterns, give us a call.

Ernie Smith, Founder and CEO, Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith, aka “Smitty”, founded the Illinois Baseball Edge, Ltd. in 2021. His coaching career began long before that in the summer of 1980, and continues to evolve today with over 110 seasons of experience (if one counts Spring, Summer, and Fall separately). His focus upon long term player development and performance enhancement, with measurable results, is an approach not often found in baseball or softball and has led to some significant milestones. In recent years that approach has blended well with the evolution of player centric training methods including hyper personalization.
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