January 21, 2020

A Passion For Pitching

April 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Pasion For Pitching LogoAs a teenager Doug White was an all-star—”an average player for my age but above average for the area where I played”—but he wanted to improve his game so he attended the Doyle Baseball School after his Freshman year of high school and, through a long-toss program he learned from the instructors, added more than 100 feet to his throws, increasing from 220 feet to 330. “Today they say that if you can throw a baseball at least 300 feet, it’s comparable to a 90 mph fastball on the mound. The problem was I could never line that up on the mound because I didn’t understand the process my body should be taking.”

Despite a steady training regimen over the years, “inconsistencies, injuries, and lack of confidence as a pitcher would be my downfall through the years. I fought tooth and nail to hang on, but eventually I could not survive as a pitcher, and knew I needed to move on.”

Then White met Brent Strom and his life changed.  Strom was the third overall pick in the 1970 amateur draft behind Dave Kingman and ahead of Bucky Dent, Doug Rau, and Lenny Randle.  He pitched for the Mets, Indians, and Padres from 1972-1977, going 22-39 with a 3.95 ERA in 100 games, then became a pitching coach for the Tucson Toros, Houston Astros, and Kansas City Royals; pitching coordinator for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals; and pitching instructor in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  “The information that Brent provided me with opened a whole new world; a world of truths and real science, not guesswork and conventional wisdom. A world of solid knowledge and a reason for how and why things really worked on the mound and inside your body.”

Pitching coach Doug White of the Johnson City Cardinals

Pitching coach Doug White of the Johnson City Cardinals

White has taken that knowledge and is passing it down to other aspiring pitchers, from Little League all the way up to the professional ranks, where he serves as the pitching coach for the Cardinals’ Rookie League team in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Last year in White’s first season, the Johnson City Cardinals finished with their best record in 10 years at 37-30, good for second place, and though their pitchers finished seventh in ERA at 4.34, they tied for the league lead in shutouts with six, finished second in K/BB ratio, third in strikeouts, walks allowed, and BB/9 IP, and fourth in HR/9 IP.  According to White, once his pitchers grasped the emotional and mental elements of the game, they pitched “better than he’d ever seen them pitch.”

And that’s only a couple of the things White preaches when he instructs his students, regardless of their age.  White has created two DVDs, A Complete Overview of the Pitching Process and Tuning Yourself Into Alignment On and Off the Field.  The first deals with mechanics and though White uses terms like “drag line,” “gathering point,” “pelvic loading,” and “pronation,” which looks confusing on paper, he does a terrific job of explaining what each means and how it all comes together to make for a better pitcher.

Having mound experience myself—I pitched in a 35+ and 38+ league for about five years—I found White’s instruction to be very informative, almost enough to make me want to come out of retirement.  He begins from the ground up, explaining the proper foot placement and angle, which is where “drag line” comes in, a term coined by former pitcher and pitching instructor Tom House, who explained that regardless of where a pitcher stands on the rubber, his back foot should draw a line in the dirt with each delivery that bisects the rubber right down the middle.  Whenever I took the mound, I always stood on the first base side because that’s what felt comfortable, but I never considered the position of my back foot.  Now I will.

From there, White goes into the leg lift and discusses momentum, aggressiveness, “gathering point,” and stride length.  He works his way North to the upper body, goes into the proper arm action, then instructs the viewer on the correct placement of the glove hand.  I had heard all kinds of theories about the glove hand growing up—pulling it to the side and away from you will generate more velocity—and I thought about what I typically do with my glove hand—I usually use a swim move.  So I was surprised to learn that all of that is incorrect.  I don’t know why I was surprised, though, because when I thought about successful major league pitchers that I’d watched over the years, it occurred to me that, more often than not, they practice what White preaches.

White completes his instruction with the finish, discussing proper placement of the shoulders, rotation, and “pronation.”  Then he goes over pitching from the stretch before launching into suggestions and references for aspiring hurlers.

With all due respect to Doug, I didn’t get into the second DVD as much as the first, probably because at 43 years old I like to think I have a solid grasp of the emotional and mental part of the game.  That’s not to say that I’m very good at it—I wear my emotions on my sleeve and there are umpires and former teammates who’d probably like to take a bat to me as we speak—but I was already familiar with a lot of White’s motivational techniques.  Having said that, someone much younger than myself will learn some very productive lessons from White, and I highly recommend both DVDs.

White comes across as very affable and energetic, and not in an “I-need-to-sell-as-many-DVDs-as-possible” kind of way, but in a way that shows his passion for pitching and instruction and his desire to teach his methods.  He runs clinics throughout the year; gives private and group instruction; does remote analysis by watching video of pitchers; and provides consultation to players, parents, and coaches.

To learn more or to order his DVDs, check out Doug’s Passion For Pitching website, or his Passion For Pitching blog.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the DVDs being reviewed, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

Mike Lynch is the author of Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League and It Ain’t So: A Might-Have-Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond, and the founder of Seamheads.com.

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