Sometimes it’s hard to imagine getting to write about a sport I’ve spent so little time playing. In fact my playing days were over before I was even at a level where a coach wasn’t pitching to you. This means I don’t know much about how a baseball player trains in both the off-season and the regular season.
So with spring training getting closer and closer, it’s gotten me thinking about how athletes prepare for their particular season. I’ve decided to highlight something I’ve heard a lot about but not really given much thought to.
As we all know, the Royals have had their own issues with this controversial training program for pitchers. There was plenty of talk about difficulties between Mike Montgomery and the Royals coaching staff as he wanted to continue his long toss program when he was drafted. Supposedly the Royals weren’t pleased with this.
Also, promising prospect Dylan Bundy asked both the Pirates and the Royals to refrain from selecting him in the 2011 draft because he utilized long-toss and purportedly didn’t want to have to fight any possible coaching interference with his training regimen.
I have a glass arm. As stated before, I didn’t play enough baseball for that to be the cause. I probably just tried to throw too many deep posts in pick-up football games in junior high and high school without warming up. Add to that a truck accident that jacked up my shoulder the summer of my freshman year of college and my arm and shoulder start complaining to me if I play catch for more than 10 minutes at a time anymore.
That’s why it’s unbelievable to me the distance these guys will throw in their long-toss programs. After doing some research, I’ve determined that 300 feet seems to be the common distance that many pitchers build up to, and I’ve seen that some pitchers even throw up to 380 feet at a time. That means some guys are throwing a baseball just over 1.25 football fields to strengthen their arms and add velocity to their pitches.
And that’s exactly what proponents of long-toss are saying. They say that a long-toss program enables pitchers to lengthen their outings and throw harder.
Individuals who argue against long-tossing programs state wonder how throwing a ball a great distance can help a pitcher when it’s so different than the simulation of an actual pitch from a mound. They also worry about the possibility that pitchers may want to throw farther and farther even after the breakdown of a proper throwing motion.
This actually makes sense to me when I liken it to weight-lifting. When you lift weights, the goal is to lift as much as possible while maintaining proper form. You’ve been to the weight room and seen that guy trying to bench press or squat some weight and as he gets to the last couple of reps in his set, his back is bowed and his legs are splayed as he tries to eke out that last rep or two. Struggling for those last couple of reps while using awful form is an easy way for you to injure yourself.
So on one hand, I can see how coaches are worried that a guy might go too hard, overdo things, and really hurt his arm. On the other hand, I also am woefully aware that the ability to go deep in games is a valuable commodity when it comes to starting pitching.
So my evaluation? I think that long-toss programs seem to be okay as long as they are carefully monitored. Until there’s more research presented to me that definitively points in one direction or the other, I’d say that if a guy wants to long-toss you let him as long as he coordinates his program with coaches and makes sure not to overdo it.
I didn’t think something like throwing a baseball a really long distance could be so interesting and controversial. If you know anything about long-toss programs, tell me about it in the comments. It’s interesting to me and I’m intrigued to watch as more and more pitchers utilize long-toss programs and see what the effects are.