By STEVE KRAH
An Indiana baseball man and toolmaker has combined his know-how in both areas to create a training device that has been embraced by professional and college teams.
Rich Dunno, a former college and current youth coach and owner and CEO of Ground Force Sports in Fort Wayne, has been making the King of The Hill to promote the importance of leg drive in the pitching motion.
Dunno says proper leg drive increases velocity and decreases stress on the pitching arm.
“As a pitching coach, I always knew you needed to use the legs,” says Dunno, who once led hurlers at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., and still gives lessons. “Back then it was called leg drive, now it’s more or less known as ground force.”
In working with young pitchers, he noticed that as they pushed the indoor mound back with their back leg their speed went up.
Dunno took his engineering background to develop a device that would let the pitchers know when they were properly getting the load on their back leg to transfer energy through the kinetic chain which ended with them delivering the baseball.
When pushed back 3/16 of an inch, the top plate of King of The Hill (www.trainwiththeking.com) makes a clacking sound.
“There is an auditory reward,” says Dunno. “When they hear (the pop of the plate moving back), they know they’re doing it right.
“It’s like Pavlov’s Dogs. Everytime they heard that bell — ding, ding, ding — he knew it was time to eat.
“Even in the big leagues, they want to hear that noise. If you don’t do it correctly, you don’t hear anything.”
The device, which has gone through some evolution in the four years since Dunno began tinkering the with the concept, has an adjustable spring that can be tightened to increase the force it takes to move the mound back.
When Dunno, a 1981 Fort Wayne North Side High School graduate who played for Myron Dickerson and then Dale Doerffler his last two prep seasons, first began to study pitching, he found two basic styles: Drop-and-drive (think Tom Seaver) and Stand Tall-and-fall (used by many pitchers).
“More and more, they are finding out that the healthier pitchers use the ground force through that (kinetic) chain,” says Dunno. “They did studies that showed faster throwers created more force off the back leg. We want energy in that front foot that cause the hips to rotate.
“It’s a kinetic chain reaction.”
Dunno has learned the Major League Baseball players are resistant to change and yet 20 MLB teams, including the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres use the King of the Hill (or King of the Swing which helps hitters create a back-side load prior to the weight transfer) to be used by their big league and minor league clubs.
“(Zinter) and Mark McGwire say they love it because the kids can not only feel themselves doing it, but hear themselves,” says Dunno. “They know instantly whether they’re doing it right.”
Noting that “mass times acceleration equals power,” some strong hitters can get away with moving their upper body and “squashing the bug” while driving the ball.
“Some of the smaller guys like (Javier) Baez and (Bryce) Harper, they have to create more kinetic energy — getting the hips and upper body to rotate to create that power. If you see a video, watch what they do. Their back leg comes off the ground because they are accelerating so fast.”
A handle makes it mobile to place on mounds, in batter’s boxes, wherever.
Dunno has a couple of patents and he is entertaining an appearance on the Shark Tank TV show.
With the same process of transferring energy in mind, Dunno has devised a Queen of the Hill for fast pitch softball and he is working on trainers for football, track and other sports.
He has even come up with a line of tacky, all-weather “bat snot” — an answer to pine tar sticks — to give hitters a better grip.
The King of the Hill leg drive trainer, devised by Fort Wayne-based coach and toolmaker Rich Dunno of Ground Force Sports, has been adopted by many Major League Baseball organizations and college programs. (Ground Force Sports Photo)
The blogger meets Rich Dunno, creator of The King of the Hill, King of the Swing, Queen of the Hill and more.