Matthew Alter can see a future in baseball coaching at the collegiate level. He’s already gotten a head start by assisting in travel ball while also a college player himself. The 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Lutheran School with two years of eligibility remaining at Hanover (Ind.) College is in his third summer with the Indiana Bulls. He assisted with Scott French’s 15U Bulls Black squad in 2020. That team featured Class of 2023 standouts Max Clark (Franklin Community) and Andrew Wiggins (Heritage Christian). Alter aided (former Anderson University assistant) John Becker with the 15U Bulls Grey squad in 2021 and is now helping Becker’s 16U Bulls Grey team. By summer’s end the group will have played about 40 games with tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Ga., and Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo. “After college the plan is to be a college baseball coach,” says Alter, who turned 22 in May. “The quickest way to be an assistant is to be a pitching coach. But I’m also interested in being a graduate assistant.” Matthew’s cousin, Jared Broughton, is a college baseball coach. He most recently served for three years at Clemson (S.C.) University. Dick Alter, Matthew’s father, retired from Indianapolis Lutheran following the 2019 season after 40 years of coaching (about the last 25 years of that as a teacher). “There’s so many thing he taught me,” says Matthew of the shared wisdom shared. “The biggest thing my dad taught me is that baseball is the game of life. “It doesn’t matter what you did today, it’s what you do tomorrow and the next day.” Born in Carmel, Ind., Matthew the son of Dick and Karen Alter (who is president of Borshoff, a public relations and advertising agency in Indianapolis). The Alter family moved to the south side of Indianapolis when their son was 3. He played at what is now Franklin Township Little League (located behind the former Wanamaker Elementary School) and then was in travel ball with the Indiana Prospects and Indiana Pony Express. Alter played football, basketball and baseball (for his father) at Lutheran then went to Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., where Broughton was associate head coach. Matthew says going to college to play baseball meant “going from being an only child to having 40 brothers.” He counts slugger Alex Christie (Center Grove) among his good friends on the team. As a right-handed pitcher, Alter made six relief appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season and went 1-0 with a 2.65 earned run average, nine strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings for the Piedmont Lions. Alter decided to transfer to another NCAA Division III school in Hanover. Grant Bellak is the Panthers head coach. Until leaving for another job, Thomas Murphy was HC’s pitching coach. “(Coach Bellak) and I have a great relationship,” says Alter. “He focuses more on hitters and infielders.” Murphy helped Alter in 2020-21 by helping him build up his lower half to utilize his power and increase velocity. Using a Core Velocity Belt and throwing weighted PlyoCare Balls with Driveline Baseball exercises were part of the routine. “(Murphy) helped us pitchers with the mental aspect of the game,” says Alter. “He is big on visualizing success and always trying to stay positive. It’s about keeping composure and maintaining positivity and self talk.” Alter pitched in 11 games (eight starts) in 2021 and went 5-0 with 45 strikeouts and 33 walks in 52 1/3 innings. In 13 contests (11 starts) in 2022, he was 5-5 with 45 strikeouts and 29 walks in 72 innings. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference plays Saturday and Tuesday doubleheaders and Alter was the Saturday morning starter. “A lot of the teams (in the HCAC) are very similar,” says Alter. “They have a few good pitchers. But it relies solely on hitting. “That was evident in our conference tournament. There were a lot of high-scoring games.” Alter spent just over two weeks with the 2022 summer wood-bat Coastal Plain League’s Lexington County (S.C.) Blowfish before shutting it down for the summer with a tender shoulder. “It was from overuse,” says Alter, who did not play on any summer teams in 2019, 2020 and 2021. “But I did not tear my labrum.” Using a three-quarter arm slot, Alter throws two kinds of fastballs (four-seam and two-seam) plus a slider, change-up and curveball. He topped out at 87 mph with the four-seamer this summer. “The two-seamer is one of my best pitches,” says Alter. “It definitely moves. It starts at the middle of the plate and ends up outside to a lefty. It moves so much I’m able to fool hitters.” Alter employs a “circle” change and a 12-to-6 curve that he is able to throw for a strike in any count. A Communication major, Alter is on pace to graduate at the end of his fourth year in 2023. If he takes a fifth year, he says he will likely pursue a masters in Communication. Hanover does not have a graduate program in that subject.
Tanner Gaff grew up in Whitley County, Ind., as a middle infielder who moved to the corners as he got older. The right-hander doubled as a pitcher. A 2016 graduate of Whitko Junior/Senior High School in South Whitley, Gaff went to the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and was a two-way player until his last season — the extra year granted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had a pretty good year,” says Gaff, who employed Driveline Baseball training methods and increased his velocity going into 2021. As a pitcher-only in ’21, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder made 14 mound appearances and went 8-2 with a 4.15 earned run average and 92 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings. USF went 34-22, setting a school record for single-season victories. Gaff, who earned a degree in Business Management with a Sports concentration in 2020, still wanted to see how far pitching could take him. “I had heard nothing but good things about Tread (Athletics),” says Gaff of the business specializing in online performance coaching. He began training remotely with Tread in the summer of 2021. When Connor Lawhead left the Saint Francis coaching staff and went back to his native Washington, the Cougars were in need of a pitching coach. Gaff filled that role and was part of a staff featuring head coach Dustin Butcher and assistant Kristian Gayday while still honing his own skills. Then came the time to go to Charlotte, N.C., and train with Tread in-house, which he did from February to May of 2022. “Butch was happy for me,” says Gaff of Butcher’s willingness to let him pursue his dreams. “He was all for me furthering my baseball career.” With the help of Tread, Gaff posted videos of him pitching to social media and got the attention of the Minnesota Twins. On May 20, he signed with that organization and is now in Fort Myers gearing up for the Florida Complex League season which opens June 6. The next two steps up the minor league ladder are with the Low-A Florida State League’s Fort Myers Mighty Mussels and High-A Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Gaff possesses a four-seam fastball, slider/cutter, curve and splitter (split-finger fastball). “My four-seamer has ‘plus’ carry and sits at 91 to 94,” says Gaff, 24. “I’m always looking to gain mph. When it’s right, his slider is delivered about 80 mph. “My splitter is one of my most promising pitches,” says Gaff. “I get good swing-and-miss with it. “I threw it in middle school though I didn’t know it was called a splitter at the time. I’ve always had it in my back pocket. The movement patterns are always consistent. Sometimes it’s left. Sometimes right.” At Tread, Gaff used TrackMan cameras to learned how to manipulate his splitter and other pitches. Born in Columbia City to James and Debra Gaff, Tanner spent his youth on a 40-acre farm (20 acres of farmland and 20 acres of wetlands) about 10 minutes from Columbia City, Larwill and South Whitley. He played in the South Whitley youth league until about sixth grade then travel ball with a homegrown team later the Ken Jones-coached Flippin’ Frogs and Cam Brannock-coached Summit City Sluggers. As a middle schooler, Gaff was on a Pony League travel team that was coached by then-Whitko head coach Erik Hisner (now at Eastern of Greentown). “That helped us with high school,” says Gaff, who had some teammates go on to win the Wildcats’ first sectional title in 2017. “We kept our core together.” Gaff played two years at USF for head coach Greg Roberts and then assistant Butcher took over the program. “(Roberts) was a really nice guy,” says Gaff. “He cared about his players. Butch is a great coach, but an even better person. “He changed the culture. Saint Francis wasn’t always typically known as a good baseball school.” Tanner has two older married sisters — Starr Kane and Isis Ivy.
Anthony Gomez is full of gratitude for a career in baseball. The Director of Player Development for Pitching at PRP Baseball (Passion Resilience Process) housed at Mojo Up Sports Complex (formerly known as Finch Creek Fieldhouse) in Noblesville, Ind., joined the company in August 2020. He recently gained more daily operations responsibilities with PRP Baseball Founder and Director Greg Vogt becoming the Rehab Pitching Coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. Before coming to PRP Baseball, Gomez spent four years as a coach/instructor at Morris Baseball (now 5 Star Great Lakes) in northwest Indiana, working with Bobby Morris and Dave Sutkowski. In the summers, he coached for Morris Baseball (2017-19) and Chicago-based and Al Oremus-led Prairie Gravel (2020). “I have thankfulness for Bobby Morris allowing me to work at his facility and the things that he taught me,” says Gomez. “That’s another another part that’s allowed me to be where I today.” Gomez called his training group of 150-plus players raining from middle school to collegiate to professional levels the Region Jabronis. “That was 22-year-old me being funny,” says Gomez of the satiric name. “A Jabroni is a term is to describe someone is all talk. “We don’t want to be all talk. Let’s put in the work. I don’t want to hear you talking about it. “Results always speak.” Gomez, who has various certifications including OnBaseU pitching evaluation and Driveline Baseball and studied with Randy Sullivan at Florida Baseball Armory and taken the Brian Cain mental performance class. “All coaches should be equipped to handle the psychological end,” says Gomez. “They can be mentors to them to handle stresses when they’re treading water. “Ultimately, we’re trying to help people.” Gomez, who has read “Old School vs. New School: The Application Of Data & Technology Into Baseball” by Eugene Bleecker is always growing his baseball knowledge. He shares his insight on the biomechanics of throwing, intertwining weight room work to benefit throwers and understanding human movement to help PRP Baseball athletes become more efficient movers on the field. The man who turns 28 on March 4 is all-in for baseball and the development of players, particularly pitchers. There was a time when Gomez lost his zeal for the diamond. A left-handed pitcher, Gomez was not planning to play baseball in college and was going to focus his attention on his studies. Then just as his senior year at Munster (Ind.) High School was ending in 2012, Gomez received an offer from Vincennes (Ind.) University coach Chris Barney and a scholarship to play for the junior college Trailblazers. Gomez saw a liveliness in Barney. “He was filled with fire and passion for his coaching,” says Gomez of Barney. “He’s an energetic dude. He was ready to get after it each day. He would hold you accountable. That’s what you want from a coach.” At Munster, Gomez played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan. “That guy’s got a huge heart,” says Gomez of Shinkan. “He cares about his players down deep.” After Gomez finished college, Shinkan allowed him to help coach at his alma mater. “I have a lot of gratitude for him,” says Gomez of Shinkan. “He allowed me to help on staff and run workouts. “I thought I’d be an actuary, but he helped put me on my current path.” Looking back to Vincennes, Gomez was throwing a bullpen during his freshman year when his back lock up on him. It turned out to be a bulging disk and kept him from playing. “I lost my passion for the game,” says Gomez, who decided to follow his original plan and told Barney he was transferring to Ball State University to be a student only and begin working toward an Actuarial Science degree and Computer Science minor. Then George Bizoukas — longtime Highland American Legion Post 180 manager — let Gomez know that he was still age-eligible to play for his team that summer. Gomez, who split his last two high school summers between Post 180 between the Downers Grove, Ill.-based Longshots Baseball, decided to give playing another try. “George allowed me to have fun with the game,” says Gomez. “Without him I don’t know if I’m in the position I am now. “It went phenomenal. I decided ‘I’m back.’ I’m going to work as hard as I can the rest of the summer and go to (Ball State) walk-on trials. After seeing Gomez throw about 10 pitches in the bullpen, Cardinals coach Rich Maloney called the lefty that night letting him know he had made the team. Gomez redshirted in the spring of 2014 and made one mound appearance in 2015 before being cut. “Coach Maloney is someone I really respect,” says Gomez. “He’s a straight shooter. I was not meeting the expectations. I could be considered as a waste of a roster spot. “(Maloney) is a phenomenal culture coach. We had an awesome tight-knit group (as 2014 Mid-American Conference champions). I still keep in-touch with those guys.” Gomez grew up in northwest Indiana with a talent for baseball. His 15U summer (between freshmen and sophomore year), he played with the 17U Indiana Breakers. “I made varsity the next year,” says Gomez. “I credit that to playing 17U ball as a freshman.” In the summer of 2010, Gomez was on the Ed Woolwine-coached 16U Indiana Prospects. Then came the two summers with the Rob Rooney-coached Longshots and Highland Post 180. At PRP Baseball, Gomez spends the bulk of his time on the throwing floor. He estimates that there are close to 300 athletes just in the youth and high school groups. Gomez is also in charge of running a remote service that currently has about 25 players. They send him weekly videos of them throwing, lifting etc., and they talk on Zoom and phone calls. “It’s all about communication,” says Gomez. “I can’t coach what I can’t see.” Anthony is the son of Edward Gomez and Karyn Condes and has two sisters and two brothers. His father played soccer at Indiana University. His stepfather is Michael Condes.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
The professional left-handed pitcher was not willing to settle.
So when the Lafayette, Ind., native became a free agent after the 2019 Major League Baseball season, he decided a transformation was in order after appearing in 275 MLB games (210 as a starter) since 2008.
“My performance was not matching up with what I desire to be,” says Richard, who went 1-5 with a 5.96 earned run average in 10 starts with the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays and was released Sept. 12 (his 36th birthday). “I decided to make a tangible change to improve production.
He established a plan of action and came back to Lafayette and started implementing it. He built a barn next to his house and goes out there every morning.
“I’m throwing into a net quite a bit, which isn’t the most fun,” says Richard. “But the net never lies. It shows you exactly where the ball went.
“A good catcher can manipulate pitches.”
The pitcher also wrote down his plan, painstakingly laying out the details.
“Before the baseball world came to a screeching halt, I was frequently asked ‘What are you doing now?’ by friends and family alike,” writes Richard in the introduction to the project. “Although the question was simple enough, I honestly didn’t feel comfortable enough to delve into exactly what I was doing with my time – mostly due to the fact that I didn’t think the majority of people really care where my spin axis was that week.
“Like most unsigned free agent pitchers in professional baseball, it is much easier to state, ‘just throwing every day and waiting for the right opportunity.’
“The reality is I have been up to a lot more than simply throwing a few baseballs everyday. I have used the last few months to make significant changes this off-season. The effectiveness of my pitching repertoire had changed for the worse over the past two seasons.
“Based on that, I could choose to continue down the same path, one with an aim to execute pitches at a higher rate but likely be relegated to a LHP bullpen role, or veer headfirst into changing how my pitches profiled to RHH in an effort to level out the platoon splits for longer outings.
“I honestly debated the choice many times over – my wife likely got sick of my asking her or talking to myself. Ultimately, I came up with a plan to revamp my arsenal to return in time as the starting pitcher, the role I have worked to become since first pitching in my backyard with my dad squatting behind the plate and my mother standing in the box.”
Clayton is the oldest of Barry and Cindy Richard’s three children ahead of daughters Casey (Davenport) and Taylor (Bumgarner). Barry is a retired Lafayette Police offer and has served as sheriff of Tippecanoe County and the executive director of Lyn Trece Boys & Girls Club of Tippecanoe County. Cindy has worked with troubled teenagers.
Most of Richard’s charitable work in baseball has been centered on at-risk youth. He and his wife have worked with the Lyn Trece BGC and and clubs in San Diego.
“We only get to play baseball for so long,” says Richard. “The impact off the field really lasts.”
Richard was the Padres’ nominee for the Heart & Hustle Award (given out annually the the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to a current player who not only excels not he field, but also “best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball”) and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award (given annually to a Major League Baseball player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement”).
“To be honored with those types of things is really humbling,” says Richard. “It shows what’s really important in life.”
“Sept. 12, 2004,” says Richard, who was then a redshirt freshman. “That was the day after Michigan was upset 28-20 against Notre Dame. Sophomore Chad Henne was kept at quarterback for that game and moving forward. “I saw writing on the wall. I knew my football career at Michigan was probably coming to an end.”
Soon after the Rose Bowl, Richard went to the baseball team. He appeared in 21 games and went 0-1 with five saves and a 2.43 ERA. He was selected in the eighth round of the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox and signed by Anderson, Ind.-based scout Mike Shirley.
Richard made his big league debut with the White Sox in 2008 at 24. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in 2009. He elected free agency after the 2013 season.
Richard was traded to the Chicago Cubs and returned to a big league mound in 2015. He returned to the Padres in August 2016 and remained with them until he designated for assignment in December 2018. That same month Richard was traded to the Blue Jays.
For his career, he is 69-84 with a 4.51 ERA and 824 strikeouts in 1,284 2/3 innings.
Richard has been described as a contact pitcher.
“You never set out to have guys hit the ball,” says Richard. “Weak contact on contact on the ground is a really good thing.
“Guys who typically have a lower spin rate tend to sink the ball. That creates more early contact and more early outs with balls on the ground.”
As he began “Project 2020” in earnest, Richard met with Driveline founder/owner Kyle Boddy and started working with manager of online training Dean Jackson.
More from 2020 Project:
“I need to use my past as a compass to my future. I am too evolved in my career to think what I have done doesn’t matter while looking to improve.
“My Past: I learned how to throw a football first.
“Why that’s important: If I desire to make some fundamental changes to my delivery, I need to be willing to change in complete, as the foundation of my throwing process was built around throwing a football.
“I had to make arm, body, and mechanical compensations mid-career due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. (TOS: the compression of the brachia plexus that is the highway of nerves, arteries and/or veins that controls and supplies to the arm. In myself it manifested as drastic pain in the anterior shoulder).
“Why that’s important: I need to be aware of why I started to do ‘strange’ things throwing a baseball and understand that it’ll be difficult to kick those old habits.
“I made additional compensations in 2018 to get past knee issues.
“Why that’s important: For very much the same reason as the TOS. My body had compensated to cover up inefficiencies, and I had to retrain myself to get back to my old self.
“The combination of these three athletic factors left me with a delivery that was nonathletic and not overly effective, so I tried to throw the old delivery out the window.
“Getting rid of that old delivery has been much like getting water out of a tire. You can see it. You don’t want it there. Yet, you are forced to keep flipping over that tire again and again because only a small portion comes out with every flip.
“The easier part for me was self-evaluating thru identifying pitches and zones that needed improvement from my past. The info was sadly pretty clear to me that not much of my arsenal was effective vs RHH other than my slider. The worst part of the self evaluation was that the slider was largely ineffective last season also due to a whole host of reasons.
“What I also found was that my sinker at the bottom of the zone – my bread and butter that generated ground balls — had turned from a viable option to one that was generating less and less favorable results.
“My change-up as well had blended into a pitch that too closely mirrored the not so great metrics of my sinker. My analytics study showed my ability to cut and spin the ball was also compromised, due to the lower arm slot and release angle that had been an effective and physically necessary approach a couple of seasons prior.
“A few years ago after another brief self evaluation, I moved to the other side of the rubber, spent the offseason trying to manipulate the change up, and reintroduce a cut fastball into my mix.
“To my naked eye, these worked great and I was oozing with confidence. The ball flight suggested they were good, catch partners loved them, and bullpen catchers were on board. Everything was smooth and positive until a RHH got into the box and took swings at the pitches.
“Going into this offseason, I set the goal of raising my arm angle to create a better four seam fastball vs RHH. This adjustment would change my approach angle, movement profile, and velocity. The new angle would also allow me to differentiate my off-speed from the FB more effectively.
“I felt like I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish but didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity to consult specialists in this area of pitching.
“Last year, I worked with a longtime pitching coach that requests to be anonymous. This year I had started to follow Driveline (DL) through social media and been reading up on their research. I decided to reach out to Kyle Boddy. He quickly responded and gave me all the information I needed. I made the trip to Washington to check out Driveline.
“Their information surprised me a bit but offered a roadmap of the last few months: my lower body was not creating much force, and my delivery was not syncing up efficiently enough to create optimized velocity into the ball.”
Richard offered a summary of his Driveline Report:
“Key Notes: Arm action is overall clean and efficient, elbow is a bit low at ball release. However, this is not currently having a negative effect on the rest of the arm action.
“The trunk opening early into foot plant is most likely pulling the arm out of efficient positions too early in the throw.
“Trunk opens early into foot plant. Hip/shoulder separation and timing are inefficient with room to improve.”
Biomechanics details: “Richard’s upper body kinematic positions are within normal to above average ranges for the most part. He does a great job creating above average scap retraction into foot plant (47 degs). Low shoulder abduction at ball release (79 degs). Besides that, no other glaring inefficiencies noted.
“He does a good job staying stacked with good forward (-10 degs) and lateral (4 degs) trunk tilt early into foot plant. However, there are some other inefficiencies noted. Richard’s trunk is opening early into foot plant (21 degs). This is limiting Richard’s ability to create hip/shoulder separation (18 degs) and timing from peak pelvis to peak torso angular velocity (0.0111 secs). This is most likely a product of inefficient trunk/pelvis positions at foot plant making it hard to create separation and sequence efficiently. Hip/shoulder separation drills should be emphasized to work on this by holding counter-rotation and staying stacked with the trunk while the pelvis opens into foot plant.
“With those notes, I had all the information I needed to start down my path of change,” writes Richard of his plan. “Here is a sample formula for a delivery that I will refer to a few times moving forward: Just as 10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10=100, Mindset+Focus+Breath+Feet+Legs+Hips+Torso+Arms+Hand+Sights=Delivery or an Executed Pitch.
“This is an oversimplification pitch delivery to try to illustrate my point. Every pitcher will have a unique equation that reaches their own version of 100.
“When a pitcher changes one small thing in his delivery, he will no longer be at his desired 100.
“Example: I moved my throwing foot to be more flush with the rubber (had to exaggerate to feel as if my toes were pointing at the plate to get there).
Changing that ‘10’ in my foot to an ‘8’ left my solution at ‘98’. Then, I had to go step by step through the rest of my delivery to see what else needed adjusted to get back to 100. In this case, it was just my sights.
“The foot adjustment happened quickly, and my sights adjusted without much issue. Some fixes come relatively easily, but other changes require many frustrating training sessions to find out what was changed and what correlated adjustment needs made.
“Here are a few of the most frustrating parts I encounter when setting out to make a significant change:
“Seeing what is wrong and not feeling it.
“Feeling an adjustment made and not seeing it.
“Expectations not lining up with reality.
“Physical restrictions limiting a faster progression (in my case, blisters).
“I have also figured out you have to go through the frustrating parts to make progress. If you are not getting sore in new places, experiencing blisters, throwing balls off the backstop, then you’re likely not making much of a change at all.
“Making a fundamental change takes hundreds, even thousands of reps, and the outcome revealed is often incremental. My mind and body have worked together so long and over so many reps, it takes a while to break up the chemistry they have going.
“I started working from home while staying in contact with Dean Jackson of DL. We decided to start working from the ground up. Working on my lower half was a very frustrating process.
“Before the past couple of years, I had never put any thought into what my lower body was doing when I was pitching.
“The first part of my lower half adjustment was easy enough: moving my throwing foot flush with the rubber.
“I originally moved my heel off of the rubber to even out my delivery equation when I moved from the other side of the rubber to face RHH two years ago.
“I was having trouble with my command and made a quick fix to change the way by body angled to the plate vs changing something else.
“In getting my heel closer to the rubber, it improved my ability to get into my left hip. What felt good was often wrong and what felt foreign was generally right where I needed to be.
“I spent months trying to get more out of my legs to no avail. I was going back and forth with Dean, almost daily, toiling over changes that could make the positive impact we so desired. He did a remarkable job promptly responding and sending video examples when necessary.
“My mind was totally on my legs, but that is exactly where I was going wrong: I was putting too much emphasis on them. If I think back to when things were going well before the knee issues, there was no thought put into what my lower half was doing.
“Thinking about how it moves, I’m essentially locking it up. I stole a cue from Trevor Cahill, who sent me a video of him getting his foot down before an obstacle (keeping his glove foot on the throwing side of the midline to the plate). “That is what clicked with me after countless attempts to get my lower half moving ‘right’. What I had been doing was putting so much focus into my leg movement that the process of the lower half going down the slope was taking too long for my foot get down. It was just the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.
“The next step was how my torso was moving in space at a couple of different points through my delivery.
“Closing off my upper half relative to my hips; Hip/Shoulder separation. The elite throwers do this very well. Over time, my natural ability to do this had been compromised by the many adjustments made to command the ball.
“One of the first attempts was to try to ‘glove tap’ at leg lift. Rob Hill suggested it, and this helped a little, but I didn’t feel that it made as drastic of a change as I desired.
“One day, I remembered back to learning to pitch for the first time in the back yard with my father. I originally misunderstood what he meant when he was telling me ‘all the way back’.
“We would play out imaginary at-bats and call ‘balls’ and ‘strikes.’ If I were to fall behind, he would exclaim, ‘Come on Clayton. All the way back!
“Six-year-old me understood this as reaching my glove and ball all the way back towards second base as far as I could before I delivered the pitch. I didn’t understand ‘all the way back’ as a saying to get back into the count until embarrassingly late in my baseball days.
“So, I used the input from Rob and my father to start getting a little more counter rotation with my upper half by driving my hands back at leg lift.
“Getting on top of the ball: One of the biggest obstacles to get the ball to act how I want it to is to get more ‘on top’ of it. My spin axis has gotten pretty low since my return from TOS.
“My spin axis was measured around 9:45. This leads to a terrific amount of arm side run, but in the past couple years it was not enough to keep the RHH at bay. I needed to find a healthy way to raise my hand and effectively raise my spin axis. “One thing I have heard from many pitching coaches and baseball minds more advanced than mine, is that you don’t mess with a player’s arm angle.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t always listen to this wisdom, and I battled to change mine at times earlier in my career, which led to some arm issues. That left me with the challenge to get my hand more vertical without raising my arm relative to my body.
“Enter Torso Tilt: I elected to use my torso to ‘lean’ glove side in an effort to raise ‘arm angle’ and get my spin axis to a more desirable slot. This worked initially, but then proved to be very inconsistent in terms of spin axis.
“The ball was coming out of the same slot consistently, but the axis was very inconsistent.
“I couldn’t figure this out for a long time. I was throwing with RHP Parker Dunshee and took note of his arm slot that is relatively low compared to his 1:00 spin axis.
“We talked it over, and I tried changing the positioning of my thumb on the baseball. Boom. Spin axis at or above 10:30 nearly every pitch following adjustment.
“My thumb was on the side of the ball and I moved it under or essentially polar opposite of my power fingers.
“After my four-seam fastball was starting to profile how I envisioned it, it was time to start commanding that pitch and doing so at higher intensity levels.
“One thing that I have found when implementing changes into a delivery is that I can perform them fairly easily in drill work or super low intensity situations. The real challenge lies in creating my new outcome as soon as a higher level of intensity is introduced and there is more focus on the outcome of the pitch.
“The moment in which I envision a hitter in the box or try to execute a pitch, my mind/body has a tendency to revert back to the form in which it performed that action in the past.”
“Outside of family, there is nothing in my life that has had as much of an impact on my actions and mindset as baseball. I had a high school football coach that would routinely acknowledge ‘pain is a good teacher’.
“There is not much more painful than giving up a home run to give up the lead or lose an MLB game. Those game experiences of pitches that I was beat on are burnt into my mind and body. If I try to tell my body to throw that pitch, my mind will override a poor decision to stay away from that uber painful experience it was once put in.
“It also provides a level of comfort with the delivery that has worked, for the most part, over the course of my career.
“Unfortunately, that delivery that I revert back to is not one I want moving forward while facing RHH. So, I have to make a habit out of making the uncomfortable, comfortable.
“This is where slow-motion video and pitch measuring tools such as Rapsodo really provide an advantage.
“It is impossible to find big league level talent to take swings off you every time you take the mound to work things out.
“The combination of Rapsodo and film have been introduced to somewhat fill that void.
“Nothing can fully replace the feedback of a big-league hitter, but the metrics and video provided from these sources has been a big step forward in seeing the necessary changes, and if I was making the changes the way I had envisioned.
“Now, instead of ‘feeling’ like that was a good pitch, I can look up and check to see if the numbers backed it up. Whenever I think of mental cues and how our mind perceives our body to be moving,
“I recall a conversation with former MLB veteran and fellow Hoosier, Joe Thatcher. I faced him his senior year of high school, and he threw ‘normal’.
“He developed into a Big Leaguer as a guy that dropped down and was very difficult on LHH. I asked him, “When did you start throwing like this?” when we were teammates in SD. He replied, ‘I feel like I’m throwing the same as everyone else, completely normal.’
“It goes to show, no matter how good we are or how far we have come, very rarely is the vision of our mind’s eye 20/20.
“All too often, early in the process, what felt like a great pitch only felt great because it was closer to how I used to throw.
“I wanted to feel weird and make the weird feeling my new normal. This process takes thousands of throws. It can take thousands of throws at each level of intensity.
“Playing catch — Flatground, Side Work, Live BP, Simulated Game, MiLB Game, MLB Game. As I have worked at each level, I have found that there are certain obstacles that pop up because of my body/mind recalling how it used to perform.
“Back to the process – Command: At this point, many of the variables in my delivery equation have been manipulated.
“The only thing remaining is throwing until my new sights line up with where the ball is actually going, without regressing towards what I’m comfortable with.
“This remains easier said than done. Thousands of throws, even a few off the glove were made in this process.
“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many intelligent baseball minds over the course of my career. In these times of introspection, I will find myself recalling the cues Darren Balsley used to help me improve my sinker, or how Jim Benedict helped get my velo back after the TOS. Whether it was sights under the glove or the concept of throwing it easy and pulling down, I still draw from those interactions and now I have the 4S FB that I desire.
“Unfortunately, I do not throw 101 mph and have the luxury of living off of one pitch. I am forced to incorporate my off speed to compete at the highest level.
“Every time I use a different grip, some part of my delivery is driven back in time due to the muscle memory of that grip. Some grips take weeks to figure out what was not adding up, like my slider (turns out I was failing to drive my hands back at the top of my leg lift like I was with my FB).
“Other grips took just a few throws to iron out the kinks, like my CH. The new hand placement has allowed for the reintroduction of my cutter and curveball, which was kind of like learning new pitches all over again due to the lack of action those pitches have seen over the past few years.”
“I still have some work to do in getting the release points of my off-speed to mirror more closely that of my FB.
“However, they have gradually gotten closer over the last couple of weeks, and I just need to flip that tire a few more times. A couple more flips and the water will likely be out of it – just like I will be back to my ‘new, old self.’”
There is uncertainty about when the Major League Baseball season is going to begin — if at all — and if there will be Minor League Baseball in 2020.
Scott Haase is a collector of baseball knowledge — especially about pitching.
Haase (rhymes with classy) was in Nashville, Tenn., at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention, talking face-to-face with folks he has connected with online or by phone.
“I learned pretty quickly what I was going to get most out of (the ABCA convention) was the networking,” says Haase, a board member, pitching coordinator and social media manager for the Indiana Twins travel organization. “It’s good to put a name to a face, chat in-person and strength that relationship.”
Among those he has connected with is Steve Merriman, a pitching coordinator in the Colorado Rockies system who also happens to share a hometown with Haase — Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
Haase, who turned 33 in December, has many certifications, including from OnBase U (functional movement) and Driveline Baseball as well as group exercise and personal training for his full-time job as health coach and wellness coordinator for Community Health Network. He was at Pitch-A-Palooza in Franklin, Tenn., Dec. 13-15, 2019.
Haase came on board as an instructor and 17U pitching coach for Twins while also coaching at Franklin Community and conducting private lessons.
“It was six days a week of baseball for the first year of marriage,” says Haase, noting that his wife (Lora) was also busy at that time with coaching volleyball. “It was fun.”
After that first summer as a Twins coach, Haase decided to focus on being an instructor. He now coordinates pitching, teaches other instructors and coaches and runs the off-season training program with the organization as well as help Clymore with operations.
The Indiana Twins were housed in a facility near the University of Indianapolis then moved to spot in Martinsville with two buildings and three diamonds. There’s about 180 players in the program from 8U through 17U.
Haase notes that 8U gives family an introduction.
“Travel baseball is not right for everybody,” says Haase.
While high schoolers typically play up to eight tournaments each summer in June and July, younger players take part in up to 10 from April to July.
Beginning with 9U, teams have an off-season training program included in fees that lasts up to 20 weeks. Besides training in pitching, hitting, fielding and catching, there is Baseball I.Q.
Coaches were complaining because they were losing games because players who might look good during workouts don’t know how to back up first base or execute bunt coverage.
“Things that a travel ball coach doesn’t have as much practice time to cover,” says Haase.
A game created by Clymore involves a wipe board with a baseball field.
Players pull a card that gives them a situation. It might be “runner of first base and two outs.”
Another card is pulled.
It may say, “you’re the batter and you hit a ball past the defender in left-center field, what are you doing?”
That gives an opportunity to go around the room and see how many scenarios players identify.
As the game progresses, the card may have them as the right fielder and they are asked what they do when the ball goes into left-center field.
“It’s been pretty cool,” says Haase. “It gets them to think through it.”
Clymore is a proponent of mental skills and each team must spend part of their practices, which begin in January, doing some kind of mental work.
“It can be simple or elaborate,” says Haase. “They may watch a 10-minute video and have discussion and work sheet.”
It might be a TED talk or a motivational clip from a movie. Players and coaches will talk about how the subject elations to life, relationships, baseball or whatever.
“The mental component is such a big part of the game,” says Haase. “If you aren’t mentally strong, well-rounded an educated, in sports and in life you are not going to be able to succeed very much.
“If you don’t believe you’re going to have success — regardless of the reason — it’s going to be hard to have success.”
College players come back to train at the Twins facility during breaks. Among the recent alums is UIndy senior right-handed pitcher Reid Werner and Purdue Fort Wayne third baseman/pitcher Luke Miles.
Earlier in their development, the Schnell brothers (Nick and Aaron) and Avery Short played for the Indiana Twins. Outfielder Nick Schnell is now in the Tampa Bay Rays organization while left-hander Short is with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
A former left-handed pitcher/outfielder and team captain at Sacred Heart Academy in Mt. Pleasant (where he helped earn two district and regional titles and was the football team’s starting quarterback as a junior and senior), and pitcher at NCAA Division II Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, Mich., Haase video-taped himself and friends and studied footage of Tim Lincecum while trying to add velocity to his pitches.
Haase’s first coaching position was at a Little League in Saginaw.
He wound up in Indianapolis after long-distance dating his future wife. Scott and Lora Haase have an 8-month old (Max). Lora, who was an all-state volleyball player at Perry Meridian High School, coached Team Indiana in that sport for three years.
Scott Haase is a board member, pitching coordinator and social media manager for the Indiana Twins travel organization. The group has a training facility in Martinsville.
To familiarize himself even more, Antone went to Driveline Baseball headquarters in Kent, Wash. (part of the Seattle-Tacoma metro area) the weekend of Sept. 21 to take a certification course on Foundations of Pitching (Coming soon: Foundations of Hitting, Foundations of Pitch Design and Technology in Baseball).
Attendees at the session were immersed in Driveline’s core philosophies and beliefs, including concepts found in the book, “Hacking The Kinetic Chain” and the use of training aids and technology.
“What I liked most was the programming for athletes to maximize their potential and also stay healthy and prevent injury,” says Antone, noting each area from youth to professional was covered. “It’s all based on needs.”
Antone, who turned 29 on Nov. 7, says a youth player in elementary or middle school can be checked for a base level of strength and coordination and can be introduced to weighted Driveline PlyoCare balls and weighted baseball to help clean up movement quality and base of strength.
“As they get older, add things or make it more intense,” says Antone.
“He was a big, physical kid and could move pretty well,” says Antone. “He could do weighted ball pulldowns, which gives velocity to his throws.
“Then there’s a freshmen who has little time in the weight room. He needs to build a base level in the weight room and get used to (conventional) long toss (before going to things like weighted ball pulldowns and weighted ball long toss).
“You need to understand what each athlete’s lowest hanging fruit is and set up their programming for that.”
Antone says coaches have common objectives, but don’t use the same words.
“In my opinion, everybody is trying to talk about the same thing, but they’re talking in a different language or a different way,” says Antone. “Baseball’s got to get better to have a common language among coaches and players.
“Golf has a common language. Five different (baseball) coaches can look at video of the same hitter and could each say five different things they did well and five things they did not do well and have to work out.
“Technology takes the bias out. It shows what they need to address. We can make changes. We can test to track progress and improvement. It’s just a tool to help us learn and get better and to do it in the fastest, most effective way possible.”
Antone, who attended the John Mallee Major League Hitting Clinic Nov. 23-24 at the University of Illinois-Chicago, says a Rapsodo system costs around $4,000 and a Blast Motion sensor is about $100.
“This stuff is expensive, but do-able,” says Antone. “You prioritize what’s important to you and your program. Eventually you’ll have all the technology you need or want.
“You don’t need all of it. You don’t need to get everything just to have it.”
The way Antone operates, once he gets one piece of technology that is helpful, he wants to add more.
But having tools mean nothing if they can’t be effectively conveyed to players where they will make real changes and adjustments.
“(Coaches) need to study the technology and how you’re going to implement it into your program,” says Antone. “How are you going to communicate to the player in a way they will understand?”
Pat Antone, who was head coach at Boone Grove High School in 2018 when the Wolves won an IHSAA Class 2A state baseball championship, traveled to Driveline Baseball headquarters recently to increase his knowledge of the game.
Passing along life skills is very important to the coach and educator.
“It’s our goal to help the young men who come through our program reach whatever goal they’ve set,” says McCormick, who completed his 10th season of leading the Sparkplugs program in 2018. “We try to identify each goal and they try to work to get there.
“We also try to set things in motion so our kids will be great fathers and great husbands.
“The easy stuff is the baseball stuff. That’s pretty easy to teach.”
To be a part of Speedway baseball is to be part of a group that looks after its own.
“We’re one big family,” says McCormick, who had 27 players in the program in 2018 and went 12-12 at the varsity level. The team lost to Cascade in the first round of the IHSAA Class 2A Speedway Sectional.
The Sparkplugs have won eight sectional crowns, including three with McCormick at the helm (2012, 2013 and 2015). Speedway was 2A state runner-up in 2001 with Bruce Hutchings as head coach.
Besides McCormick, Speedway baseball is guided by assistants J.D. Clampitt (who played at Danville Area Community College in Illinois), Matt Burke (who played at Glen Oaks Community College in Michigan), Eric Mattingly (formerly the head coach at Brownsburg High School), David McCreadyand Ryan Neat (who played Butler University).
“That is arguably the best coaching staff in the state of Indiana,” says McCormick. “They all work their (posteriors) off from August to June.”
“He taught me how to prepare for games,” says McCormick of Reese. “He said, ‘if you’re not good enough, you need to be the gym.’ He talked about the little things and the extra stuff.
“But the person I learned the most from was my dad, Tom McCormick. He was the motivator. He’d say, ‘if you don’t like your playing time, then play better.’”
Marcus McCormick played basketball at Marian College (now Marian University) for coach John Grimes.
“He reinforced the work ethic part of it,” says McCormick.
Tom and Gina McCormick, who celebrated their 50th year of marriage in the spring, had three children — Marcus, Erick and Kara. Erick played football and basketball and Kara basketball, including at Marian.
“They were both better athletes than me,” says Marcus McCormick of his siblings. Erick McCormick died in 2005.
While he devoted much time to the hardwood, Marcus always had an affinity for the diamond.
“Baseball was always been my favorite sport growing up,” says McCormick.
He has coached travel baseball for two decades in the summer — first for the Indy Outlaws and now with the Indiana Pony Express.
After one season as a Speedway High assistant, he was encouraged by wife Kelley to apply for the head coaching post.
“Without her, I wouldn’t get to do what I do,” says Marcus of Kelley. “Her support is incredible.”
The McCormicks have two boys. Michael McCormick (24) pitched at Eastern Illinois University and is now in the Chicago White Sox system. Nicholas McCormick (22) was on the EIU baseball team with his brother before transferring to play at Arizona Christian University.
Marcus McCormick has enjoyed picking up coaching advice from other coaches. After attending his first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic in January 2009, he approached Decatur Central coach Phil Webster after he spoke as a state championship coach from 2008.
“We went to breakfast one day and picked his brain for a couple of hours,” says McCormick of the man who was elected to the IHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2015. “Most coaches are willing to share, it’s just that nobody ever asks them.”
McCormick has developed opinions about pitching and the pitch count rule adopted by the IHSAA in 2017 (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).
“I get the rule, but it’s disappointing we have to have something in place,” says McCormick. “You’d like to think all the coaches in the state have the kids’ best interest at heart.”
McCormick sees arm care as more of an overall development thing?
“Limiting the number of pitchers you throw is not a precursor for keeping you healthy,” says McCormick. “Why does Kid A get hurt and not Kid B? You have to be doing things to truly recover so the next time you go out you’re putting yourself in a good situation.
“I hope the state incorporates programs like Driveline to keep kids healthy and make them better.”
Speedway (Ind.) High School baseball is a “family” under Sparkplugs head coach Marcus McCormick.
“We have to be clean-shaven, but we can have a mustache,” says the 24-year-old McCormick of a Chicago White Sox minor league facial-hair policy. “I thought I’d add a little flair to to it.
“I’ve had the mullet — off and on — since high school.”
His father and high school head coach — Marcus McCormick — puts it this way: “Mike’s always been a little different. We say he has personality of a left-handed pitcher in a right-handed pitcher’s body.”
Michael McCormick made 11 appearances (all in relief) and went 2-5 with a 3.35 earned run average, 33 strikeouts and 26 walks at Parkland in 2015.
He pitched in 30 games (22 as a starter) the next two seasons at Eastern Illinois, combining for a 3-12 record, 7.01 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 81 walks in 120 1/3 innings.
In 2018, McCormick is with the Short Season Class-A Pioneer League’s Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers. Through July 5, he had appeared in five games (all as a late-inning reliever) and was 3-0 with a 4.00 ERA, eight strikeouts and one walk in nine innings.
McCormick employs a cut fastball (that runs glove-side) at 90 to 94 mph, a slurve (combination slider and curveball) that is clocked around 78 mph and a “circle” change-up that generally ranges between 83 to 85 mph.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has long been driven to go as far as his work ethic will take him.
“Mike’s No. 1 quality is his willingness to work and his perseverance,” says Marcus McCormick. “He’s gone through a lot of situations and scenarios that have made him a tougher individual. When he identifies a goal, he’s got tunnel focus on that goal.
In high school, Michael McCormick gave up basketball his junior year to concentrate on pitching and took his fastball from 85 to 90 mph.
“Mike’s never been No. 1 on anybody’s radar,” says Marcus McCormick. “Everything he’s accomplished has absolutely been through hard work and people he surrounded himself with — all the way back to when he was 12.”
“They’ve really shaped who is as a pitcher and a person today,” says Marcus McCormick.
Two summers ago, Michael went to Seattle to train at the Driveline Baseball facility. He got a bike at a pawn shop and rode three miles each way to the workouts.
Combining Driveline with White Sox programs has been beneficial to the pitcher who got his start at Eagledale Little League and played travel ball for the Indy Outlaws and Indiana Pony Express before graduating from Speedway in 2012 and later Eastern Illinois in 2017.
“It’s helped me out a lot as far as preparation, performance and arm health,” says Michael McCormick. “The bounce-back between outings is shorter. It helps with consistency as well. A big part of it to is having a routine that I’m able to repeat.”
As a pro — in a league where getting back from a road trip at 2 a.m. is not uncommon — McCormick has learned about discipline.
“You have to make sure you do the right stuff away from the field with eating and sleeping,” says Michael McCormick. “That’s just as important as the things on the field.”
Michael credits his father helping change the culture for Speedway Sparkplugs baseball. When Marcus took over in 2008, the program had not won a sectional since 2004. Since then, Speedway has reigned at that level in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
“It was a big disappointment not performing the way we wanted to,” says Michael McCormick of losing to Covenant Christian in the 2A Cascade Sectional championship game. “Then we bounced back senior year and closed the deal.”
Michael’s mother is Kelley McCormick. Younger brother Nicholas McCormick (22) is going into his senior baseball season at Arizona Christian University. He was an Eastern Illinois teammate to Michael for two seasons before transferring to the Phoenix-based school.
Back in Indianapolis, Michael has a fiancee and 2-year-old daughter — Teigan Flaws and Kolby Rae. Flaws, a Glenview, Ill., was a volleyball player at the University of Indianapolis.
Michael McCormick, a Speedway (Ind.) High School graduate, is now a pitcher with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system. (Great Lakes Voyagers Photo)
The McCormick brothers — Nick (left) and Marcus (right) — share a moment in Arizona. Nicholas is heading into his senior year at Arizona Christian University. Michael is in his second year as a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox system.
Marcus McCormick (left) and oldest son Michael McCormick spend time together in Arizona. Michael is a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization.
Michael McCormick (center) is surrounded by parents Marcus and Kelley McCormick. Michael is a pitcher with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox organization. Marcus is the head baseball coach at Speedway (Ind.) High School.