By STEVE KRAH
What Jay Lehr enjoys most about coaching baseball is passing along his wisdom to pitchers.
So the seasoned instructor has decided cease fielding travel teams — he ran the Aces Baseball Club out of Hamilton County Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., for six years — to focus on pitching instruction.
Lehr calls himself a “mechanical nerd.”
Factoring in body type and age, gets pitchers to repeat their deliveries and throw strikes by starting at the feed and working their way up.
Concepts like ground force, lift (balance point), direction with the hip (center of gravity), hand separation, release point and finish are covered.
“The goal is to have pitchers become their own best coach so they can fix themselves,” says Lehr. “Pitching’s boring. You have to do the same thing over and over again.”
Unlike hitters, who can swing the bats hundreds of times a day, pitchers have to build muscle memory using dry runs and reps without delivering the ball.
“It’s like tee work for hitters,” says Lehr. “You’re no good to anybody if you can’t get anybody out.
“And you need to make reps count. There are only so many bullets. You want a career or a season?”
While the baseball world is obsessed with velocity, Lehr would rather see pitchers who can establish the fastball and locate it.
“Throw 83 (mph) with sink and cut,” says Lehr. “I enjoy that. Hopefully, that will come back.”
Lehr likes to challenge his pitchers to throw no more than three pitches per batter.
When working with a group, he likes to end a session with a competition.
Sometimes, they play H-O-R-S-E.
“The first pitcher throws a fastball on the inside corner,” says Lehr. “Everyone else has to do it or they’ve got an ‘H.’
“You want to try to hit a spot and have a purpose every time you throw a ball.”
At the younger ages, Lehr teaches a four-seam, two-seam and no-seam fastball.
Generally, the four-seamer has glove-side movement and is elevated for the batter to chase it.
The two-seamer produces arm-side action.
The no-seam goes down in the strike zone.
If they can command the fastball, Lehr will mix in change-up grips.
“It’s a fine line to when you start the breaking ball,” says Lehr. “I won’t teach it until they can command the fastball and the change-up.”
For all pitchers, the idea is to upset the hitter’s timing.
This can be done through perceived velocity.
By hiding the ball and releasing it late, pitchers can deceive the hitter.
“It’s all about late movement and command,” says Lehr. “And the most important (ball-strike) count is 1-1. Whoever wins the 1-1 battle is way ahead. You’ve got to trust that process (as a pitcher). Commit to a pitch and finish it.”
Lehr says players should be leery about lifting weights too young and should be getting advice from someone who is certified or holds a degree in strength training.
A 1986 Carmel High School graduate, Lehr played one season at Chiplola College in Marianna, Fla., and three at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. His head coaches with the Pumas were Dennis Seitz and Mike Moyzis.
Lehr was Carmel pitching coach for seven seasons. He was on Eric Lentz’s staff, served one season as interim head coach then was an assistant to Dan Roman.
Mitch Roman, Dan’s son and a Chicago White Sox minor leaguer, is also a Power Alley instructor as is former big league corner infielder and current Philadelphia Phillies fielding coordinator Chris Truby, former Carmel and Notre Dame player Kyle Fiala and former Triple-A outfielder John Tejeck.
Last spring, Lehr was pitching coach for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Rich Andriole at Guerin Catholic High School in Carmel.
Jay is married to Amy and his two stepchildren — Brandon Stevens and Megann Blea.
Stevens played for Andriole’s IHSAA state champions at Indianapolis Cathedral in 2007. The catcher/pitcher went on to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis and dabbled in independent professional baseball. He is married with a 1-year-old and works as a roofing salesman in Jasper, Ind.
Megann is married to U.S. Army captain/engineer Dustin Blea and resides in Missouri.
Lynn, 31, made his Major League Baseball debut in 2011 and pitched for the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees in 2018.
Storen, 31, first appeared in an MLB game in 2010 and pitched for the 2017 Cincinnati Reds. The Carmel, Ind., resident missed the 2018 season after having Tommy John elbow surgery. The free agent is exploring his options for 2019.
“Lance has God-given ability,” says Lehr of Lynn. “He’s loose and has the same delivery he’s had since 12 years old. It’s clean and simple.”
A move from the first base side of the rubber closer to the middle helped Lynn excel in the second half in 2018.
Lehr plans to meet Lynn and his strength coach this winter in Nashville, Tenn.
“Drew is very meticulous,” says Lehr of Storen. “He was smaller when he was young so he had to learn how to get people out.
“He did not throw hard until his junior year of high school.
“Once strength caught up to him, the velocity came.”
By then, Storen already knew how to repeat his delivery.
“Drew has a knowledge of the kinetic chain and how it works,” says Lehr. “He has has proprioception (the sense that deals with sensations of body position, posture, balance and motion).
Lehr says Pete Page and Bobby Pierce are the men who taught him the love of the game.
Pierce was head coach at Chipola and retired from Troy (Ala.) University.
Jay Lehr is the president of Power Alley Baseball Academy and lead pitching instructor. He conducts individual and team lessons at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind., and at Mooresville (Ind.) High School. He has been working with big league pitchers Lance Lynn and Drew Storen since they were kids.