By STEVE KRAH
Pat Antone speaks the modern language of baseball.
As a high school coach — he led Boone Grove to an IHSAA Class 2A state championship as head coach in 2018 and served as an assistant at Westfield in 2019 — Antone is familiar with the tools now available to help players and teams get better.
He knows about things like Rapsodo, Blast Motion, J-Bands and ground force trainers like King of The Hill and more.
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.
“They gave coaches who were hungry to learn a chance to learn by giving them as many tools as necessary to get the most out of their content,” says Antone, who played at Andrean High School, Glen Oaks Community College and Valparaiso University and has also coached high schoolers at Valparaiso, Chesterton and Andrean and collegians with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
“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.
Antone uses Nick Schnell, who was Indiana Mr. Baseball at Roncalli High School in 2018 and is now in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, as an example.
“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.