By STEVE KRAH
Bringing together a unique combination of baseball perspectives, the Summit City Sluggers hosted an Arm Care Camp Dec. 15 featuring former big league pitcher Jarrod Parker, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Travis Frantz and athletic trainer Dru Scott.
The three Indiana natives came to the Sluggers training facility at 5730 Bluffton Road in Fort Wayne to give back to the baseball community. It was the first camp Parker, Frantz and Scott have done together.
Parker, a 2007 graduate of Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., was selected in the first round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The right-hander made his professional debut with the South Bend Silver Hawks in 2008 and played until 2015, including stops with the Diamondbacks in 2011 and Oakland Athletics in 2012 and 2013. He went through five elbow surgeries.
Finally, one surgeon — Dr. Neal ElAttrache — was willing to try to put Parker’s elbow back together again. ElAttrache works at the Kerlin-Jobe Surgical Center in Los Angeles and had done procedures on Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant.
“I knew I was in good hands,” says Parker, 30.
But there came a point that he decided to retire as a player rather than face the possibility of another elbow blow-out.
“I had gone through enough ups and downs and medical advice that said don’t do it again because I don’t want to fix it,” says Parker. “I don’t want anybody else to ever go through what I had to go through in terms of injuries, bouncing back and injuries. That’s why we’re trying to put events on like this throughout the country.”
Parker lives in Nashville with wife Lauren, a dentist. He opened Parker Sports Performance in late September 2018. The facility has two large batting tunnels, a full mound tunnel and a state-of-the-art weight room.
PSP does not have travel teams of its own, but welcomes teams and individuals and is a place for professionals to train in the off-season.
“We want to be the home base where they can come and develop and learn,” says Parker. “Our goal is to develop better people, better athletes and better baseball players.”
Parker’s assistant at PSP is Ro Coleman, who played at Vanderbilt University and in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Frantz, a 2007 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate, is a former third baseman and pitcher. He suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in high school then played at Huntington University, graduating as an exercise science major in 2011. He moved on to Indiana University School of Medicine. He has one more year of residency to complete at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Parker and Frantz were travel ball teammates in their 15U, 16U and 17U summers for Sluggers coach Mark Delagarza.
Father Neal Frantz was on the Fremont coaching staff when son Travis was playing for the Eagles.
Emphasizing a strength and conditioning program suitable for baseball players, which hits the rotator cuff and scapular muscles was a point Frantz, Parker and Scott made at the camp.
“Even through those exercises can be mundane and repetitive at times, doing those with good form will hopefully help you increase velocity and prevent injury,” says Frantz. “In high school, you should work on being an athlete and not just a baseball player.”
The exercises are designed with full range of motion and working the muscles that stabilize the shoulder.
The muscles in the upper back should not be neglected because they are also connected to the shoulder.
Frantz notes that studies have shown the benefits of playing different sports, training in different ways and taking time away from other sports.
It’s also important for baseball players to know their arm and their bodies.
“It’s OK to throw with soreness,” says Frantz. “But you have to distinguish between soreness and pain.
“Throwing with pain can lead to a negative spiral of injury. You need to know when to back down and know the concerning risk factors.”
Scott was a three-sport athlete at Clinton Prairie High School in Frankfort, Ind., graduating in 2003. He played baseball for two seasons at Manchester (Ind.) College (now Manchester University), graduating in 2007.
It was an injury during the fall of his first season that introduced him to the trainer’s room.
“It literally changed my life and shaped the path I’m on right now,” says Scott, who spent one season as athletic trainer at West Lafayette (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School before being hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He began working his way up the chain in 2009.
In 2018, Scott completed his 10th season with the Pirates organization and second with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. Dru and wife Mandy have launched Scott Athletic Training and are moving the business to the Sluggers training facility.
“We’re trying educate players, coaches, parents on what an athlete looks like and, specifically, what an overhead athlete looks like,” says Scott. “That’s not strictly just taking care of your arm. It’s more of a holistic approach of what your core does and how strong it is, how mobile your hips are and how it truly does effect your shoulder.
“We try produce as many healthy baseball players and healthy people as possible.”
Frantz talks about the core and working the muscles in both the front and back.
“It’s more than just six-pack abs,” says Frantz. “It’s about having strength, flexibility and motion and all those things.”
While professional pitchers are known to do some throwing everyday during the season, Scott notes that they shut down to rest at season’s end and usually don’t pick up a ball until late November or even December.
For amateurs, rest periods are also key — particularly in younger players who are still growing.
Scott says three things athletes need to do is push, pull and carry.
“That’s the foundation of a lot of strength and conditioning programs,” says Scott. “You’ve got to be able to push — that’s your squat. You’ve got to be able to pull — that’s your deadlift or anything posterior chain on your back side. And you’ve got to be able to carry — you have to have some strong core and strong forearms to play not just baseball, but any sport.”
Scott notes that the huge power lifts seen on Instagram and other social media done by elite athletes didn’t just happen overnight. A lot of work went in to being able to correctly perform that exercise.
“You’ve got to start with the foundation to build a house,” says Scott. “You don’t start with the roof and move down.
“It’s starts at an early age. We have kids come in as early as 10. It may look different than having a bar on their bar squatting. But we’re still mastering those movement patterns of a squat or being able to bend over and move some stuff.
“Whether you’re 10 or 90, you can benefit from a good strength and conditioning program. It starts with mastering the basics. You can never go wrong being strong and it starts somewhere.”
Dru Scott (left), Jarrod Parker, Mark Delagarza and Dr. Travis Frantz gather Dec. 15 for the Arm Care Camp at the Summit City Sluggers training facility in Fort Wayne.