Tag Archives: Seattle Mariners

Fort Wayne coach, toolmaker Dunno helps pitchers gain velocity

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

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.

Dunno was at Wrigley Field in Chicago last week meeting with San Diego bullpen coach Doug Bochtler, hitting coach Alan Zinter and was introduced to the Padres bench coach.

“(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.

KINGOFTHEHILL

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)

RICHDUNNO

The blogger meets Rich Dunno, creator of The King of the Hill, King of the Swing, Queen of the Hill and more.

 

Former Notre Dame two-sporter Sharpley trains all kinds of athletes

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Evan Sharpley played baseball and football at an elite level.

The Marshall, Mich., native represented Notre Dame on both the diamond and gridiron. The lefty-hitting corner infielder was good enough as a baseball player to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and logged two seasons in M’s system and one more in independent pro baseball.

Before that, Sharpley was briefly a quarterback for the Fighting Irish, going under center for two games as the starter in 2007.

“I fell in love with the off-season,” says Sharpley. “I was the guy who was not doing to be outworked. I’m going to do one more rep than the guy I’m going up against. I always wanted to do more (than other ND quarterbacks).”

Along the way, he learned lessons about strength and conditioning and now he is passing that knowledge along to athletes and those interested in general fitness.

“I’ve been very blessed to see a large variety of training systems,” says Sharpley, who runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart with wife Jackie, the 2011 Miss Indiana. “I will pick and choose the facets that I really think are beneficial.”

Evan Sharpley, 30, pulls from his football and baseball backgrounds and morphs aspects of training for both. As a football player, he focused on pure strength with deadlifts, squats, bench presses and power cleans. On the baseball side, there was plenty of movement with plyometrics, box jumps, medicine balls, single-arm stability exercises and dumbbells in the mix.

Athletes — in either private or small group settings — are put through performance-based workouts that are customized to their needs. They do things to improve speed and agility, vertical leap and hand-eye coordination as well as conditioning and nutrition. All plans are tracked through a software system and modifications are made when necessary.

It also becomes very competitive and they’re always trying to do better than others in their group.

Athletes and general fitness clients alike get to use sleds, squat, deadlift, jump and throw.

“We use a lot of different methods,” says Sharpley. “There’s just a lot of movement. That’s what we were made to do. We were made to move. That we try to do here is build proper movement systems and then add speed and strength. It’s about creating that explosive strength.”

Sharpley coaches many high school quarterbacks in the Michiana area and had at least one head-to-head match-up every Friday night last fall.

In training baseball players of all ages, he starts with a base level evaluation across the board with hitting, fielding and throwing.

Sharpley knows that today’s athletes are very visual so hitters are gauged with slow motion video analysis.

“Once the athlete knows what it looks like and how they’re suppose to move, we can come up with the verbal cues to make those adjustments,” says Sharpley.  “I’m not at every game or practice, but they can hear those cues in their head.

“The self-coaching part is extremely important. They’re getting the work in here and that’s great. But that’s only a small portion of how they get better. They need to do things on their own. They need to be able to replicate when there’s is not someone watching their swing.”

Hitters are taught to swing hard and with a slight upper cut while applying the proper techniques.

“Gone are the days of hitting down and through the ball,” says Sharpley, noting that Hall of Famer Ted Williams cites the same philosophy in his book on hitting.

When Sharpley was 9 and growing up in Marshall (near Battle Creek), father Tom (who is now in his second season as head baseball coach at Marshall High School) started a travel baseball team called the Marshall BattleKids (later known as the Mid-Michigan Tigers). When Evan was older, he played a few travel seasons and got major college exposure with the Detroit area-based Concealed Security Dodgers.

One of Tom Sharpley’s travel players was Josh Collmenter, who went on to pitch for the South Bend Silver Hawks and is now in the majors.

Sharpley’s recruitment to Notre Dame actually started in baseball. Paul Mainieri, the head baseball coach at ND for his freshmen season before leaving for Louisiana State University, alerted the football program about Evan and the possibility of playing both sports.

Evan pulled off the double (something younger brother Ryan would also do with the Irish), but it was not easy.

Sharpley calls is a “juggling act.”

“It’s not like I stepped on campus and knew what I was doing,” says Sharpley of balancing academics, baseball and football as well as his social and spiritual lives. “There were certainly some growing pains. It took two years to find a structure that worked for me.

“Whether you are the starter of the back-up (quarterback), if you are in competition to play, you are expected to be at every workout (for spring practice). You are the leader of the team. I took that very serious, especially in the spring.”

Sharpley says Notre Dame football-baseball athletes Jeff Samardzija and Eric Maust were able to adapt a little easier since Samardzija was pitcher and knew when he would be playing and Maust was a punter. By the time wide receiver-outfielder Golden Tate played for Charlie Weis (football) and Dave Schrage (baseball), the spring-time demands had been slightly lessened.

What has also lessened for Sharpley since opening his business is the push-back he might have gotten from some high school coaches.

“I’ve never wanted to step on anyone’s toes,” says Sharpley.  “At the end of the day, I really don’t care if Penn wins or Concord wins. I want the kids I’m working with to be successful. I’m not trying to take away from what you’re doing. I’m trying to complement what you’re doing. A lot of kids want to do something extra, they just don’t know what to do. This place provides that.”

evansharpley3

Former Notre Dame baseball and football player runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart, Ind., with wife Jackie.

Elkhart’s Strausborger getting fresh start with Twins

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Spring brings with it a chance for a fresh start.

The sense of newness rings especially true for Elkhart native Ryan Strausborger as he heads into his eighth season of professional baseball.

Strausborger, a 2006 Elkhart Memorial High School graduate who hitting a program-record .500 as a senior first-team all-state shortstop honoree by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, recently signed with the Minnesota Twins organization. He will spend his first spring training in Florida’s Grapefruit League after knowing nothing but Arizona’s Cactus League.

“I’m excited about it,” Strausborger said. “It’s a big relief knowing I have a chance with a team. That’s all I can ask for.

“I’ll hopefully start in Triple-A (at Rochester, N.Y.).”

The right-handed-hitting outfielder who turns 29 March 4 plans to take the option of getting to Twins camp in Fort Myers early on Feb. 20. That’s well ahead of the March 7 official reporting date for position players (pitchers and catchers get there first).

“I’m anxious to get into the swing of things,” Strausborger said.

The versatile speedster was selected in the 16th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Texas Rangers organization after a stellar collegiate career at Indiana State University (he was a three-time all-Missouri Valley Conference performer as a second baseman in 2008, utility player in 2009 and outfielder in 2010).

Strausborger worked his way up the Rangers ladder and made his MLB debut with Texas Aug. 5, 2015 and socked his lone big league home run Aug. 16 of that year.

He spent all of 2016 in the minor leagues and was traded to the Seattle Mariners organization near the end of 2016 and hit .153 with two homers, 11 RBI and six stolen bases in 40 games at Triple-A Tacoma.

Strausborger chooses to see the positives.

“I’m thankful to the Mariners for the opportunity,” Strausborger said. “I met a lot of awesome people and took away a lot of good things.

“I just didn’t show what I bring to the table. I have nobody to blame but myself.”

Having moved from the Rangers to the Mariners, he had already experienced one transition and now he’s getting ready for another after the Twins reached out to Bob Garber, Strausborger’s agent, and showed interest.

The Twins are bringing Strausborger in as an outfielder, but he plans to let the right people know about his utility abilities and hopes to get in some infield reps.

When Strausborger was with the Rangers, former minor league manager and big league coach Steve Buechele took note of his talents.

“He has that one tool that’s unique to the game and it’s valuable,” Buechele said. “It’s speed and he uses that to play good, solid defense and it helps him offensively. It’s a big part of his game.”

Casey Candaele, who was then minor league field coordinator, also praised Strausborger.

“He plays the game right,” Candaele said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He has tools that play.”

While he won’t know too many faces, a couple of Strausborger’s former teammates in the Rangers organization — catcher Chris Gimenez and relief pitcher Nick Tepesch and — are now with the Twins.

Since the end of the 2016 season, Strausborger has gotten to play rounds of golf with his dad, Mike, and to practice the acoustic guitar (picking up pointers on YouTube), while splitting his time between Indiana and Texas.

Off-season training has been devoted to strength and conditioning.

“You want to get as strong as you can and go into the season strong and injury free,” Strausborger said.

Winter months have also been consumed with plenty of batting practice. He even got a chance to share his hitting knowledge in a camp put on by the South Bend Cubs Performance Center. His career has had him traveling too much to give lessons on a regular basis, but he can see himself giving back to the game more in that way after he retires.

During his rise through the baseball ranks, he’s noticed the difference in levels comes down to three things — speed of the game, experience and talent.

“Everybody’s good at this level,” Strausborger said. “Everybody’s here for a reason.”

Right now, he’s enjoying the pro baseball experience.

“I’m happy and I’m blessed,” Strausborger said. “Looking back on it, there’s nothing I would change. I love what I get to do for a living and a job and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Once in awhile, Strausborger might find himself glancing back to his high school days or even to the summers on Elkhart’s Cleveland Little League diamonds.

“It helps you clear your head a little bit,” Strausborger said. “You remember that this game has to be fun.”

seattlemarinersvtexasrangerszvppu0so0y6l

Ryan Strausborger, seen running the bases for the Texas Rangers, is now in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Getty Images)