By STEVE KRAH
Tom Roy has been a coach at the college and high school level and has learned from big leaguers.
He was the first baseball coach at Tippecanoe Valley High School in Akron, Ind., then established Unlimited Potential Inc., and took Major League Baseball players on missions trips around the world, teaching baseball and sharing stories of faith.
He’s also been a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants system and scouted for the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
Roy is the author of “Shepherd Coach: Unlocking The Destiny Of You And Your Players” and now runs the Shepherd Coach Network.
Pro baseball scouts look at identification, projection and probability.
“If that’s the highest level, what do I do to get them there?,” says Roy, who talked primarily about pitching at the Jan. 19 Huntington North Hot Stove clinics as a guest of new Vikings head coach Mark Flueckiger.
“Pitching is defense,” says Roy. “Nothing happens until you throw the ball.”
Pitching consists of the physical (weights, swimming, banding, flexiblity, hand and forearm development) and the mental side.
“To be a complete pitcher, you need both,” says Roy. “You should be a student of the game so nothing catches you off-guard.”
Roy wants his pitchers to be competitive and not timid.
“Don’t be milquetoast,” says Roy. “Be a bulldog.”
Former big league pitcher Scott Sanderson comes to Roy’s mind when he thinks of a pitcher who demands the ball.
“You can teach them that,” says Roy. “You can give them a sense of purpose.”
That kind of competitor will be stone-faced and never change expressions on the mound.
They will be able to handle mistakes by their teammates and big offensive innings by the opponent.
The will overcome the elements (rain, heat etc.) and make no excuses.
“(Baseball) I.Q. is huge,” says Roy. “What’s his make-up?
“You as a pitcher better be able to take it when you’re blamed. We’re talking about mental attitude and this while idea of how you get mentally prepared and how do you set up hitters.”
Roy endorses what he calls the “AXIS” method.
In throwing an A to a right-handed batter, the first pitch is a low outside strike.
“We always want to get the first pitch a strike,” says Roy. “We always wanted the guys to have the ball in play within four pitches. In other words, let the defense play a little bit.
“But there are situations where you need to strike guys out.”
The second pitch is up at the top of the A.
“How do you get guys out who are really, really strong in the launch angle?,” says Roy. “Elevate. That ball is really tempting.”
The third pitch is low and inside.
The fourth pitch is under the hands.
The fifth pitch is to the other side and completes the A.
“It gives your pitcher intentionality and competition to make them the bulldog you want them to be,” says Roy.
As a pitching coach, Roy stood between the bullpen mounds and looked for location, flexibility and mechanics while pitches are charted.
“I’m feeling and listening for leadership and attitude,” says Roy. “They miss the first one. You’re there to say, ‘OK. Get your head back in the game.’
“You set a high standard of mental preparation. This counts.”
Another way to attack the hitter would be low and outside, high and inside, high and outside and low and inside, creating an X.
“Setting up hitters is changing speed, location and climbing the ladder — inside or outside,” says Roy of forming the I. “All of this building confidence and the mental side of this game.”
Having a purpose with every strike, the S is formed by a low outside pitch followed by deliveries that are low and inside, under the hands, away, high and outside and high and inside.
Roy says as pitchers begin to learn how to locate their pitches, they should use fastballs and then blend in other pitches as they begin to understand things like release point.
“It’s more than throwing the ball hard,” says Roy. “It’s more than changing speeds. It’s having a purpose and a plan and confidence that you can hit those spots.
“Most of the time as coaches we don’t give that kind of accountability.”
In setting up hitters, Roy looks for his pitchers to have the proper arm extension and to pay attention to the hitters’ feet and hands.
“If the back foot is pointing toward the catcher, there’s no way he’s going to be able to get around on a good fastball,” says Roy. “Hitters give away their weaknesses.
“It’s a difference maker. Start taking this stuff seriously. Talk about having purpose.”
Roy encourages coaches and players to embrace the process.
“You’ve got to break that fear,” says Roy. “Most people are afraid to fail. You have to teach them there’s no such thing really as failure. You’re learning from everything.
“You demand a lot, but you don’t demean them.”
Tom Roy spoke to the Jan. 19 Huntington North Hot Stove clinics attendees on pitching with a purpose.