I used to do pitching lessons in the off-season. Since paychecks stop coming in when the season ends, lessons are a great source of player revenue for desperate minor leaguers. In fact, depending on what level of the minors you’re in and how many students you have, you can make more doing off-season lessons than actually playing during the season.
However, it’s not as easy as just putting your name in the paper and advertising your pedigree. There are other baseball instructors out there competing to get their brand of lesson to your potential student. Most don’t have a lick of pro experience, but they still draw kids, touting promises and success stories all the while. Sometimes the competition is so thick, it can confuse potential students in to wondering who, exactly, is the best teacher to learn from? The one with the most years doing it? A pro guy or a collegiate standout? The one that tells parents (who are paying for it, after all) what they want to hear? In a competitive market, someone has to be the best, right?
I teach pitching mechanics because it’s what I know. Actually, it’s all I know. I can’t hit and I don’t turn double plays with decorative leaps over sliding runners. I pitch, and I do it my own unique way. To me, pitching is about repetition, command, and change of speeds. But, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and, since there are no web sites out there to tell those individuals in the baseball lessons market who skins the cat best, or, more specifically, who skins the cat best for a person with your build, experience, aspirations, or limitations, matching a student to an instructor is difficult.
I’d like to contest that learning pitching mechanics is difficult, period. Why? Well, because there are so many pitchers out there, each with distinct mechanics. Look at Lincecums tornado delivery. Now look at Maddox’s text book style. Now look at the thousands in between. All get results, so which one is correct? The one freshest in people’s memory? A lot of people would say Maddox’s, because his are polished, proper, and proven. But on what scale? Could one argue that if we lived in a world where Lincecum’s mechanics were the vastly imitated style of delivery, we’d be calling Maddox a freak? If Maddox grew his hair out, maybe…
What I mean to say is, what young pitchers imitate is often not based on any understanding of the human body or how it should work, but the desire to replicate the results they see on television. They don’t understand that pitchers in the big leagues are there because they get the job done, not because they won a ballet show on the mound. Some get results with as much grace a car wreck, other’s look like they were stamped off an assembly line. What they all have in common is results, and those results are intrinsically linked to them and their understanding of their body. Young pitchers see these results and decide that if they could just become facsimiles of the players on television, they’ll be unstoppable forces themselves. Thus they neglect to study their own strengths and weaknesses.
There are some cases where copy-catting works, but most of the time, it fails. The players who’ve made it to the Bigs have all mutated and adapted their mechanics to accommodate for their own specific bodily feedback. Every pitcher’s delivery at the top of the game is a combination of sensory feedback, over coming a limitation, and maneuvering to produce a desired result based on those first two informants. And, these mechanics are constantly evolving to accommodate age, pain, and new information. In many cases, what one pitcher does is something only meant for that one pitcher to do. There are certain things we can glean from them, but complete imitation was never intended. That’s not to say you can’t learn a lot from one pitcher or another, or that some pitchers aren’t more similar to you than others, but none of them are you- nor you them.
Besides, pitching is the one place where you get to be yourself. They whole game waits for you to act before it can do anything. In such a position of honor, why would you ever want to be anyone else but you? That way, when you make it to the Bigs and start having success, you can have a whole army of your own imitators!
If you are a parent looking to take your child to get baseball instruction, evaluate potential instructors based on their ability to communicate your child’s language. Every instructor has something to offer. Some have more bad information than good, but you’ll run that gamut with any coach, even professional ones, and learning how to tune certain instruction out is just as important as listening to the helpful stuff. The key is if an instructor is wise and humble enough to say to you and your kid, “If something I tell you doesn’t work for you, throw it out. I have my way of doing things and they’ve made me successful, but they may not work for you, and that’s okay. The important thing is, you try it and see for yourself. Learn to understand your body because it will be the best teacher you ever have.”