Ahead in the Count

The most impressive and gutsy baseball players I’ve ever seen…

written by Ted Sullivan

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(Note: I hope these links work. The WSJ can often be stingy with their content.)

When I picked up today’s Wall Street Journal I didn’t think I was going to read a story about the most impressive and gutsy baseball players on the planet. Then I watched this video and almost fell out of my chair. The WSJ front page human interest piece was about “Beep Ball” a version of baseball for the blind.

Yes, baseball for the blind.

Jim Abbott pitched in the big leagues despite being born without a right hand. And Cal Ripken played in 2632 consecutive games…

But these guys are unbelievable.

And I thought I was unlucky for being right handed.

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August 18, 2009 Posted by | Media Commentary, written by Ted Sullivan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers — 10 years later

written by Ted Sullivan

Ten years ago this summer I was a member of the inaugural Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a short-season Single A team in the Cleveland Indians Organization. It was one of the most enjoyable athletic seasons of my life for a number of reasons but mostly because I was playing with a great group of guys for a team that was genuinely loved by the community.

mvscrappersThe residents of Niles, Ohio had been supposedly begging for a minor league team for several years. Finally the funding came together for a beautiful little stadium in the center of town, surrounded by (what else?) a gigantic shopping mall. Niles is about 60 miles from Cleveland and many fans followed the Indians draft and farm system closely. So while most low-level minor leaguers are essentially nameless players in the right or wrong colored jersey, we were rooted for as individuals. Coming from a college baseball program (Duke) that always took a back seat to basketball (and lacrosse, and soccer, and tennis… ) it was pretty awesome to sign autographs while waiting in the deli line for a sandwich.


C.C. as a Scrapper

Fueled by great fans, a new ballpark and a well-liked and respected Manager (Ted Kubiak), our team went on a great second half run and came within one game of winning the New York Penn League that season. We lost to the Tampa Bay Rays single A team, the Hudson Valley Renegades who where loaded with talent including that year’s first overall draft pick and 2008 MLB Home Run Derby Champ, Josh Hamilton.

I’m often asked, “Where are your minor league teammates now?” I’ve remained close with a few of my Scrapper teammates but have lost touch with most.  You can keep tabs on a couple by turning on ESPN: New York Yankee, C.C. Sabathia, was on that team for part of the season and is now the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball.  Victor Martinez caught about 90% of my pitches that season and was one of my favorite guys on the team. Victor is now an MLB All-Star and was just traded from the Tribe to the Red Sox.

But nearly all the others aren’t as easy to follow. Recently I have tried to track some down using Facebook and over the next few weeks I’ll make occasional  “Where are they now?” updates on this blog.

Stay tuned.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | written by Ted Sullivan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Question of Curveballs

written by Ted Sullivan

Tim Lincecum. Nasty curveball.

Tim Lincecum throws one of MLB's best curveballs.

As a youth baseball coach I’m often asked if curveballs hurt young arms.

In the youth sports ecosystem it’s become almost an accepted fact that curveballs are bad for the arms of young pitchers. Recently Mark Hyman wrote a piece for the NY Times explaining that recent studies have contradicted these long-held opinions.

I’m not a doctor and  have no evidence to support or refute these findings.

What I do believe is that young arms (and any arms for that matter) are hurt by the following:

  1. Poor / inefficient / overly violent mechanics — on all pitches, but especially breaking balls.
  2. Overuse — but only when compared to what an arm is in shape to throw. Like any other athletic activity, if you aren’t in shape it is damaging to push to extremes. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training and therefore shouldn’t throw 100 pitches in a game unless you have built up the arm, leg and core body strength to do so.
  3. Lack of care after throwing (stretch, ice, rest, etc) and
  4. Lack of care and preparation in the days and hours before pitching (off-day workouts, pre-game warm up, etc.)

I don’t teach young pitchers to throw curveballs because it’s possible that these pitches hurt young arms. But the primary reason I don’t teach these pitches is that pitchers will quickly get addicted to them. Young batters have a hard time hitting anything that breaks — even poorly thrown curveballs. So young pitchers (and more likely coaches who are calling pitches — an issue worthy of another blog post) tend to rely too much on breaking pitches. This keeps young players from developing their fastball which is the foundation of any good pitcher’s repertoire.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Media Commentary, On the Field, written by Ted Sullivan | , , , , | 1 Comment