After the baseball season wraps up, Monty Harper ideally wants his pitchers to rest three to four months before picking up a baseball again.
“Go be a kid,” said Harper, the head instructor at Pitching Solutions in Aledo, Texas. “This specialized stuff is a bunch of bunk. These kids get burned out.”
When a new season approaches, it is time for pitchers to get back into shape.
Harper — who works with kids 9 to 18 years old — instructs his players to take ample time to return to pitching form.
“With all of my kids, I try to get six to eight weeks before they start having scrimmages and practice games and so on and so forth,” Harper said. “That way they can iron out mechanics, start building arm strength.”
Harper, who currently has 34 kids in his program, has his players throwing the ball to get back into shape. He isn’t a big fan of dry runs. Harper wants his guys to get the feeling of throwing a baseball again.
“I believe in getting up on the mound,” Harper said. “That’s where the war is, so they need to learn how to do it where the war is.”
Repetition is important for pitchers, as are proper mechanics in the early-season throwing work. But the first couple of days are all about easing the players back into baseball.
“The kids that have been with me for a while, it’s just a matter of reacquainting ourselves with our mechanics and usually it only takes them a time or two for the body to remember what it was doing before,” Harper said. “Once you get the proper mechanics engrained into your memory bank, it doesn’t take it a lot of time for it to come back.”
Harper likes to show his pitchers plenty of videos to refresh their memory on what to work on. The players are instructed to throw to a target of no more than 40 to 45 feet away early on in the season. Harper said it’s all about getting down a pitcher’s timing.
“I believe in arm strength on the mound. I do not believe in long toss,” Harper said. “Dr. (James) Andrews and the medical people at ASMI (American Sports Medicine Institute) and other medical people around the country say they can’t see any advantage in (long toss) — especially 90 or 120 feet. If they say it’s not necessary, that’s good enough for me. They’re a lot smarter than I am.”
In Texas, the high school baseball season starts the last week in January, so Harper gets his pitchers to start throwing by early to mid-December. For kids who aren’t teenagers yet, Harper takes it slower to build up the arm strength and will start working with the pitchers right around Thanksgiving.
Harper usually caps his athletes at throwing 40 to 50 pitches per session early in the season. That will gradually lead the players up to 70 or 80 pitches during a high school outing.
The low pitch count in practice will keep the players’ fresh, but have them prepared for the season.
“That way I have them ready for tryouts if they’re having tryouts. I’ve got them ready for first scrimmage the first or second week of February,” Harper said. “I let the high school coaches take over from there.”