BREWER — High school baseball is a pitchers’ world, in which teams with the most talented and deepest collection of quality arms often those most likely to advance deepest in postseason play.
But preservation for those championship games of June begins during preseason practices before the snow has left the ground in late March and early April.
Brewer High School head coach Dana Corey offers a few insights on how he approaches getting his team’s pitchers ready for the Eastern Maine Class A baseball wars.
“What we like to do is work on a lot of short toss to start out with, working with the wrist and extension,” he said. “And we always stretch before and after sessions. By the time we get through, it’s wrist, elbow, shoulder and then everything together, so it’s piece, piece, piece, and then the whole as far as pitching goes.
“It’s the same thing with the windup. We break that down and go through it, because if we need to make a correction, which we typically do, you don’t start correcting something at step number four if there’s something we need to do at step number two. You’ve got to take it and correct it as you go along.
“We’re not going to go through a cookie cutter because you don’t want cookie cutters throwing from the same angle because everybody has an arm slot they feel more comfortable with. But the main thing is for them to throw properly and take the pressure off their arm.”
Complementing the efforts to build up individual areas of the arm and the total arm through working on the delivery is gradually building arm strength, Corey said.
“The other thing we do is we do long toss to help strengthen the arm and stretch it out,” he said. “We do increments of 15 pitches, so every four days we’re adding 15 pitches to the number that they’re going to throw to try to build them up to be able to perform when they get outside, although they’ll still be on a pitch count when we start outside until they get their arm strength.”
Corey said it’s not only the volume of preseason pitches that are important to building that arm strength, but the specific pitches used.
“We start out with certain pitches first and then work our way to others,” he said. “Strangely enough we start out with the changeup, then the fastball and then we go to the curveball or breaking ball and then if they have a fourth pitch they want to work in we’ll work on that.
“The thing we’ve found with going to the changeup first is every pitcher needs to develop an offspeed pitch, and most kids when they come up really don’t have a real good one because most of the time when they’re coming from Little League or middle school they’re more apt to throw the curveball as their out pitch,” he said. “But that’s not what we want to do. We want them to have a good curveball but we want to be able to change pace, and you can throw a changeup at different speeds and you can throw your fastball at different speeds, and then you can bring the breaking ball in to help.”
Such a preseason format was productive in 2010, when Brewer finished fourth in the final Eastern A Heal points and advanced to the regional championship game.
“Last year we were fortunate that we started that program and had no sore arms,” said Corey, whose team ended the season with a 14-5 record. “To go through a whole season with no sore arms, that’s something else up here in Maine.”