Anyone catch "Real Sports" on HBO last night? Other than a fawning profile of King Hank Lundqvist's dashing Swedish looks (and goaltending chops), the highlight was a piece on Seattle Mariners pitcher Steve Delabar, a former Single-A hurler who broke his elbow and retired several years ago, and then miraculously earned his way not only back into baseball but onto a Big League lineup in less than a year. It's a hell of a story.
Delabar toiled for years in the minors, never rising above A-ball, before snapping his elbow. The subsequent surgery netted him nine screws and a metal plate. He retired from the game, went back to school, and became a substitute teacher and high school assistant coach in the Midwest. Then, in hopes of teaching the players on his team, he learned a new technique for baseball strength conditioning and suddenly found that he could throw 92... 93... 96 miles per hour. A year later he was back in the minors, sprinting through A, AA, and AAA before being called up to the bigs last year. A preview of the story is below, but I highly encourage you to check out the full segment on HBO, when it re-airs this week.
I'd also love to hear from any baseball player out there who has tried the strength technique described in the story. The training utilizes weighted balls but with a twist: In many drills, the player doesn't release the ball. He continues to follow through and just holds on tight. Why does this help a pitcher or other fielder throw a ball faster and with less chance of injury? It turns out that the former pitching coaches who developed the technique studied tennis player and discovered that many powerful servers don't develop shoulder injuries despite the incredible tasks they're asking that part of their body to perform (you've heard of "tennis elbow" but probably not "tennis shoulder"). The reason, apparently, is because tennis players hold on to their rackets through the entire serve. In turn, the muscles in the back of the shoulder (used at the bottom of the stroke) build up as much strength as those in the front. The result: stronger shoulders all around that don't injure as often. When this idea is applied to baseball players — the throwers hold on to the weighted ball rather than release it so as to build up those back-of-shoulder muscles at the bottom of their pitch — their velocity increases and their chance of injury decreases. Pretty cool. Anyone ever tried it? Sound Off in the comments or drop us a line here.