Scott Kazmir- Part 1

The Resurgence of Scotty Kazmir

Part 1 of 3

In the early Fall of 2011, when Scotty Kazmir’s agent Brian Peters called me and asked me if I would  consider working with Scotty, I was under no delusion that the task before us was going to be simple, straightforward nor easy.

I immediately recognized the professional risk of saying yes to such an endeavor. In fact I did not immediately say yes. It took me several hours of research, contemplation and talking with Jill before I accepted the project.

That may at first sound odd. I think as you read further you will at least understand my perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.

I’m sharing this story in hopes that it will help coaches, parents and players alike understand the incredible complexity of skill development and possibly assist the reader in having a deeper and wider perspective with the process involved in preparing to pitch at the major league level.

Being a successful pitcher is far more than velocity and ‘stuff’.

At the time I’m writing this, Scotty is 7-4 with a 3.89 ERA with the Cleveland Indians and a leading candidate for ‘Comeback player of the Year’. That is a far cry from where he was two years ago, completely out of the game of baseball.

I want to be very clear. Make no mistake, I believe the person responsible for Scotty’s resurgence is Scotty Kazmir himself. I take zero credit. I’m sharing this story because I believe his story may prove to be helpful and instructive to aspiring young pitchers. Taking credit or placing blame is almost always a very unproductive endeavor.  Frankly I find it boring and unsavory. More on that in a moment.

Currently I have 18 clients in professional baseball. Over the past several years I have come to understand that at any one time I will have 3-5 doing exceptionally well and 3-5 struggling mightily.  I’ve never had a client that has completely avoided struggle, frustration or disappointment. It’s the nature of the business and of the game itself.

Simply research the careers of Cliff Lee, Roy Haliday, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez and you will find that success is rarely a linear path.

Our current pop culture often sends the message of the ‘quick fix’, the ‘sure thing’, the ‘can’t miss’ and ‘perfect mechanics’. These are not only patently untrue and misleading, they can in fact prove to be real impediments to growth and development. Many in pro ball actually believe “You either have ‘it’ or you don’t and if you have to work on ‘it’…well that means you probably don’t have ‘it’.

This plastic mindset often offends some very good people. While I vehemently disagree with it, I actually do understand it. You see a vast majority of the time very few people ever develop an elite level baseball skill (i.e. velocity above 90, a fantastic breaking ball or change of speed or exceptional command) after 21 years of age.

They either come to college or professional baseball with ‘it’ or they don’t.  Therefore the ‘Either you have IT or you don’t’ mindset …plays out as correct a vast majority of the time. It is simply assumed as true. It is far easier to accept this assumption as ‘truth’ than it is to really grind it out and attempt to create new neuropathways with very little guarantee of success. It is far easier to trade, waive, cut or release and get a new player who actually might have ‘IT’.

And in Scotty’s case, most also believe once you’ve lost it…you’ve lost it. There is no getting it back. Certainly not after 2 years.

Many coaches might jump at the chance to work with such a high profile guy, not fully comprehending the tenuous nature of such a project. I remind you all that Americans favorite pastime actually isn’t baseball…Americans favorite past time is ‘Taking Credit and Placing Blame’. It’s innate in our culture.

We love to assign blame…to create the goat/ the villain. On the flip side we love to create hero’s, miracle workers and celebrate successes. The general population is fickle. One day they’ll worship you and hold you on high and the next they will turn on you and tear you apart.

In Scotty’s case, I immediately realized that someone was going to be made to be the bad guy…the fall guy. How was it a first round draft pick went from and All-Star in 2008, touching 98 mph and a rising superstar at 24 years of age,  to completely out of the game by 2011 sitting 83-85 with an ERA of 27.00 at the ripe old age of 27? I also realized several people were going to attempt to deflect any responsibility away from themselves and onto someone else.

Was Scotty mismanaged by Tampa? Misunderstood by Anaheim? Was all this Scotty’s fault?

I intuitively knew this dynamic was going to make our job together more difficult.  It was a huge distraction. It was the elephant in the room. Scott simply needed to go forward…but could I pull it off?

In truth I had an ace up my sleeve. Scott and I had a previous history. I had worked very briefly with Scott when he was in high school. He had broken his glove hand while playing in the summer and his father wanted me to perform a video analysis and look over his mechanical efficiencies, to see if I saw anything of concern while he was healing. So he came to my facility with a cast on his glove hand and threw a bull pen.

He was 16 years old. His delivery was athletic, dynamic, up tempo, free and loose. He also had 90-91mph coming out while throwing indoors, with no one watching, on a synthetic mound, with tennis shoes and a cast on his glove hand. It was immediately clear that this 155 pound kid was going to truly have electric stuff.

I reported to his father that Scott was clearly headed in the right direction. I thought his delivery was very connected. I counseled his father at the time to focus on arm care and building symmetrical balance in his training. I honestly thought velocity was never going to be a constraint for this young man. Ironically I was wrong. Ten years later when Scott and I hooked up again, his lack of velocity almost ended his career …

Stay tuned for part 2 of Kazmir’s fantastic story. It’s coming to you by email in just a few days…

Coach Wolforth

P.S. – Just added. New fall and winter dates for the Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp. Take a look here now before we sell out again

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