Summer in Seattle: Players improve pitching at two-month summer program
By Jasmine Pankratz – Horizon Sports Editor
Most pitchers know that to learn the mechanics of pitching, you have to start young. Increasing efficiency, velocity, and reducing the risk of injury has to be built in right from the beginning. But for Larks pitcher, freshman Andrew Huckaby, mechanics was something he never fully developed.
“When I pitch now I don’t really get my lower half involved, I just use my arm,” he said. “If I develop my mechanics I’ll be better on the mound, exploding with my lower half in my delivery and increasing my velocity.”
That is why Huckaby and nine other Hesston Baseball players are headed to Seattle, Washington this summer to train with a program called Driveline.
Driveline is a program unique for focusing specifically on pitchers and going beyond the training to look at the science of pitching for each individual, including breaking down the mechanics for Huckaby. The program claims to improve the average athlete’s mound velocity from 86.7 mph to 90.04 mph from the previous summer.
Jon Law is among the 10 headed to Seattle, but this isn’t Law’s first time. He’s attended Driveline for almost five years and has personally seen the results.
“When I first started the program in high school I was probably anywhere from 80-83 mph,” said Law. “My junior year I touched 90 mph and then my senior year I touched 91 mph. Once I got to college my freshmen year at NMSU I topped off at 93 mph and this year I have topped off at 94 mph.”
The founder of this program, Kyle Boddy, has researched pitching since 2008 trying to find what training methods work the most effectively and what’s a waste of time. That research will directly inform the Larks’ training. High-speed camera systems will be used to measure velocity, spin rate, spin axis, location, and launch angle. Calculated weight training and advanced ballistic training will improve fastball velocity and arm health by improving efficiency and fitness.
Is improvement like Law’s enough to pay $2,000 to spend two months out of their summer away from family, playing the sport they already play year-round? According to sophomore Isaiah Martinez, it is.
“Baseball won’t always be there but family will and when you have a family that understands and is supportive it makes it easier.”
“I’ve spent 19 years in Conway, MO,” said Huckaby. “My family understands. Why would anyone turn down spending a couple months in a city like Seattle while working at the sport they love?”
Freshman Carter Hohn is looking forward to the atmosphere. Division I and professional athletes come from all over the country to train at Driveline, known as one of the top pitching programs in the nation.
“It’s worth it because I will be training with individuals just like me, who want to push their limits to become the best they can be, and the environment of competitiveness cannot be compared to anything else.”
There is only one Driveline in the country, and it’s for this reason along with its high reputation, that the program only allows about 200 players to attend the college summer session. Which means Hesston players had to act fast.
“This year they’ve added a new program which is considered a summer league for college athletes so it was basically first-come first-served,” explained Freshman, Harry Park. And since most of the guys have been planning on going since hearing about the program last August, they were among the first on the list.
Driveline expects the guys they bring in to be willing to work hard during the summer, a time which is usually spent relaxing or working to save up for college. But to them, they can do all these things in Seattle.
“Baseball is my life right now and something I consider my job,” said Park. “It’s the reason I’m getting my school paid for and I would like for it to stay that way. I can also work in Seattle and do something that still will help me with my major.”
The guys have already made arrangements to work in Seattle after training during the day, as well as figured out housing which Driveline has provided, for some of the guys to stay together. And although they will have jobs, their main focus will be baseball.
“I think that it really goes along with the whole JUCO [junior college] baseball experience in a sense,” said Freshman, Dylan Schokenecht. “We all chose the JUCO route to get bigger and better offers and advance ourselves athletically. This is one giant leap that is really going to pay off when our recruiting process starts up next year.”
Law’s not returning to Hesston next year but he’s hopeful Driveline training will improve on what was a rocky 2017 season.
“This past season was not what we had hoped it would be, but since most, if not all the guys that are going to Driveline are coming back, the lack of success should drive us to working even harder than what we set our minds to,” he said.
“I hope I bring back a new work ethic that can rub off on some of the other guys on the team,” said Park. “And I hope it shows that if you work hard we can achieve great things and hopefully will help us have a great season next year.”