Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

2006 Baseball America

Marshall's methods pique interest of many.

Mike Marshall fashions himself a baseball pariah.  The 63-year old former ironman pitcher - who in 1974 pitched in 208 innings over 106 games to set records for a major league reliever - now coaches amateur pitchers at his facility in Zephyrhills, FL, using such unconventional methods and criticizing other pitching experts so vehemently that he claims his students are blackballed by major league organizations.

Few dispute that Marshall, who owns a doctorate in exercise physiology from Michigan State and has done tremendous other research on pitching arms and injuries, has some interesting ideas.  I spoke with Marshall about those ideas, the contentiousness with which he shares them, and his vow to change pitching forever.

ALAN SCHWARZ: What is the greatest threat to a young pitcher today?

MIKE MARSHALL: Using the traditional pitching motion.  It is destroying their arms, pitch by pitch, until it will finally explode on them.  It can be stopped and I know how to do it.

ALAN SCHWARZ: What specifically do you consider so dangerous, that can be corrected?

MIKE MARSHALL: They teach pitcher to take the hand back with the palm facing downward.  They teach them to take it laterally behind their body, which makes no sense at all.  You canít raise your arm when you are doing that, it comes to a stop and now you canít throw the ball because youíve got it over on the first-base side of your body.  So now youíve got to lift that arm up, and as youíre lifting it up, itís coming up and then you get to where your forearm is almost vertical, and all of a sudden now your elbow is moving forward but your handís moving backward and the hand is going back, the ball is going back, forearm is going back.  The elbow is going foard it gets to a point where it bounces, it slams Ė thatís what ruptures your ulnar collateral ligament, that reverse pitching forearm bounce.

Itís an atrocious motion, itís been destroying pitching arms for 130 years and weíre still using it.  Why?  Because weíre still using the same pitching coaches.  They donít have a clue what theyíre doing.  They have done nothing to take care of the problem, absolutely nothing.  If I destroyed one pitching arm, Iíd stop.  Iíd be mortified for the rest of my life.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Roughly how many pitchers have you worked with?

MIKE MARSHALL: Itís in the neighborhood of 120-140 pitchers.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Have none of those pitchers gotten injured?

MIKE MARSHALL: Never.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Not one?

MIKE MARSHALL: The only time any of my guys have had any difficulties is when a traditional pitching coach gets a hold of them and forces them to change Ė reverse rotate and unnecessarily stress their arm.  Until those meatheads can get that through their minds and stop making these kids reverse rotate so far, theyíre going to continue to destroy pitching arms.  Let me remind you of a guy pitching 106 games, 208 closing innings, never was stiff or tired and threw batting practice when he didnít pitch the night before.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Well, citing yourself isnít exactly a large sample.

MIKE MARSHALL: That was just me, but I can tell you that everybody Iíve trained, they canít all pitch major league baseball, but they can throw every single day without any stiffness or soreness.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Who are some pitchers who youíve worked with?  Have any reached the major leagues?

MIKE MARSHALL: We have a little privacy issue here that I think I should adhere to, so Iím only going to mention those that I have already asked and clarifies that with.  (Former Devil Ray) Jeff Sparks came to me with an injured elbow Ė 79 mph was his very top when I met him.  Heís played major league ball and he has reached a high of 96 mph and he throws every single day as hard as he possibly can.  He still does.  And is a high quality major league pitcher.  What happened to him was he got on a team where they found out that I was coaching him and the meathead manager released him with a 3.5 ERA because I coached him.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Sparks walked almost a batter per inning during his short time in Tampa Bay Ė and I find it hard to believe that a team as desperate as the Devil Rays would release a so-called ďhigh-quality major league pitcher.Ē

MIKE MARSHALL: He played the end of (1999) and the next years, the first 12 games heís in, heís got a 1.5 ERA.  Then a reporter does an article in which Sparks says that I trained him.  He didnít pitch but three times in the next three weeks, they warmed him up time after time, and finally put him in a game and forced it until they got his earned run average up to 3.5, then they released him.  It wasnít because of Jeff Sparks, it was because they could not tolerate the fact that I trained him.  Who releases someone with a 3.5 ERA?

ALAN SCHWARZ: You are very wary of kids pitching at too young an age.  Can you describe your approach?

MIKE MARSHALL: Sure.  There is a difference between chronological age and biological age.  Ten year-olds not only have open growth plates, they donít even have an ossification center for the olecranon process-which is the tip of the elbow-for the lateral epicondyle.  They donít even have bones where they need bones to have muscles to attach to them.

I recommend that they donít pitch competitively until theyíre biologically 13 years old.  And then I say donít have them pitch more than one inning a game twice a week-so that they donít overstress the medial epicondyle growth plate or the radial head growth plate.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Other pitching experts have spent a great deal of time studying these issues as well.  Isnít it possible that they know what theyíre talking about too?

MIKE MARSHALL: No.  They have no idea.  No clue.  Ask them to cite Newtonís three laws to you and how it pertains to applying force to a baseball.  They think he invented the Fig Newton.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Now wait a minute.  I know of several who are intellectual enough to talk about muscles and ligaments and what-not.

MIKE MARSHALL: How does pronation protect the elbow?  What muscles are involved in it and why does it protect the elbow?  They havenít a clue, so how can they even talk about pitching?  They donít understand anything.

ALAN SCHWARZ: Given that your goal is to help young pitchers, wouldnít you have more effect on them if you were less aggressive in how you market your ideas?

MIKE MARSHALL: No.  Iím not going to soft-sell it.  Iím not going to say, ďOh well, heís a nice guy and Iím sure heís trying to do really well.Ē  No, heís destroying pitching arms.  Now if thatís aggressive, Iím sorry.  Thatís the truth.

ALAN SCHWARZ: One major league pitching coach told me, ďA lot of what Mike is doing might be right, but no one will ever do it.  I would be fired instantaneously.Ē  Whatís your reaction to that?

MIKE MARSHALL: The general manager is a moron.  If the general manager fires somebody who is trying to find a way to prevent destroying the arms of his pitchers, then the general manager needs to be fired.

Let me get into one major league organization, and itíll be over for everybody else because my pitchers will never injure themselves.  My pitchers will throw harder than they did before.  Theyíll get closer to their genetic release velocity, whatever that is.  Theyíll throw higher quality pitches and theyíll do the same thing I did, be able to pitch every single day.  Weíll have a four-man rotation, weíll have relievers who can relieve every other day without any stiffness or soreness, weíll have an eight-man pitching staff, and weíll just kick your butt.

Happy Pitching Everybody

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