|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
March 28, 2001 The Tampa Tribune
The Tampa Tribune
March 28, 2001
Author:  BILL CHASTAIN
ZEPHYRHILLS, FL:  Mike Marshall never did look the part.
As a major leaguer, his 5-foot-9, 200-pound frame didn't fit the profile of a pitcher.  Yet he was durable enough to make 106 appearances in 1974, won a Cy Young Award and pitched for 17 seasons, earning the nickname "Iron Mike."
Fast forward to a recent afternoon.  Clad in a T-shirt, blue-jean shorts and tube socks, Marshall conveyed a less than erudite image.  Deceiving since this is a man with a doctoral degree in exercise physiology from Michigan State, who can recite Sir Isaac Newton's theories without note cards - even understands them.
Marshall's world is baseball, which is why he has applied the laws of math and science to improving a pitcher's abilities.
Baseball warms to new ideas like Baptists do to dancing.  Thus, somewhere along the way, Marshall was tagged with the reputation as "being out there."  The fact he once helped Jim Bouton edit his baseball classic, "Ball Four," coupled with his activity in the Players Association helped perpetuate the label.
"Being out there" never endeared anyone to those who run the game, which might explain why Marshall has never evolved into the Charlie Lau of pitching.
LAU TAUGHT AN unconventional method of hitting, mostly to struggling major leaguers, had good results and was lauded for doing so.
Like a baseball Socrates, Marshall has passed on his wisdom despite fighting obstacles.
Most recently, Pasco County fined and sued Marshall for offering pitching lessons to boys and young men at his Vinson Avenue home.  Officials claimed he was operating a camp, business or school, which amounted to a "commercial intrusion" in a residential neighborhood.  Fighting to keep his training facility open, Marshall now has relocated down the block to property leased by his stepfather and zoned for commercial enterprises.
Fighting conventional baseball wisdom has been a more lasting foe.
"I'm not an outlaw, I'm a scientist," Marshall said.  "The laws of physics and absolutes.  They work all the time."
Marshall explained three problems with today's pitching instruction before moving into Newton's neighborhood.
"Newton referred to bodies, bodies prefer to remain at rest or in straight- line motion or unless acted upon by an external force," he said.  "The best way to satisfy Newton's first law is to apply force in a straight line. ...  If you find another way, or a better way to satisfy it, I'm all for it."
SUCH PEARLS OF wisdom are only part of the pitching education while sipping at Mike Marshall 's fountain of knowledge.
Hard work is another.
Putting Marshall's methods to work requires a 40-week commitment in which pitchers must wear a 30-pound doughnut around their arm, throw 12-pound iron balls against a rebound wall and throw a baseball virtually every day.
"The throwing motion is the most natural thing in the world, if you're doing it the right way," Marshall said.  "I've never had anyone injure their arm, anyone."
Nevertheless, Marshall is visited by only one kind of student.
"If a pitcher is highly talented, gifted, they're not likely to come here," Marshall said.  "But if you've had no success and you need help, that's who I get."
Which is fine with Marshall.  He's happy leading kids in the right direction, like his four students who pitch for St. Mary's College in San Antonio, Texas.
"They've got a 1.99 ERA," Marshall said.
But what if a young Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez crossed his path?
Iron Mike's blue eyes twinkled.  "That might be interesting."