Pilgrimage to a pitching myelination mecca
Myelination. Myelin. The Talent Code. I didn’t put two and two together when Coach Wolforth first brought up the concept. I was at the Elite Pitcher’s Bootcamp at the Texas Baseball Ranch over the Labor Day weekend. I went because Coach Wolforth has created a pitching talent hotbed on his ranch, about an hour north of Houston. I went to find what I have lost. I went to realize my potential. This trip was months in the making. A treat to myself after making good money working a job I did not love. A crucial stepping stone on my journey of becoming the best pitcher I can be. An experience that exceeded my wildest expectations.
In the simplest terms, myelin is the insulation around our neural circuits. The more myelin we have around a circuit, the more quickly, efficiently, precisely, and effortlessly it will fire. It’s very good to have a lot of myelin for the movements you want to make for a particular sport. If we could take myelin samples for all the pitchers in the MLB, I’m confident that the amount of myelin around their pitching motion would correlate extremely strongly with pitching ability. Just ask Max Scherzer. Coach Wolforth explained what myelination was and then showed us a video of Scherzer. To maximize the amount of myelin your body wraps after a particular repetition of a drill, you must get a lot of emotion involved. Emotion signals your body that it should repeat whatever just happened in order to reproduce that emotion. It doesn’t really matter if it’s negative or positive emotion. So when you have a negative reaction to a negative result, you’re wrapping more myelin around that movement pattern and causing that to happen more often in the future. The same goes for celebrating a positive result. Again, ask Max Scherzer.
I flew in on the Friday before the camp. I got my rental car, a tiny Ford Focus, and then drove up to the Woodlands, where my AirBnB accommodation was. I drove up without GPS and took a few wrong turns, but that just made the trek more fun. The AirBnB was such a great value. $30 a night for an entire house to myself in a ritzy neighborhood, on a golf course. Living the high life. After a terrific night of sleep, I made the 30-minute drive to the ranch for the opening day on Saturday afternoon. That’s when I began to be blown away. I thought I knew quite a bit about pitching, yet at least 80% of what was presented at the boot camp was completely new for me. I had dozens of a-ha moments throughout the weekend. Like when Coach Wolforth looked at my pitching delivery and told me my ‘Forearm Play’ was off the charts. No wonder I partially tore my UCL. Smh.
Other things to note at the camp:
- All of the instructors were top shelf. They all knew what they were talking about and cared about you learning it too. They believe in you.
- My group consisted of 9 high schoolers and me. On the final day, I topped out at 82.3, while guys inches shorter than me and 10s of lbs lighter hit the high 80s. One guy even hit 92.9. I have a lot of work to do.
- The facilities they had weren’t super fancy or anything. Based on reading the Talent Code, this makes the ranch better for producing talent. Coyle writes, “So many hotbeds shared this disheveled ambiance that I began to sense a link between the dented, beat-up state of the incubators and the sleek talent they produced,” (109). If the facilities were state-of-the-art or sleek and glamourous, then the athletes would be less motivated to succeed. You must be hungry to reach your potential.
I was considerably impressed with Coach Wolforth’s wallgame. He had quotes up in his office from Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Will Smith, Reggie Jackson, Jerry Rice, and Nolan Ryan. The place oozed with greatness. Like melted chocolate from a warm brownie. Legendary. I received so much instruction and knowledge from the camp that I still haven’t processed it all. They asked us what we were leaving the ranch with that will help us improve as a pitcher and I wrote:
- A detailed/individualized plan
- Forearm play
- Connection ball drills in #1 and #2 position
- Counter Rotation
- Lower Half Drills
- Mobility/Stability exercises 3+ times/day
- Forearm play
- More pitching knowledge
- glute load
- pelvic tilt
- kinetic chain
- all the types of disconnections
- the athletic pitcher pyramid
- Bag with tools/equipment + DVDs (the physical things I will leave with)
I could have gone on forever 🙂
Muslims go to mecca. Pitchers go to the Texas Baseball Ranch. Many had come before me and rediscovered their pitching souls. Scott Kazmir, Barry Zito, and Chien-Ming Wang to name a few. They had sat in the exact same place as me, hearing Coach Wolforth unfold the path back to their pitching divinity. I still get shivers thinking about my pitching delivery analysis with Coach Wolforth and seeing to my left, an entire file folder with the label: ‘Kazmir’. I was treading on holy ground and my only hope is that the attention and effort I put forth was worthy of the sacred wisdom I received. Now I must go at my new pitching regimen full-bore, with absolute commitment. That is what is required of me. Only then will I rise up and transform into the pitcher of my dreams.
The testimonial I wrote at the conclusion of the camp sums up my sentiments: My time at the Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp was tremendously humbling. Nonetheless, it was also an enlightening and inspiring three days. I have fortified my belief in myself that I can reach my pitching goals. I know that the team at the Ranch believes in me as well as long as I execute the individualized plan we created at camp, over the coming months. I want to stay injury free, reach 90mph, and improve my command. The coaches at the Texas Baseball Ranch have shown me the way. Thank you!