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Even though former Somers High School standout pitcher Dan Zlotnick believes the premium on velocity has undone many major league pitchers, he’s all for elevating the mercury at home plate. He just knows there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. But the clinic he’s providing at the Somers Sports Arena doesn’t quite have an eye on getting ahead of lofty Major League downfalls and aspires to enable kids to keep bringing it home. “We want them to stay healthy because that’s the biggest thing that gets them out of the game,” says the 2009 Somers grad.
The Science of Pitching
The simplicity, though, does require sophistication. “Everything we do comes from a biomechanical standpoint,” he says.
Currently, with five or six kids that use his expertise on a consistent basis, Somers Sports Arena and 9erBaseball gives him access to HitTrax. The high-speed video analysis provides a breakdown of the 25 different points of movement in the pitching delivery.
The data will also measure each kid’s mobility, flexibility, velocity, and strength. “The individual protocol that is developed is designed to keep your arm healthy and maximize the efficiency in your mechanics,” says Zlotnick, who pitched at Marist College and the University of Tampa.
Of course, pitching pain is a fact of life, but the process uses the negative feedback so no hurler has to fall apart at the seams. “We monitor pain, and that helps us avoid putting stress on the small muscles and ligaments,” he says. “Then once the areas of concern are identified, we get rid of the pain and start to pick up the velocity.”
Easy enough to detect, if success is to continue, they still must fall back on science rather than what seems apparent. “The eye test is something we don’t trust, because so much is going on so quickly, and HitTrax helps keep up a plan of attack,” says Zlotnick who can also be found strumming his music career at many local venues.
Pitching career leads to coaching.
Zlotnick developed an interest in the high tech aspect of pitching when he was training at the Florida Baseball Ranch. At the time, he was coming off three years pitching at the professional level for several independent leagues and assisted as a coach to help pay for the training. “I enjoyed the coaching part more than the training part,” he remembers.
The realization paved the way for him to converge his two main interests into a career choice. “I was an elementary education major and always loved working with kids,” he said. “So this is a good way to combine both my passions.”
Eventually, Zlotnick came north and landed an assistant coaching position at the high school. “This is how I got introduced to Joe Kesselmark and Ted Lawrence at Somers Sports Arena,” he says of the two former professional baseball players who own 9erbaseballny.com
Zlotnick’s impact at Somers High School coincides with the aspiration that led him off. “We don’t have guys that are missing starts or outings because of arm pain,” says Zlotnick.
Old school still matters.
As for the old school aspect of pitching, the book doesn’t need to be rewritten in his estimation. Brute force still takes a backseat to artistry. “When we do our bullpens, very little is just getting up and throwing,” he says. “We are constantly talking about the different pitches we’re going to have to make.”
Not necessarily in the strike zone, breaking balls in the dirt or fast balls up high have a good chance of being left to battery mates. “We do call some pitches from the bench, but we’re teaching them to manage the game rather than us doing it for them,” he says.
Over time he’s proud to have seen his pitchers turn into better athletes and baseball players but doesn’t want his knowledge to end with the kids he’s coaching. “We’re going to put together an information package and hopefully hold a clinic for youth coaches,” says Zlotnick.
But in his immediate zone at Somers Sports Arena, kids first come in for an evaluation, and the personal program is soon ready to go off the rubber. Once a week for any age range, homework also applies. “We give them work to do at home,” he says.
Monitoring with weekly check-ins, he’s sure that won’t have them wound too tight. In that, Zlotnick is confident that there’s plenty of room to keep the mechanics in sync and the young arms ready to sling.
Dan can be reached at 914-645-8937 or [email protected]