By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
The Jack Ward Pitching Lab is the latest upgrade to the Baylor Ballpark facilities. Finally, the pitchers have a place to call their own.
The new lab is no ordinary bullpen. Completely covered in artificial turf, the turned-out weight room serves as a pitcher’s paradise, with three pitching mounds, two training tables, sets of stretching arm bands and weights to provide players with everything they need to succeed — a long-term investment for the Baylor pitching staff, according to Baylor pitching coach Jon Strauss.
“Our first thought when we got here was, let’s invest in our pitchers,” Strauss said in a video produced by Baylor baseball. “Everybody’s got batting cages and clubhouses, but that was the first thought was, let’s do something for our pitchers to give them somewhere to go and get all their stuff done.”
The lab is located behind the visitor’s dugout at the ballpark. It is specifically reserved for pitchers and catchers to work on fine-tuning mechanics and learning how to improve each day.
“It’s sweet,” said senior closer Troy Montemayor. “We get to fine tune some mechanics that we couldn’t normally see out there in the ‘pen.'”
Five cameras hang from the ceiling to capture every angle when a pitcher is throwing. Footage is sent to a single television screen that spits out advanced metrics and statistics that would make any baseball junkie jump for joy.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said the lab will help him and his staff analyze the physical mechanics of his pitchers in a way unlike any before at Baylor.
“We’re able to maximize what each kid can do,” Rodriguez said. “Now we can look at some other intangibles as to what kind of tilt a pitcher has, what kind of rotation, his arm angles, the tunnel that he’s throwing out of. We now have the technology that enables us to do that.”
With an excess of software to use, coaches can teach players about their spin rates, arm angles, velocity and location to further analyze their on-field performance.
“We’ve got so many weapons at our disposal,” Strauss said. “I think every day we use this lab, we start learning new things.”
In a modern world where technology moves as quickly as we do, information is at a premium. Baylor pitchers are open to learning as much as possible.
“Any information you have is good information,” senior right-handed pitcher Alex Phillips said. “Whether you need to work on something, it’s really nice to come in to a place like this and look at the TV so you can actually see it.”
Technology in the lab can be beneficial for players not just in increasing the longevity of their baseball career, but also in keeping them healthy and free of injury.
“All pitchers are different,” Phillips said. “With this technology that we have here, I think you can develop into your own personality and you can work on and fine-tune things that’s better suited toward yourself.”
The pitching lab is also an attractive element for Baylor’s recruiting process. Strauss understands the impact it can have on potential recruits in their process of deciding where they want to play college baseball.
“Their eyes light up when they walk in here,” Strauss said. “When we bring recruits in, it’s just to show them that this is what we’re all about. This is how important you are to us.”
Players, coaches and fans alike are giddy about the upcoming season. The addition of the Jack Ward Pitching Lab certainly helps the Bears live up to their season motto: #Elevate.
“This is a game changer for us,” said Strauss. “It’s like Christmas morning for a pitching coach.”
Baylor will open its 2018 season on Feb. 16 against Purdue at Baylor Ballpark.