The two players were as motivated as they’d ever been heading into the off-season. The improvements they’d made in just two short seasons gave them a real shot at one day making a major league roster. And Hudzik was genuinely curious about changing the way pitching was developed, because the old way of doing things hadn’t worked in quite some time. Hitters were dominating the league and had been for awhile now.
The players spent the off-season throwing every single day. They followed a strict weight lifting regimen that was designed to maximize the pliability of their arms and shoulders. They played long-toss all the time. They threw with weighted balls. They had a strict diet, and Hudzik had those nasty smoothies that Douglas refused to add to his diet.
Both players arrived here at the Spring training facility in the best shapes of their lives. As cliche as that sounds, this was the first off-season the players had truly believed a major league opportunity was within their grasp. They worked even harder than they had to get into Harvard.
Hudzik throws away his empty smoothie cup, grabs his cleats in his right hand, and makes his way toward one of the minor league fields. Douglas isn’t far behind. Part of their new approach to pitching development is always throwing more than others. Rather than believing their arms have a finite amount of pitches, the two former Crimson teammates believe in building up the arm strength.
“You look at a lot of the Japanese pitchers; they throw all the time. They’ll throw 120 pitches in a start and then throw a 110 pitch bullpen two days later,” leading Tommy John surgeon Dean Ault tells me via phone. “And they have a much lower rate of UCL injuries. We’ve been trying to figure out exactly why for almost 20 years, it’s very difficult.”
Both players warm up with their flex-poles and strange looking stretches, before they throw with one another. They start extremely close to one another, which isn’t uncommon, but as they begin to spread out, it’s clear that the these two believe very strongly in long-toss.
“The research is crystal clear,” Hudzik tells me as we arrive at the first base entrance of the minor league training field. “Long toss is vital for velocity increase, and you need to push your body every single time you do it.”
Hudzik and Douglas are making throws from one outfield pole to the other, with a bit of an arch. But both players are throwing it as hard as they can each time.
“Even now, some of the other guys we’ve played with think we’re foolish,” Douglas laughingly adds. “But the results are there, and I trust Kev’s understanding of the science.”
After Hudzik and Douglas posted incredibly impressive strikeout rates and continued to show massive improvements, it’s clear that these two have figured something out. With a likely AAA season upcoming, both players are hoping the two week head start on their teammates will give them some comfort when the spring season begins.
“All I care about is the truth,” Hudzik says. “I wanted to know what would make me the best pitcher I could possibly be. I’m still learning, of course, but I think me and Sean have done a great job maximizing our talents. I hope it’s just the beginning.”
It sure seems like it is.