Long Toss Making An Overdue Return

Baseball 26 May 2011

A few weeks ago on the World Baseball Network radio show that I co-host with John Kentera, I interviewed Alan Jaeger of Jaeger Sports to discuss the benefits of long toss in developing arm strength in baseball players.  I received quite a few positive comments and inquiries about incorporating long toss into a player’s throwing routine, but the topic also garnered some doubters as well.

For the record, I am a staunch believer in the benefits of long toss (throwing the ball in an arc up to 300′).  I did it starting as a child (thanks Dad!) and maintained it as a part of my regimen throughout my 20 year, surgery free professional pitching career.  While I believe there were many factors that allowed me to have such an extended career as a power guy (94-96 MPH in my prime, 91-92 MPH when I retired at age 37), long tossing both before and during the season was, in my opinion, one of the most important of the various modalities that I employed.

It’s use, and believed benefits have always been a bit of a topic for debate.  During my career I did notice that as medical advances in surgical arm repair improved, much more attention was also given to both post operative, and preventative arm care.  The flood of research and studies did produce better post operative rehab procedures, and awareness of effective injury preventative strengthening exercises such as the Jobe exercises (another staple in my arm care routine to this day), and others.

It also, however, in my opinion fostered an increased concern about arm use almost to the point of paranoia.  The guidelines for post operative rehab procedures, which understandably included controlled throwing distances and pitch counts, now became standards for non injured players as well.  Teams started banning long toss beyond 120′, and limiting pitchers to pitch counts per outing, per back-to-back outings, per week, etc.  This new awareness of arm care has certainly reduced the number of ignorant abuses that take place by overzealous coaches, and players upon themselves.  However, it has also in my opinion generated in the coaching ranks a culture of unwarranted anxiety, whose fear of doing harm has limited their vision and ability to bring out greatness.  The balance has been disproportionately weighed towards the conservative, which ironically, because of it’s limiting governors, may be creating the very problems it’s fearfully trying to avoid.

Alan recently forwarded to me a couple of interesting articles about this topic that I think are worth reading.  I present for your education, and debate Long Toss Debate Shakes Up MLB Draft – Jeff Passan (click to view), and The Time Is Now: The Long Toss Revolution Is Here – Greg Schaum (click to view).

After a long period of reticence by players and coaches to admit their clandestine use of long toss, maybe this witch hunt is finally coming to an end.  The era of long toss ridicule may be over, and the persecution of it’s practicers might be a thing of the past. Come out from the shadows, and return from your secret workout fields.  Your banishment may finally be at an end!


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  1. Byron Lovelace via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Bob, I agree to the fullest. I think it’s a better extension of the delts.

  2. Hector Gastelum via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I see a lot of the top arms in the draft are big on long toss, what is the Padres philosophy on long toss?

  3. Michelle Marie Claydon via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you, and even though my son is 10 1/2, this coming year we will be working on a lot of better mechanics for his coming season in AAA..which i am sure will make him “very” happy!! I’ll keep you posted. (Knowing it came from you will impress him grately) :)

  4. Mike Pisciotta via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 11:40 am

    When I was in high school, I was a batboy/ball boy at the Murph. I remember pitchers, among other things, running wind sprints and long tossing in the outfield during BP.

  5. Mike Pisciotta via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I helped coach my son’s baseball teams when he was an early teenager. Long toss was a staple in the routine. Long toss drills practice, warm ups before games to help enhance arm strength. I was also one of those coaches who would forbid pitchers from throwing breaking stuff. I’ve long wondered if long toss was practiced anymore, and your article reinforced my suspicions. To me, that would be key to a pitcher being able to extend his innings and extend the almighty pitch count as well.

  6. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Yeah, some guy named Maddux (?) I think won some games with a fastball/change combo too. 😉

  7. Daniel Carbajal via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Why would anyone tell you you’re nuts if you’ve experienced this for yourself? Seems like those people don’t get it at all and don’t know baseball. Watching the LLWS is painful for me watching kids try and throw breaking stuff. I’m sorry but I would rather throw mid 90’s any day than have a great curveball with a pedestrian heater. We saw what Trevor did for so many years with two primary pitches and a show-me deuce.

  8. Bob Scanlan
    May 26, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Interesting point, SUrf. Now days it’s all about marketing. There is a cross training element involved, but the truth is any time you throw a ball overhand you are moving the shoulder joint in a way that nature did not intend it to. The long tossing for me helped me find my most natural arm slot, to reach out instead of always throwing short (cross training element), and strengthen and lengthen the muscles, and tendons used throughout the body to throw a ball. I believe all of these “cross training” elements help in both peak performance (velocity, and command), as well as endurance thus helping to prevent injuries not cause them. The new marketing campaign is on!

  9. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Daniel – Amen!!!!! That’s what I’ve told my kids, and what I preach to all young players, coaches and parents. Many look at me like I’m nuts and like “Scan, you just don’t get it”. Yes I do get it. I’ll look into doing an article about that, Daniel. Thanks for reading the article and for the great point on BBs.

  10. Daniel Carbajal via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Lets see a piece on how youngsters are wrecking their arms throwing curve balls and sliders way too early in the developmental process. Once I have a son and if he wants to pitch, I’m telling him long toss, fastballs, and change-ups. I’ll teach him how to get natural movement (sink and run in and out) and hopefully develop the arm strength in the process. The breaking stuff can wait.

  11. Eat2surf
    May 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    The problem isn’t the practice of long toss. It’s the label.

    If you called it, “Shoulder Cross-training” then it would be accepted because everyone knows that cross-training is a good thing.

    Maybe it’s time to bring up the idea of repetitive motion injuries. I’m no pitcher and haven’t done ANY research… but it seems to me if you limit the arm’s use to the same thing over and over… well.. wouldn’t that increase the odds of a repetitive motion injury?

    I mean.. isn’t that what the words repetitive motion means? I’m no doctor nor do I play one on TV… but an all-around, more-athletic arm sounds like a good thing.

    Witch Hunts are always about labels.

  12. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for checking it out. Hope it helps someone’s career!

  13. Michelle Marie Claydon via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

    The younger generation should also take care to do a routine that includes this, the up & comers are starting to destroy their arms at a very young age and this is very bad for their careers, or even their playing game, even if it is just Little League or school. (High School, College, etc..)

  14. Brian Wilmer via Facebook
    May 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Great piece, Scan. I know that long toss tremendously helped me as a pitcher, despite my not sniffing the pros. It was a tremendous help to my velocity and stamina, and I don’t understand the reticence teams have shown toward long toss as a part of their programs.

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