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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