By Rob Rains
For the last 27 years, most of the recipients of John Stuper’s pitching advice have been members of his baseball team at Yale.
The former Cardinals World Series star has been the Bulldogs head coach, as well as the pitching coach, since 1993 — but he decided recently to see if he can find a new audience for some of his coaching tips.
Stuper has launched a website, 6thgamepitching.com, in which he is offering three packages of video analysis for pitchers younger than the ninth grade.
“My goal is just to get young kids started off on the right foot,” Stuper said. “Throw strikes. Stay injury free. I’ve done video analysis a few times for some of my friends and their sons and gotten positive results. I can reach a global audience through the internet so I decided to give it a shot.”
Because of his status as the coach at Yale, Stuper is prohibited from working with anyone who is in the ninth grade or higher as they are considered “recruitable” athletes.
Stuper knows, however, there are plenty of kids younger than that who he can help with his critiques.
“I keep it simple,” Stuper said. “Parents love fancy buzzwords and fancy mechanics and machines, but I don’t think 7 to 10-year-old kids need that. I think they need fundamentals. You don’t need to know their spin rate. It has its place and I’m not putting it down, but I don’t think it has value for a 7 or an 8 year old.
“There are a lot of gadgets and data and analytics out there, and I embrace that to some extent as a coach, but I’m an old-school guy. I really believe that when I was getting ready to throw a pitch, I didn’t want to worry about my mechanics. I wanted to worry about throwing a pitch.”
Stuper became famous as a rookie for his performance in game six of the 1982 World Series when he continued to pitch after two long rain delays, throwing a complete game which the Cardinals had to win to extend the series against Milwaukee to a seventh game.
He pitched in the majors until 1985, then started on a coaching career which has seen him become the winningest coach in Yale history.
One of the parts of his job which he has enjoyed the most is working with his pitchers, knowing that much of the advice he gives them in person are tips that he is now going to be able to pass along to younger pitchers.
How the new program works is that the pitcher and his parents will email a video to Stuper and he will analyze it and send back a detailed email, and a video, illustrating the points he is making.
“They can read the evaluation and watch the video and understand, ‘Oh he wants him to lift his leg a little higher,’ or, ‘He wants him to stay over the rubber longer and stay taller.’ They can see it on the video. I will demonstrate it very simply when I send back the video.”
One of the pieces of advice to one young pitcher Stuper has already helped was simply to raise the position of his glove when he started his delivery.
“His dad said it was like he was a different pitcher, just by doing that,” Stuper said.
Stuper, who also recently became a certified personal trainer, said going through that program helped improve his understanding of body mechanics and how a body moves, which he also thinks is an area where he can offer helpful tips and suggestions.
“What I want to do is give them physical cues where a parent can become his kid’s own pitching coach in the backyard and maybe they won’t need me anymore,” Stuper said. “It’s probably a bad business model. But I would hope every six months or so they will contact me and say, ‘Hey take a look at this.”
The three programs offered by Stuper are an analysis of one video; a three-video analysis and a five-video package which includes a personal zoom call with Stuper where he can answer additional questions.
“A lot of my coaching tips are the same things I tell my college guys,” Stuper said. “I give them a goal like, ‘Throw the next five pitches below the catcher’s mask.’ It works. Little things like that.
“I tell every one of my pitchers that there are pitching coaches in the big leagues too. Nobody’s perfect. You’re talking about the best pitchers in the world and they still need occasional fine tuning.”
Stuper already has heard from one of his former players who wants Stuper to watch and give him feedback about his son’s pitching performance.
“What all pitchers need to do to be successful is to repeat their delivery, to do the same thing every time,” Stuper said. “That’s the key to throwing strikes. We will help parents learn how to help their kids do that in the backyard. That’s the plan.
“I have credibility in keeping it simple. One thing that hasn’t changed in the game of baseball is that it revolves around a pitcher that throws strikes – at any level. That is the key, and that’s what I’m going to try to teach.”
For more information, go to 6thgamepitching.com
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo courtesy of John Stuper
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF JOHN STUPER’S “GRAND OPENING”