Delabar, Tebow worked with same coach

* All-star Steve Delabar and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who share the same throwing guru, also shared some time on Dedeaux Field in LA, as Delabar ran crossing patterns and caught passes from Tebow. ....

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By Bob Elliott

DUNEDIN - So, what did all-star Steve Delabar do this winter?

Well, he didn’t go to Disneyland, but for a former centre on his middle school football team, it was still pretty exciting.

Delabar ran crossing patterns and caught passes from former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in the outfield at Dedeaux Field on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

“He threw me and the other guys there about five passes,” said Delabar Thursday morning in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

All for touchdowns?

“Of course,” said Delabar.

The Jays ended their 2013 season Sept. 29 at the Rogers Centre with a 7-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Delabar needed eight pitches to work a scoreless eighth, getting Ben Zobrist on a fly ball, popping up Delmon Young, and getting Matt Joyce on a ground out.

The game ended at 4:29, and soon after Delabar was in his 2011 silver Ford Explorer making the 11 1/2 hour trek home to Elizabethtown, Ky. (pop: 28,531). The next day, he caught the Southwest flight from Louisville, made a connection at Midway Airport to LAX.

Delabar made the trip west with right-hander Nathan Adcock, who pitched at triple-A Omaha (a Kansas City Royals affiliate) and Reno (Arizona Diamondbacks) last year, and Stephen Shackleford, who was at double-A Jackson (Seattle Mariners) to work with pitching guru Tom House.

“Then one day he said Tim was going to drop by,” said Delabar. “Tim?”

And there was Tebow who was meeting with House to work on his throwing mechanics.

“I play football in the back yard, usually as a receiver or a quarterback,” said the Jays reliever on catching passes from the former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback.

Delabar didn’t play football in high school, playing only one season for the East Harlin Middle School Rebels in grade 7 as a centre.

“I was OK with it the first year -- no one wants to play on the line -- but I was playing with older kids,” he explained.

The next year when he was asked to be a lineman, again he chose picking tobacco ($5 an hour) over blocking. Delabar said he wasn’t 6-foot-4 then, but he was “almost as tall,” and had long arms, why not let him throw passes or catch passes? They called back asking him to play, but he stayed with picking tobacco.

It was House’s program which helped get Delabar to the all-star game at Citi Field last year -- striking out Buster Posey, the only hitter he faced.

Delabar was out of the game with nine screws in his right elbow when he learned of House’s program from former coach Jamie Evans, working out of Maryland. Evans, now employed by the Jays, passed it on to Joe Newton, who runs the Players’ Dugout, an instructional facility in Elizabethtown.

While Delabar met House last year when the Jays were in Anaheim, this time he and Newton visited the horse’s mouth for an up close examination and learning session. House’s clients share the weight room with the USC Trojans.

Delabar and the other two Kentucky pitchers, plus minor leaguers and independent players, learned of shoulder strength from House, as well as body maintenance and nutrition.

House noticed something right away when he saw Delabar’s bullpen.

Before he even threw a pitch.

Instead of starting his delivery from the stretch from a closed position (left foot closer to third base than his right), Delabar was starting from a slightly more open stance. Delabar got up from his chair to show the difference.

“I was pulling my fastball, yanking balls down and away or leaving from them high on the arm side,” said Delabar.

The reliever recalls a 32-pitch outing in which he was extended at U.S. Cellular Field on June 10. He entered the game in the eighth with the Blue Jays trailing 7-6 and allowed three unearned runs. Gordon Beckham singled, Hector Gimenez reached on Edwin Encarnacion’s throwing error and one out later Alexei Ramirez was safe on Emilio Bonifacio’s error at second. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn each hit run-scoring singles in what was a five-out inning.

The next day the Jays began their 11-game winning streak. Game 2 of the streak he worked a perfect eighth, holding the lead as Esmil Rogers beat the Rangers 3-1 and the next day he had pain.

And on Canada Day with the Jays up 8-2, Delabar came on to strike out the Detroit Tigers' big three of Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Cecil Fielder on 13 pitches.

“The next day my shoulder was like WOW!,” said Delabar of the pain.

He was given an extra day off, wasn’t needed and in all he had eight days off before allowing a run in the eighth against the Cleveland Indians in a 3-0 loss.

“I’d fixed my control issues by opening up my stance, but I was putting stress on my arm.” said Delabar. “I’m not putting any blame on my mechanical problems on anyone but myself.”

And on the penultimate day, each pitcher was hooked up to motion sensors and filmed by cameras from 360 degrees.

You’ve heard a pitcher without his curve ball or his change up say: “I felt like I was pitching naked out there?”

“I almost was,” said Delabar, who wore sliding pants, his glove and cleats.

Sensors were attached from head to toe: both feet, shins, knees, hips, arms, wrists, shoulders and head.

“With the other guys, they put the sensor in their caps, but with me they stuck it to my bald head,” said Delabar, who threw four four-seam fastballs, splitters and sliders.

After four days at USC, the group headed home and a month later the printout of what looked like a stick man arrived. House called as Adcock, Shackleford, Delabar and Newton sat around the table.

“It was like class, we went over each printout learning from one another,” said Delabar, who was able to see even more dramatically the difference between starting with a closed and open stance.

Delabar had worked two hitless innings to date this spring.

And the big news when he returned to the Players’ Dugout in Elizabethtown.

“Catching passes from Tebow of course,” said Delabar. “The rest was work.”

There were plenty of relievers in the all-star game last July, but how many East Harlin Middle School grads caught touchdown passes from a Heisman Trophy winner?


NOTES: On Friday March 28, Jacques Doucet will leave his house in Longeuil, Que. and make the 20-minute drive the Olympic Stadium.

The building has not hosted a major league ball game since Sept. 29, 2004 when the Montreal Expos lost 9-1 to the Florida Marlins.

“It will seem strange going to work at the Olympic Stadium again,” said Doucet, watching the Blue Jays play the Houston Astros Thursday afternoon.

Roger Brulotte and Doucet will broadcast the New York Mets-Jays games March 28-29 at the Olympic Stadium from the same perch they did Montreal Expos games. Doucet said 75,000 tickets have sold for the two days.

For the previous three seasons, Doucet has done the play by play and Brulotte the analysis of 60 Blue Jays games for French-language TVA Sports. This year, TVA has added 70 more games from MLB Network, plus one wild-card game, two division series and one League Championship Series.

Doucet was the voice of the Expos in Montreal. No one saw more Expos games than him, as he covered the club for La Press before switching to radio in 1972 and staying until 2004.