* Steve Delabar -- or Stevie Delabar as he's known around the Players’ Dugout in Elizabethtown, Ky. believes in Joe Newton's Velocity Program. ....
By Bob Elliott
Blue Jays fans know the hard-throwing all-star reliever as Steve Delabar.
To the man on the stage he was and is Stevie Delabar ... for he knew him when.
Even before when.
“Stevie was the ninth player in our program,” Joe Newton told coaches at this weekend at the annual Best Ever coaching clinic. “Stevie had a metal plate in his right elbow with nine pins.
“By the end of the first year I had 19 participants, then it was 300, then 1,200 and we should be about 6,000 this year.”
Newton owns the Players’ Dugout in Elizabethtown, Ky. where Delabar learned the weighted ball program throwing balls 3-to-12 ounces to strengthen his arm.
Tom House, former Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers pitching coach, who runs an academy in Southern California formed a partnership with Newton. The Velocity Program began four years ago with former college coach Jamie Evans also heavily involved, which is also taught at Denny Berni's Pro Teach facility in Etobicoke.
Evans has since been hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant now that relievers Brett Cecil, Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan are believers. Yet, Evans has been placed under the Rogers Centre cone of silence.
Newton can talk.
“When I was 10 years old my friends and I would throw whiffle balls all day long, I remember how big a day it was when I was able to throw an acorn over our barn,” Newton said. “Today kids are not acclimated to throwing, Whose fault is that? I don’t know.”
As he speaks a picture of Delabar with his name “Stevie Delabar” is displayed on the power point presentation.
Delebar was a substitute teacher in Elizabethtown, playing slow pitch and winner of the 2010 Louisville Invitational tournament Miken home run derby. Working as an assistant baseball coach at a high school he enrolled in conditioning program, so he could show his team.
Newton has heard people take credit for Delabar being an all-star, how ...
_ Major league trainers re-build his arm.
_ Doctors with the Brockton Rox of the independent Canadian-American Association fixed his elbow in 2009 season after his fractured right elbow.
“Major league baseball and the San Diego Padres released Stevie,” Newton said. “In Brockton they re-set his arm properly, but he was out of the game.”
Fact is, after throwing weighted balls with Newton, Delabar’s fastball climbed to 92-97 mph range and he signed a minor-league deal with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, three seasons after his previous pitch in affiliated ball.
“The program is all about velocity, plus arm care,” said Newton.
Newton works with the top-ranked university programs like Baylor, Ole Miss, Louisville, Illinois and Vanderbilt.
Vandy pitching coach Scott Brown complained to Newton how Tyler Beede, the Blue Jays top pick in 2011, had control problems last spring.
“Oh really,” Newton replied.
As a freshman Beede was 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA, walking 32 and striking out 68 in 71 2/2 innings in 2012. Last year he was 14-1 with a 2.32 ERA with 63 walks and 103 strikeouts in 101 innings.
Control complaints came from Illinois and Louisville as well.
“The Illinois staff had almost 40 fewer walks in 37 more innings (162 free passes in 491 1/3 innings in 2013, in 464 innings in 2012),” said Newton. “Louisville had more walks ... in 39 more innings (223 in 589 2/3 in 2013 compared to 195 in 560 2/3 in 2012).”
Louisville beat Vanderbilt at the NCAA Super Regional last June and Cardinals pitching coach Roger Williams asked Newton “you coming to Omaha?” and the College World Series.
Newton said Williams told him “your kids recover quicker, your starters go deeper and their shoulders feel better.”
Delabar had more walks in 2013: 29 in 58 2/3 compared to 26 in 66 inning the year before.
“Sure, if you include five intentional walks,” said Newton.
Newton has met resistance meeting with some big-league clubs.
“I ask general manager’s ‘do you watch them when they go into Kroger’s market for a case of beer?’” Newton told his audience. “All I am doing is giving them a case of baseballs -- my grand son is on a similar program (different weighted balls).”
The shoulder is one piece of the puzzle he tells GMs, pitching is part mental, part physical.
The No. 1 cause of arm problems?
“Abuse,” Newton told his audience. “There is a $39 million facility near my place. I’ll drive by in the morning and a 10-year-old is playing catch. I’ll drive by in the afternoon and he’s throwing again.”
The arm care program was developed to improve a pitcher’s GIRD (Glenohumeral internal rotation deficit) ... correcting range of motion externally and internally, as well as creating balance in the shoulder muscles.
Newton has numbers to back up former Jays manager Cito Gaston’s claim about a shoulder injury being worse than Tommy John elbow surgery (“doctors are so good now, an elbow injury is like a bus, it might be 10 minutes late, but it’s coming. A shoulder injury? You never know if a guy is coming back.”)
Newton says 35.5% of players suffering shoulder injuries never come back, while 82% of elbow injuries recover.
When he started his program there were four goals in mind with improving an arm: stability, flexibility, mobility and velocity.
Newton said there was a problem listing velocity fourth. It doesn’t work too well in our Goggle world.
Going to the weight room is important. “Mass is good -- when we’re ready to add mass,”
Yet, all is not perfect in the weighted ball world vs. the old-school methods.
Delabar had shoulder issues last year.
Brandon Morrow tried the program had problems.
And Cecil finished the season on the DL.
Don Slaught, former Detroit Tigers hitting coach, Steve Smith, head coach, Baylor University, Rob Smith, head coach, Fred Corral, pitching coach, University of Georgia, Jayson King, head coach, Franklin Pearce University, Monte Lee, head coach, College of Charleston, Geoff Miller, mental skills coach, Atlanta Braves and Kevin Barr, strength & conditioning coach of the Tampa Bay Rays, were the other speakers.
If Newton resembles a preacher speaking with the passion of a southern evangelist, it’s because he’s a believer.
“I preach the gospel about keeping kids arms safe,” he told his audience. “God put us here for a reason. There were players earning $97 million US on the DL in the majors due to shoulder surgeries last year.
“We try to fix it before it get broke.”