Prep pitchers find comfort in running

Prep pitchers find comfort in running

April 12th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Signal Mountain's Braxton Reese pitches against Notre Dame on Monday at Signal Mountain High School.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

After pitching on Monday, Braxton Reese is sore on Tuesday.

He is in a boat with high school pitchers across the country.

"I get sore in my lower back and my right [quadriceps] from pushing off," the Signal Mountain senior said. "I always ice after games."

The soreness, said Bumper Reese, his coach and father, is "a good soreness," more in muscle than joint and not around the arm or elbow.

"Over the years I've had kids get sore in places you wouldn't believe," the coach said, "but Braxton is a middle infielder I have to use on the mound."

As the season has progressed, though, Braxton has taken to running the soreness out.

"He's pretty good buddies with [Sequatchie County pitcher] Dakota Hudson, and Dakota suggested running -- told him running will help get the soreness out pretty quick," Coach Reese said. "Forget about Advil and aspirin and stick with running and plenty of water."

Times change. When he pitched in high school, Robert Long, a former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and now the pitching coach for Greg Payne at McCallie, never ran and never, ever used ice.

"After my first [big-league] game they wanted to ice my arm. That was a first," he said. "Staying in shape is the best thing. I remember when I was playing with Luis Tiant; he used to play golf the day after pitching to work out the soreness. But I still think a lot of running the next day works it out."

Hudson, who has signed Mississippi State scholarship papers and is projected as a first-five-rounds pick in June's major league draft, runs often.

"I usually run a few poles (foul pole to foul pole) after games and then do [stretch] bands after that," he said. "Then I'll run a few poles on Tuesday and we have conditioning on Wednesdays, and I'll run a couple of miles then."

Ice isn't really part of the recovery.

"Just never used it here. The running and the band exercises get the blood flowing quicker," Hudson said, "so there's a quicker recovery."

Said Clay Parker, another former major leaguer who works with Boyd-Buchanan pitchers: "If there is an arm [injury] issue, then yes. Otherwise, [ice] just makes your arm cold."

Braxton Reese pitches in games once per week, but his pitching responsibilities include the stretch-band work. Then there are weightlifting, throwing on flat ground and medicine ball work.

"Pitching is all about the legs, but a lot of what Braxton does is preventative and maintenance," his dad said. "The game has evolved as far as kids being bigger and stronger and better techniques they're using before and after they throw. Years ago a guy would throw and be sore three or four days. That's no longer the case."

The main problem can be lactic acid buildup, which often is alleviated with plenty of fluids and other types of exercise.

"You have to get it out," Sequatchie coach Aaron Simmons said. "With Dakota, he'll throw from maybe 90 feet and the second day after is long-tossing to stretch out the muscles. We only use ice if somebody is hurting."

Parker advocates a year-round program, and his in-season approach is far from that of some more zealous parents.

"When practice starts in February, pitchers should have their bodies ready for the rigors they will face over the next few months, and once the season starts a maintenance program is very important," he said. "We as coaches must realize there are many other aspects going on in the lives of our student-athletes.

"Baseball is a fun game, and for 90 percent of high schoolers, this is it for them. We as coaches should make it as enjoyable an experience as we can for our players for the moment at hand and not the future."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.