The Reason for Starting Innings Pitched
Innings Pitched was developed from a foundation of frustration and growth. As a pitcher at young age, Ricky Mears the founder, had a promising career. However, reflecting back on the demise, made him think about all the missteps and wrong paths he took on his way right out of the sport.
Now this is not meant to be a story of emotional or physical turmoil, but rather a story of an individual who really did not know what he was doing, did his best, without guidance along the way.
The story ended as many baseball playing careers have, in high school. There were no years of kicking around in the minor leagues or independent leagues just hoping to get his shot. The story really finished before he could get started as many young athletes can relate. Like many of these stories, there are reasons, excuses, lack of knowledge, laziness, and on occassion lack of desire due to frustration. Enough setting the mood, let’s dive into the story.
Ricky Mears was like many young pre-teens and teenagers, playing baseball for the love of the game. He was priviledged to be a member of the Nashua, New Hampshire South All-Star team that made it to the Cal Ripken World Series. The northeast, not really know for its baseball talent due to seasonal cold spells, had a group of kids that grew up together and played at nearly every level. The shortstop of the team, Kevin Nolan, went on to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the later rounds. Dan Rossignol and Mark Frasier went on to top schools on pitching scholarships. The second baseman, Billy Ferriter was named team capitain of his college team and earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the Big East Championship. Mr. Mears, well he was the starting left fielder, but definitely not for power reasons.
Mr. Mears struggled to bat .200 out of the 8th batting spot during the Cal Ripken World Series in Matton, Illinois and was never asked to pitch. He could not much argue, even though he was the ace of his city ball team, as the All-Star team plowed through the tournaments.
His arm and glove kept him in the game, earning him Outstanding Glove Honors at the Cal Ripken World Series. The Nashua South All-Stars ended up tying for 5th in the World and 3rd in the continential United States.
Innings Pitched will have to format the VHS tape of the highlights and play it here for our readers at some point. If you do not know what a VHS is well, that makes Ricky old.
The real issues arose when Ricky entered Junior High School. Now this is going to be prefaced with an excuse, as noted earlier, so we thought we would warn you again. Almost every baseball player in the Northeast cannot stand having tryouts and early season practice in the gymnasium. Do these tryouts really do anybody justice? Glass windows around, taking grounders off the basketball floors. How does this reflect a good ball player, anyways, we digress.
The first year of junior high, Ricky Mears was cut (no Michael Jordan story to follow, sorry). He was told he was too slow, even though he ran a respectable 4.9 forty for that age. He continued to play cityball where him an recent city-ball draftee Joe-Rey Barrerra were the leaders. The team made it to the playoffs with several successful starts throughout the season by Mr. Mears. We would give you stats, but we do not have them. The only thing we know is that Ricky was praised for his pinpoint accurary and when he did miss it was low. He did not have Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, or Aroldis Chapman electricity, but he got by with Greg Maddux like precision.
The following year Ricky tried out for the junior high team. He decided to showcase his pitching talents and ultimately made the team. However, there was one moment that defined the rest of his playing career and made him heavily relate to the yips that Jon Lester has throwing to first. At one practice, after an inexplicable growth spurt of a couples inches in a week, Ricky was teamed with a 5′-1″ catcher whose mitt was almost bigger than him when he squatted. Here come the excuses, above him was a basketaball backboard, next to him glass windows.
The moment became mental and sadly Ricky Mears lost.
He threw the ball all over the place, hitting the floor before the catcher, hitting the wall behind him, and eventually stopping after hitting the rim of the backboard. The bad throws led to more overthinking as the days wore on and someone who once could hit his spots with relative ease, could no longer hit a wall if it was 100 in front of him. The mind took over, which in return led to poorer mechanics as he tried to aim the ball. Poor mechanics led to a pulled back muscle and the accuracy never returned. Ricky Mears spent most of the season on the bench and in one practice hit the same player 8 times in batting practice. Sorry Paul Callery, I know you wanted to charge the mound. He tried to push through the mental block and other issues, but utlimately decided to retire his pitching career.
In high school, Ricky Mears resurrected his playing career, albeit on the junior varsity team. He had an on-base percentage over .500 with a batting average in the high .300’s. The problem was they were not extra base hits and anything glorifying. In the age before money ball, singles and on-base were not heavily valued. His junior varisty coach played in right field due to his electric arm, that somehow remembered how to the throw the ball from right field to the cut-off, but could not figure out the whole pitching thing. The coach told him after one game, “I keep trying to not put you in the line-up, but how can I overlook your on-base percentage, its unheard of and better than anyone on the team”. Granted he was batting 6th or 7th, but praise is praise. The junior varsity team lost two games in two seasons during his Sophomore and Junior seasons.
After his junior year in high school ended, Ricky decided not play Senior Babe Ruth, and pursued other endeavors. A decision that haunts him till this day. Damn high school puppy love and the desire to work. The yips reappeared during his tryouts for Varsity team his senior year. His bat struggled against a new pitching machine, that seemed to not follow general trajectories of real pitches (more excuses), and he was utlimately cut. He can recall leaving tryouts and having friends with whom he had been playing alongside for the better of 8 years asked where you going? He said he got caught, they laughed and said see you tomorrow. There was no tomorrow.
Ricky’s playing career ended that day. The Varsity team went onto win the State Championship and the bitterness still hurts to this day. Bad decisions, excuses, and immaturity led to the collective end.
After many many years of reflection he has gone to accept the decisions he made, but he has realized that better systems should be in place for young athletes. He was never taught proper pitching mechanics, never told not to throw a curveball, never told that his mechanics drastically shifted with the growth spurt that led to injury, and most important did not have a baseball mentor. This formed the base for why Innings Pitched was started. As we mentioned, no sob story, Ricky Mears made the choices and fully accepts those choices that led to the end of his playing career. After all it is not like he was going to be the next Hall of Famer from Nashua (where, yeah the Northeast). However, if Innings Pitched can help one youth player better understand pitching mechanics or how to better leverage pitching arsenals, then the journey is sucess.
Founded in 2016, Innings Pitched was created to bridge the gap between the numbers and the mechanics of pitchers. Innings Pitches will meticulously evaluate pitchers’ mechanics, while providing statistical evidence in an easily understood format for all ages.
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