Baldwin's Passion Drives Elite Pitching Program

By Sean McCann
Prep Baseball Report Kansas

Brett Baldwin has a passion. 

Morning, noon and night his mind is on pitching, and in particular, developing pitchers. 

If a new article pops up online regarding keeping pitchers healthy, he’s reading it.  If a baseball guy comes up with a new theory on how to make pitchers better, he wants to quiz them about it.  If the strength and conditioning industry comes up with a different way to make pitchers more explosive, he’s going to learn all about it.

Baseball people are notorious for being set in their ways and resistant to change, but not Baldwin.  If he finds a better way to do things then he's going to investigate it and use it.

Before arriving in Kansas City to work as the Director of Player Development for the KC Barnstormers organization Baldwin had worked for the St. Louis Pirates.  It was there that he met and worked under former University of Missouri assistant Brian Delunas and saw first-hand the implementation of a unique off-season pitching system for high school baseball players he coined the Elite Pitching Program (EPP). 

Delunas had put together a group of top area pitchers and organized a pitching-specific program of throwing, strength/conditioning training, mobility work and flexibility routines designed to allow them to recover from their intense summer and fall throwing workloads followed by a building up phase preparing them for the spring  - all taking place over a four month period. 

The over-riding emphasis of the program was the development and training of the explosive pitcher – and it worked.  Several of the top St. Louis area pitchers made strides with their velocity and command while, most importantly, remaining healthy. 

Among the group was Class of 2013 products Brian Howard, Saint Louis University HS now a freshman at TCU; and Jake Brentz of Parkway South HS, a Toronto Blue Jays 11th round pick.

While working alongside Delunas, Baldwin’s passion for learning was fed and he absorbed everything, constantly thinking about what worked, what didn’t and possible ways to make the program even better. 

This summer Baldwin approached Carswell, a passionate baseball man in his own right, about the possibility of starting a Kansas City version of the program.  Carswell was more than open to the idea.  Baldwin checked with Delunas to see if it would be all right for him to bring the program to the other side of the state and Delunas gave him the thumbs up, in fact he encouraged Ballwin to name it the Elite Pitching Program Kansas City (aka EPPKC).

“Brian had a big hand in us getting this started in KC and still is a big factor.  We bounce ideas off each other all the time while we are both working through the program,” Baldwin said.

This fall EPPKC began at the Barnstormers Kansas City, Kansas facility and when the new, larger Barnstormers Olathe facility opened it was moved there.

“The new facility has more space and equipment to allow us to do more things.  We have a fully functional weight room with two power racks, medicine balls, a medicine ball wall, Jaeger bands, dumbbells, jump boxes, ropes – a little bit of everything,” said Carswell.

They scheduled two groups: one group on Monday and Wednesday nights and the other on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Because most of the pitchers had strength/conditioning workouts and pitching workouts right after school they settled on an 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm time slot. 

Baldwin and Carswell knew if they were going to put together the best program possible they needed to illicit the help of other experts in the field of baseball player development and sports medicine so they added John Renzi of John Renzi Sports Performance; Casey Shaw of Barnstormers Baseball Strength and Conditioning; Russ Barker of Zenolink 3D High Speed Video; Jason Yoder of Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine; and Dr. Kevin Witte of Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc. to assist with the program.

Before a pitcher starts EPP he goes through a complete assessment where his strength and mobility are tested and graded.  The efficiency of how their bodies work is analyzed.  This information is then used to put together an individual program for each pitcher so they can address any deficiencies they have most effectively. 

“This is very much an individualized program, not a cookie cutter approach.  All the pitchers have strengths and weaknesses.  This assessment is critical in terms of putting together the best program for each pitcher’s development,” Baldwin added.

“Pitcher arm injuries are almost always the result of a physical imbalance – chest much stronger than the back, for example.  This is why we put such an emphasis on identifying and addressing imbalances early in our program.” 

In the first month there is no throwing involved, instead the focus is on improving mobility, scapular strength and overall strength through circuit work.  In the next phase the pitchers continue the work in the first phase while ramping it up and they also add light throwing to the equation.  They then move on to the final phase where the pitchers begin a bullpen progression designed to get each pitcher ready for their spring season. 

For most of the EPP pitchers, the program is a supplement to the other work they are doing in the off-season. 

“Communication is the key.  We encourage the pitchers to let us know what they are doing throwing and strength/conditioning-wise outside of EPP.  We also reach out to the various strength coaches and pitching coaches that work with the pitchers for input on the workout schedules we put together,” Baldwin said. 

“We don’t want to interfere with what these guys are already doing and what’s working for them, we are just providing area pitchers an option to get additional pitching-specific work in during the off-season.”

Each pitcher leaves the program with their own dynamic warm-up, tailored to their strengths and weaknesses that they can use throughout the spring, summer and fall.  They are also provided workouts they can follow as a supplement to other strength/conditioning they might be doing.

“They all learn what works best for them during the program.  They will all go out and play and use a lot of it, discard some of it, as they mesh it with what they are doing high school-wise and academy-wise,” Carswell added.

Twenty-one area pitchers took part in EPPKC this winter and the list is impressive to say the least, including Kansas high school prospects Ryan Ralston and Zack Engelken, Blue Valley West; Isaiah Campbell, Olathe South; Brendan Stanek, Blue Valley Southwest; Ryan Cyr, Blue Valley; Greyson Jenista, De Soto; Austin Hansen, Olathe Northwest; Joey Wentz, Shawnee Mission East and Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas among others.

Baldwin has already started working on the format for next year’s EPPKC schedule with plans to expand the number of workouts each week.  Nothing has been finalized yet, but one thing is for certain, Baldwin will seek out the best information possible, adjust and improve it – that’s just the way he’s wired.

For more information on EPPKC contact Brett Baldwin at [email protected]