Throwing program helps players turn up the heat

2013-07-19T17:30:00Z 2013-07-19T20:10:34Z Throwing program helps players turn up the heatJohn Burbridge, (219) 933-3371

CROWN POINT | Jordan Smolar puts it this way.

"Let's say you have a car that goes 200 miles per hour," he said, "and you're driving this car toward the edge of a cliff. At that point the most important thing for you ... the driver ... is not how well your car accelerates, but how well it can decelerate before you go over the edge."

A former Highland baseball star and minor league pitcher, Smolar is the owner of The F.A.S.T. Center and Cy Young Academy in Crown Point. He recently joined forces with Portage native Chuck Alexander, who pitched in the Cleveland Indians organization and has developed a throwing program that has helped numerous local prospect turn up the heat.

"I wish I knew then what I know now," said Alexander, whose program focuses on efficiently using the body to speed up and decelerate the arm to increase velocity while preventing injuries.

A variety of unconventional drills is employed, including exercises with Jaeger Bands and Body Blades. Outdoor sessions often are held three or four days a week at the Crown Point Cal Ripken baseball fields and Crown Point High School.

"We're grateful for the cooperation from (C.P. Baseball League president) Dave Hanaway and (CPHS baseball coach) Steve Strayer," Alexander said.

"You've got to keep your ego in check if you want to stay up to date on things," Alexander said. "You've got to be willing to learn from others. I picked up a lot studying what they do at South Carolina, Vanderbilt, the University of Michigan, Ball State ... What they do at Defiance (College in Ohio) really opened up my eyes."

Among the program's prized pupils is Hobart incoming senior Brandon Murray. The 6-foot-4 right-hander may not have wheels that go 200 mph, but his fastball is nearing triple digits.

"Coming out here working with these guys has helped me stay strong," said Murray, who set a Brickie record with 111 strikeouts in less than 59 innings as a junior, and was clocked at 98 mph at the Perfect Game National Showcase last month at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

"My velocity has picked up and, yeah, I think I can reach 100 in the near future," said Murray, who already has committed to South Carolina.

Though Murray's future seems bright, the program's most inspiring story is Nick Nauracy's.

"I was cut three times from my (high school) baseball team," Nauracy said. "When it happened my junior year, it really hurt."

But Nauracy never gave up, and while umpiring a Crown Point Cal Ripken game, he met Alexander and became one of his first throwing program clients.

"He fixed my mechanics and helped me increase my velocity," said Nauracy, who went on to become Crown Point's ace his senior year before continuing his career at Vincennes, and now will pitch for Ohio University.

"I never stopped believing in myself," Nauracy said, "and neither did (Alexander)."

Like Murray, Nauracy throws in the 90s, as do several other of the throwing program's prospects, including NWI Times Player of the Year Zack Plesac, Ronnie Plesac and Noah Burkholder.

Other clients who are nearing the 90s and are well into the 80s include (not all pitchers) Brandon Barnes, David Kepshire, Andrew Atichson, Thayne Bowkowski, Jeremey Wright, Bob Morgan, Joe Plesac, Rob Long, Jimmy Skiff and Alexander's sons CJ and Blaze Alexander.

After the outdoor drills, clients often cap the day with post-throwing workouts at the F.A.S.T. Center under the tutelage of Smolar, who's quick to explain terms like "forced coupling of muscles", "thoracic mobility" and "rotational stability."

"You look at hockey players ... some of the most explosive and skillful athletes in all of sports," Smolar said.  "Believe it or not, many of them work out after their games."


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