Why this is the Best
Pitching Book Ever -
A Letter from the
Dear Pitchers, Coaches, and Fans,
Coming of age in Baltimore during the rule of Weaver, I grew up a thinking baseball fan with an obsession for separating truth from the fallacy of myth. Yet, despite all my years of loyalty to baseball and hands-on experience, and my reading of the classics (Boswell and James), it has only been this past year, that I have come to what I consider a full understanding of the game, both in its science and its beauty. This happened thanks to my lengthy, my accountant might say protracted, collaboration with Dr. John Bagonzi on THE ACT OF PITCHING.
When we started on this book, I had two very specific and personal goals in mind. I wanted to learn how to do a better job of coaching pitchers, and I wanted to serve in the creation of something beautiful and useful as a tribute to the game.
With just a casual perusal of Coach Bagonzi's book, you will immediately notice that it is very different from most texts on the craft of pitching. As a youth league coach and the father of an emerging pitcher, I longed for some ultimate instructional guide to pitching. And while some decent books have come to print, I found that none of them were very complete -- neither in their scope nor in their covering of details. Despite reading them all, I still did not know how to grip a curve, develop a fastball, or correct wildness on the spot.
Then I met Coach, and after just five minutes with him, it became quite evident to me that he knew more about pitching than anyone I'd ever encountered or read. In his mannerism he is clearly one of the good guys from the old school, the sort who is as good as his word and genuine in his work ethic. But while his mannerisms might be old school and his respect for the past is sincere, he operates fully and comfortably in the present.
After watching him at work giving a seminar, I recognized that not only was he a great technician, but he was an absolutely gifted teacher. There were over forty kids attending the seminar -- from kids just out of tee-ball to college freshmen -- some of whom I personally knew of as behavior problems. Not only did Coach hold their attention for an entire morning and afternoon, but he got them believing that they could become good pitchers by showing them how and by convincing them that it was worth the effort.
Since that first encounter, I have personally spoken with many fine baseball people, and all agree that Coach Bagonzi is quite simply the best at what he does. Lennie
Merullo, former director of the Major League Scouting Bureau and still an active scout, told me that in the fifties he chased Coach around the country trying to sign him. Mr. Merullo said that coach had the best curve ball he had ever seen, that it was a thing of beauty. He also told me that when it came to coaching, Bagonzi was the pros pro, the best in the east.
Coach has written for several magazines, including COACHING MANAGEMENT and HARDBALL. Dave Destler of JUNIOR BASEBALL and Lou Pavlovitch of COLLEGIATE BASEBALL both told me that Coach is one of their most popular and respected contributors: that his stuff is both timely and entertaining, and above all else, extremely useful.
Coach Bagonzi is considered the best baseball and basketball coach in the history of New Hampshire high school sports. He also holds every pitching record at the University of New Hampshire. The fact that he has sent a handful of pitchers from tiny Woodsville High (some years his bench went no deeper than the water boy) to the pros, speaks volumes about his capacity to motivate and get the most out of a kids talent. While coaching at Woodsville, his pitchers threw twenty-five no hitters while winning several state championships. Chad Paronto who has been up and down with the Orioles this season is a Woodsville boy who says that coach is responsible for his great mechanics. In fact Coach has worked with two generations of
Parontos. Chad has an uncle who did a stint with the Braves. Many of Coaches former players bring their sons to work with him. If you want to hear a ringing endorsement, speak with Rich Gale who refers to coach as a pitching genius. At one point Coach got Gale's career back on track and now Gale is bringing his own son to work with Coach.
I courted Coach Bagonzi for a few months before he agreed to settle down to the business of writing this book. (Be forewarned that you won't win over Coach without winning over Dreamer Pearl Bagonzi --formerly of the Olympia Section of Columbia, South Carolina -- Coach's wife of many years). Coach and I both had the same goal of creating a book that is both logical and beautiful, one that dots all the i's, one that raises the bar for what an instructional book can accomplish.
We've included over 400 photos in this book (we shot well over 6000) and worked hand-in-hand with a designer to seamlessly interweave the visual with the written. No where in this book will you have to turn the page to look for a referenced picture (something that peeves the readers of many books). And for those who are more apt to be visual learners, we made sure that one can get a thorough learning experience by studying the pictures and the highlighted paragraphs.
That is not to insinuate that the text is superfluous. We don't want people to buy the book, we want them to read it! The text is laced with philosophy, history, and humor. It offers entry into baseballs great inner sanctum. Coach and I labored hard on this book and argued many points. Not points about pitching (coach is the unsurpassed authority) but on ways to make each point crystal clear. Anything that was in the least way muddied or confusing, we redid over and over again until we were convinced it would not confuse or mislead the reader.
In creating such a book as this, it would be easy to become a spouting technician. But Coach never forgets that pitching is a craft and an art. While Coach believes that velocity can be taught and that most any pitcher can develop an adequate toolbox, cloning pitchers is a wasted effort. Pitchers are not robots waiting to be programmed. Each pitcher of substance has his individual style and as Coach often points out, Sometimes you just have to sit back, observe and appreciate. Each pitcher is unique and because of that the most important thing to transfer is not the exactitude of technique, but the truth of principle and the absolutes of great pitching. After reading this book, no young pitcher will come away without understanding the importance of keeping the ball down and why a fastball ought to be
everyone's first and favorite pitch.
"I am totally committed to seeing young men better themselves, probably due to the fact that my dream of being a major league pitcher was side-tracked largely due to my own consequences and choices. My athletic career has spanned 40 years from high school to now and I haven't lost a drop of desire." John Bagonzi
While this book is primarily concerned with helping one become the best pitcher and the best coach possible, it is also about helping people with a passion for the game and those involved with players and coaches to become the best and most knowledgeable fans possible. I guarantee that reading this book will change the way that one watches the game. A lot of people talk in general terms of spin and grips. Coach Bagonzi explains them from A to Z so that a reader will understand, not just how a curve ball is created, but also how it works. The laws of baseball in the end must be in harmony with the fundamental laws of earth and heaven.
Throughout this book the mental aspects of the game of baseball are discussed and illuminated. Winning is no accident, not over the long haul. We all know that we must believe we are going to be successful before we can be successful, but do we understand the barriers that get in the way of our believing? That understanding takes consciousness, the kind of consciousness required of a Zen master who practices the mastering of self. Is Coach a Zen master? Absolutely. Even after twenty-five years of highly active involvement with the martial arts, I've encountered no living Zen masters in that world, ones who can shock, cajole, or implore you to consciousness in the way that Coach can with an observation, a comment, a look. Ultimately this book is about allowing yourself to get good, about getting enough right information, about dedicating yourself in your thought as well as your action. Learning how to do that in one aspect of ones life allows one to take that skill with him no matter where the life path leads. Jim MacDonald, formerly of the Astros credits Coach with giving him a shot at the Majors. But when talking of Coach what he would rather speak to is how the lessons he learned from Coach gave him the tools to successfully deal with all the facets and problems of his own life including career and relationship.
I would urge you to not only review our book but take this opportunity to find a way to share this man of baseball with your readership. Coach Bagonzi exemplifies all that is right about baseball. In a time when so many of us feel rudderless, he lets us know that America is not devoid of a native affirming ideology. Great sportsman, great pitcher, great teacher, Coach Bagonzi shows us how the game of baseball can lift a young man to be a better person, in a way that is uniquely American.
Sincerely, Alex Levin, editor
PS This year my son led his Cal Ripken team to an undefeated season. He gave up only two runs over the course of the season, both unearned. In fact the pitchers on our team gave up just 18 runs (mostly unearned) over a fifteen game season, eight of them occurring in a blowout where we let everyone pitch.