By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Brent Strom has been a pitching coach for 23 years, both on the minor league and Major League levels. His teaching was a vital part of the rise of the current staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, who will report to spring training in 37 days to start defense of their National League championship.
Before that, he played for the Mets, Indians and Padres in a career that was derailed in the 1970s by elbow problems that led to him being the second player ever to have Tommy John surgery — right after the procedure’s namesake, of course.
Strom has been around the block, to say the least. No doubt he has been influenced by things he was taught even as a young player growing up in California in the 1950s and 1960s. But those influences are not forever etched in Strom’s subconscious as if they were crayon marks on a wall, resistant to even the most abrasive of cleaners.
You don’t send the likes of Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly to the World Series through stagnant teaching.
No, the opposite is true of Strom, a 65-year-old matter-of-fact speaker whose ability to adapt his methodology has made him a successful teacher and, in turn, his students successful pitchers.
Strom, who in October was hired by the Houston Astros to be their pitching coach, knows what he’s talking about. Later this month, area coaches will have a golden opportunity to benefit from his knowledge.
Strom will be one of several guest speakers at a coaching symposium at Upper Deck Training Center in Beckley. The four-day event is set for Jan. 24-27.
“Basically I want to look at ways pitchers can throw with the idea of staying as healthy as they can,” Strom said in a recent phone interview. “I want (coaches) to get an idea of what to look for as far as velocity and that sort of thing, and adding a few different pitches. ... We want to negate some of the myths they may be teaching. A lot of coaches are teaching what they were taught, and there is no guarantee that it works.
“My teaching has had to change and that is what I am still doing. I’ll talk to them about the same things I talk to the big leaguers about. I won’t hold anything back.”
The four days will be divided into two for players and parents and two for coaches.
Player and parent passes will be available for Friday, Jan. 24, and Monday, Jan. 27, for $25.
Saturday, Jan. 25, and Sunday, Jan. 26, are reserved for coaching clinics. Each days will end with a question-and-answer session. Fee for these days is $50 per coach.
Prices are good for preregistering before Jan. 20. After that date, the fee is $75.
Also set to speak at the symposium are Josh Newman, a former All-Big Ten pitcher at Ohio State and former Colorado Rockies hurler who was recently hired as pitching coach at Marshall; Jeremy Cummings, a Charleston native who pitched for Team USA’s bronze-medal winning team in 2008 and is currently in the Tampa Bay Rays organization; Blake Herring, pitching coach/recruiting coordinator at Carson-Newman; Steve Crosier, former batting coach for the West Virginia Miners who is now the strength and conditioning coach for the Princeton Rays, as well as Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer; Miners assistant coach and former longtime Independence head coach Joe Goddard, who played for the Padres in the early 1970s; Danny Flores, head instructor at Upper Deck and Miners first base coach; and Miners manager Tim Epling, who worked as a minor league umpire for six years.
The symposium is for coaches at any level, from Little League to college. Coaches from the Charleston and Boone County areas have already inquired.
For more information, call Epling at 304-673-2519. Information will also be posted soon on the Upper Deck website, www.upperdeckwv.com.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.