By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Brent Strom was a high school pitcher with loads of potential who had visions of a long career in Major League Baseball.
Then, in his senior year at USC, Strom began to experience pain in his pitching arm. The pain never went away, and he knew something was wrong.
“When I signed my (pro) contract, I kind of knew I was doing it under false pretenses,” Strom said. “I was able to get four years out of it, but it was a grind. A lot of pain.”
Those four years are a far cry from the 15 he was sure he could last. Instead, the left-hander became just the second player to ever have Tommy John surgery, a procedure that involves replacing torn elbow ligaments with healthy ligaments from elsewhere in the body.
These days, the surgery is commonplace — a little too common for Strom’s liking. More and more teenaged pitchers are going through the procedure, and Strom would like to see an end to it.
That’s why he spends many days speaking at clinics to inform baseball coaches at every level of the latest ways to work with pitchers with the goal of keeping them injury free.
Strom, the pitching coach for the Houston Astros, spent the first of two days Sunday working with area coaches at the Upper Deck coaching symposium. He and Upper Deck owner Tim Epling have been friends for years and Epling wanted to give area coaches an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from Strom’s knowledge.
Strom spent six years as a minor league pitching instructor with the St. Louis Cardinals, and many of their pitchers played in the World Series in October.
“I want to thank Tim for bringing me in,” Strom said. “Tim and I are on the same wavelength. We teach a lot of the same stuff. There was some stuff that was relatively new that I showed them today. His presentation preceding mine allowed me to go in-depth in some other areas, such as posture rotation and connection, and also some drills that will help people synchronize their body a little bit.”
The clinic was not as well attended as Strom had hoped, but among those in the audience were two area icons — Wyoming East coach Ron “Chief” Mayhew and retired Independence coach Joe Goddard.
“The guys who did come today, I will tell you, if they were paying attention and took notes, they are way ahead of the game now in terms of working with pitchers,” Strom said.
“I don’t think any coach intentionally tries to hurt anybody, but if they don’t do their due dilligence and try to learn — one thing I do know is that I know enough to know that I don’t know. I’ll continue to try to keep learning. It’s an exciting time for me, even at this advanced age.
“It’s just disappointing to see the (low) turnout we have, because the information we just gave is the best I know of right now.”
Coaches have a last chance to learn from Strom today. He will be at Upper Deck Training Center in Beckley from 4 to 8 p.m. The clinic will be broken into two sessions, 4 to 6 p.m. for players and 6 to 8 p.m. for coaches.
Cost of the clinic is $25.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.