Written By: The Rhode Island Baseball Experience
My goal for the Rhode Island Baseball Experience is the educate, promote, and inform the parents, players, coaches, and fans of baseball of what is going on in their state of Rhode Island. I’m a resource person and love to fill my “rolodex” with quality resources for baseball, coaching clinics, physical fitness and conditioning, parenting tips, and more. When I met Jason Harvey, I found a resource that is competent on so many levels, I had to interview him and introduce him to our RI baseball community. Coach Harvey is a Dad, owns and operates an award winning Physical Therapy practice, and is a respected baseball coach in RI. What a grand slam find this was. I welcome you to get to know Jason Harvey in part 1 of this 2 part interview. You will find his contact information at the end of this article. Enjoy…
The RIBBE – Jason, thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to meet with me. Tell me about Elite Physical Therapy. I see you have several locations. Do you specialize in one particular section of the population or do you train athletes, rehabilitation patients, the average guy or gal walking in off the street?
JH – We service everyone. From babies as young as 21 days old to adults in their 90’s, we can help anyone. Whether you’re looking to get back on the field or just be able to walk down to the mailbox without pain, we are here to help. We have over 50 highly trained and educated Physical Therapists throughout all our locations. We offer a one-on-one hands on personalized model where you are assigned your own provider who will work with you every visit throughout your time with us. We specialize in offering the highest quality Physical Therapy management with superior service for outstanding results. From nagging back pain to a injury that happen at work, we can help anyone who has suffered a musculoskeletal injury. We also offer specialty treatments like: dry needling, women’s health, lymphedema care, vestibular treatment for vertigo, pediatric specialists, concussion management, sports medicine, and so much more. From car accidents to Work injuries and chronic issues to acute injuries, we can help everyone get back to doing the things that they love to do without feeling limited.
The RIBBE – Talk to me about your involvement with baseball as a coach and/or as a former player?
JH – I started my baseball career at the age of 7. I started in the instructional leagues and worked my way through little league, Babe Ruth, and Senior Babe Ruth. I played Junior Varsity and Varsity Baseball in High School. Since I was always short, I played the infield until I got to Junior Varsity. In Junior Varsity as an 9th grader, I decided to become a Center fielder. In 10th grade I made Varsity. I was starting on the Varsity team in 10th grade about 5-6 games in. I then started in Center field and played SS through my senior year. After HS, I went to Northeastern University in Boston where baseball was division 1. I could have played baseball at a division 2 or 3 college, but I chose to go to a great PT school for a great education instead of baseball. After debating on whether to try to walk on at Northeastern, I decided to run cross country and track at Northeastern instead. While I was at Northeastern, some of the players on the Northeastern team went on to get drafted to a major league team. Carlos Pena and Greg Montalbano were two. Still wanting to play baseball, a player on the Northeastern team named Todd Korchin got me in touch with the coach of the Savin Hill Hornets of the Yawkey League of Boston. I would make the team as a pitcher and later became the SS. I played in the Yawkey League for 4 years. After graduating from Northeastern and moving to Rhode Island, I started playing in the Rhode Island Men’s Senior Baseball League. I played in that league for 5 years. As my twins Nolan and Isabella grew older, I decided to move away from playing baseball. As my son turned 4, I signed him up for tee ball. When he turned 5, I became his coach for the first time. As his love and passion for baseball has grown, so has my drive to become a better coach. As I’ve continued this journey of coaching youth baseball, I’ve sought the council of several coaches who have coached at the youth level. I find myself in a constant search for more knowledge on how to develop a youth athlete and particularly a youth baseball player. From how to motivate them to how to help them gain more confidence. I’ve researched how to tap into the mind of a youth player so that I can understand their perception of the game to help them at their level gain a higher understanding of the game of baseball. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts, watched videos, read research articles, etc to get a better understanding of not only the kinematics of baseball but also what is commonly taught. I find myself trying to bridge the gap between what is too complex and how I can bring it to a more simplified form for the youth athlete to understand it at 9 and 10 years old so that it will be easy when they are in HS.
The RIBBE – And how has the experience been working with Ken Ryan, a former Red Sox Major League player?
JH – Ken is such a great guy. I know that sounds cliche and simple but it’s the truth. Ken is such a man of integrity. I’ve seen firsthand how he handles kids, parents, and everyone else. He is such a genuine person. He has great stories of his playing days during spring training, during the season, and during the off season. The kids love hearing his stories because he relates them to what they are working on. He knows how to get on them when they are just not bringing the right level of energy. He does it in such a respectful way that makes it about respecting the game that it gets the kids attention without making them feel like they have done anything wrong. Ken has also had the opportunity to work with some great coaches throughout his MLB career. He takes those experiences along with his contacts who are still coaching on MLB teams to use as his coaching strategies and system at KR Baseball Academy. He continues to routinely attend celebrity baseball events where he talks to active coaches to make sure his strategies are consistent with what major leaguers are working on. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be able to talk Baseball and have been given the opportunity to coach a team for Ken’s AAU program.
The RIBBE – Ok, great, now how do you use your knowledge of bio-mechanics, proper technique, and more in your role as a baseball coach?
JH – This is a great question. My brain as a PT is trained to see the flaws in human movement and breakdown why that flaw exists. After identifying the root cause of the problem, my brain works to figure out how to fix the physical impairments and the mechanical flaws that effect movement while maximizing what they do well so that they quickly start seeing and feeling success and progression As a baseball coach, I find myself doing the exact same thing with each of my players. I try to find out the root cause of why they are not making contact at the plate or why they are not driving the ball. Depending on the level of skill, I try to quickly and efficiently make the biggest difference in a short period of time so that they can feel some success as a hitter. I do the same for pitchers and players in the field. The more I coach youth baseball, the more I see how each child is at a different stage in their body’s development. All youth athletes could benefit from resistance training, agility, balance, and proprioception training. In baseball, hitters and pitchers need to generate force from the ground. This means that they have to use multiple systems to rotate their body in segments to maximize force while also having precise timing to release a ball or swing a bat at a pitched ball. Since baseball requires athleticism and skill, it requires significant neuro development to refine the motor skills of hitting, fielding, and throwing. As a baseball coach, I use neuro development strategies similar to how I would rehabilitate a patient. I would start with small controlled movements and then build to longer more complex patterns. I work a lot on getting the hips and core where they need to be and let the hands follow. I see a lot of kids use their arms and hands when they hit and throw instead of using their legs and hips. This not only puts a lot of strain through the shoulder and elbow but they are losing velocity as well. Since we hold the ball and the bat in our hands, our brains naturally thinks to use the hands to guide movement. As a baseball coach using my knowledge of biomechanics, I work to get the body where it needs to be and let the hands follow. The hands just have to be in a good starting position when throwing and hitting. If the body moves correctly, the hand will go where it needs to go. The brain will use as much force as it needs to grip the bat and the ball to get the desired result.
The RIBBE – Without going into too much depth here. what are the 3 biggest concerns you see in young baseball players, from a coaching standpoint?
JH – The three biggest concerns that I see in young baseball players is a tough question. Every player is so different. My biggest concern is players who consistently do the wrong thing right. At the age of 8, 9, and 10, they are able to experience success based on their size and athleticism, so no coach teaches the player the mechanics or movement pattern to improve their ability or reduce their risk of injury. This player is just leaned on early in their baseball career. As the mechanical flaw catches up, they either become injured or their success plateaus. The child then looks around wondering how they became average and why they don’t continue to dominate. This brings about a state of anxiety and self-doubt. The pressure that was put on them early on without taking the proper steps to develop them ends up chewing them up and spitting them out. It pains me to see kids who loved baseball so much, get to a place where they don’t want to play anymore. This leads to my second biggest concern. Coaches who don’t coach the fundamentals and programs that are more focused on playing games then practicing the basics of throwing, fielding, Baserunning, and hitting from a young age. Nothing can replace the experience of playing in a game and doing things with intent. For kids who play in programs who work out twice per week through the fall and winter, they should get out and play in as many games as possible to get every child an opportunity to compete and use the skills that they learned. For kids who start playing Rec ball in April, they need more practice time to refine skill development. The skill of throwing a ball, swinging a bat, running the bases, fielding a fly ball, etc. are skills that kids should be able to work on throughout the season without the pressure of game situations when a ball may not be hit to them for 2-3 games. Then the one time it comes to them, they happen to miss play the ball. The player often gets upset with themselves but truthfully, they haven’t practiced it enough to be expected to have that skill be a subconscious reaction. If you are thinking when the play happens, you will miss the ball every time. A lot of what happens in baseball has to come from the subconscious to be successful. Training something to become automatic or subconsious takes hours and several reps to become engrained. This leads to my third concern. With AAU programs more prevalent than ever, we have a bigger skill disparity than ever in recreational town ball. Gone are the days when the town came out for baseball in April and everyone started practicing and playing the same time. This would create some nice comradery and community rivalries at school. Kids would be excited all day because they were playing against their buddy that night. There was a range of talent and skill, but the gap wasn’t as wide as it is today. Kids who have been practicing since October and have played 15 games are playing with and against kids who are playing their first game with two practices under their belt. I would imagine that the car ride home for the first few games can’t be fun for some of the kids that are just getting out of the gate. As a coach of Rec ball, I’m trying to play catch-up with the players who love having fun and developing. Some will progress year to year while others fall behind and decide to stop playing. Like how some tournaments don’t allow AAU teams, we should probably explore town Rec leagues that don’t allow AAU players. This will ensure that Rec leagues have players who are starting at the same starting line. They will have a ton of fun and enjoy the game of baseball. We could let the AAU players continue to represent their town as an All Star with the appropriate tryout situation. We could even create a division for AAU players to compete at a high level. There may be a player who doesn’t play AAU but is better than some of the local AAU players. That player should be allowed to have an opportunity to represent his community through an All-star tryout.