Career over to 98 mph Pitcher | The Jason Diaz Comeback Story

Career over to 98 mph Pitcher | The Jason Diaz Comeback Story

The following is a roller coaster of a story but one that is all too familiar for any athlete who has had the ability to play at the collegiate or professional level.  As you learn about Jason’s story, you will see how, in just a short two-month stint, we were able to help guide Jason back to the dominant prowess he once possessed, rebirthing the Superman within!  It will become clear why the most important attribute an athlete can possess is the ability to manage their mental landscape.  Without this ability, even the most prolific athletes can crumble to the unrelating weight of success as they see-saw their way through struggles of failure and triumphs.  In addition, you will see how, in just a short two-month stint, we were able to help guide Jason back to  

Section 1: The Back Story

Jason’s Back Story

In 2019, Jason Diaz of Franklin Square, NY, was one of it not the most sought-after high school arms in the entire country.  In the previous year (2018), Jason exploded on the map by dominating several high-profile tournaments and showcase events as he enhanced an impressive arsenal of pitches with pro-like velocity, reaching 94 mph as a senior in high school.  By the time he was ready to graduate high school, Jason had already been committed to Miami University, rated a 10 out of 10 by perfect game, and was ranked the number 1 pitcher in NYS and the 51st best pitcher in the country.  The future was bright for this young star, and with the draft right around the corner, it was looking all but inevitable that he would never step foot on a college campus.

Unfortunately for Jason, the draft didn’t go as planned, and compounding this, neither did his first couple years at college.  Like many other successful athletes who experience early success in high school, Jason was faced with the realization that the next level (college) is no joke and now the competition is not only coming from the opponents you face but also your friends and teammates as you are all vying for a few opportunities to succeed.  Couple this with several battles of vague injuries and pain while throwing, and at this point, Jason had all but lost himself.

Our First Meeting

In the summer of 2023, our in-house coaching staff first met Jason Diaz as he was invited into the building by one of our coaches who had worked with him at St. Johns University as part of our contracted remote training and advisement deal we have with their baseball organization.  Usually, when a new high-profile athlete comes into the building, the coaching staff has a general idea of who they are, as baseball is a small community.  This was no different with Jason, except I hadn’t heard his name in a while, but I remembered hearing his name several years ago as he was an incredibly popular recruit and draft hopeful out of high school in 2019.  Before the meeting, my colleague had advised me that he was all but defeated, and this was likely his last attempt at refinding himself (Jason confirmed this in our first meeting), as the once high-level thrower had now been to three different colleges and could no longer achieve the high velocities he was known for as his new operating velocities were in the low to mid 80’s.  Needless to say, I was incredibly curious and excited to meet with Jason.

Like most other initial interactions, my attempt is to do more listening, watching, and experiencing rather than talking as I want to use the past and present to truly discover who this athlete is and where they are coming from.  While each situation is different, there are attributes of language that almost always appear; he had a defeated demeanor, with a glaze of pain, suffering, and fear over his eyes; his tone was subdued and muffled, his eyes avoiding long connections, his body continuously closing inward as he recounted each struggle of the past leading to this moment.  Jason was in pain both physically and mentally, and he would never find the route back to his path until this was cleared.

Section 2: The First Priority - No More Pain

As part of Jason’s initial intake (like every athlete that comes in), we also put him through a battery of tests to discover any potential physiological limitations or biases that may be preventing him from being as dominant as possible.  Jason had indicated that he had been dealing with vague shoulder discomfort for some time and thought this was greatly impacting his ability to perform at the level he desired.  After testing his shoulder, we discovered some glaring issues related to the lack of shoulder strength and the balance of that strength.  We explained to Jason that pain is an incredible motivator and that it is likely motivating his body to operate in a way to mitigate the experiences of pain or its resulting consequences.  Now, the toughest part - getting him to buy into the idea that not throwing for 10-12 days was a positive option.  That’s right, he’s coming to us to rescue his throwing career, and we are explaining to him that he likely will not throw for the first week and a half to two weeks of his time with us.    

The next piece to this initial stage of getting out of pain was to start working to cleanse the emotional baggage attached to his past.  The biggest mistake most people make when trying to help athletes who have dealt with serious struggles or pain in the past is that they want them to forget their past; they use statements like “you can’t do anything about the past, so just move on from it.”  Ha, good luck with that!

In fact, we want to actually do the complete opposite; we want to bring awareness to our past so that we can rationalize it.  When you are struggling with moving past events from the past, it is most likely because there is enormous emotional energy attached to these events or the consequences of those events.  This emotional energy is abundant in magnitude, which gives it, its incredible staying power.  The objective here would be to strip these previous events of their emotional energy and the only way to do this is by having the ability to rationalize the why, how, and what got you into those circumstances in the first place.  

Elicitation is the act of subtly extracting information from someone in a way they almost do not even realize they are providing you with such personal details.  It is a skill that is developed over time but is one of the most influential skill sets we try to work on with our coaching staff.  Once you have gathered this invaluable intel, you can then utilize it to help counter the negative and irrational perspectives of the past.  For example, an athlete may have severe baggage surrounding a particular event and believe that this one event controlled the fate of their future. Yet, they fail to realize it was actually a collection of several prior events and even events that occurred after the one in question.  They were providing too much weight to this one event, and thus, the emotional energy surrounding the circumstance of that event would be almost insurmountable.  However, once you can rationalize this with the athlete and get them to realize they have already admitted that several other factors led to their current situation, the emotional energy of this event begins almost immediately to evaporate.  With Jason, this was no different, except we had to do this with an array of events that had occurred over the past four years, and remember, in order to truly make this work, we had to do it without him even realizing we were, or else his ability to comprehend the rationalization will be severely blunted.

Once we had stripped Jason’s past of the emotional energy it had over his life we were able to provide a clear roadmap for how we were going to get him back on his path towards greatness.  

To understand how subtle this process is, at about the three-week mark, Jason was continuously stating, “I’m not sure why, but I’m trusting you guys!”

Section 3: Build The Foundation

As part of the initial few weeks of a program when someone starts throwing, our coaches will do a lot of observing and asking questions.  Seems odd right?  Well, we are trying to discover a few things:

How does this athlete view they move?
How or what have they been coached on in the past?
What is it that they think they do well?
What is it that they think they do poorly?
What is it that they think will make them great?

These are all crucial questions for us to answer before ever programming something for this athlete that will attempt to make a change to how they move. Why?  Well, remember that emotional energy we were discussing before?  Well, it also can affect the manner in which we move, interpret how we move, and our beliefs on certain topics.  

So imagine an athlete who is very guarded because they have had previous success with some short-term failure in the present.  They still may have a sound foundation of confidence and the guarded, well that is ego protection.  If the athlete is protecting their ego, they are less likely to believe in the changes you are trying to provide and, unfortunately will likely get significantly worse from any future instruction you provide them.  Thus, it is the job of the coach to recognize this, and subdue the wall they have up by listening to their beliefs, how they have been coached, and ultimately how they view their movement.  Once you can understand this information, you can figure out how to effectively communicate with this athlete in order to get them to buy into the path you are trying to send them down.

With Jason, we quickly realized how many different attempts he had made at discovering what physical limitations existed from a mechanical perspective.  He was able to account for at least five different times when he had tried to overhaul his mechanics to discover how to mitigate pain, fatigue, inaccuracy, or his severe drop in velocity.  So, why did all these previous attempts fail?  We never minimized the emotional energy surrounding these previous failure, and as a result, we could not minimize the emotional energy surrounding the potential future ramifications of not doing well.  As a result, the fear of future failure becomes so damaging to your present ability to alter movement or beliefs.

Now remember, during this time we have been working to remove a lot of the emotional energy built up from the past by learning about him and then helping him to rationalize his current circumstances.  At the same time, we are also learning many things about himself that he holds in high regard, like, he genuinely believes that he is a phenomenal athlete, much more than just a baseball player.  While he may have just been saying this as an off-handed comment, we took this as an opportunity and ran with it.

Our entire approach to working with Jason was about “rebirthing the athlete from within!”  Over the next three weeks, we spent most of the time providing drills that resembled the actions of a shortstop or outfielder and then spent the final two weeks teaching him how to blend these actions to the mound.  The idea here was to get him to understand the power of rhythm and flow and how when present in movement, it affords neural freedom for the body to express itself in its most powerful and glorious form.  

Jason was fully bought in as we had attached to an ideal (athleticism) that his ego holds in high regard and told him that the key to achieving the greatness he so deeply desired was to tell allow this athleticism to come to the forefront.  From a psychophysical perspective, this allowed Jason to remove most of the internalized thoughts (like focusing on your back hinge or where your foot is landing) that working on mechanics overemphasizes and, in turn, acts in a free and competitive manner.  Once we had realized that he was fully bought in - we then challenged his ego by making the exercises more and more difficult as we needed him to experience failure and prove that he would not shut down, but in fact, push further.  He would accel at this, and we now knew the foundation of confidence had been built.

Section 4: Where Are We Today?

Jason has utilized this foundation and with the help of our remote coaching team has continued to develop all throughout his fall and winter seasons at college.  During the fall season Jason, dominated as he remained healthy and was able to get his fastball past anywhere he had thrown in the past as he was able to eclipse 98 mph.

Jason is now going through his pre-season ramp-up and in his first 100% bullpen he was able to hold an average velocity of 94.2 mph over a 15-pitch series, with incredible accuracy I might add!  The storied future has become reilluminated for Jason Diaz, which was all made possible by controlling the emotional energy of his past.