Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap - 2/18/2019

On Monday, February 18, 2019, forty-two SABR members with the Larry Dierker Chapter participated in a pitching seminar put on by former Houston Astros players Shane Reynolds and Chris Sampson. Bill Brown acted as the moderator and did his usual fantastic job.

Following are some of the many observations and comments made by the players during their 90-minute commentary.

Shane Reynolds:   

  • The game of baseball and the baseball itself has changed over the years. Shane personally cut two baseballs in half, one from before the "steroid age" and one after. He found that the newer ball had a cork center measurably larger than the older ball, hence a livelier ball and more home runs.
  • In the minor leagues Brent Strom, his pitching coach, re-energized his career by teaching him the-split finger fastball.
  • Ahead 5-0 against Pedro Martinez, Martinez got him out of his game by throwing Shane two brushback pitches and finally hitting him. Reynolds got so mad he decided to retaliate. Unfortunately, the Expos sent up a pinch-hitter to bat for Pedro but Shane nailed the pinch-hitter anyway. Then things fell apart and soon the score was 5-5. Pedro later told Reynolds, "Since the game was tied when I left, you didn't beat me."
  • Reynolds always had a game plan for every batter he faced. He never shook off a catcher but threw his pitch which caused some interesting discussions in the dugout at the end  of the inning.
  • Larry Dierker made him a better pitcher because he made him pitch through difficulty. If you get into trouble don't look in the bullpen for help because no one will be warming up.
  • If the opposition scored a run in the first inning, Shane knew he was going to win. When he got everyone out in the first few innings, especially on strikeouts, he knew it could be a long day.
  • Videos and technology today help office staff who had never played at a high level understand performance better. No one, however, knows what is in the player's heart and head.
  • Whether we like it or not, electronic balls and strikes are coming.

Shane is currently out of baseball now but spend some time in spring training with the Astros. He was recently elected to the Houston Astros Hall of Fame.

Chris Sampson:

  • Drafted out of college as a shortstop. Retired from the game for three years to handle some family issues and asked for a tryout with the Astros who brought him back as a pitcher.
  • Made his major league debut as a reliever. He was sitting in the dugout when the starter got into trouble, was told to get ready, raced across the field to the bullpen, threw three warmup pitches and was in the game. He said he didn't have enough time to get nervous.
  • It could have been intimidating playing with Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte, but they were great people with excellent work habits.
  • Praised Brad Ausmus as his catcher because he was always prepared. Brad told Chris he could shake him off, but he better get the batter out!
  • Played in 174 games, pitched in 358 2/3 innings and made one error in the field. Remarkable.
  • Chris talked at length about youth baseball and improper coaching. Too many youngsters at too early an age are throwing too many pitches, he said. Kids need to develop their bodies to be athletes and not pitch in three or four games a week because of local and statewide tournaments.
  • Both Shane and Chris were passionate proper training and the need for young people to either take a season off or play other sports.

The trivia contest prepared by Fred Rodgers was won by none other than Tom White.

Our next meeting is at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 18 at the Spaghetti Western restaurant on Shepherd Drive. Hope to see you there!

— Bob Dorrill
bdorrill@aol.com