David Adam

Sunday Conversation with Tom House

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 16, 2017 5:50 pm

Tom House probably should be best remembered for the work and teaching he's done with professional baseball pitchers, football quarterbacks and golfers.

Instead, the one-time journeyman left-handed reliever for the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners is best known for being in the bullpen on April 8, 1974 and catching Hank Aaron's 715th career home run to break the record once held by Babe Ruth.

House went on to be a pitching coach in the major leagues for nearly two decades, and he is well-known for his work with modern pitching mechanics." He is the founder of The Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute and The National Pitching Association, which are renowned for their health and performance research and development involving three-dimensional analysis of human movement.

House will be in Quincy Sept. 22-24 for a clinic at John Wood Community College. Athletes ages 8 to 21 will be trailed to enhance their overall arm health, mechanical efficiency and velocity.

What should people who show up to your camp expect to see?

Most camps the kids go to are what I would call performance or skill camps. The kids show up, the coaches work on throwing strikes, swinging the bat, things like that. We offer a stat camp -- screen, test, assess and train. We give you your point-in-time projectibles -- where you are physically, what's your torso, how is it contributing to exit velocity. We also measure the efficiency of your movement, your timing, your kinematic sequencing, your mechanical variables. We can give you age-specific information for exactly what you need to do with your mechanics and functional strength to keep you healthy when you prepare for competition. They'll get about 1,200 throwing reps without having to play catch, It's all about evaluating where they are for their specific age. We do the same things for a 12-year-old than we would for Cole Hamels. The moms and dads and athletes can go home and work on this stuff by themselves, or they can take it to their local instructor.

So this is a camp that moms and dads can learn something as well?

Moms, dads and athletes will know what they need to work on, and we will give them the drills that they can actually fix themselves. They're going to learn about biomechanics, functional strength, nutriution and sleep. It's pretty comprehensive. The information that we give to our $10,000 a day clients also is user friendly for a 12-year-old.

To be fair, your teaching methods aren't universally practiced by most baseball people, are they?

In today's world, to be politically correct, I'm kind of an outlier. It's kind of Einstein's definition of insanity. Baseball for 116 years does the same thing over and over and expects a different result than the 98.5 percent failure rate that occurs from Little League to Big League.

So what has made you decide to tour the country teaching your ideas?

The way I had done it before, we never advertised. We never marketed it. We never used someone we worked with as a shield for what we were teaching. It was always one athlete, one coach at a time. Now we're trying to embrace the social networking and embrace what you call artificial intelligence and collaborate with what I would call human versus artificial intelligence. We can have the kids come out with a hand-held cellphone or tablet and be able to start thir leaning process from there. They can do it on a cellphone from there or take the information to their local coach. Instead of guessing, they'll have hard-core measureable data that they can work from.

Who should come to this camp?

Anybody who loves sports, Every dad looks at their kid and thinks they have a Hall of Famer. It would be great if you son is Bryce Harper, but it would be equally great if your son can have a positive experience to where he played all the way through high school and became a fan for life. Sports are games of failure coached by negative people. I'm talking all sports. We're trying to have kids be affiliated with sport, because sports skills are preparation for life skills. You'll have a much better chance to be a contributing human being.

When was the last time you were coaching at a college or for a pro team?

I was a full-time coach was at USC (leaving in 2011). I signed a 10-year deal and made it through five full years when I realized that it was probably better time spent for me to get into research. When I was at USC, working with pitchers and quarterbacks and golfers, any rotational athlete, it was basically the same teaching and same instruction, just a different implement.

Anybody in the big leagues that we would recognize from your time at USC?

I've got six kids in the big leagues from my time at USC. Eight got there, but a couple are back in minors. During my tenure, we got more kids to the bigs than any college program in the country. None are high draft choices. But when I work with kids, my number one priorities are privacy, health and performance. We don't talk about out clients, but they can talk about us.

You were a big leaguer for most of the 1970s, but you're probably best remembered for being the guy who caught Hank Aaron's 715th home run.

I'm perfectly OK with that. I was just a fringe big leaguer for 81/2 seasons. To be a low-end guy like I was, to be involved with a Hall of Fame moment is special. It never gets old. Every banquet I go to, it's always a trivia question.

What do you remember about the buildup to that night?

Henry had been chasing the record from the previous season, and we thought about all the way into spring training, so it didn't sneak up on us. We knew what was going on. We had it well planned out. If (the chase for the 715th home run) got back to Atlanta, we could delineate territories (in the bullpen in left field). There was a fence inside the big wall in Atlanta, and as it turned out, my little 10-yard slot was in left-center field. We all respected each other's territories. All I was doing was hoping it would get hit my way. If the ball came in our territory, it was ours. I wasn't going to jump over someone else's territory.

Describe the moments after you caught the ball.

I remember catching the ball. I remember a big fishnet swishing in front of my face when I caught it. One of the Georgia Tech smart guys had an extension on the fishnet. I remember (Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder) Bill Buckner saying, "Housie, give it to me, give it to me." And I thought, yeah, sure. Not until pigs fly. The next thing I was cognizant of was being right in front of Henry. He was hugging his mom, and they were crying. I thought, "This is some kind of moment." This was a moment for the ages. However, the reason there was tears and she was hugging him, and the reason they had to peel her off of him, was that she was worried about him getting shot.

Were you aware of some of the letters and death threats that Aaron had been receiving in pursuit of No. 715?

Yes, not because I was particularly close to Henry, because I was a low-end guy in the bullpen, but because I was best friends with (Braves outfielders) Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr. Dusty and I were roommates. I was very aware of what Henry was going through. Everybody kind of knew what he was going through, though not to the intensity of what it actually was like.

So how did you go from playing to coaching?

I'd like to say it was well thought out. I was the last of the old school and beginning of the new school pitchers. 3D motion analysis was in its infancy. I was a pitching coach with the San Diego School of Baseball, and (San Francisco Giants manager) Roger Craig and (long-time scout) Bob Skinner were avid learners. We were looking for a way to teach kids better. It motivated a bunch of us, all this science-based analytics stuff that started toward the end of my pro career. I mortaged my home and bought this 3D motion analysis system. Now we have 733 major league pitchers in the computer and 1,015 hitters. We've got 50 elite quarterbacks going back to (Hall of Famers Dan) Marino and (Joe) Montana, and we've got 1,200 golfers. We've got a whole lot of data on rotational athletes at 1,000 frames per second. I just kept going to school, and I became a sports psychologist. Nobody could help guys like me having trouble with performance anxiety, but the further I got into it, I learned nutrition and sleep were equally important to everybody.

You have admitted to using anabolic steroids in the 1970s. You were one of the earliest players to admit to using performance-enhancing drugs. Describe why you did it and your experience with steroids.

In my generation, you didn't get beat. You got out milligrammed. There were no rules. Word of mouth stuff said if someone did this and everybody threw harder, everybody gave it a try. I was working in Gold's Gym way back when one of the guys working out there was Arnold Schwarzenegger. I always wondered how people got that big lifting weights. That was my first exposure to anabolic steroids. It did nothing for me. I didn't throw any harder. I couldn't find value in using them. I got bigger and stronger, absolutely, but strength has nothing to do with arm speed. I can look anybody in the face and say this works and that doesn't work, and it's because I actually lived it. And steroids is a dead end. I lived in a perfect time, a crease between old school ways and new school ways, and I know all the things athletes have gone through as the information age is starting to take over. Just being stronger doesn't help you throw harder or hit farther. Strength has nothing to do with exit velocity. We're starting to figure out what does work. That's the beauty of today's game. We know the measurables. We have the data points. Being an athlete in today's world is the best time to be an athlete.

How did you start working with professional quarerbacks?

About seven years ago, I started a company called 3D QB with (former USC baseball coach) Rod Dedeaux's grandson. I started throwing a football when I was with the Padres, and throwing a football, you couldn't make it spiral without perfect mechanics. We started working with quarterbacks. Drew Brees (of the New Orleans Saints) was the first name quarterback I worked with, and word of mouth led another to another to another. Now we work with 28 of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL and most of their backups, plus 40 collegiate quarterbacks. That's a whole other industry by itself.

If parents could get one thing out of your clinic, what would that be?

We know that working with kids hands-on doesn't scare them. We're trying to embrace the Internet and artificial intellingence and embrace the cellphone and try to put that end-user ownership in their hands. We're going after the pre-teen male and female. If we can give ownership of elite science-based instruction to mom and dad and they can teach themselves, they can be their own best pitching coach ... their own best sports psychcologist. They can take measurable and defendable data to the hands-on coach. There isn't as much guesswork any more. By the time Mom and Dad leave on Sunday, they will have access to the same data that (New England Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady has every time he sees us.

How did you wind up making a visit to Quincy on your schedule?

We've done these camps this year in Chicago, in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and in Marin County (in California). Rick Shover is an (National Pitching Association) associate coach, and because he follows what we do to the letter, I've promised all these guys that I will come to their area code and introduce people in his reach to exactly what they're going to get if they work with him. He's learned what we do. He's been compliant. There's about 12 of them in the NPA system around the country. I want to make sure I hit each one of their areas to make sure what they're getting is what I deliver one-on-one.

For more information or to register for the clinic, go to nationalpitching.com or contact Rick Shover at 217-430-8791.

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