I was semi-introduced to Lenny DiNardo about 3 years ago. I was doing an article about a newly founded and newly opened Snapdragon Baseball Facility in Exeter. Inside the facility, my two hosts Jeremy and Sean showed me around the front desk area, where the cages were set up, we talked about some upcoming plans for the facility, as well as their new baseball organization – Snapdragon Baseball. As I toured the facility, a tall left handed coach was playing catch with a tall right handed player, about my son’s age, in the back corner of the facility. Clearly, the two were just warming up and I didn’t catch their faces at first. As Jeremy walked me into the netting to show me their baseball equipment, the coach and the player started to ramp up their throws. I turned to watch the tall left handed coach zip a straight laser fastball towards the player, who caught it about chest high and with a “THWACK” so loud it echoed. That echo shouted “I am a Major League Baseball caliber pitcher.” As I looked closer at the coach, I realized who it was, Lenny DiNardo. The player who caught it, by the way, was Henry Hersum, who is now an elite prospect right handed Pitcher has signed to play for Old Dominion University in Virginia.
A few weeks back, on a return visit to Snapdragon Baseball in Exeter, and after chatting with a few of my North Kingstown/Wickford Little League friends at the facility, I found Lenny DiNardo in a familiar spot in the back section of the facility. He was working with a few youth baseball players on, you guessed it, Pitching. I formally introduced myself to him, lowering my mask to say hello, and then let him get back to coaching. Real nice guy, pleasant, humble, but you could hear the professional ball player in his feedback to the players. Having a coach of Lenny DiNardo’s caliber watch and analyze your wind-up, your arm angle, your throws to the plate – that is an exceptional opportunity for a young baseball player.
Post Major League Baseball career, Lenny DiNardo has been a frequent contributor in-studio at NESN and provides expert analysis of Boston Red Sox games. As a former Red Sox Pitcher, Lenny helps dissect the why’s and what happened’s alongside a team of former Boston Red Sox greats. In addition to his coaching clinics at Snapdragon Baseball, Lenny is the Northeast Assistant Director of Pitching for Area Scouts, which is an national organization that “provides athletes with a state of the art assessment, an athlete development program/score, and professional evaluations. Through our innovative B.A.S.E. Assessment™, and Professional grade scouting reports, athletes will be given specific tools to enhance their skill set and achieve success,” according to their website, http://www.areascouts.com. Through my relationship with Area Scouts Director of Operations, Bryan Murray, I was able to message Lenny to gauge his interest in answering some baseball questions. Lenny agreed and we connected recently via email to chat about pitching, guitars, and his favorite youth baseball memory. Here is an excerpt of that conversation:
RIBBE: In a close ball game, a hitter beats out an infield single where most runners would be out. At any moment, you and your teammates could be dealing with a base stealing situation. Right handed or left handed pitcher – how to keep this fast runner at first base guessing and hopefully at first base?
Lenny: I feel like the best way to keep a base runner guessing and close to first base is by alternating your times and being quick to the plate. Typically 1.3 seconds from start till glove pop is a good time and will give your catcher enough time to throw a runner out. Holding at the set position for a one count or four count and everything in between while not getting stuck in a pattern is key.
RIBBE: On average and at various levels of baseball, do pitchers take a peek at who’s on deck? There is a focused effort on the batter in the box, but do they stop and think “oh, Jones is on deck, I better dig in here?”
Lenny: Yes it’s always a good idea to know who’s on deck and even who’s in the hole. If there’s a strong hitter on deck, it’s not a bad idea to bear down and get the guy at the plate out. Also, if there’s a weaker hitter on deck you might be able to pitch around the strong hitter at the plate. Strong and weak is relative of course. In the MLB any hitter can do damage. Knowing the scouting report and how well/poor you’ve done in the past against these hitters is important.
RIBBE: On average, what velocity difference should a pitcher work on achieving between their fastball and off speed pitches?
Lenny: For me the quality of a pitch is directly associated with the location, the movement and the speed or the difference of speed in regards to an off-speed pitch. If it’s located you don’t have to have a great difference in speed or movement. If it’s moving everywhere it doesn’t have to be located in the perfect spot. It just has to get a swing. Just a rule of thumb is around 8mph difference between a CH (change-up) and FB (fastball). It’s pretty wide for a CB (curveball). You see a pretty wide difference between pitchers. The long and short is that if you locate with movement than it really doesn’t matter too much.
RIBBE: Why do some pitchers work better out of the stretch position as opposed to a wind-up?
Lenny: It’s really just a comfort level thing. A lot of pitchers feel they get better flow or timing out of the wind up versus the stretch. These days you see a lot more pitchers strictly pitching from the stretch or a modified version of the wind up that resembles the stretch.
RIBBE: A youth baseball player, say 12 years old, is really struggling on the mound throwing strikes. Is there anything a catcher can do at this point to make a difference? Take a time out? Move around behind the plate to the inside or outside half of the plate?
Lenny: First and foremost a catcher can slow the game down for a pitcher who is struggling. A game that’s too fast can snowball causing a pitcher to really struggle and dig themselves in a deep hole. Going out to the mound with a positive affirmation can go a long ways. When a pitcher is missing in a certain spot whether it’s up or down, a catcher can put his target in the opposite direction in an exaggerated zone. For example if he’s missing consistently up and in by 8 to 12 inches the catcher can put his glove down and way 8 to 12 inches to force the pitcher to adjust his release point.
RIBBE: Dispel the rumor – A short (height wise) pitcher can’t throw hard.
Lenny: False. I played with plenty of pitchers short in stature who threw a lot harder than some pitchers that are huge. One for example in Oakland was Rich Harden who threw close to 100 miles an hour. A smaller pitcher just has to get the most out of their body. Being efficient with their mechanics and drive will allow this. Genetics also plays a big role.
RIBBE: In your opinion and based on your experience, how far up the chain can a one trick pony type pitcher go? For example, a youth baseball player, maybe HS level, that can just throw so hard that he throws it by hitters. No change-up, no breaking ball, just gas. How high can a pitcher like this go?
Lenny: I feel like a pitcher in high school can get away with one pitch as long as he locates it very well. Once he gets to a higher level he’d get exposed pretty quickly because hitters will start guessing one pitch in one zone. The more gifted the hitter the more he’ll be able to catch up with just a fastball. A well located change or breaking ball along with a fastball will slow/down speed up a hitter and make his fastball that much better.
RIBBE: What makes LHP’s so hard to hit for a left-handed batter? Why don’t right-handed batters have the same issues with RHPs?
Lenny: It might have something to do with lefties having a little more deception or being only 10% of the population they’re just not used to seeing the ball coming from that angle.
RIBBE: What goes through a Pitcher’s mind when the baseball is popped up in the infield? Drop, hide, and run? Or, “I got it, I got it!!!”
Lenny: As a pitcher, when there’s a ball popped up in the infield the thought process should be aggressive to the ball until you’re called off. When called off peel away so you don’t get in the way. The worst thing you could do is assume that someone else will grab it because that’s when the ball will land right in front of you.
RIBBE: Is there such a thing as a rising fastball? One that leaves the pitcher’s hand, travels in one plane, then accelerates up and out of the strike zone?
Lenny: My understanding of a rising fastball is that it doesn’t actually rise but it stays on the same plane longer rather than dipping. A four seam fastball has four seams working together, gripping the air keeping it up on that plane longer versus a two seam fastball. Two seam fastballs or sinkers cause the ball to fade typically arm side.
RIBBE: Ok, Uncle Charlie coming at ya! If you could be gifted a guitar for your next live gig, would you go Martin, Gibson or Fender? or Fill in the Blank.
Lenny: I would actually choose a Maton Wedgetail. I believe there were only around 30 made in Australia in the 60’s and it’s my white whale. I collect/play a variant of Maton’s. Great guitars.
RIBBE: What was a better feeling for you as a youth baseball player/high school player – strikeouts in a big game or a big hit in a big game?
Lenny: In my youth I was able to experience throwing a no-hitter in high school and also hitting a grand slam to win the game. I’m gonna go with hitting the grand slam probably because it didn’t happen as often. Pitchers are always bragging about how good of a hitter they are. When I was older, I was one of the best 5 o’clock hitters around.
I was so thrilled to connect with Lenny on this series of questions and his answers did not disappoint. I really appreciate the well thought out answers and the amazing advice. Also, from a fan perspective I am a “geeking out” about the photo with Lenny and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Wow. Thanks so much Lenny, I really appreciate this.
Special thanks to Bryan Murray of Area Scouts for helping me set up this interview. You can check out all things Area Scouts by going to www.areascouts.com.