Friend and BP tech guy Bill Burke also has a gig as pitching coach for an Indiana high school. I've had the chance to work with some of his pitchers and mentioned that I taught the gyroball to one. It debuted this week and Bill checks in with what will be a regular feature following the kid, the pitch, and a high school baseball season.
Opening day 2005 was on March 31st this year. No, obviously not Major League Baseball - that happened the evening of April 3rd. I am talking about the opening day of the Indiana High School baseball season, and more specifically the opening day for the Oldenburg Academy Twisters. Oldenburg features Joey Niezer, an 18 year old pitcher who throws the Japanese breaking ball called "Gyroball".
Niezer, a Senior this year, has been a force over his entire high school career. He has been the team's main starter since his freshman year and has led the Twisters to sectional titles in each of the past two seasons; all this for a school that has only fielded a baseball team for 5 years. Joey has has struck out about a batter per inning pitched during his high school career.
He has featured four-seam and two-seam fastballs in the mid-80's with a nice change-up, however he has lacked a killer "out" pitch. The type of pitch that leaves batters with nothing to do but wade back to the dugout to in a pool of their own urine, knees shaking, muttering to themselves about the phantom pitch that started behind their head and ended up in the strike zone.
Opening day 2005 wasn't just another start for Joey, it was the debut of a new pitch - an "out" pitch. Joey spent part of last fall
learning to throw the gyroball from Will Carroll. The gyroball is a single-plane breaking ball that moves from right to left (or inside to out to a right-handed batter). Joey is still working out the finer points of the pitch, but on opening day the pitch was unleashed on one of Oldenburg's main rivals.
The debut was an unqualified success. Four of the the first six batters of the game watched strike three go by and no batters reached base until the third inning. Ultimately, Joey was no longer needed after five innings with his team up 9-1, so he ended the game with a nice line of 5IP 8K 1BB 2H 1R. He had thrown 80 pitches, but not more than 21 in any inning. Joey's next start is scheduled for Saturday, April 9th against another strong offensive team and rival.
Yes! The gyroball works, people. We'll try to get some video soon.