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Ojeda tells coaches to keep pitching simple

May 4, 2008
Author: Nathan Mayberg
Publication Date: April 4, 2008
Training Center: Chester, NY

CHESTER - As he stood on the turf at the Frozen Ropes baseball training facility, Bob Ojeda commanded the attention of dozens of local baseball coaches.

Ojeda, the winning pitcher for the Mets in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, is now national pitching director at Frozen Ropes. He was giving tips on something all the coaches could relate to - how to develop young pitchers.

Ojeda, 50, still has the fire for baseball. He can break down the art of pitching to a science.

But he tells coaches to keep it simple with young players. He shows them tricks for teaching pitching delivery, like "flipping the laces," and "peek-a-boo."

He was brought on by Tony Abbatine, Frozen Ropes' founder and a 1978 Monroe-Woodbury graduate. Abbatine has served as an instructional consultant for the Mets and Yankees. He now has dozens of facilities around the country.

Ojeda sat down after his recent coaching clinic for a little Q&A.

How did you learn the game?

"My dad was a former pitcher at Army and he threw with me everyday. He built a batting cage for me out of fishing nets."

What was he like?

"He would watch every one of my games and then take me out for ice cream. He would never say a word about my play."

How did you get your professional start?

"I signed out of junior college with Boston. In my first year of rookie league at Elmira, I went 1-6. But when all the players were going out and drinking, I went running. I didn't have any money and I didn't want to do anything detrimental to my health. My coach saw me running and sent me to instructional league.

Johnny Podres (the minor-league pitching coordinator and Brooklyn Dodgers legend) taught me a (good) changeup and curveball there, The next year I went 15-7 (with a 2.43 ERA) in Winter Haven. The year after that I was in the big leagues."

What were the Mets like in 1986?

We did everything together. About 15 of us would go out for dinner.

What made us so good was a lot of peer pressure. We were so competitive. The older guys always picked up the kids as long as they were trying.

There was no whispering. If you had something to say, you said it. We would fight on the bus and on the plane.

Everybody always asks why we didn't win more championships. In 1987, we were injury prone. Gooden went to (drug) rehab. I blew out my elbow. Darling hurt his thumb. We should have won it in 1988. Darling and David Cone wrote articles in the newspaper under aliases which inflamed the Dodgers.

After that, (general manager) Frank Cashen took a lesser role with the team and a lot of guys were traded. By 1989 and 1990, we weren't the same team."

What is your advice for younger pitchers looking to throw breaking balls?

"You shouldn't throw them until you're 16. It causes injuries long-term. The most important pitch is a good fastball and then a change-up."

What do you think of the Mets' chances this year?

"It's critical for their mindset to get off to a good start. You don't want distractions, like Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez saying 'We're the team to beat' after you collapsed last year."