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Ep. 5: ‘Baseball and Magic’

The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 5. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.


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Everybody knows “Field of Dreams” right? It’s a classic! Kevin Costner carves a baseball diamond out of his Iowa cornfield, and magical stuff starts happening. One character in the film is Moonlight Graham, played by Burt Lancaster. Graham was a career-minor leaguer – he got 1 inning in the big leagues, but only played in the field — and he shares with Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, that all he ever wanted was one plate appearance against a big league pitcher.

MOONLIGHT: “… and is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?”

RAY: “What would you say if I said yes?”

MOONLIGHT: “I think I’d actually believe you.”

It’s a wonderful scene, in a truly enjoyable film, that speaks to the romance and magic that the game holds over our consciousness, as America’s pastime. But, that’s really more Hollywood than reality. After all, baseball isn’t really about magic.

Cole Uvila knows this better than anybody. He knows that it’s about skill and talent, about hard work and attention to detail. And it’s very much about science. You can’t turn a shortstop into a pitcher with magic.

Cole Baseball and Magic.pngCole Baseball and Magic.png

As the All-Star break rolled around on the 2019 season, things were going great for Cole. His Down East Wood Ducks had dominated the Carolina League, winning 50 of their 70 games to take the first-half crown and clinch a playoff berth in the process. Cole had finished strong as well. He had worked on the issues that had been bothering him. His command, his pitch selection … and had some good momentum heading into mid-June. In his last seven appearances before the break, he’d allowed just one earned run across 10 innings, striking out 12.

But now, as he headed home to Seattle for a brief break, it wasn’t going to be a vacation. He was excited to see his fiancée Kayla and spend some time with her, but he had some work to do as well. He was returning to Driveline Baseball to get back on their mound and fine tune some things. Of all the different factors that had played a role in Cole reaching this point in his career, perhaps nothing – aside from his own determination – had had a bigger impact.


So Cole went back into Driveline to train, to work on his pitches. Specifically, he wanted to improve his curveball. That’s where we bring in Rob Hill.

Rob is a former college pitcher. He met Cole in 2014 when both were working out at Driveline. Now he’s an employee there, his title is Manager of Technical Development.

ROB HILL: “Essentially, it basically means that I am, I’m actually second in command to Eric Jaggers, who is partially working with Driveline as well as contracting in the facilities as a pitching strategist. And so basically, everything in the realm of pitch design, from the technology to the implementation of the training to managing, teaching the other trainers is kind of my domain of expertise, currently at Driveline.”

Pitch design is kind of a multi-pronged thing. In a broad sense, it’s about creating an arsenal of weapons that best fit a pitcher. Then, in a specific sense, it’s about shaping those weapons to maximize their effectiveness based on that pitcher’s abilities and mechanics. For example, Cole has very much an over-the-top delivery, and he naturally throws his fastball with a lot of backspin, giving it what they call ride … it resists gravity, can even have the effect of appearing to rise. Therefore it makes more sense for him to throw a 4-seam fastball, which tends to be straighter and harder, than, say, a 2-seamer, which has less backspin and tends to have a sinking action. A pitcher with less backspin and a different arm-slot – for example a ¾ delivery — might be more inclined to throw a 2-seam fastball.

When Rob is working to improve a pitcher’s arsenal, there are a couple of key tools he uses.

One of these tools is called an Edgertronic camera, which shoots high-quality, super-slow mo video, so you can get a really good look at how a ball comes off a pitcher’s hand. We’ve got some Edgertronic images of Cole throwing on the website, so you can check those out at

The other key tool they use is called a Rapsodo. It’s a pitch tracker – on the Driveline website, they call the Rapsodo a blended radar-optical unit. It can tell you all sorts of things about the physics of a pitch, such as how fast the ball is spinning, the axis of its rotation and the speed and break of the pitch. Use Edgertronic and Rapsodo together and you can see how the pitcher is throwing the ball and also get a very detailed look at what happens once the ball leaves his hand. After you see the results, you can have the pitcher adjust his mechanics to change the results of the pitch. Rob explains:

ROB HILL: “And so it does that by taking pictures of the pitch as it comes in and then it gives you a readout and then you’re kind of able to manipulate how you want the pitch to move by using that readout that it gives you as well as using the camera to kind of show the athlete like ‘ok your hand in this position is making this appear on the Rapsodo, which is not what we want. So let’s try this, let’s try this grip and then we’ll see what the Rapsodo tells us. We’ll see what the video tells us.’ And kind of merging those two together to give the guy a full understanding of what he’s doing with his pitches.”

Cole and Rob have known each other since 2014, and they work well together. Efficiently. They speak the same language. So Cole went into Driveline and said he needed to improve his curve. It was too slurvy, he said. That is, it was looking like a mix between a curve and a slider. Cole wanted it to have more of a classic curveball look, with a straight 12-6 vertical break. As we’ve mentioned before, he believed this would be a better complement for the high-in-the-zone fastball that had proven so effective for him. 

So Cole starts out by throwing fastballs, and everything looks fine. Then he goes to the curve, and it’s pretty much what he expected. Too much slurvy, horizontal break to it, not enough top-down vertical action. With the amount of spin he was putting on the ball, he should have had more break. He wasn’t getting the spin efficiency he should have been. So Rob and Cole went to work. …


*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” —

Broke For Free — “Night Owl”, “My Luck

(All music edited for time purposes)


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