Josh Kesel is the co-founder and CEO of Premier Pitching and Performance, located just outside of St. Louis in Wentzville, Missouri. Through his work teaching players on the field and training them off of it, Josh has been an integral piece in elevating P3 to one of the go-to pitching development destinations in the country.
Since opening in 2014, Josh has coached and trained more than 100 athletes who have moved into professional baseball. In 2019, he helped orchestrate the Premier Pitching Collegiate Partnership Program, which creates individualized training protocols for entire pitching staffs.
Inside Pitch: Give us the birds-eye view of what you are doing…
We have a facility here in St. Louis and we have youth, high school, college and professional programming all in-house. We average about 60 guys in our youth program, 60-80 high school guys, and our college program has expanded to double-digit teams. We've capped it because of staffing, but we are around 125 players in our collegiate offering, about 10 schools now, which was kind of our target when we first started the partnership program. So we're really excited about that.
IP: What are the major differences with programming for players at different levels?
It’s an ongoing conversation with our clients. For example, a high school player that’s committed to a solid Division I program will be treated like a college guy. It's our job to prepare him for that next level. If it's a younger high school guy, it's our job to create a sound foundation of movement patterns, both on the mound and in the weight room.
The basic concept behind our program since day one has been pitching and strength. Those two pieces are always intertwined, especially in the assessment process and with motion capture. That's something I think that we've separated ourselves with. It's been really good.
I started on the field, but once we really got up and running I moved more to the performance side. I still like to be involved with the pitching instruction. When you think about a pitcher and baseball players in general, they're finicky and they've all got their little nuances.
IP: How has baseball-specific weight training evolved?
It takes a baseball guy, right? It takes a baseball guy who's moved into being a strength coach and really understands movement and how to apply it within a training scenario. It's not something anybody can just jump in and do, and truthfully, I would say that two, three years ago, I wasn't very good at it. We had to learn. We had to gain the experience to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
IP: How often do your players train?
Our high school guys will typically be in three to five times a week. If we get a guy who's really trying to make a push, it’ll be whatever he can handle. Take Sam Grace from Charlotte. He assessed at about 80, 81-mph early in his high school career and by the time he was a senior, he was 97 and ended up getting drafted. He came in 5-6 days a week.
That’s when you see guys take a real jump, from the three to four day program as high school players to the point where we get college guys in here and just tell them, “Look, you're in every day. You're in every day, even if it's a day where you're not lifting.”
IP: What’s the shiniest new toy you have acquired at P3?
The biggest addition that we've had recently has been markerless motion capture (mocap), which is really exciting; it's allowed us to do some neat things. We've always done some kind of velocity-based training, but we finally took the jump to go to GymAware and it's been worth every penny––we're excited about that as well.
Tech is definitely something that we're in tune with. We try to leave no stone unturned, but there's an aspect to that that requires us to do our due diligence and make sure we are working effectively. I think our ability to sort through those offerings out there is what drives our partnership programs, and it's allowed us to round out our assessment process.
IP: How do you decide what's important and what can probably wait in terms of tech and programming?
For the most part, when it comes to the tech, it's giving you information, giving you feedback. We look at that value and the potential to incorporate it into an assessment processes and individual programs. A good example of that is the process we took when deciding to do markerless mocap, which was a significant financial commitment. We saw the validation from the data side of things and knew the calibration process could be consistent enough to where we were getting good information that we could use to make sound decisions.
One thing to be careful of is understanding that not all mocap is created equal! We know these, based on the data we've gotten back recently compared to what we had before. And that’s really common sense; our current system is eight cameras, so when you compare that to an iPhone app and one camera, you're probably going to be limited.
When we train, we want things to be as close to a game scenario as we possibly can make it. So being strapped up to 50-plus electrodes and having to tape them down to your body because you're sweating so much, changing shirts multiple times during a workout, that wasn’t as efficient as we knew we could be. I just have a hard time believing that there's a lot of consistency there.
IP: We understand that JUGS and Stalker radar guns are different. You mentioned the differences with mocap. And we know there may be differences between Rapsodo, TrackMan, Yakkertech. How do you make sense of it all?
You’re right. Discrepancies like that come with any technological advancement. Some things track and some don't, and I think all of those companies are aware and working to be the best, offer the most. For us though, it's about what's best for the player.
We used Yakkertech in our collegiate summer league this year. We use BaseballCloud for reports, it was fantastic. Rapsodo is 20 minutes down the road, we have used them since the beginning. With, mocap a lot of it’s aesthetics. You're looking at joint angles, you're looking at joint angular velocity, and as long as those readouts are good, you're good. Right? And there's something that's going to come along; a lot of this stuff didn’t even exist 10 years ago. So we're going to continue to stay on things. There will probably come a time where we are literally running everything that’s on the market here, all at once, just to figure out what’s working best and, of course, what works best for our players.
We're a people business. That's what we do. So getting to know those guys over the course of three months, and then kind of being able to take that back on a campus with them, that's our rocket fuel. Working with coaches who are good communicators, who know what to do with the information, that’s a big part of it. They know when to apply it into a game scenario in the fall or when to start to develop.
One thing that we really have tried to do is make our offerings affordable. We have different tiers for our partnership program. That was actually one of the motivations for me to create a nonprofit, called Amplify Athletes, which is basically a scholarship program for people who are interested in training with us.