COACHING EVENT SERIES: Lantz Wheeler’s Pitchapalooza
While trying to remember which year I first attended Pitchapalooza, I typed into my Gmail search bar “pitchapalooza” and 17 emails showed up. One of those was an email to the head coach of the school I was coaching at in 2015 in which I was trying to sell him on the fact that I needed the team to help pay for a trip to Nashville. In spite of the fact that I was probably always asking for a lot, our head coach didn’t hesitate to help me out, thanks Ryan Feyerabend!
The first time I heard about Pitchapalooza was in 2014. Although I wasn’t able to go, I did manage to make it up to Goshen, Indiana and I’m almost positive that where I learned about Lantz Wheeler’s Pitchapalooza event.
In Goshen, Indiana a guy by the name of Kyle Boddy was going to be visiting the Indiana Chargers Travel Baseball Orginization to give a clinic/camp. He also planned to have a coaches workshop Friday night for just $89. I had been following Kyle for a few years and he was nice enough to get me in contact with Justin Barber who was coordinating everything for the Chargers. Justin, now the pitching coach at Taylor University, got me setup with that event and also pushed to get me interested in Lantz’s event. He and the co-founder of the Chargers, Joel Mishler, had gone the first year (2013) and planned to attend again in 2014.
2015 would be my first year attending the event and sure enough, Justin was there, Joel was there, and Kyle was a speaker again at the event. I’ll never forget pulling into the enormous campus at the Battle Ground Academy and parking in about three different areas before I found some guys that looked like coaches heading in what appeared to be the correct direction.
Pitchapalooza Speakers and Schedule
If you take advantage of attending this event, it’s probably because of the speaking lineup. By far, the biggest attraction tends to be one of two things – either the networking opportunities of being in the same room as hundreds of coaches, or the rare chance to listen to some of the brightest minds in baseball educate the audience all in one weekend.
What makes this event more attractive than some of the others that already exist or have come along since is that yes, you’ll see coaches from multiple levels, but more so, you’ll hear from incredibly intelligent doctors, trainers, therapists, researchers, and more! This isn’t just a lineup of coaches talking shop, it’s forward thinking individuals that have unique ideas, theories, practices, research, and strategies to share with the audience.
Friday night has always started with an absolute bang! The first official night of the weekend event is headed up by some of the best speakers in the lineup. There’s no soft intro, the elite education starts immediately. In addition, for those that opt to register for the “Bonus Thursday Night,” attendees typically get a hands on course using the Core Velocity Belt and other tools and techniques from a few different speakers.
Saturday is an entire day, so grab your caffeine and make sure to stretch throughout the day. There’s a chance you’ll be in 3 different buildings on the campus depending on what topic you’re wanting to learn about. Years past have included pitching, hitting, training, recovery, vision, feet, marketing, technology and so much more. Saturday and Sunday are both days that will get you moving around and will be for live demos as well with Sunday being the final day, only in the morning.
Since 2015, I have only missed last year’s Pitchapalooza. What has been awesome is that every year I go back one thing changes and one thing doesn’t. What changes is that my network in baseball grows and/or strengthens every year. What doesn’t change is that the caliber of attendees and speakers is always incredibly high!
My first year attending, I only had actually met Justin, Joel, and Kyle. Needless to say, I hung out by myself for most of the event outside of the happy hour Saturday night. Fortunately, it wasn’t that big of a deal because of the amount of notes I was gathering from some of the biggest names in the industry that I looked up to.
Listening to Eric Cressey for the first time in person made me incredibly thankful that I brushed up on some basic anatomy terminology over the previous few years because he absolutely blew me away with his presenting skills both verbally and educationally. Seeing Kyle Boddy own the stage was captivating. Hearing from Derek Johnson, who had written one of the best books then and now on pitching (The Complete Pitcher), was inspiring because he had recently made the leap from college to the big leagues as a coordinator for the Cubs. At the “happy hour” we got our own small group meditation opportunity with the one and only Alan Jaeger.
Found of Cressey Sports Performance, Eric Cressey Cincinnati Red Pitching Coach, Derek Johnson
The biggest surprise award went to Dr. Allen Sills because he was probably the only guy that I had literally never heard of, but I think I’ve gotten more from his presentations every year than any other presenter. Dr. Sills delivers a brilliant presentation that leaves you with a large number of action items to take home and when he’s done you’re thinking to yourself that this is one of the smartest human I’ve ever learned from, but he also seems like a dude I might run into at the grocery store buying bread and milk like the rest of us normal people.
Of course there’s Lantz as well! He’s the guy recruiting all of the speakers and planning this thing (with help from others), and he also has typically had a demo presentation as well. Back in 2016 or 2017 I figured I may not get as much material from Lantz because at the time I thought I had read or watched just about everything he’d ever put out. Once again I was blown away during the event because I took away at least a few pages of notes with drills, tips, tricks, thought processes and more that I didn’t expect.
As I look forward to getting back this year, 2019, I’m excited. I’m not excited because I know exactly where the buildings are, or because I know what to generally expect from the schedule. I’m excited because I know the content will be solid and the chance to catch up with some old and new friends doesn’t happen too often in baseball.
Sign up for the “bonus night” on Thursday. The group here is smaller and it is easier to talk shop with coaches, and of course you’re getting access to material that others aren’t.
Search Twitter for attendees and try to meet up with someone when you get there or at least say hi. It can be overwhelming if you go in blind with 400 or more coaches from across the country.
Stick around when Saturday is done. There is usually a happy hour or some type of get together that is a lot less formal and you get to be a fly on the wall during some of the best baseball conversations you’ll find.
Prepare however you need to for some late nights. If sleep is an issue for you, go through whatever preparations you need to to be able to stay up because, at the very least, Saturday can be a late night if you want to get a lot out of the networking aspect of it.
Show up early. The best directions can still be confusing because the campus is so large.
If you’ve got a burning question or you’re just wanting to take a picture with one of your favorite speakers, buddies, or presenters, take advantage of it as soon as you can because everyone leads a busy life and sometimes people have to head out early. Don’t be like me and wait until the final day to ask a question only to find out the guy left the night before!
WRITTEN BY SCOTT HAASE
Scott Haase is the Pitching Coordinator for the Indiana Twins Travel Baseball Organization. In charge of over 180 athletes, Scott develops off-season programming for the entire organization. A former college pitcher with 7 years of coaching under his belt, Scott holds certifications from Driveline Baseball, OnBaseU, Baseball Think Tank, and is a Certified Personal Trainer. You can follow him on social media @ScottHaase14.