The Road to 100mph
Dan Kopitzke is owner and founder or K-Zone Baseball SBA, in Raleigh North Carolina. VISIT WEBSITE >
March 3rd, 2020 at approximately 1:20pm at K-Zone Baseball SBA, Zach Vennaro threw the first fastball of his final bullpen before heading off to Spring training - 97.0mph. Off to a good start. His previous best was 97.5mph. On his third fastball of the session, he had his first 98 @ 98.3mph! How much more was in there we wondered? He proceeded to fire fastball after fastball and we anxiously awaited the Rapsodo results with each pitch. 98.3, 98.2, 98.4, 97.9, 98.5.
Zach toed the rubber, came set, took a deep breath and delivered his next fateful fastball. A loud pound of the glove at the other end with all of us huddled around the iPad watching the spinning wheel awaiting the results…
Rewind 18 months to August 26th, 2018 when Zach reported for his internship and training at K-Zone SBA Baseball which thanks to a referral by teammate Brighton Hudson, was secured back in May preceding the June Amateur Baseball Draft. Zach expected to complete his internship during the offseason following his first season of professional baseball. However, that’s not how it played out.
Despite being informed by several sources that he was going to be drafted (as early as rounds 5-8), Zach went undrafted. He was in shock. A great senior season at Mt. Olive that earned him Division II Second Team All-American honors was not enough.
Zach threw his first bullpen for us on Friday August 30th, 2018. His fastball averaged 87.0mph topping out at 87.6mph.
Here’s a sample of Zach’s movement screen.
He wasn’t exactly what I would describe as a great mover. He had some work to do. Zach was ready to do whatever was required because what he had done to this point clearly hadn't been enough to give him that opportunity. So it began.
Zach threw 91-93mph at a professional league tryout at the end of January and was offered a contract by the Ottawa affiliate in the Canam league. Needless to say, Zach was excited to have an opportunity in professional baseball. The changes and improvements he was undergoing with us were paying dividends.
Once in Ottawa, Zach did not squander his opportunity. His velocity had taken another tic up by the start of the season in May. He was routinely 93-95mph with a floor of 92mph. This was very different from his college days when he threw several fastballs that started with an 8. This increase in velocity did not go unnoticed. He was garnering the attention of several scouts, some that had seen him pitch in college and they couldn’t believe the jump in velocity.
Shortly after the June Amatuer Draft, Zach signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers! He had done it. 12 months after the disappointment of being passed over in the draft, he was receiving his opportunity to play affiliated baseball.
During his off-season entry pen on September 6th, 2019 he sat at 93.5mph and topped 94.9mph confirming his in-season numbers. We had our baseline established for his off-season gains.
Making a significant velocity increase for an athlete topping 95mph that just made a 6mph increase over the past year is a very tall order. Since Zach wasn’t taking any time off, we had a solid 6 months of training to make it happen. Back to work he went.
Week by week, Zach saw his velocity increase and just as importantly the effort it took to throw hard became easier. He used to throw an easy 90 before his pull-downs, now he was throwing an easy 94 before starting his bullpens.
Most days in his bullpens, he would dedicate a few fastballs for max intent development before working on his other pitches. He built his confidence and ability through this process. This really helped him compete when we began the live at bats. In his final live at bat session, he was sitting 96-97mph. He had a pretty good changeup that day too.
Originally Zach had planned to head home to New York Friday, the day after the final live at bat session. He decided to delay his trip home to get in one more bullpen and try to throw a 98mph fastball which brings up back to the spinning wheel.
The spinning wheel disappeared and the results were finally displayed - 100.3mph! An eerie sense of excitement, shock and awe with a little “did that read right?” took over. We all looked to Zach for his reaction; “That felt different than the 98’s, everything felt in sync when I drove down the mound and I really got behind the baseball." Check Zach out on K-ZONE Instagram
Zach is the first pitcher to throw a 100mph fastball at our facility and I’m sure it’s the first of many he will throw in his career. His increase in his second off-season was even more impressive than the giant leap made in his first.
He's No average Joe
K-Zone Baseball SBA, Raleigh North Carolina
The main focus of K-Zone is to develop Superior Baseball Athletes with respect to skills, abilities, health, resilience and mental toughness. We believe we are human first which means in order to excel in baseball we must possess and enhance basic human movement skills. Without even these basic skills, we are risking health or performance or both. Our model is ever evolving as we expand our knowledge and understanding while maintaining a solid grounding in first principles.
We work with amateur and professional athletes that have the desire to play at a high level and are interested increasing their capabilities, skills and capacity to work and perform. We find ways to make the training fun and interesting and teach athletes how to make lifestyle changes that align with their goals.