In baseball, one slight adjustment can lead to the revitalization of a career.
Josh Harryman, a right-handed pitcher, will be the first to admit he was hardly overpowering throwing from an over-the-top arm motion going into the summer of his sophomore year. He aspired to play college baseball, but he knew he needed to find a better way of getting noticed.
And right there in front of him, the whole time, was a solution.
One afternoon, Harryman played catch with his father Kirk, a former Missouri Southern submarine relief pitcher. That’s when he discovered his newfound arm angle that would take his career to new heights.
“The second me and him went out, played catch he was like, ‘I want you to try this,’ ” Harryman said. “I always did it as a joke. I did it once. After that, he never let me do anything different again.”
No easy task
Joplin coach Kyle Wolf remembers the first conversation he had with Harryman when he sought to make the change.
“He came to me and said, ‘Coach, I think I want to try and drop down, throwing from a little different angle.’” Wolf said. “I told him, ‘Hey man, it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of patience. It’s going to take a lot of time. If you can get it figured out, you will definitely get yourself some opportunities.’ ”
But throwing from a submarine arm slot wasn’t an over-the-night adjustment.
The process took a full calendar year. COVID-19 ended up being a blessing in disguise for Harryman, allowing him to continually work on his craft in a time when everything was shut down.
“Not a lot of people are going to say this, but honestly, COVID saved me from looking like an idiot playing varsity baseball,” Harryman said. “Whenever I first started, I wasn’t there yet. I was still trying to figure it out. My (velocity) was terrible. I probably threw 50 miles per hour. I couldn’t hit the strike zone. That year of not being able to do anything, I went out and I played catch. I honed in the things I needed to be better at.”
In one of the first tournaments he played in last summer, Harryman showed off his near dirt-knuckling scrapping motion while playing with his travel ball club — Marucci Founders’ Club — that drew some immediate feedback from parents.
“Some of the parents up in the stands were coming up to me talking about it,” Harryman said. “Whenever you see that, people are going to notice. You are unique. Everyone likes the person that is a little bit different.”
While the delivery was a difficult task to perfect, Wolf said Harryman made the transition look seamless.
“There was a natural inclination for him because it was something he wanted to do,” Wolf said. “He really was the one that made that decision. His heart was in it, which allowed him to have the patience, work ethic to be effective with that arm angle.”
Finding his niche
By the time this spring hit, there was a night-and-day difference in Harryman.
The results have backed that up.
Harryman has developed into a bullpen stalwart for Joplin, holding a 2.20 earned run average over his first eight appearances. The senior has sruck out 10 batters in 12 1/3 innings.
“I think it’s awesome to see him take ownership of that,” Wolf said. “It’s something he wanted to do. To his credit, it’s not an easy thing to do. He’s put in the time. He has put in the effort. He has put in the work. It’s paying dividends for him right now. It’s certainly helping us find some success this season.”
Harryman throws a 72-75 mph two-seam fastball with a changeup and slider sprinkled in.
“I get run to my fastball, which is hard for hitters to hit,” Harryman said. “I got a changeup that drops more like a curveball if I was throwing over the top. and then I have a slider that right now, no one can hit. It goes right across the zone.”
Harryman admitted he may have one of the lowest arm slots in the area and likes to think of himself like Tyler Rogers, a submarine righty reliever for the San Francisco Giants.
One of Harryman’s greatest strengths is his ability to neutralize right-handed hitters.
“As an opposing hitter, the teams we play are not seeing that on a daily basis,” Wolf said. “It’s not something in practice you can duplicate. The first time you see it, you are not sure how the ball is going to react coming out of his hand. It’s unnatural. Typically, the ball is coming from high to low. With Josh, it’s coming from low to high. It’s like facing a softball pitcher.”
Harryman had another way of addressing how right-handed hitters stand a chance of picking up the ball out of his hand.
“If I was hitting against myself, I would probably be terrified,” Harryman said. “I pitch all the way on the right side of the rubber, so for them looking at it, it looks like I’m going to throw behind them. They don’t get to see it as long as lefties do. They have a big disadvantage.”
While his goal is to help Joplin win a state championship this spring, Harryman’s dream of playing at the next level has been checked. He’s headed to pitch at Three Rivers Community College after he graduates in May.
All in part to one adjustment that changed his career.