Ex-Pro Pitcher Shares Tips with Young Athletes

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Diekemper Daily Herald Correspondent

Former major league pitcher Tom House, who has counseled some of baseball's top pitchers, shared his knowledge with some high school-aged players in Bensenville recently.

House, who has worked with pitchers such as Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Dennis Eckersley, travels the country talking to the youth of America about baseball.

On a frigid Saturday afternoon the day before the Super Bowl, House had 39 youngsters in the palm of his hand in the first session of a two-day baseball seminar at Fenton High School.

With the throng of attentive eyes fixed on House, he displayed black and white still photos of Clemens, Eckersley and Johnson that showed how the pitchers used proper techniques.

"See how his elbow is even with his shoulder?" House asked the students.

The seminars are a labor of love for House.

"We're just trying to get better information to the kids and coaches in this part of the country," House said of the seminar. "The key to this whole information exchange is that baseball is a wonderful sport. The fact that you can come back and share with youngsters and others good information ... something about the game we all love and is great. It's something the game requires today."

House has spent almost 34 years in amateur baseball or as a professional pitcher or coach.

He spent eight years in the major leagues, including five seasons with the Atlanta Braves. House may be more famous as an answer to a trivia question - he caught Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th homer while standing in the Braves bullpen.

House had a record of 29-23 as a relief pitcher for Atlanta, Boston and Seattle, and his best year was in 1974 when he was 6-2 with the Braves with an ERA of 1.92. He struck out 64 batters that season in 103 innings.

He retired in 1978 and became pitching coach of the Texas Rangers in 1984, a job he held for 11 years. Midway through his tenure, the Rangers acquired Ryan as a free agent.

House came to Bensenville as a favor for friend Terry Ayers, who is the president of the American Baseball Academy in Roselle. It was Ayers' academy that sponsored the recent seminar.

"We've been buddies on and off the field for about 12 years," House said of his relationship with Ayers.

During seminars, House is peppered with questions. Some of the most frequent are "Can curveballs and split-finger fastballs hurt my arm?" and "Is weight training OK?"

House has a quick answer for both questions.

"Thrown properly, no pitch puts any more stress on the arm than any other pitch," House said. "On conditioning, if you are building functional strength from flexibility to body work to light dumbbells and elastic cord machines and free weights ... as long as you don't develop bulk, as long as your lead muscle mass is balanced, weight training is good for you."

Since his days as the pitching coach for the Rangers, House has started two companies. He is also a consultant for the San Diego Padres and works with the Padres in the team's working agreement with Japanese baseball teams.

With his background - most notably with Johnson and Ryan - House has become a baseball guru of sorts. From time to time, pitchers will call House out of the blue, seeking advice.

"I'm kind of a go-to guy for people that have problems or can't get answers," House said. …