Brett Hanewich on his work with John Denny
John Denny is a thirteen year MLB vet who retired from the game in 1986 after throwing 171.1 innings and striking out 115 while maintaining a 4.20 ERA with the Cincinnati Reds. His best year came in 1983, a year which saw him reign in the Cy Young award at the age of 30 after pitching 242.2 innings of 2.37 ERA baseball while winning 19 total games.
Brett Hanewich came under Denny’s wings two years ago and the two spent quite a bit of time and energy into the personal pitching instruction from the former Cy Young winner. These lessons didn’t come close to the standard groove; not only did they test the strength of his character and his determination to grow, but also dedication to the game and most importantly, his dedication to himself.
Los Angeles Angels
Every morning started with a two-hour drive, right at 7am, to John Denny’s house for up to 15 hours of pitching lessons a day. From strength training to velocity workouts to some slightly unconventional practices, Hanewich involved himself in more than just simple “pitching lessons”. Hanewich put himself through a grinder that, in the end, has separated himself from the rest of the developing pack of bullpen arms.
“I didn’t work with him this offseason since he retired two years ago from his pitching coach lessons. The work I did with him molded me into who I am today; obviously a power pitcher who likes to attack guys with my fastball, which in my opinion, is my best pitch. You don’t see many guys with velocity in the high 90’s.
I put in a lot of effort in conditioning my body and my arm to do that on a consistent basis rather than once every 10 pitches. That was the main thing we did but without even knowing at the time it was kind of what I learned in Spring Training, I just learned it a little bit later. Looking back in hindsight I think “Oh man, we worked on that, we did that everyday.”
It was the little things like the intent on pitches, looking at the little details on things. Where I’m releasing it, where my arm is, looking at the catcher at the plate and picking a tiny spot on him. Looking at the plate in thirds rather than a whole; middle, in, and away.
Tiny things that I never really paid attention to in years past, When you’re young you don’t really think about anything, you just go out there and play like a little kid. I’m starting to look at things with more detail and it’s really helping me. I learned now to take those things into consideration.
We worked out together everyday; got stronger with specific pitching exercises to help me on the mound. He knew that game better than anyone I’ve been around. I talked to him everyday; talking about baseball, his experiences and stories, things that get you excited about the career path that I’ve chosen and the one all my teammates have chosen. It gets you excited and really changes your perspective on the sport. It makes you want to work even harder everyday.
On the days we threw hot off a mound we’d put on max effort and try to hit some numbers on a radar gun. We’d throw long toss about 350-400 feet before we did that, whereas if you throw before guys might want to save some bullets and throw a little shorter, but the way we did it was a little unconventional.
We’d work out every single day and for an hour and a half we’d do some special workouts, I don’t wanna say it was like yoga or pilates, but it was a lot of work without weights. You wouldn’t think that would get you stronger but it made me ten times stronger than if I was in the weight room lifting. I would have never thought in a million years that would get me stronger, but it did every single day and you could tell.
Other than that the work and commitment we both made to each other was a little unconventional. I drove two hours there and two hours back, every morning starting at 7am and was home about 3am every single day. I stayed at home cause I didn’t have a place to stay with him.
I did that six days a week and had Sundays off; that was pretty unconventional, you don’t see that very often where you have guys driving four hours there and back or have guys like John Denny who would work with me every single day for that long. I’m very thankful for him and what he’s done for me. I still stay in contact with him, I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. I’ll probably end up calling a couple of days from now as well just to see how he’s doing.