“” Tom Mayer - Driveline Baseball

Tom Mayer

RHP, Cal Bears

Tom Mayer had his eyes opened when his William & Mary team played UNC Charlotte in the first series of his sophomore season.

It seemed like every pitcher Charlotte ran out to the mound was throwing smoke. Mayer? He was sitting around 88 mph in brief bullpen appearances. So naturally, he wondered what those guys were doing that he wasn’t.

He was actually curious enough about it to ask one of the Charlotte pitchers during batting practice. The answer? A bunch of the guys had trained at Driveline over the offseason.

Mayer was sold. That offseason, he traveled from the East Coast out west to stay with his sister in Seattle and train at Driveline. He showed up with that same 88 mph fastball that had him buried in the William & Mary bullpen. He left with a 95 mph heater that might see him starting on Friday nights for the Cal Bears this spring.

How? Mayer once again let his curiosity run wild.

“I always had so many questions for Driveline,” he said. “I’m getting a data science master’s. I want to know, and not guess.”

The “knowing” of it all is the fuel that has continually fed Mayer’s fire. He calls himself a baseball nerd. He refers to other baseball nerds. When he has a question, he wants an answer that includes numbers.

At one point early on in his training, he asked Driveline pitching trainer Juan Rodriguez if his arm angle was too low. Rodriguez went and got his computer, and showed Mayer that about 60 percent of 90 mph and above fastballs are thrown from an arm angle between 30-60 degrees.

“That was super cool,” Mayer said. “I got to know, and not guess anymore. I hate guessing. I feel like most people are guessing. Their eyes see this or that. I don’t want to guess. Driveline’s data gives you a different approach to decision making, and you can’t get better than that.”

He decided to raise his arm slot a little bit, with the help of a PlyoCare Ball routine. Along with that, he started to get his glove arm more closed off and pushed to the side more during his move down the mound.

The combination of those two things basically turned Mayer into a rocket ship. He and Rodriguez realized it at the same time.

“It was one of our last Plyo velo days, and I threw the blue ball 74 mph,” Mayer said. “And Juan was like, ‘Are you sure that was the blue ball?’ And he asked me what I was expecting in my motion capture, and I told him I would be happy with 91 mph. So I start warming up [for my motion capture], it’s nice and easy, and it’s 91 mph, and Juan goes, ‘Whoa, are you going now?’ He gets his phone out to start taking video. And the next one was 92, then 93, 94, 95 mph…Every single one, I was throwing harder.”

It took Mayer six weeks to go from topping out at 88 mph to sitting 94 mph in a motion capture assessment.

He struck out 34 hitters in 34 innings that next year at William & Mary, and was right back at Driveline the following offseason.

With only a week and a half to work with, his trip to Driveline was dedicated to pitch design. He came with a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball and gyro slider. He scrapped all but one of those in those 10 days, leaving with a sinker, splitter, sweeper and cutter.

Once again, Mayer proved to be a quick learner.

“I got back to school, and our grad assistant was there,” he said. “We were facing our hitters, and I was just carving. It was one of the first days back. And he goes, ‘It’s really not fair, this arsenal is something we’ve never seen.”

Mayer ended up second on the team in innings this past spring, and had one of the best WHIPs in the country at 1.12. That allowed him to grad transfer to Cal Berkeley, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in data science while vying for a spot in the weekend rotation for the Bears.

There’s a world in which none of that happens. Meyer knows that. He also knows why it did happen. 

“Driveline was the best thing for my career and my life,” he said. “If I didn’t do this, if I was still throwing 88 mph, I wouldn’t be at Cal. I wouldn’t be getting a master’s degree. I would have definitely quit…Driveline literally changed my life.”

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