A Dream Realized

Dreams and long-term goals are funny things. Back in 2007, my then-partner Jacob told me that my message would be an “overnight success” in six years. I thought about that conversation throughout 2013 and have said it to my clients as a way to get them to understand where I came from and to help them frame their training in the proper light.

In 2007, I wanted nothing more than to own high-speed cameras that were capable of recording the movement of a baseball pitcher to get precise kinematic data on the delivery. This was cost-prohibitive and nearly impossible to achieve without $50,000; the cost-efficient solutions involved Phantom hand-held cameras costing nearly $10,000 each. I still remember when I saw the Casio Exilim EX-F1 spoiled in Wired Magazine – a hand-held consumer-grade video camera capable of shooting 300/1000 FPS at just $1,000? I couldn’t believe my luck. Still, Driveline Baseball wasn’t turning a profit, and I was funneling money from my software developer job into the business as a labor of love, so I couldn’t afford to purchase these cameras.

But then… Casio released the groundbreaking EX-FH series cameras, which made 240/420/1000 FPS video affordable at just $500! I found one on sale at Best Buy for $380 and begged Astrid – my wife – to let me carve out some money for this, since it would be an awesome investment. She said “Sure, of course,” and that night I stayed up shooting myself eat cereal and throw tennis balls in our living room. It was unbelievable. (It still is awesome to think about when I allow myself to step away from it all.)

I eventually bought two, then three, then up to five cameras that were all standalone for use. Then I developed the first DIY biomechanics lab using consumer grade equipment:

Biomechanics Lab

I fondly remember building the control object with Matthew (my intern) in the aisles of Home Depot, giddy beyond belief, fitting custom-ordered PVC hinges together. You can’t really tell, but the picture above of me shows me conquering one of the biggest tasks I had set out to accomplish years prior. When I showed people the simple animation of one of my steel plyometric boxes with reflective markers on it made possible due to control object capture, they looked at me like I was nuts.

The last six weeks have been something of a whirlwind; ten weeks ago, I was being evicted by my previous landlord from our subleased space and forced to find a new place. In three weeks I was able to secure a place and through the gracious help of one of my client’s fathers, we moved everything into our new location in Puyallup. He and I spent countless hours (and still do) preparing and building out the space, having just finally finished our throwing cage built out of spare netting pulled out of the Puget Sound (which needed to be pressure washed with hot water and engine degreaser; aforementioned parent promises he has some incriminating photos of me in a hoodie and wader boots).

But as I spent four hours in the facility alone earlier today, I plugged in the last of our high-speed cameras to the video server and fired up the testing application to ensure that USB bandwidth wasn’t going to be saturated due to the massive amount of data coming in, and to see if the SSD could keep up with the write speed of four cameras writing uncompressed data fast and furious. Success – the overclocked 2500k was able to process the task quickly enough while the rest of the components worked as I desperately hoped.

And just before my six years was up, I realized that I indeed just finished the last big task/goal I set out for myself in 2007 – to build a server-driven biomechanics lab dedicated solely for baseball, still built on a sub-$1,000 budget and a lot of elbow grease. (My software development skills were good for something after all.)

Of course, along the way, a lot of other goals and landmarks came and went. A Golden Spikes winner who has made $4.4 million in signing bonuses and guaranteed contracts regularly consults me for pitching advice (and flew to Seattle to work directly with me) – just three years after we plastered his junior year photos across our first weight room in North Seattle saying that we needed to train athletes to be more like him. (Yeah, it’s still weird to think that we went from saying my guys needed to be like him to being one of his coaches in such a short time span.) One of my other pro clients took the strikeout rate title across both AAA leagues in 2013. And our 2015 draft class looks to be exceptional, even if 2014 might be disappointing (we should have one top-10 rounder who could be a top-3 rounder if he develops further).

But I can honestly say that building the lab to these specifications was the last big goal of mine, when I naively laid out some “to-dos” for myself, not knowing where this journey would take me.

It’s pretty cool to strike that last task off the list and to start thinking big once again.

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