July 26 - An Interview with Bob Scanlan
Fans of Bob Scanlan as a player saw him enjoy a nine-year major league career as a
starter and reliever for seven different teams. Fans of Bob Scanlan in his next career
recognize him from his television and radio work for Channel 4 San Diego and The
Mighty 1090 radio covering the San Diego Padres. I recently had the chance to ask Bob
some questions about steroids, the future of the game, and his rather unusual workout
You were a player representative during your time in the big leagues. What is your take on the
steroid issue in baseball? Do you feel this is the most major concern going into the next labor
agreement, or is there another issue that is lurking that is a bigger problem?
Steroids have been a problem in baseball for many years, and have been ignored and mishandled by
both Major League Baseball and the Players' Association. Steroids, HGH and amphetamines will be
ongoing issues for Major League Baseball. Elective surgeries may become issues as well –
replacement of ligaments to help pitchers throw harder and optic surgeries and implants that can
help players see better. This may sound strange, but these elective procedures are already
With the complete collapse of the hockey players' [union], everything will be on the table in future
negotiations, including the owners' right to ask for money back from players for poor performance.
Hockey players set collective bargaining back to pre-Neanderthal times. Now that all of the players'
unions other than baseball have essentially been broken, the pressure will be on the baseball union
to be broken, as well.
You kept a book on hitters during your career. With all of the technological advances available as
far as preparation these days, do you feel as though players have gotten away from simple things
like note pads and detecting tendencies at field level instead of on DVD?
I used (and still use) pen and paper, as well as computers. I use pen and paper on the field, and
then I transfer the information to my computer for easier organization and later use. DVD is a useful
tool if you know what you are looking for. Too many players do not know what they are looking for, so
video aids are not used to their fullest.
There is a great crop of young pitchers in the game. What do you see in this group of pitchers
that makes you have faith in their future success?
I personally enjoy watching Prior, Harden and Beckett for their pure stuff and solid mechanics. More
important than their stuff is their mound presence and attitude. I like the way they come right at hitters
and don't back down...here's my stuff, try to hit it!
Like many pitchers who enjoy longer careers, you've had a chance to see the country from a
baseball field. What were your favorite facilities?
I loved Wrigley for the feel and history, and I loved Jacobs Field for the clean look and electricity every
night when they were selling out.
Was baseball always your sport, or did you consider going in another direction athletically?
I also played basketball, and had some college scholarship offers, but I always wanted to play
Speaking as a somewhat tall former pitcher myself, I know that I had a lot of problems
consistently finding a release point. What troubled you the most in terms of mechanics, and how
did you correct that?
I battled many of the ongoing challenges that most pitchers battle, such as rushing through the
balance point. I had to constantly check my tempo and go through my motion without a ball to check
to see if I could stop myself in the middle of my wind-up, and at the balance point to see if I was
rushing. I also had trouble with flying open with the hips or the front prematurely. I had to be sure that
I was lifting my leg at an angle towards my back shoulder to get my hips properly closed, and
checked my front shoulder to be sure that it was only slightly closed. If I was too closed, it caused
me to have to open more to allow my arm to come through, thus adding to the problem.
I also led too much with my head, causing my upper body to tilt forward (like a tall building toppling
over), and my arm to drag. I had to check at the moment of my landing foot touching the ground to
see where my upper body posture was – it should be straight up and down vertical to the ground, not
leaning forward with the upper body.
If you were given the chance to change one thing about your professional career (aside from
being a Hall of Famer and winning 300 games), what would you be most likely to change?
I honestly have no regrets. I can't think of anything. I prepared diligently and played hard every pitch,
and have no regrets about how I played the game or how I represented the game of baseball.
There are some organizations that are now starting to have all of their pitchers alternate between
starting and relieving in the minor leagues, so that they can get a feel of both. What was the
biggest difference for you between starting and relieving, and do you feel this is a valid method of
preparation for young pitchers?
I did both. There is definitely a difference in the physical and mental preparation between starting and
relieving. Starters need to have a deeper repertoire of pitches, and to have time to prepare between
starts and before the game. They also need to use different strategies throughout a game to keep
their team and themselves in the game as long as possible.
Relievers need to be ready to compete every night – they need to be able to get ready within two
minutes of the bullpen phone ringing, and they have to be sharp from the very first pitch to the first
batter, because they are probably coming in with the game already in jeopardy. I was able to do both,
but many pitchers have the physical attributes, mental makeup, or pitching weapons to do only one or
You had a rather unorthodox workout method, using Kung Fu to improve flexibility and strength.
Do you feel too many young players (especially pitchers) today are obsessed with lifting and
muscle mass, as opposed to range of motion and “elasticity”?
Definitely. In the early '80s, most players didn't know how to use weights (and steroids) effectively,
and hurt themselves or their performance by losing their baseball flexibility. Many organizations
banned weight lifting by their players. As time went on, players got smarter with their lifting, and
simultaneously learned how to use steroids more effectively, and had better substances to use, so by
the early '90s, guys were putting on large amounts of mass while not losing as much flexibility, thus
making their overall performance more powerful. The stars of the game were all getting bigger, so
that became the new mantra -- “bigger is better”. During recent years, I think we have also seen a
huge increase of the number of injuries and surgeries, which is directly related to the larger (and
sometimes chemically-altered) bodies.
I preferred to focus on building strength through a cross-training regimen that did include weight
lifting, but also a lot of stretching and cardio work. The Kung Fu workouts, which I learned from Gus
Hoefling while I was in the Phillies organization, were terrific at increasing strength, flexibility and body
control, all of which are elements needed for baseball. I truly believe that my workouts were a huge
reason I was able to pitch professionally for 20 seasons, and that I did it without needing a single
surgery. Steve Finley is another example of a guy who has focused more on strength and flexibility
and has had relatively few injuries.
If you had the choice to go back on the field and work with young pitchers, whether professionally
or on an amateur level, would you prefer that to your current work in the booth? Where do you
see yourself being led in terms of future baseball work?
I have done private pitching instruction and enjoy it. I could see myself at some point possibly going
into coaching on the field, or even into front office work with an organization, but I am currently
enjoying broadcasting. After 20 years of being on the field every day, it is nice to take a little break.
Broadcasting allows me to still be around the game, but not be consumed by it. I hope that I have
been able to add some unique insight to the viewers and listeners from a player's point of view. I
trust that God will put me where He wants me, and right now it appears that place is the broadcast
booth, but that could change.