Connor Shouse-Pickens High school

Interview by todd starowitz

In this installment of “My Baseball Journey,” NPA introduces David
Shouse. David is the father of Connor Shouse, a senior at Pickens County (GA)
High School. Connor has committed to play collegiately at Georgia Tech. He’s
also projected to be selected in the early rounds of the 2024 MLB Draft.

How did Connor’s baseball career begin?: “I played, but not at a high level. My parents didn’t have the means and weren’t very sports-driven, but I always loved the game. Connor began playing when he was about six. We signed him up to play, and he immediately went from T-ball to playing with nine-year-olds when he was six. Connor’s ambidextrous; He was a lefty. He was throwing left and fielding right, but one day he was playing second base in the middle of a game. He threw his glove down and said he wanted to throw right handed. The coach threw him a glove to put on his left hand, and he’s thrown righthanded ever since, but he writes and does everything except pitch with his left hand.

 When he was seven, he told me he wanted to be a major league baseball player. That’s not uncommon, but that started it. Every day I’m asked how and why I put so much time and money into Connor’s baseball pursuits, and I respond by asking them what their child wants to do. They may say they want to be a doctor. If that’s the case, they spend money on tutoring and supplemental math and science courses. My job as a parent is to position my child so that he can pursue and achieve his dream, which is to play major league baseball. That’s what we’ve revolved our life around.

 I’d do a lot of things differently. Connor wouldn’t have played 180 games at 10U, but he had such a drive. I haven’t driven him to do anything as he’s gotten older. Connor gets up in the morning, does all his work, sets his lessons with his coaches, and puts together his entire schedule. He tells me he’s going to see (NPA coach) Robert (Ambrose) on Sundays. He is doing his own thing. When he was thirteen or fourteen, I told him I wouldn’t ask him to work out anymore and that he had to do it on his own, and he’s taken that and run with it. By then, all of the tools had been given to him, and he just needed to use them. He’s never wavered.”

When did you first encounter the National Pitching Association?: “We encountered (NPA’s) Robert (Ambrose) about three years ago. There’s so much Kool-Aid being delivered in baseball, and I’ve learned that ninety-nine percent of the people feeding you that Kool-Aid need your checks to pay their mortgage and keep their facility open. We also was did it differently. When I went to Connor’s original hitting instructor, who is still his hitting instructor, I told him, ‘Listen, I see it time and time again that people come to you, have a good weekend, and then they don’t see you again for six weeks until they start to struggle again. I told him you’re my guy and we are building a machine here over the long haul.’ If Connor hits two home runs, parents want to know his hitting coach. When people see Connor throw ninety-seven off the mound they want to know his pitching coach. I had a guy who went down to see Robert, and two weeks later, I didn’t see him. I ran into him on the street and asked him why he didn’t go back to Robert. He said, ‘He pitched the next weekend, and I didn’t see any velo increase.’ We just did it differently. We wanted the science behind the training, and we wanted experts. That’s how we picked our coaches. The silver tongued car salesman guy wasn’t going to get us.

 Robert works with some MLB guys like (Detroit Tigers pitcher) Sawyer Gipson-Long. His mother is a dear friend of mine, so we had some common connections. Connor was an all-around athlete growing up. He was catching, fielding, and pitching. He was starting to get overused. Some coaches would have him pitch, and then they’d have him see when he hit his pitch count limit. I think he’s a better catcher than anything else, but he can’t pitch and catch. His arm was being abused a little bit. He was starting to have a little tennis elbow, or Little League elbow, from abuse. We went to Children’s Hospital in Atlanta when he told me his arm was bothering him, which was about 2020. Parents ask their kids, ‘How does your arm feel?’ Their son will tell them their arm hurts, and the parent will tell their son to throw two innings as if somehow that will knock them back into alignment. 

Children’s Hospital in Atlanta has what is almost a pitching and throwing division. There’s a team of specialists. It’s a great place. We went through their program, and then, with research and through shared connections, we connected with Robert. Sawyer’s mother connected Robert and me, and we started going down there. Tom House was conducting a three-day NPA clinic in Atlanta a month later, and we attended. You need to go to about three of those clinics because there is so much information. Every time I go, more pieces connect, and I understand it better. They discuss the biomechanics of throwing, the nutrition, the mental side of pitching, and sleep. You don’t grasp it during one clinic. The Kool-Aid guys check out because they want an easy and fast solution. Baseball doesn’t have easy and quick solutions unless you are an absolute freak like Shohei Ohtani. 

Attending NPA Clinics

We went to the clinic, and the first thing that sold me was Tom said, ‘There’s no be-all-end-all in baseball.’ In baseball it’s taking everyone’s input and putting it together for what’s best for the individual. That sold me. With many travel programs and high schools, it’s their way of doing things. High school programs, especially, are notorious for hating outsiders.

 We listened to Tom’s lectures and did the S.T.A.T. testing. It’s funny because some people think it’s snake oil or the science stuff is overblown, but I have all three of Connor’s stat tests in three consecutive falls, and he’s been within one mile of his projected velocity target on every test. The proof is in the writing and Connor does his NPA stuff religiously. I built him his own indoor facility, and he goes there and does his NPA work and about five percent of some other things that he’s found that work for him. 

I believe in NPA and Robert so much that we drive three hours every Sunday to meet up with him. I don’t get out of the truck. There are parents of seventeen year olds who sit on the edge of the cage and watch. Connor doesn’t want to drive three hours alone, so I’ll drive him. He might have his air pods in, but spending that time with him is still nice. I’ll get out of the truck every four or five lessons and visit with Robert. I’ve seen NPA put the effort back into Connor. Robert, Tom, and the NPA guys saw Connor grasp it, absorb it, put the work into it, and stuck with the program. Robert showed up at some of his high school games, took that feedback, and adjusted his workouts. Robert and NPA is investing back into him what he’s investing.

 As a father, NPA helped me understand baseball’s failures and what’s going on. At eleven or twelve, I was that dad. I was asking why Connor didn’t strike out a kid or why he threw eighty pitches and only twenty were strikes. I didn’t realize before working with NPA that his mind wasn’t connected to his body because he had grown an inch and because his arms were longer. He could only throw strikes once he had the time to throw one thousand or however many pitches to get his brain and body connected again so he could command his pitches. Now that I look back on it, Connor wasn’t saying I will throw eighty percent balls today. He just wasn’t physically and mentally able to do it. He grew an inch-and-a-half and put on fifteen pounds earlier this year, and the command left him again until he got the reps at that size to get back to throwing strikes again. Connor may be on for two months, but I know a growth spurt may be coming and he may look like he hasn’t thrown a ball in his life. He may have arm speed, but he doesn’t have control. 

Other parts of NPA have been so important. It’s becoming more common now, and it’s been because of Tom’s work with NFL quarterbacks that you’ll see guys warming up doing towel drills during pregame. When Connor started doing towel drills three years ago his high school coach looked at him like, ‘What are you doing on my field? We do this for warmup!’ Kids ridiculed him for three or four months, especially those on opposing teams when he’d get called to warm up in the bullpen and began doing towel drills. I told Connor they’re making fun of you, but it will stop when you go out on the mound and perform.

 I have to watch my tongue on social media sometimes because I know that the MLB organizations are watching me, as well as Connor. Still, I’ll see people making fun of towel drills, but they criticize things that are opposite of how the drills are designed. They don’t understand the drill. Connor uses towel drills a lot.

 We were doing something outside the box, and people think it can’t be right if it’s something outside the box. There’s been learning curves there. It’s not a come to this clinic and we will fix you. You might look good for two days because it’s fresh in your mind, but it is a long-term program. The biggest thing is, and I’m going to knock on wood, that he’s been injury-free since he started. We were going down the road that we had to shut him down every season for a few weeks because his arm wasn’t strong or hurting. His physical trainer wanted him to look like an MMA fighter, and I had to go to him and tell him we were building a professional pitcher, not an MMA fighter. I need everything inside strong, so the big stuff doesn’t tear the little stuff up. I didn’t know that either until we started working with NPA. 

How was his recruiting process?: “He committed his freshman year. Within three months with NPA, he shot from 83-84 to 90. A freshman throwing ninety catches people’s attention. Colleges began reaching out and offering the world, and this was before NIL. One of the Georgia colleges offered him, told him he had a camp, but then said the camp was full. Georgia Tech did the same, and their camp was full, but they invited him to come regardless. We went to Georgia Tech. It was a little weird. He took BP and it was impressive. It was late in the fall and he threw three pitches. The coaches told him to stop; they came to find me and took us downstairs. Everybody else was upstairs doing the camp and we were downstairs having a private workout. Within five minutes, the coaches asked him to commit. Being a freshman with three great coaches there and sitting in a state-of-the-art facility, he shook their hand and said yes. It might have been a little quick, but at the same time, it took a lot of stress off of him.”

 Will Connor continue to be a two-way player?: “He wants to be a two-way player. He’s a creature of habit. He doesn’t like pitching in travel ball because he gets thrown into games in relief when he’s been playing shortstop, and he’s given ten pitches to warm up. He likes high school when he knows he will throw every Tuesday so he can prepare. He wants to two-way, and until someone tells him, or he tells himself, that he can’t pitch or hit at a particular level, he wants to continue to do that, but it’s demanding. His hitting is his passion, and he wants to hit as long as he can until it’s proven that he can’t do it. The NPA has helped him hitting-wise, too; it hasn’t just been pitching.”