Joe haumacher

Princeton pitching coach

interview conducted by todd starowitz

Joe Haumacher is entering his second season as the pitching coach at Princeton University.

Before joining the Ivy League school, Haumacher spent three years with the Baltimore Orioles. With the Orioles, he used industry leading technology to develop players from seven different countries as an affiliate pitching coach.

Off the field, he collaborated with scouting on amateur draft player acquisitions and helped design the department’s in-house delivery model for MLB Draft prospects. 


Following his collegiate career, Haumacher played professional baseball for three seasons in New Mexico (Pecos League) and New Jersey (CanAm League, Atlantic League). After his playing career, he moved on to coaching and was the manager of the Orange County Surf, a collegiate league based in California in 2015 and 2017, leading the team to titles in both seasons. He also served one season as the pitching coach at Raritan Valley Community College (Branchburg, N.J.).

In addition, Haumacher spent four years working with world-renowned pitching guru Tom House and the National Pitching Association at the University of Southern California. As a rotational athlete specialist, Haumacher worked with several professional baseball players, including Jaime Garcia, Jason Hammel and Ryan Sherriff, guiding them through arm rehabilitations, training regimens and delivery adjustments. 

When did you begin playing baseball?Every day I woke up from the time I could remember, I’d do the kid stuff I had to get done and then finish the day throwing baseballs into the compost pile in the backyard. I’d pick the baseballs up, put them in the bucket, and do it again. We lived in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and had a nice yard. There were neighborhood kids, and we’d do things, but they were too spastic, and I just wanted to throw baseballs. 

We’d go on a fishing trip, and I’d take my Wiffle ball bat and carpet slices for bases. My dad would ask, “What are you doing? We’re going fishing.” I’d tell him you never knew when a game would break out. Twenty minutes later, we were all playing Wiffleball. It was a pure obsession. I only did anything in school because there was baseball after school. I enjoyed playing other sports, but it always came back to baseball. The only one that stole my attention was hockey, but my parents sat me down and told me the number of hockey games I could play each year versus the number of baseball games for the same amount of money; baseball won out by a long shot.


When a big league game was on TV, I’d watch the game and then go to the compost pile. I remember watching Kerry Wood’s twenty-strikeout game in 1998 and then going to the yard and trying to break off the same stuff he was throwing. 


My dad, Joe, was an educator—a high school teacher for more than two decades—and knew I needed some guidance when it came to pitching. My first pitching coach was Norm Hewitt from Hillsborough High School in New Jersey. He was a pitching coach at Rutgers in the mid-eighties. I then worked with Tim Byron, who made it to Triple-A with the Yankees, who played at Seton Hall and is in the school’s Hall of Fame. 


My dad started getting me instruction with those guys, and then I started attending Seton Hall’s baseball camp. It was the real deal back then. It was the whole week in the middle of the summer. It was competitive, and the Sheppards—Mike Sr. and his son, Rob, the current coach at Seton Hall—didn’t have an off switch, so they constantly pushed us. Rob’s oldest brother, Mike Jr., is the head coach at Seton Hall Prep, while his brother, John, is the head coach at Morristown Beard School. The camp was very tough, but it was a cool environment. I loved it. My friends who came with me were always absolutely gassed by day two or three. I was tired on the car ride home, but I knew that was what I needed to be doing.”


When did you realize you may be able to play college baseball? I was good enough to play and earn a scholarship but got hurt during my freshman year at Wofford. We had a 27-year-old head coach, and that was a disaster. I just wanted to play ball, and I was asking myself why I was showing up and doing what coaches asked me to do, and it was getting weirder and weirder. I didn’t know it would be the genesis of me being a coach and enjoying it, but I had to get to that point. 


I went from Wofford to a junior college because the transfer rules were different then. I needed to rehab and get back on my feet, which I did. I was never truly healthy after I hurt my shoulder at Wofford during an intrasquad game on Halloween 2007. I patched myself up to the point that I was on a six-day cycle. I’d throw, take about five or six days to heal, and then hours before my next outing, I’d be ready to go again because of adrenaline. I threw a lot of innings during my junior college year at Guilford Tech in Jamestown, North Carolina. 


I signed with Old Dominion and had a great time, but it was more of the same because the harder I worked and did what they told me to do, the worse I got. It was during that time that I felt like I wanted to coach. 

When did you begin to follow what Tom House and NPA were teaching? “It was clear that pitching was my obsession, but I still had no answers. I started watching Tom House videos on YouTube, but there weren’t many. Tom’s videos were the only information that got me any feedback and results. Some instructors teach pitchers to get on top, but I was even worse when I tried to get on top. When my head was straight (instead of falling off to the side), my dispersion diminished, and I knew what I could do with the ball. Having a firm front side with the glove was helpful as well. 

I was always athletic, but I couldn’t move my body efficiently because I was so out of whack in terms of strength. I was super strong in the push pattern with the legs but weak in my core; I didn’t have any arm care program or shoulder stability. I’d throw upper eighties in a game, but I’d take two weeks to heal because I was so inefficient that I couldn’t recover. 



With that said, it was less about improved performance and more about increased awareness; it was disaster mitigation at that point. Instead of spraying the ball to the backstop, I got a tighter dispersion. Tom’s stuff was the only thing getting results, and everything else pushed me further away. 


Because I was starting to get some results, I went on Amazon and started ordering some of Tom’s books. In 2009, his book Building a Million-Dollar Arm featured a picture of Cole Hamels on the cover. That book had so much to break down, but even as good as it is, it isn’t close to the same as working with Tom. 


When I was playing independent ball, I saw all these other pitching coaches, but that wasn’t working. Tom was the last pitching coach I saw. I sent Tom a desperate e-mail because I knew it was the end if I didn’t change. It was an internal debate: Do I send the message to Tom, or do I not send it?

I ultimately sent it, and the next day, I received a call: ‘Hello, this is Tom House; I got your e-mail. Why don’t you tell me about what you are going through? I was shaking. He had me grab a pen and pad, started giving me action items, and asked me to call him back every week between Tuesday and Thursday at a particular time.

I began doing the action items, and he invited me to a National Pitching Association clinic in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have money to stay in a hotel, so I was driving four hours round trip three days in a row to attend. He asked me why I wasn’t playing because he thought I could still play. I was all but done playing, and this was going to be my entry into coaching, but he said, “No, you’re not done playing yet.”

 He invited me out to train with his crew of guys, which was, “Holy shit, I’m in the club.” He was at USC at the time. 

The other Lost Boys were Tom Vessella, now the head baseball coach at Hillsdale College in Michigan, Jordan Oseguera, currently the Director of High Performance at ArmCare.com, and Jared Wilson, who the Minnesota Twins drafted in 2013 and played in the minors and internationally in Puerto Rico. Another was Jedd Schmeltzer, who pitched at Cornell, was my roommate, and pitched in the Red Sox organization. 

As for big leaguers, my throwing partner was Jaime García, who pitched in the Majors for a decade, primarily for the Cardinals. By working closely with Jaime, Tom taught me how to coach. Jason Hammel was there, and he pitched in the majors for thirteen years. You’ll notice that beyond the stars people associate with Tom, his other proteges competed for a long time in the majors. Tom and athlete longevity have always gone hand in hand. Jaime and Jason combined to earn $120 million in their careers. 

Why do you think Tom is often misunderstood? “Tom still gets criticized for teaching stuff he hasn’t trained in twenty years, but you go on Twitter or Instagram or to a conference, and people are teaching things he’s been teaching forever, but they still don’t understand it. They’ll criticize a Tom House towel drill, yet they’ll be demonstrating it incorrectly. He’s still so far ahead of the game. I now understand why Tom may want to boil over because of the criticisms of him—or the misunderstandings—because they make me want to bang my head against the wall. I understand why he wants to avoid engaging with the professional baseball world, let alone college baseball.”

When did you start coaching for Tom? I started coaching for Tom in 2012. I had been going back and forth between New Jersey and California but moved out there permanently. During one session, Tom asked me to work on pickoff moves with a young athlete, and Tom rarely worked on pickoff moves. The kid was ignoring me. I’m yelling, ‘Hey, hey.’ He doesn’t even turn around because, come to find out, he’s deaf. Tom looks at me, and he’s laughing and pointing. This work was before he offered me a job, and I’m thinking, ‘What the heck do I do to coach someone who is deaf?’

I finished the session, and Tom said, “You’re a real coach. You spent twenty-five minutes with him and didn’t bullshit the kid.” I became a coach in Tom’s eyes that day.

In addition to baseball players, Tom had quarterbacks cycling through USC constantly. (Super Bowl XLVII MVP) Joe Flacco just finished working with Tom. Tim Tebow was always there, as were Drew Brees, Geno Smith, Andy Dalton, and J.T. Barrett from Ohio State.

I was one thousand percent treated differently as a player than I was a coach. I quickly faced the reality of showing up with my “A game” daily while coaching. As a player, Tom’s there to support and love you, and you make the experience. As a coach, it was game on. Some days, he got rough when he didn’t like what you taught. Now, I understand that he was sharpening my tools as a coach. I had never had a Bob Knight or Herb Brooks-type coach. Tom would make me persevere and be an excellent coach, or he would make me quit. There was no in-between. He wouldn’t let me be a coach who lied to people and didn’t do the job as well as they should. That was intense and an adjustment period. I was in awe hanging out with him as a player but coaching under him, you fully realize the competitiveness that made him a legend. For Tom, coaching is life or death. That’s how much it means to him.”