Mike elias-OrioleS 2023 GM OF THE YEAR

Mike Elias is the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He was named MLB’s Executive of the Year in 2023. As a pitcher at Yale in 2003, Mike interned for Tom House in San Diego, and Tom remains a mentor to him to this day. 

Your dad was a Secret Service agent. How did that impact your early life, and when were you introduced to Tom House and the National Pitching Association? 

“It was a cool job, but growing up in Northern Virginia, it wasn’t uncommon. My dad (Richard Elias) ran training for the Secret Service in Beltsville, Maryland, toward the end of his career at the end of the nineties. It got him plugged into the strength training and sports performance world to enhance their training methods. We had some crossover into the elite training in the baseball world. 

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I worked at a pitching and batting academy in Northern Virginia (Mid-Atlantic Sports Complex) to earn pocket change. It was run by a guy named John Pinkman. Tom and (current Arizona Diamondbacks pitching coach) Brent Strom, who at that time was the (Montreal) Expos pitching coordinator, hosted a clinic during the early days of the NPA. I believe it was in conjunction with Pinkman’s Academy, and I attended and met Tom because I was working there. I stayed in touch with Tom, and he connected with my dad. I believe he went to the training facility in Beltsville for a visit.”

Mike Elias

How did you reconnect with Tom?: “I was playing baseball (at Yale) and had a shoulder injury. I had shoulder surgery. The Ivy League Athletic Conference doesn’t allow graduate students to play sports. When athletes get hurt, they typically take a year off from school so they may preserve their full four years of eligibility, and that’s what I did. During that time off from school, I did a six-month internship with the (Philadelphia) Phillies. When that was done, I was healthy enough to start throwing again, and Tom was nice enough to allow me to work for him as an intern. I drove across the country in 2003, moved to San Diego, and helped him with his lessons and work with the National Pitching Association. I did that for about eight months until I was ready to return to school in the fall.”

What athletes were working with Tom at the time of your internship?: “Randy Johnson and Mark Pryor were the two big names. (Future World Series MVP) Cole Hamels was a young high school kid working with Tom. He was already a pretty big deal as a high school kid in San Diego. There were a lot of guys running around. (Future major leaguer) Matt Bush was playing at Mission Bay High School and went high in the draft. Mark Pryor was at the apex of his fame then and was the poster boy for everything pitching. It was a cool time.”

Cole Hamels

 How has Tom evolved over the years?: “In the eighties and nineties, Tom was really the father of pitching mechanics. It was linear and cookie-cutter textbook stuff that became popular then, but Tom had an epiphany that it wasn’t working as well as it should. Tom threw it all out and remapped his ideas based on what most of the successful major leaguers were doing. He looked at guys who pitched not only for a few years but also for a long time. He just totally revolutionized his criteria, and it was eye-opening. I remember Brent Strom at that clinic in Northern Virginia about how it blew his mind and liberated him as a coach, and I saw it the same way as someone who had been raised on Tom’s stuff. To hear Tom renounce his teachings and go to something that seemed more natural was impressive. It’s tough to change like that. Tom started to look at what good pitchers do, rather than what he felt they should do. He ran a regression model to determine what the best pitchers had in common. I was there right as he was doing all that stuff. There was a lab in San Diego where kids with walking gait issues would go, and they had a motion analysis lab, and he utilized that facility.”

What are some misperceptions about Tom? “Tom is still seen as some boogeyman because they look at things he was doing in 1988, which he hasn’t done in years. At the time, he was way ahead of the curve, and now it’s seen as forty years behind, but Tom wears it. I don’t think he minds.”

What makes Tom unique?: “I think Tom’s a genius. There’s an intersection between his baseball knowledge and credibility and his feel for baseball, but he is someone who aggressively went outside the comfort zone of the sport. He learned things from other disciplines, sports, and science, but he has a communication style that can present the information in a very digestible form. When people go to one of his NPA clinics he gives them something they can sink their teeth into. He has a way of making people feel good when they are done working with him.”

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