There is a classic Vince Lombardi quote coaches have plastered to the walls of their weight rooms for decades: The only place success comes before work is the dictionary.
The Cincinnati Reds hired a 24-year-old pitching coordinator. You might hear that and wonder how someone so young managed to Heisman Lombardi’s formula and find a short cut to success in one of the most competitive career paths in professional sports.
When you sit down with that 24-year-old, Eric Jagers, you realize nothing could be further from the truth.
To understand how Eric Jagers became one of the most sought-after pitch design experts in the country, you have to understand how his playing career went.
“Long story short, it was riddled with injuries,” Jagers said.
A more detailed version of the story goes like this…
Jagers takes the mound for a junior college on opening weekend and promptly tears his labrum. He then travels from his home state of Iowa to a facility in the Pacific Northwest that is starting to gain traction in the baseball world for their revolutionary ways of training pitchers.
The facility being a little place called Driveline. You may have heard of it.
In his second appearance with the Hawkeyes, he gets hurt again.
Introduction to Coaching
After being sidelined by his latest injury at Iowa, Jagers seized an opportunity to help the team, and eventually himself, in a different role.
“That was when Rapsodo started to get really hot,” Jagers said. “That created an opportunity for me to become an impromptu tech bullpen coach. I was hurt and couldn’t contribute as a player, but I could still leverage technology to help my teammates and contribute in that way.”
To Driveline and Beyond
Jagers credits good fortune with his injury happening around the same time Driveline was looking for a throwing trainer, but in the spirit of Lombardi’s words, an opportunity like that is only as good as the work you’re willing to put into it.
For the second time, Jagers was working out at Driveline as a player. However this time around he was also training other players, which led him to a career-defining decision.
“I was continuing to train as a player while also training guys as a coach, and I started to feel mediocre at both,” Jagers said. “Quite honestly, I felt like I was a better coach than player, and believed I was pretty darn good at it, so decided to put all my eggs in that basket and go after it.”
Since turning his focus entirely to training, Jagers has become one of the game’s brightest minds when it comes to pitch design. He has built the knowledge base with the same determination and relentlessness the pitchers he coaches put into developing their arsenal.
“If you walk into Driveline in the offseason, you’re subject to see me at 10 pm, ripping curveballs,” Jager said. “It helps me stay connected to the players and be involved with what the current process looks like.”
That work ethic, and the expertise that develops from it has been rewarded with an official role as Manager of Technical Development at Driveline, as well as roles with MLB clubs, most recently as Assistant Pitching Coordinator with the Reds.
To hear more about his professional journey, and learn more about the latest and greatest in pitch design, listen to Eric’s conversation with Seth and BP on the Rapsodo Baseball Podcast.