WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest Athletics and Wake Forest Baptist Health have forged a historic agreement which will keep Wake Forest baseball at the forefront of player development.
With the completion of the pitching lab inside the Chris Hurd Player Development Center at David F. Couch Ballpark, this state-of-the-art biomechanics lab will be used to develop Wake Forest student-athletes and transform the game of baseball.
The partnership between Wake Forest and Wake Forest Baptist Health – the only academic medical center in the region – is the first of its kind in college baseball.
"This is truly a groundbreaking partnership in college athletics," Wake Forest head baseball coach Tom Walter said. "First and foremost, this ensures that the development and health of the Wake Forest pitching staff will be second to none in professional and amateur baseball. Equally important, however, is the opportunity to improve the game of baseball as a whole and put Winston-Salem at the epicenter of cutting-edge pitching analytics."
Dr. Brian Waterman is the team physician and an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Wake Forest Baptist. He specializes in shoulder and elbow care and works with the players on injury prevention and recovery.
"I have had the opportunity to work closely with many elite professional and collegiate athletes during my career as an orthopaedic surgeon, but to be involved with such a world-class facility is really special," Waterman said. "Helping athletes prevent injuries is a major focus of our sports medicine team, and we are thrilled to be able to bring the expertise and research capabilities of Wake Forest Baptist's academic medical center directly to the players who will use this facility."
Another member of the Wake Forest Baptist sports medicine team, Dr. Kristen Nicholson, will work out of the Player Development Center. She has a Ph.D. in biomechanics and kinesiology with a specialty in scapular orientation. Nicholson will work with Wake Forest student-athletes on a daily basis, helping to identify potentially dangerous pitching mechanics and prevent injury.
That duo will work closely with three staff members from Wake Forest: pitching coach John Hendricks, athletic trainer Jeff Strahm and strength coach Mark Seaver.
Strahm has been Wake Forest baseball's athletic trainer for more than 20 years, specializing in pre- and post-throw arm care. Seaver, a former Wake Forest student-athlete and pro pitcher, has been the team's strength coach for more than a decade, specializing in mobility and stability.
Hendricks will work with Nicholson, Waterman, Strahm and Seaver to generate personalized pitching plans for Deacon pitchers, which will optimize performance and health.
"What makes this lab special is not just the equipment or the building, it's the collaboration between five extremely talented, intelligent and passionate experts in their respective fields." Walter added.
Furthermore, the lab will be expanded to also analyze athletes from various youth baseball organizations. The additional biomechanical throwing data from these youth athletes combined with the data from college athletes, will help achieve the goal of using the data to identify the root causes of injuries plaguing baseball, and prevent a large percentage of them from occurring in the first place.
"This is bigger than just Wake Forest," Walter said. "Arm injuries have baffled the baseball world for decades. We're excited about the opportunity to learn more about why these occur and use that information to help the next generation of baseball players."
The Chris Hurd Player Development Center opened in February of 2017 and was completed this past fall. Constructed for more than $12 million, the Player Development Center includes a new dugout and bullpen, locker room, equipment room, training room, team lounge, and nutrition area in addition to the pitching lab (phase one), as well as a team meeting room, dedicated video room, coaches' offices, a biomechanist's office, a conference room, game day suites, and a baseball heritage area (phase two, completed this fall).