Jack Aker: Former RHP several MLB teams




1. Could you tell us your story on dropping down?

I guess overall I was more what you would call a low 3/4’s. In HS/College I was more of an OF. When I would pitch I was right over the top with my release point. I had good velocity, probably 91-92mph but no movement. I truly had no other pitch. Sometimes my catcher wouldn’t even bother to give me any signs because I didn’t have any other pitches. In pro ball I would struggle vs lefties. I made KC in 1964 but would eventually get sent back down after 9 games. I remember I was called up and it was in the middle of a DH. I introduced myself to the manager Eddie Lopat and then an inning later was warming up to come in the game. Came in, in a tie game, bases loaded vs the Twins, who could hit. First pitch was a line drive to LF, an out and not deep enough for runners to tag. Next hitter was Harmon Killebrew. Threw him two fastballs and got him to hit into a DP. 3 pitches 3 outs. I was never nervous before that, went back into the dugout and sat down. I had to lean over to try and stop my knees from knocking each other. Went back out there and ended up giving up 2 home runs to left-handed hitters. When get sent back down my manager told me to start experimenting so I started to drop my arm angle. I found my ideal pitch, the two seam sinker. I lost some on my velocity-probably was 89-90 which today wouldn’t get you a job! lol


2. What are some of the advantages you had from your arm angle?

I would say my big advantage was against right handed hitters. When I dropped my arm angle, I did change my stride. I ended up going more towards the third base side dugout, so ball must have felt like it was coming in behind them. I did also have success vs lefties too. I’m sure it was because it was a look that they never saw too much. I think another advantage I had, was that I was always pretty athletic. Was a great athlete, was offered a football scholarship to UC Berkeley but decided to pursue baseball.  



3. If you didn't drop down, do you think you would have had the same success?

I did have success with just a straight fastball in the minors and did make the majors, literally throwing just a fastball. My biggest thing is that I had a decent fastball but I also had decent control with it. I grew up on a farm, where I would help out irrigating the cotton fields. During the process I would have 2 hours to kill, so I would throw dirt clods. I probably threw a million of these things but that’s what I attribute my accuracy to. Eventually with no off-speed though something needed to change. 

4. What would you tell someone debating on changing their arm angle?

I would say to experiment a little bit. if you are experiencing any soreness it’s your arm telling you something. Scratch it and try something else. Also I would suggest to take a look at your stride. I would say 9/10th’s of when your mechanics are off it’s because of your stride. If you’re a young pitcher, don’t worry about velocity, worry about spin and movement. When I pitched 3-4 days in a row, my ball would sink more on the 4th day. If I was too fresh, my ball would flatten out, probably was overthrowing. I had to be careful to get my work in on the side if had too much time off. Even in pro ball when I was a manager/coach would always tell my pitchers, ‘let’s see if you can sink it'


5. Are there any mechanical tips that you'd give to someone throwing sidearm/submarine?

I would say to keep target over your left shoulder (RHP) as long as you can. Then when time to release the ball try to have as quick of an arm as you can. Try not to be too fine with your pitches, trust the movement. I honestly a lot of the time would aim down the middle of the plate and let the ball do it’s thing naturally. It would sink for me the majority of the time. I learned to keep my fingers level upon release when throwing my sinker. For the sinker, I would put more pressure on my index finger. Gave me more downward spin on the ball, kind of like a lefty throwing a slider. Respect the hitter when needed. If he has shown his strength is an inside fastball then don’t be afraid to throw him away. It’s not that you are afraid of him, it’s just the best way to get him out!

6. What pitches did you throw?

For the longest time just fastball…eventually when lost some velocity finally had a decent curveball. It was flat when first dropped down but came around. Change-up was a pitch I never felt comfortable throwing. I wish I did, think would have helped vs lefties. Guess if I was a starter, I might have needed a changeup but was always in my MLB career. 

7. How did you pitch to lefties/righties?

For both side hitters I tried to keep the ball down. My sinker would look like heading towards the strike zone and dive out. Keep it down but stay ahead of the hitter. Lefties I would drop in a first pitch curveball for a strike. I would say almost everytime the hitter would take it for a strike. Then they wouldn’t see another one during the AB. If a leftie did get a hit off of me, made sure it was away so it would hopefully just be a single to the opposite side. If they were cheating too much away, diving in or moving up in the box, I would come up and in. One of my strengths is that I was always mixing up my delivery. I was an athlete on the mound. I would quick pitch, turn my body all the way around, have different wind-ups. A lot of the pitchers in that era did that, you don’t see that very much anymore. I would say there’s a lot of home runs now these days because everyone has the same delivery. 95mph has very little movement because it’s too hard. I want to face those hitters who are trying to hit home runs, would just keep throwing them sinkers and they will get themselves out. I would also say the majority of pitching is done above the ears. The batters were the enemy and I pitched that way. 

8. Lastly what was your favorite part about pitching from down there?

I had success! After I dropped down, felt I wasn’t thinking anymore. Felt like was a kid again throwing clods in the cotton field.