Matthew Rienzi: RHP Polish National Team



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

My college career was not an easy road, two schools and three coaches later I'm at my senior year.  The idea of first dropping down was at my first college where the manager John LaRose told me to take a year off and use that time to become a sidearmer, but I ended up transferring to my current school St. Joseph's College Brooklyn.  After one year under coach Jerold Sidman, a new coaching staff was brought in and the manager was Peter Blumenauer, who gave me the idea of dropping down after a rough fall ball season in the fall of 2017.  The very last day of the fall ball season we worked on moving to the right side and trying to throw as a sidearmer, which ended up with me hitting three batters that day and walking the rest.  So with what Coach Blumenauer saw, he gave me a handful of workouts to do, I was also seeing my pitching coach from when I was younger, John Mangieri who also gave me tips when we worked together. From the fall of 2017 to the start of the 2018 season, I was asking all former coaches and teammates that I knew were sidearmers, especially those in the college level.  A good friend of mine, Sean Gibney, dropped down even lower than I did and he gave me a lot of hints on how to adjust to the new throwing motions, gave me workouts, and some tips on how to become comfortable with the switch. It was all done to be more effective out of the pen, giving me an ability to appear more in back to back days, and giving me a different opportunity to be utilized as a pitcher.  Ever since I started pitching (which was around sixth grade) I was over the top, so the transition was not easy for me, especially the first appearance in the 2018 season, where I gave up a grand slam while I was brought in to get out of a jam.  Having worked on being a sidearmer and having that happen on the second batter I faced since I dropped down, I knew that there was a lot more work ahead of me.  Further into the season I got more comfortable with it, during the summer I maintained good stats in the summer league I was in as well as my outing with the Polish National Team, where assistant coach at the time, Mike Renery, told me that the transition suits me perfectly and will give me a lot of opportunities anywhere I will play.  Now the slot feels great, the effectiveness is there, and the transition was well worth it.


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

Some advantages is the movement on my pitches, I've managed to gain control of the pitches but also have managed to know how each of them move and where they will end up, so depending on the batter I will adjust to what I can pick up from his stance and swing.  Another is that I'm always ready to go, I can go up to two innings a day and be able to come back the next day able to throw another couple, the arm angle has given me the ability to do that with the usage of different muscles and a more natural arm path.  Back in the overhand days I was able to throw competitively once every few days but the new angle has me ready for our conference doubleheaders on the weekends.

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

 I was not a bad pitcher I think overhand, but I do regret not transitioning earlier.  The transition gave me the opportunity to keep playing college baseball and international baseball, if I stayed overhand I don't think my arm would have been able to keep up this long, this is pretty much a second life for me as a pitcher.  It took a lot of stress off my arm and gives me the endurance to keep pitching everyday, if I would have known how this would have helped my career I definitely would have done it earlier. 

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

If someone is considering changing their arm angle, I'd say do it, it's always worth the risk.  This is a constantly changing game and the player has to adjust, there is always a different role for you no matter how you throw.  Especially in today's world, there are so many ways to get the right tips and help on how to throw properly from different angles.  It does take hard work and a lot of time to get into the groove of changing your throwing habits but it does produce a high reward, especially if you were to transition to side arm, since sidearmers are still a minority in baseball, there is an advantage to being different.  


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

Mechanics were always a big factor for me, I loved throwing the right way, so changing into a sidearmer's mechanics was a lot of research.  I liked to mimic guys at times to see what I can get out of it, so I looked at different mechanics whether it was Tom Hackimer, Brad Ziegler, Joe Smith, and Darren O'Day; breaking down those videos I picked up different things but also my coach at SJC did give me hints.  To this day, I have a net that has been used by softball pitchers to be able to get their arm at a certain slot and I stand to the side and get my arm out in front of me and hit spots on a different net that resembles the strike zone.  That was by far the biggest help in breaking down my mechanics which now I like to keep nice and simple, which is what I believe it really should be.  The simpler they are the easier the transition will be, I like to lean as soon as I get set and just take a small step like a hitter does, but my stance is already pretty wide.  With that I just use my hips to whip my arm and get the ball in front of me which is what the net helped with, but the biggest part for me mechanics wise is to stay down so I get the arm angle I want to maintain.

6. What pitches do you throw?

 I never threw hard but ever since the transition I did lose some velocity.  I currently use my top two pitches which have been a sinker and a slider, one drops to the right and one that drops to the left.  With my sinker the velocity started at around 65 MPH but currently I do maintain low 70's with a slider in the low to mid 60's.  It's more about the movement because both pitches can have sharp break and just drop or can be thrown for a strike to start off an at bat.   

  7. How do you pitch to lefties/righties?

 I love to live inside on righties, especially standing on the right side of the rubber I aim to be in on the hands and tend to throw my slider later in the count and hope they chase it because I've managed to have it break at the last second, but I'm also not afraid to start off with a slider to a right, so really the gameplan is paint the zone early and have them chase.  For lefties I aim to throw that sinker outside and have them roll over and hit it weakly to anywhere to the infield and usually try to aim the slider at their back foot so that I am get a sharp break if I want them to bite at it.  I'm not afraid to throw to anyone at this point, I've grown so accustomed to this style that I feel more confident than I used to before I switched. 


8. What is your favorite part about pitching from down there?

 My favorite part about throwing as a sidearmer has to be the look on some of the hitters faces when they see me warm up, which is usually a "this is weird" reaction.  Like I said earlier, I'm a minority in the large field of pitchers, guys don't see guys like me everyday, so being the guy that stands out, really makes me enjoy what I went through even more.