Little League Coach Fires 101 MPH Fastballs

Rob Semerano poses with his Pirates of the Brick Township Little League. (Photo courtesy Rob Semerano)

  BRICK – The numbers are scary, frightening, staggering.

  One is 101 miles per hour. Another is 100 miles per hour.

  They belong to veteran Brick Township Little League coach Rob Semerano – even at the age of 42.

  “It is an incredible rush mentally and physically to throw a baseball that hard,” Semerano said. “I have very strong legs and hands. That helps me generate and deliver power. The faster you pitch, the faster a hitter has to make a decision, which usually leads to bad decisions. When my fastball is at its best, it appears to have a rise or ride. I have good command. When the ball lands in the catcher’s mitt, it’s an explosion. My neighbor a few houses down from me says he always knows when I am pitching because the crack of the mitt is different.  

  “It would take hours to go over everything I do, but in short it’s because of intense training, diet, biomechanics, visualization and ultimately faith.”

  His fastball blazed past the plate at 101 miles per hour on July 27 during a bullpen session filmed by Channel 2 News. It’s the lone time in his life his dreaded No. 1 reached 101 miles per hour. The pitch registered 100 miles per hour on two other occasions during the session.

  Semerano’s catcher is former Drew University player Dan Pfefforkorn.

  “He’s highly skilled,” Semerano said. “He wears normal catching equipment.”       

  Semerano has not pitched to hitters since 2018. He increased the speed of his fastball with the help of Dr. Don R. Mueller, a physics professor who claims he can serve a tennis ball at 140 miles per hour. Semerano learned of Mueller through his dad. Semerano’s physical therapist, Mike Manso, put Semerano and his father in touch with Mueller about a year ago.

  Mueller said Semerano is the script for the movie “The Rookie II.” Mueller terms himself “The Nutty Professor of Sports.”

Rob Semerano is a coach in the Brick Township Little League. (Photo courtesy Rob Semerano)

  Mueller said “I showed Rob how to throw the Neutral Wrist Fastball – derived of research into the fastest fastballer of all time, Steve Dalkowski, born and raised in New Britain, Ct. (Mueller’s home). His story is tragic, but there is a new light shining from having studied the pitching mechanics of this nan, the Neutral Wrist Fastball.”

  Dalkowski (1939-2020) died of COVID-19 while living in a nursing home.

  “Most in baseball – players, coaches and fans – have never heard of Steve and his 110 miles per hour fastball, but he was real,” Mueller said. “He hurt his arm in spring training in 1963 while striking out the New York Yankees’ lineup, including Roger Maris, on three pitches. Dave Johnson (a retired major-league manager and player) said he saw this happen.”

  Mueller has also examined the pitching of Japanese fireballer Roki Sasaki.

  “After seeing photos and watching video, it is clear to me that Sasaki is a Japanese Dalkowski, who throws his 102 miles per hour fastball with the neutral wrist,” Mueller said. “There is good reason to understand why he is a neutral wrist thrower. He also throws a forkball, which is best thrown with little degree of pronation. Anatomically speaking, the neutral wrist motion of the forearm imparts a whip-like action to the wrist and hand for releasing the ball at maximum speed. Sasaki is a neutral wrist fireballer. So was Dalkowski.”

  Mueller has worked at SUNY at Buffalo where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. He earned his PhD at Rutgers University and studied Post Doc at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as a research fellow at IAMS of Taiwan.

  “I have limited experience in pro baseball along with several arm injuries,” he said. “Today, I’m throwing and swinging again at the age of 61 with power thanks to my work in the Physics of Sports. In 2018, some of my research into new ergonomic racket handles, designed for more power and less pain, was featured full page in the New York Times under the headline, “Tilting at Tennis Rackets.”

  Semerano said Mueller has had a large impact on his life.

  “He’s helped me with offering a few things to me biomechanically,” Semerano said. “He has affected my life by believing in me and contacting the news. I honestly trained and threw because I loved it. I really was not trying to sign with a pro team anymore.”

  Semerano has not ruled out blazing his fastball by batters.

Professional scouts time Rob Semerano’s pitches. (Photo courtesy Rob Semerano)

  “If a minor league team was interested, I’d be happy to go back and play again,” he said. “The only team that has reached out so far is the Savannah Bananas (an exhibition barnstorming team in Georgia). Dr. Muller spoke to several major league teams for me and hopes one of them reaches out to me soon for a tryout. If a team came knocking, I would be ecstatic. It’s never too late to chase the impossible.”

  Semerano was selected by the Oakland A’s in the 20th round (607th overall) in June of 2004. He pitched in their organization from 2004-07. He was in the Yankees’ organization in 2008 and in the Houston Astros farm system in 2009. He pitched for the Bridgeport (Ct.) Bluefish in the American League of Professional Baseball, an independent league, in 2009. He said he “tore” his pitching elbow in 2009 and pitched for the independent Camden Riversharks in 2014.

  He pitched for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League, a High Class-A circuit. He put up a 4-1 record and a 5.09 earned run average in 22 games as a starter. He whiffed 19, walked 11 and allowed 50 hits in 35 1/3 innings.

The number says it all. (Photo courtesy Rob Semerano)

  “Growing up a Yankees fan, it was a great thrill wearing the Yankee uniform,” he said. “I actually had a chance to play alongside such big leaguers as Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui. I faced one batter with Jorge Posada as my catcher and struck that batter out. The Yankees offered me a minor league pro contract and I played for the Tampa Yankees.”     

  His overall professional record was 15-13. He posted a 5.14 earned run average and appeared in 157 games as a reliever. He pitched 208 1/3 innings. He struck out 152, walked 86 and allowed 230 hits. He made it as high as Double A with Corpus Christi of the Texas League. His fastball topped out at 99 miles per hour in 2006. 

Rob Semerano (left) receives advice while pitching for Fordham University in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship game. (Photo courtesy Fordham University)

  “My career ended in 2014 because I couldn’t financially keep playing independent ball with a family, a mortgage and a business,” he said. “It was very tough to stop competing, but I haven’t stopped pitching, which is great. I will continue to pitch as long as my body allows me to and God continues to put it in my heart to want to do it.”

  He has coached in the Brick Township Little League since 2019. He has worked with the Pirates of the Minors Division.

  “I have loved every second of it,” he said. “I love helping young players develop into better ballplayers. It has been a great experience. I honestly have no idea what our record is because it’s not significant. What is significant is I know my players have had a lot of fun, have learned a lot and have improved a lot.”

Brick Township Little League coach Rob Semerano pitches in the New York Yankees’ organization. (Photo courtesy Rob Semerano)

  Semerano and his dad Bob, who serves as his pitching coach, own and operate Big League Talent LLC in Farmingdale. Founded in 2008, the academy trains players ages 4-64 in all phases of baseball.

  NOTE: Channel 2 News contributed to this report