Royals’ Wade Davis Adds 2 MPH to Fastball Training at CrossFit Gym


Wade Davis Trains at CrossFit One Love in Montgomery, NY

Wade Davis Trains at CrossFit One Love in Montgomery, NY. Image via Greg Hammond.

My article “Elite Athletes who do CrossFit” has generated much misunderstanding and attention. Let me set the record straight: The list isn’t exhaustive – many other elite athletes do CrossFit. And we’re not claiming the elite athletes ONLY train with CrossFit, but rather that they use it as part of their training to improve their general physical preparedness.

For example, the first game of the World Series kicks off tonight between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals. And one of the Royals’ most valuable players is pitcher Wade Davis.

In 2013 Tampa Bay traded Davis to Kansas city. His 2013 season was “awful”: 8-11 record and 5.32 earned run average (ERA).

But in 2014 the pitcher was nearly magical, recording a 9-2 record and 1.00 ERA. Bob Lutz reports that Davis hasn’t “even allowed a hit in 47 of his 79 appearances.”

One difference was that the Royals moved him from starting pitcher to the bullpen. But pitching in later innings isn’t the whole story.

Davis’ “average fastball velocity this year was 95.7 miles per hour — more than 2 mph higher than any of his previous major-league seasons.” How did a 29-year-old pitcher drafted 10 years ago add over 2 miles per hour to his fastball?

He trained at CrossFit One Love in Montgomery, New York. CrossFit One Love reports that Davis, “has been training with us over the past 2 off/preseasons.” And they report that, training at CrossFit One Love, Davis “dramatically increased his overall strength including 25% increases in his squat and deadlift and 10mph on the mound!”

But was it really just the switch to the bullpen that made the difference? Davis doesn’t think so – he thinks it was the training. In the Spring, he threw the “best I’ve ever thrown a baseball in my life. I was throwing the ball at 70, 80 percent effort, and it was going 94, 95 mph … I’m not a velocity guy, but I’ve never thrown 94, 95 until August.”

Could it be that fundamental, functional movements translate to sports specific performance? And do pro athletes really have that much room to improve in their general physical preparedness? Davis thinks so.

“It got to a point where after a month or two of doing it I started feeling a difference in everything I did — the way I walked up stairs, everything started feeling better because I was getting stronger and faster than I ever had been in my life … The first time I started throwing bullpens I could tell the difference then … Just in my delivery and everything.”

Davis’ improved power won’t come as a surprise to many CrossFitters, but it may surprise other baseball players. The myth of the musclebound athlete still scares some from working hard in the weight room. Even Davis was “worried about the effect of heightened weight training on his joints, but those subsided when he didn’t lose flexibility.”

For now, other pitchers’ ignorance is Davis’ competitive advantage. But, it won’t be long until more pro athletes follow his example and apply what Greg Glassman first noted in 2008, 

Every athlete we’ve worked with, from Olympic medalists, to UFC legends, has some glaring chink in his/her GPP, and it takes, at most two hours, two sessions, on average to find these chinks

Fixing these chinks, these deficiencies, has immediate benefit within your sport and very often in ways not quite obvious mechanically and perhaps metabolically. For instance, more pull-ups makes for better skiing and skiers.


    • Russ Greene

      He’s a pro athlete who was first signed 10 years ago. I’m sure he’s been to other gyms before, and done other strength and conditioning programs.

      • gaucoin13

        BUT HOW CAN YOU BE SURE RUSS? HOW???? Sorry, just had to do it. I’m sure he’s been in a gym before, maybe he didn’t have a fucking clue what he was doing there or had brutal coaches who put him on an arm curl machine and the inner/outer thigh thing. The quote “Even Davis was “worried about the effect of heightened weight training on his joints, but those subsided when he didn’t lose flexibility.”” made me think he was a bit of a gym novice that got by on a lot a talent for a very long time, coupled with some moderately effecting conditioning? BUT THAT’S JUST AN OPINION RUSS!!!!!

      • Russ Greene

        “coupled with some moderately effecting conditioning?”

        So you do think he worked out before, but it just was less effective? Cool. Me too.

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    • Levi

      And we would like to see people like gaucoin13 accept that good coaching and constantly varying functional activities at a high intensity for any individual will always improve their lives in a way that will make functional tasks easier, i.e. Faster fastball will will make other pitches and his fastball more effective, making pitching “easier” to get people out and the ERA and stats prove it in this case. But, it sounds like gaucoin13 believes they would have turned him into the next Pedro Martinez under their programming and another who always challenges logic and hard/smart work that pays off

      • gaucoin13

        Well seeing this is a “Russell” page I better just answer this by only asking questions. Do you think I don’t agree that improving fitness can improve physical prowess in pro sports? Did I say anything to to disprove his fitness was heightened from attending a CF gym? Did I say anything to make you believe that I believe I (or ‘they’) could have done a better job? And lastly, do you know who I am and who the hell are you?

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  9. Levi

    Your first comment says everything, how do you know? How bout results: before starting his CF program he wasn’t throwing mid 90’s comfortably, now he is. But maybe he hit a late growth spurt that gave him extra velocity, is that why you put how do you know? Your challenging CF ability to make people better by stating maybe their just getting better or improving while being a CF member instead of looking at it in a way that CF is making them better because smart coaching and increased demands put on the body can enhance already learned/functional tasks and make them more efficient, accurate, increase work rate during task, etc. I am a Physical Therapist and trainer that incorporates CF culture into my programming for my pt’s when needed and is working great with objective results if you would like to try to state ” how do you know”. Wasn’t able to lift 20# without LB discomfort prior to PT, but now can do repetitively without pain- isn’t that objective like gaining gaining MPH on your fastball. Those are objective results, everything you have said is subjective/opinion. Get some objective criticism and then reply

    • gaucoin13

      Levi my first comment was regarding how this guy sounded like a gym newbie and that I was impressed by his results. My second comment was a comically sarcastic jab at Russ asking how he knew Davis could have been to a gym before now. I honestly have no clue what you are going on about but I will caution you that you are sounding like one of these overly-sensitive quick-to-judge types that have been plaguing the online CF community. Why not just let the article speak for itself, as it is a positive one, and have a better understanding of the content of people’s comments before you embark on your own angry long-winded comment?

      • Levi

        You challenged the article’s objectivity yourself with subjective opinion, I don’t think people on this blog want to hear these opinions from random people, but rather challenge an article with objectivity and evidence based articles/research. I am sensitive to people who argue with opinions rather than facts, that’s all. Bye,bye I won’t be back just randomly saw this and wanted to challenge your thoughts just like you challenged the article and If CF really made him better.

  10. gaucoin13

    And you will be sorely missed I’m sure. Regardless, I admire your steadfast dedication to indignant responses once a valid point has been made though. Way to not promote the stereotype of the angry online CF’er who jumps down the throat of anyone who dare ask questions, subjective or otherwise, or even hints there are other ways to train athletes. In the future, maybe you’d be better off taking a few deep breaths before you go all ‘Rhabdo-y’ on someone who just spoke his mind and/or brought up an interesting point. Good day, sir.

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