ali modami He was in a batting cage last week, as he is almost every day for eight months of the year, when someone asked him a question he never imagined he would.
“Hey, do you want to pitch?” Ken Griffey Jr. asked.
Of course, Modami said, doing her best to hide her excitement as she played with Griffey, the Team USA hitting coach and Hall of Famer whom Modami, along with millions of other kids, idolized in the 1990s. .
“My 12-year-old self would have been screwed,” Modami said jokingly. “And then he and Mike were there talking. He would have paid millions of dollars to listen to that conversation. Two of the best players to ever play. I’m blessed to be here.”
Mike, of course, is Mike Trout. Superstar center fielder and lefty Aaron Loup are the two Angels on Team USA’s roster for the world baseball classic. But they’re not the only people representing the organization on Team USA.
Modami also left the Angels last week to join Team USA as a batting practice pitcher, which by definition makes him one of the best at what he does in this country as well.
“Guys love the way he throws it,” Team USA and Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel said. And he is left-handed. That’s weird.”
Modami, 42, is a former baseball player. Born in New York City, he moved to Scottsdale in high school and played baseball for Oklahoma State. He hit .267 with one home run in 86 at bats as a senior. He went on to have a short career in Indy ball. His playing days ended in 2005.
“I played hard,” Modami said. “I loved the game. short of talent I was good, but I couldn’t forget a 0 out of 4. My 0 out of 4 would be a 0 out of 12”.
To stay in the sport, he began going regularly to a training facility in the Phoenix area, where he ended up throwing batting practice to major league players. One was Pat Burrell, a slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies at the time. Eventually, Modami discovered that the Phillies needed a batting practice pitcher. He flew there for a test and got the job.
He spent five years with the Phillies before Jayson Werth, who left Philadelphia for the Washington Nationals, brought him to Washington. Modami threw thousands of pitches for the Nationals over nine years. In 2021, with a push from Anthony Rendon, who had left Washington the year before, Modami joined the Angels.
“I don’t like hitting left-handed BP pitchers,” said Team USA shortstop Trea Turner, who spent parts of five seasons hitting pitches off Modami in Washington. “Him and (former Nationals hitting coach) Kevin Long are the only two lefties I’ve really liked hitting with.
“He’s just a perfect four seams and he wants to be great out there. He wants to prepare you and he works hard. So, he’s good when you have someone who cares about you. And he is a good guy. They all love him.”
Modami said that all the time he spends with the players builds trust. He’s not his hitting coach, but he sees a thousand changes. He can tell if something is wrong, which is why he frequently asks for his opinion. He becomes part of the job. Someday, he said, he would like to have more responsibility, perhaps as an assistant hitting coach.
USA Team Manager mark of rose He first met Modami as a player in 2012, his only season with the Nationals, the 15th of his 16-year career. Injuries limited DeRosa to 48 games and a lot of rehab time in the cage with Modami. A friendship was forged. They kept in touch for the next decade.
Last year, DeRosa, an analyst for MLB Network in his first stint as manager, lobbied for Modami to be invited to join Team USA. In November, Modami received the call from the general manager of Team USA. , Tony Reagins.
“It was amazing,” DeRosa said.
The game has evolved during Modami’s time in the majors. Players’ game plans are more personalized than ever before, entering the box with specific requests. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever, so hitters want more batting practice speed to prepare. That means Modami zooms in to simulate speed or players opt for a pitching machine.
“But some guys don’t like the machine because of the time factor,” Modami said. “They like to see the arm swing. So it’s just a bit of both. Some days you throw a couple hundred pitches. Some days 300. It just depends.”
All those launches, thousands and thousands over 15 years, have taken their toll. Modami said he didn’t need any arm care until 2017. His arm never hurt. He then he did it. So the trainers gave him a program that he still uses. He lifts light weights or bands one day and freezes his arm the next during the season. He has erased the pain.
“It’s funny,” Modami said. “I played first base. We don’t throw anything, and my arm hurts every day. Now it never hurts.”
Modami has pitched some of the biggest stars in the sport. Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani have taken batting practice on their pitches. Others used pregame sessions to hit the ball in particular areas. Ryan Howard liked to hit ground balls to shortstop. Daniel Murphy always tried to break a line down the middle.
His consistency and durability led to an opportunity he never imagined possible, throwing batting practice for the largest group of American position players ever assembled for an international event and a certain superstar he grew up revering. He has been a member of two World Series teams in his career, one in Philadelphia and one in Washington. Another championship is within our grasp this month.
“Wearing this uniform,” Modami said, “is a dream come true.”