Spin Doctor

Professional Baseball Training by Steve Ontiveros

Pete Walker

Did you know that three of Steve's clients where selected in the 2005 major league draft? Check back here for Spin Doctor updates and news from around the league.

Steve Ontiveros is the Spin Doctor - 1995 American League All-Star and 11 year MLB veteran. Read on to find out what's been going down with the Spin Doctor

August 15, 2008

A Brand New Day

What a difference a day makes. The beautiful thing about baseball is that there is usually another day to regroup. Today was that day. We played Korea, fresh off of their upset of Team USA, and it was a great game. Unfortunately we had a lot of rain run through Beijing and it played havoc on our game. The game was suspended once and then again a second time, once and for all. They suspended the game and it will be started where it was left off on our off day, 8/17.

The game was deadlocked in a 0-0 tie with one out and a full count on the hitter. It really is a shame because our starter LI Chenhao was really locked in. He pitched a masterful game, adhering to the game plan of mixing speeds and locations. His cutter was really effective as well as was his changeup. We really wanted to have him go deeper into the game, as we used up some pitching the day before, but the rains had other ideas. We will have to start the game later and we will have to use another pitcher to start that game.

Our hitters are not hitting like they are capable of. We faced some good arms this year in Arizona and we really hit well. The team had a .292 batting average and we averaged nearly seven runs a game. The pitching that we have seen thus far has not been all that different than what we saw in AZ. I hope they get locked in again because we could give teams a good run for their money.

I am having a difficult time finding time to convert the videos that I have taken so far and I was hoping to get caught up on our off day. As it has turned out, we will be playing on our off day. Bummmer. Looks like I’ll have to find another time to do it. I apologize for that because I’ve got some cool stuff from our arrival through opening ceremonies. Please be patient, it should be worth the wait.


August 09, 2008

Opening Ceremonies - Update from the Beijing Olympics

Well the moment of a lifetime has come. Today marks the day for the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympiad. We will begin our march down the track inside the “The Birds Nest” otherwise known as the Olympic Stadium at 8:00 P.M. tonight. Over 200 countries and over 11,000 athletes will be competing in this year’s Olympics. Now that is amazing. As the moment draws near I reflect to all of the major celebrations that have occurred on this earth since the inception of time. You imagine what ceremonies must have taken place during the reign of Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar, or even the Egyptian Pharaohs. Cleopatra, I’m sure, threw herself some pretty impressive parties. Well today marks one of those times in the history of man. There have been no expenses spared for this event. All of Beijing is in her glory. The architecture, the venues and the rich history of China is on display. It is her coming out party to the world for all to see, and it is magnificent. The aforementioned Birds Nest, the Water Cube, the Tennis Arena, the Field Hockey Stadium, The Cycling Arena and the 3 Baseball Stadiums are some of the most impressive sights to see.

I will be walking down the track with my camera in hand marking down this historic event. I will film all that my batteries and film will allow me to film to log my stay here in China. These are cherished moments that I can share with my family and my future grandchildren. It is unfortunate that my family is still back in the states, they will be arriving in China in a few days. I can’t wait to see them as I have been away from them for nearly a month. It will be a time that we can share together as a family, an Olympic Moment.

Our attire for the evening is nothing short of spectacular. I will be wearing white loafers, white pants, white belt and a white tie. This will blend in with the yellow shirt that I will be wearing alongside the red suit jacket that will be draped over my body. To top this off I will be wearing my white “Gilligan’s Island” hat. Now this sounds quite comical on paper but it represents the colors of the Chinese Republic and after putting it on…….it looks quite good. I don’t’ know how but it works. So as the night draws near be sure to scour the sea of red, yellow and white to find the only non Asian wearing a goatee. I will be the one with a camera in hand, waving and wearing an ear to ear grin.

Also, there is a PBS Special which was created about the making of the Chinese Baseball team. It is a remarkable glimpse into this world, is a first-of-its-kind opportunity to see the emergence of a sport in a nation that once considered baseball "cultural pollution." Jim Lefebvre, former player and coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is in charge of turning Chinese players with limited skills into Olympic-caliber athletes. Along with a handful of other retired pros - and with the cooperation of major league baseball - they are helping to bring America's game to a nation with one-fifth of the world's population.

The show is on PBS

Out of Left Field: The Making of the Chinese Olympic Baseball Team

Thursday, August 14, 2008, 11:00 pm-12:00am

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August 08, 2008

PBS Special on the Chinese Olympic team

Don't miss "Out Of Left Field: The Making Of The Chinese Olympic Baseball Team." The PBS special airs Thu, Aug. 14 at 9 p.m.

Whats up with Steve Ontiveros by Bob Young

This is a little interview I did with Bob Young from the The Arizona Republic back in June. What is the level of play like in China? "People assume that baseball in China is on parallel with Japan, but it's not. It's not a favorite sport like it is in Japan. They have a six-team league there and they play 30 games the whole season. So they don't play much. It's like a high school season. Major League Baseball is hoping to grow the sport there, and I'm actually paid by (MLB) to train and develop these guys and get them ready to compete in the Olympics."

Read the interview

June 21, 2008

Baseball Slowly Grows In China

Steve Ontiveros has two pitchers on the Chinese national team who can
throw 90 mph.

"One hit 90 three times, one hit 90 twice [last week]," Ontiveros
said. "We put them on an arm-strengthening program."

Read the full article at


June 20, 2008

SpinDoctor Back on the Mound

The U.S. squad got a surprise in the bottom of the seventh inning when
former Major Leaguer and current Chinese National Team pitching coach
Steve Ontiveros took the mound, donning a Torrington Twisters jersey.
Ontiveros, who retired after the 2000 season after 10 seasons with the
Athletics, Phillies, Mariners and Red Sox, struck out the side.

Read the full article at

June 16, 2008

Steve Ontiveros Pitches in to Bolster the Chinese National Team Staff in Time for the Olympics

Scottsdale, Ariz. – On a hot and dusty baseball diamond in Arizona, former Major League pitcher Steve Ontiveros is talking to a group of raw but eager hurlers about the art of reading a swing.

Since he retired in 2001 after an 11-year big league career mostly spent with the Oakland A″s, the right-hander who earned the nickname “Spin Doctor” because he threw six pitches with pinpoint accuracy…

Read the article at Baseball Digest Daily


April 01, 2008

"Spin Doctor" Teaches His Craft to a New Generation of Pitchers

Steve Ontiveros baffled hitters with six different pitches in an 11-year Major League career. Now, he is instructing players of all levels, including Major Leaguers and the Chinese Olympic team, about the art of power, control and deception.

Scottsdale, Ariz. – Steve Ontiveros is called the “Spin Doctor” for a reason.

In a Major League career that spanned 11 seasons, the right-hander attacked the strike zone with six different pitches. Ontiveros was a power pitcher before arm injuries led him to transform into a master of control and deception. Those weapons served him well - guiding him to the ERA title in 1994 and earning him a spot on the American League All-Star team in 1995 while with the Oakland A’s.

“I threw so many pitches that I had to devise special signals with Terry Steinbach (the longtime All-Star catcher for the A’s),” Ontiveros recalled. “When I won the ERA title, my fastest pitch was only 86 miles per hour. At that point, I couldn’t overpower batters, so I had to get them out by disrupting their rhythm.”

Ontiveros retired after the 2001 season, but his techniques are still baffling hitters at all levels of the game. The Spin Doctor (www.spindoctor.us) is teaching a new generation about the art of power, control and deception by building velocity and mastering movement on fast balls, and throwing heaters, breaking balls and off-speed pitches with pinpoint accuracy. “Onto,” as his students call him, provides instruction for everyone from Little Leaguers and high schoolers to college and professional hurlers from his Line Drives training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Oakland’s Huston Street approached Ontiveros for a change-up to accompany the power closer’s dominating fast ball. David Aardsma - who possesses a mid-90s fast ball, has pitched for both Chicago franchises and was signed by Boston in the off-season - sought the mentor’s guidance to get more movement and velocity on his fast ball, and to learn a curve ball. About 60 of Ontiveros’ clients have earned college scholarships and several have been drafted by Major League organizations.

Ontiveros, who estimates that he conducts about 40 lessons a week, recently released a pitching instruction DVD through former Major League catcher Don Slaught’s company, Rightview Pro (www.rightviewpro.com). It was Slaught who recommended Ontiveros to Jim Lefebvre when the manager of the Chinese Olympic Team was searching for a new pitching coach earlier this year.

“Steve brings credibility because of his Major League career, his deep knowledge of mechanics and how to develop arm strength, and his ability to throw a variety of pitches,” said Lefebvre, a former big league manager who was the hitting coach for Oakland when Ontiveros pitched for the A’s. “He has a genuine passion for baseball, and a gift of relating to students of all levels of the game. What’s especially impressive is that he has a hunger to continue increasing his knowledge, which helps make him an even better teacher.”

Ontiveros was named pitching coach of the team in February and spent two weeks in March working with starters and relievers in China. Baseball is not nearly as prevalent in the world’s largest nation as it is in other Asian countries. To compete in the Olympics, which will be held this summer in Beijing, Ontiveros says deception and movement will be critical for his staff.

“Our guys throw in the 82 to 84 (miles per hour) range, so we need deception and movement,” said Ontiveros, who has implemented an arm strengthening program for his pitchers that has already helped them gain velocity. “We can’t give up 12 runs a game since we are not going to score that many, so we need to keep the games close.”

In Ontiveros, the Chinese Olympic team and Spin Doctor students have an instructor with a storied resume. He was the cornerstone of a University of Michigan rotation that led the Wolverines to two Big Ten titles and two College World Series berths.

Oakland’s first selection in the 1982 draft, Ontiveros made his big league debut in 1985, when he posted a 1.93 ERA in 39 relief appearances. He spent parts of four seasons with the A’s, including the 1988 team that lost in the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After battling arm injuries and spending time in the Philadelphia, Minnesota and Seattle organizations, Ontiveros returned to the A’s and experienced two of his finest Major League seasons in 1994 (when he won the ERA title) and 1995 (when he made a career-high 22 starts and was an American League All-Star).

It is that resume – and his reputation for effectively teaching the six pitches he threw – that has spurred his thriving post-playing career as the Spin Doctor. Ontiveros gets his clients from agents, parents and players themselves. In private sessions, he teaches his students grips, techniques, mechanics and conditioning. A physical education major with a concentration in sports medicine in college, Ontiveros incorporates his knowledge of how the body moves to help his students perfect proper deliveries.

The change-up is one of the most important elements of a pitcher’s arsenal, Ontiveros believes. He teaches two grips – one that makes the ball sink, and another that causes a cutting motion.

“I had been trying to learn a change-up for four years, and Steve taught it to me in a few minutes. About five pitches in, it just clicked," Street said. “I would have never thought of that grip. Now it’s part of my pitch selection.”

That is inspiring to Ontiveros, the pitching guru who would rather have a staff of hurlers who throw with accuracy and movement than sheer power alone.

"What separates top pitchers from everyone else is a consistently good breaking ball," said Ontiveros, who would like to eventually get a chance as a Major League pitching coach. “I’m living proof that you can win games and get hitters out without having a blazing fast ball. Power is helpful, but control and deception are vital.”


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