Watch CBS News

Snapshot New York: 42-year-old Rob Semerano won't give up his dream of pitching in the major leagues

Snapshot New York: Rob Semerano, 42, chasing his MLB dream
Snapshot New York: Rob Semerano, 42, chasing his MLB dream 04:13

FARMINGDALE, N.J. -- The movie "The Rookie" was a true story about an aging high school coach who discovered he could throw the ball faster than ever.

A New Jersey baseball instructor is trying to follow in his footsteps.

In this week's Snapshot New York, CBS New York's Steve Overmyer meet a coach who's defying the odds, and defying logic.

Under a canopy of pine trees in New Jersey, a dream is materializing.

"This is my sanctuary. When I get on the mound, that's when I feel my best," Rob Semerano said.

Echoing through the woods is the sound of pure heat.

Semerano is 42 years old and throwing faster than ever. Overmyer joined him for a workout in his backyard. His first pitches were in the mid 90s, but he was just getting warmed up.

"Honestly, ever since I was 2 years old, I wanted to play in the major leagues ... I wanna show people that it's not over when most of society says it's over," Semerano said. "People keep saying, 'When are you gonna stop trying?' I said, I'm gonna do this as long as I want to, as long as it's still in my heart to want to do it."

Web Extra: Rob Semerano, 42, not giving up his dream of pitching in the major leagues 02:27

Rob's journey to the big leagues began at Fordham University. His 90s-plus fastball and competitive fire got him drafted by the Oakland A's, but fate had a different plan. Rob's budding career ended after Tommy John surgery.

"It's a very tough blow when it happens, but I keep bouncing back," Semerano said.

It's been 14 years since he left baseball. He now works with young baseball players at a skill development company he co-founded with his father."I literally cherish every time I get to do this," Semerano said.

Two years ago, he found himself at a crossroads.

"I got a divorce ... I was in kind of a dark place. I said, 'You know what, I'm gonna use this,'" Semerano said. "I wanted to show my boys that even though something that could on the surface seem negative can happen, you can use that as fuel to create a positive."

So he built a regulation pitching mound in his own backyard. Now, he stands tall on a mound that has become a beacon of faith and a launching pad for hope.

"This has been put in my heart to do this. I throw a baseball because I love throwing a baseball. If every major league team came and told me there's no shot you're ever gonna play in the big leagues, I'd still throw the baseball 'cause I love doing it. But obviously if a team came knocking, I would be ecstatic," Semerano said.

With his boys and his mother cheering from the deck, every pitch got faster until he threw at 101 mph.

"I couldn't believe it. Honestly, I really was just floored by it, but I also at that point was so locked in on what I was doing that it didn't totally sink in yet ... but deep down there was a little kid inside of me going nuts," Semerano said.

During a 45-pitch bullpen session on a regulation mound with a regulation ball, he ended up throwing seven pitches over 100 mph. But how is that possible? The answer is science.

"Is your pitching motion the same as what it was when you were pitching in the minor leagues?" Overmyer asked.

"No, I'd say it's changed," Semerano said. "The biggest thing is I just have a better understanding of where you generate velocity. When I was in the minor leagues, I could feel what I was doing, but I didn't quite know exactly where I was getting it from, where now I'm a lot more conscious of it."

Along his two-year journey to return to baseball, he met Dr. Don Mueller, a professor of physics whose techniques in biomechanics were surprisingly effective.

"What was your thoughts when he tried to describe to you the neutral wrist?" Overmyer asked.

"Initially, I had no idea what he was talking about. He's a very, very intelligent man. I like that. I like the fact that I could tell right from the get-go that he knew what he was talking about and that what he was talking about was science," Semerano said.

"What is the neutral wrist? How is that different than a typical pitch?" Overmyer asked.

"It's really just keeping your wrist as loose as possible so that as you lay back, you can get that extension, or as he calls it dorsiflexion, in your hand," Semerano said. "When we're here, we can only get so much external rotation, but when we supinate, it can actually externally rotate even a little bit more. So the more we can get that ball to kind of just turn and lay back real loose and then boom."

"There's so many things that can go wrong when you have so many levers," Overmyer said.

"Whenever you're creating more velocity, you have to be kind OK with the fact that you're gonna lose command ... So you have to be willing to take those steps backwards with command to be able to generate more velocity," Semerano said. "Anytime you're exploring something new, there's gonna be that moment at first where everybody is kind of like, 'How's that gonna work?' ... The same way people thought that the Earth was flat and then they kind of realized, actually, you know what, it is round, I think the same thing can be true with sports, and I just try to keep my mind open to that."

"If a 42-year-old man can throw 101 mph, you have to think that this method has merit," Overmyer said.

"Yeah. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it had merit," Semerano said.

His backyard is not the end of his journey. It transcends the boundaries of age and possibilities, reminding us it's never too late to chase the impossible.

"If I could impact people and give them hope and inspire, that would be the greatest thing that I could do, even greater than pitching in the major leagues. As much as I personally would like to pitch in the major leagues, I really do get a high from knowing that I could have a real impact on somebody's life," Semearno said.

With his unwaivering belief and relentless pursuit, he's living proof that dreams never expire with age, they just grow stronger.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.