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Youth Baseball Pitching: Teaching Proper Mechanics Critical

Critical point #5 (glove to chest): This is also "not so new." Research proves that the (RHP) glove must stop over the knee and not fly or swing out towards 1st base. Credit here goes to Dr. Tom House who developed this technique over a dozen years ago. An accurate pitcher moves the chest to the glove. In our collective opinion, (the Pinkman family) there is nothing more important a child can do to throw the ball straight than to keep the glove side firmly in front of his chest in line with home plate and his eyes level to the horizon.

For many years conventional wisdom said that speed was increased by pulling the glove to the chest. As I have indicated before, recreational ball players almost always pull their core and upper body off-balance and dramatically tilt their eyes when the pull there glove to their chest. The glove usually ends up far away and to the side of their body. This action accounts for the overwhelming majority of pitchers who cannot consistently throw strikes. Yet we routinely see pitchers enter our academy who have been repeatedly and consistently instructed to pull the glove to their chest. (What have you read lately??)

Extending the glove to home plate and taking your chest to your glove produces a late release, decreasing the distance the ball travels in the air. This makes it very difficult for the batter to see and hit the ball. The power goes into the ball rather than continuing to circulate outside and to the left of the body, dissipating energy.

The actual mathematical equation states that for every twelve inches you can extend the ball release, you will gain 3 MPH of perceived velocity. However, you will lose 2 inches of arm extension to the plate for every inch your head moves off the center line between your nose and home plate.

There are many arm motions. Most of them are invented by Little Leaguers trying to imitate pros. Bizarre pro motions have somehow survived and serve the professional well. They are the result of natural, unconscious talent and cannot be changed. I would and couldn't teach those motions to children. Throwing a football is the easiest way to determine the natural arm slot or angle. The ball is too big and heavy to be creative in the throw.

Arm motions determine where the fingers will be on the ball at release. Consequently arm slot or position at release will have a huge effect on the flight of the ball, particularly in "curving" balls due to the intended or unintended axis of rotation imparted on the ball. There are some pitchers who just physically can't throw specific pitches due to their arm slot. Late timing has a big effect here too.

Critical point #6 (follow-through): Deceleration is the biomechanical term for follow-through. It the necessary process the body must engage to stop the arm from moving. Overhand arm action, specifically throwing, is the fastest motion the muscular system can produce. It is natural. As former major league pitcher and current USC Pitching Coach, Tom House, says, "Our ancestors survived by throwing rocks at rabbits and spears at deer".

The problem is that there are many more muscles in the acceleration action than the deceleration action. Poor pitchers get posterior (back) shoulder pain from poor mechanics. We are seeing this in players as young as age nine. They also get sore from a lack of posterior shoulder conditioning. The follow-through is like a see saw. The knee is the fulcrum. If the body has attained the correct position; nose over stride foot, chest to glove, navel to catcher's glove, the head will go down, allowing the trailing leg to go up and over, landing slightly in front of and to the side of the stride foot. The torso should be

parallel to the ground with the back flat during this motion. The throwing arm on a RHP should be on the left side of the left knee. If the throwing hand thumb is pointing toward home - call the Doc and make an appointment for your child's soon-to-be acute pain.

IN ALL PITCHES the hand should pronate (rotate counter clockwise for RHP) and thumb should point to the rear as the arm comes to rest.

[Note: The argument about when a child should learn to throw a curve ball continues unabated, but the fact is that a pitcher is more likely to get an arm injury from throwing the fastball the wrong way. They throw them at full speed and more often.]

The body must land in a defensive position to field a ball hit from the aluminum bats everyone loves so much. The pitcher should stop in a position where the nose, navel and knees are all pointing directly toward home just as an infielder would. Quite often pitchers land in a very dangerous position where their feet are crossed and they fall off to the side of the mound. The glove will then be on the second base side of the body - totally useless. A pitcher has less than ½ a second to see and catch a line drive-time it.

Take-away points

So here's the wrap up. Take time to learn. Obviously this short article will not teach you everything you need to know to train a pitcher. Hopefully, it will answer a question or two. But I do want this article to serve as opening the door to continued study. I hope you are curious. I hope you are motivated to continue to learn! You can teach!

  • Minimize useless motion
  • Stay balanced  
  • Step straight
  • Point the glove at the target
  • Hips open before the arm moves  
  • Keep the eyes level
  • Point the nose at the target through the glove
  • Decelerate completely -finish the throw

Pitching power (and all throwing for that matter) begins when the stride foot hits the ground. Get your nose and stride foot going directly straight to home, keep the eyes level to the horizon, control balance always maintaining the head over the center of gravity.

Teaching points

  • Do not use vague terms that a students cannot act upon or even understand like: "throw hard", - a wall is hard, rocks are hard. What does that have to do with throwing? "Come on --- throw strikes!" What do you think they are trying to do?
  • Take away stress and pressure. Do not throw gasoline on the fire. I leave you to ponder this. How do YOU teach a child to throw inside verses outside; you ask them to do it all the time. Ask any player how to throw faster; I bet they cannot answer that question. Ask several pitchers at once and you will get as many different guesses.
  • Teach mental skills.  Baseball coaches have been saying for decades, "I can accept physical mistakes, we all make them. I can't and will not accept mental errors!"  In my experience, the advice means absolutely nothing to players because they cannot act upon it!. Players are thinking to themselves, although never out loud by the intimidated player, "Coach, when exactly was it that practices mental skills?"

Baseball is backwards. It's the only game where the defense has the ball. The offense spends the whole game running away from the ball. The pitcher controls a game where his opponent, if he's good, fails 7 out of 10 times. But only if he throws strikes!

Please remember this always - Honor the Game

Contact me directly if you wish, I care.

Most recently revised and updated March 30, 2012

John Pinkman is MomsTeam's baseball expert, head of Pinkman Baseball Academy, and a nationally known columnist and expert in diagnosing sore arms and abnormal motion. He conducts clinics for physical therapists on how to discover the origins of sore arms from video capture. If your child has a problem or a sore arm, John can most likely diagnose the problem if you send a video clip to john@pinkman.us.