It is quite obvious that overuse of the arms of youngsters is a major problem at ALL levels of youth baseball. Coaches need to understand the value of proper mechanics, teach viable pre and post game routines, the danger of throwing “breaking balls”, and instill the importance of reporting pain in the arm to both them and parents. Parents should oversee the pitch counts, coaching philosophies, and be sure to protect the players from arm abuse. Many adults are so intent on winning the game and projecting their youngsters to the pros, that they do not see the downside of throwing and pitching too much or with a flawed set of mechanics.
Some Very Simple RULES to Consider
- Do not play year round. Keep the arm “in shape” with occasional throwing but rest it by playing 2-3 other sports in the off season.(See #5)
- Learn the proper throwing/pitching mechanics.
- NO CURVE BALLS until the arm is fully developed and the player is throwing from 60’6”.
- Watch for overuse. Use strict pitch counts, taking a full day off between pitching dates, etc. Common sense rules!
- Develop arm strength with stretching routines, long toss, lunges, roll-ups, and other light wrist and forearm lifting drills. Throw 3-5 times per week for 10-15 minutes in the off-season. Increase as it gets closer to the start of the next season.
- NEVER pitch a full game on consecutive days.
- No NOT throw or pitch with pain in the arm, elbow and/or shoulder. See a doctor if pain persists.
- Forget the radar gun..most are inaccurate and velocity is over-rated.
- Emphasize the mental aspect of pitching and focus on control and changing speeds/location/etc.
- Avoid throwing a whiffle ball or other light balls as these can strain the arm.
- Let the arm have proper rest and keep a journal as to how many innings/pitches/etc you throw. Ice after each pitching session(even practice).
- See a doctor if you have any numbness or shooting arm pains..NOW!
- Focus on COMMAND Drills(being able to throw or pitch to and exact location).
- Keep in mind that arm abuse can affect your later life and even eliminate the ability to playing catch with your own children. KWTP!
A pitcher must be physically and mentally prepared to pitch in a game. This will require a number of exercises, conditioning repetitions, and mental considerations to be performed prior to the actual game! Below are listed suggested plans/recommendations for pre-game and post-game preparations.
- Stretch your entire body and arm BEFORE you throw a ball. NEVER throw to warm up!!
- Arm exercises and tubular resistance reps with an elastic cord.
- Do mechanics work(9-12-6, etc) for first 5 minutes without a ball.
- Throw warm-up pitches at 50% from 40 feet using entire arm motion.
- Throw only 4-seam fastballs while warming up.
- Throw 10-15 pitches from behind the mound(10 feet) to a standing catcher.
- After the warm up pitches, throw 35-40 pitches from the mound with catcher in the squat. 50% in stretch and 50% in full wind up.
- Throw inside, outside, high and low in the zone, using all your pitches.
- End of the warm up: Last 10-15 pitches at 100% with pitches you will use in the 1st inning!!
- Mental Focus: Clear your mind and focus on the game. Do not concern yourself with factors YOU can not control: weather, field, umpire, fans, etc.
- Review signs with your catcher and basic pitch strategy. Review with coach.
- HOME GAME: Run 3-4 foul poles. Walk one more!
- Begin warm up throwing 30 minutes before the game, so you finish 5-10 minutes prior.
- Go to dugout and put on jacket and sit and relax. Review game plan and have a few sips of water.
- AWAY GAME: Start warm up throwing 20 minutes before the game starts so you will be ready at the end of your team’s at bats. Go to the dugout with 2 outs and sit and have a few sips of water.
- ALWAYS put on your jacket after your warm up…no matter the weather!!
- ALWAYS ice your arm after you pitch(unless playing another position).
- 20 minutes on shoulder and 10 minutes on elbow!! Apply 30 minutes after pitching NO MATTER how many pitches you throw!!
- Put on your jacket after icing or if at home, put on a long sleeve jacket or shirt.
- ALWAYS run 6-8 poles after the game. This will help circulate your blood and rid your body of lactic acid that builds up during the game.
TWO DAYS BEFORE PITCHING:
- Extensive arm stretching and elastic resistance tube exercises.
- Throw 30-35 pitches on a mound to a catcher in a squat.
- Warm up playing catch. Exaggerate mechanics and lob the ball.
- Throw at 100% and mix pitches.
- FOCUS on your general target, between the catcher’s shoulders and knees. Last 8 pitches to a specific glove target.
- Run eight(8) foul poles. Do 5 forty(40) yard dashes and light agility work(ladders, side jumps, etc.)
ONE DAY BEFORE PITCHING:
- NO THROWING!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Batting practice.
- Tube resistance drills and exercises.
- Run 5-6 40 yard dashes and light agility drills.
- Eat a good dinner…FIVE COLORS!!
- Get a very good night sleep: 8 hours and NO sleepovers!!
Being a pitcher is hard work…it is up to YOU to PREPARE: be in good shape, have a plan, and follow a good, sound pre-game, post-game, and between games routine!! GAGPTH!
Arm, shoulder and elbow, injuries are on the rise in youth baseball rather than decreasing!! There are more Tommy John surgeries and labrum repairs in youth ball than in professional baseball!! Listed below are the common causes found in the American Sports Medical Institute(ASMI) data from treating and rehabbing thousands of youngsters.
1. Lack of a long term throwing and conditioning program. There should be at least one month of progressive throwing before actually pitching in a game. Preparing the arm to pitch is very important. A solid pre-season throwing program should include stretching, form running, and throwing short to long (increasing the distance periodically). Youth players need to throw (catch, bull pen, etc) and long-toss in order to build arm strength and endurance.
2. Over-use. This is caused by throwing too many pitches in a single outing/game. This may cause throwing with arm fatigue and will increase the risk of serious injury. Pitch counts are vital! It is not about the innings but the actual pitches thrown.
3. Overload. This is pitching without proper recovery time. Generally this is a result of pitching for more than one team, too many starts in a week, too much pitching in the off-season, and lack of arm care/maintenance between pitching starts. Pitchers should have a scheduled program throughout the season with days of rest and recovery.
4. Improper pitching mechanics. If a player does not have proper mechanics, the chance of injury is exponential. The body and arm MUST be in the optimum position during the delivery. The head alignment, landing, posture, trunk flex, and balance all must be considered.
5. Over-exertion of the pitching arm. This is a result of a player attempting to throw 100% all the time. Pitchers should vary their throwing and generally be at the 90% effort level.
Be careful of the arm and develop a common sense regimen for proper pitching!!
Pitching a baseball is not only a skill but also an art. It is the most important defensive skill, and pitching will win most games. Hitting is the essence of the game but pitching wins games.
In order to be a successful pitcher you MUST learn and practice the proper fundamentals of pitching. Many young players have a knack for getting the ball over the plate and just need to develop proper technique and arm strength. The key to good, solid pitching is CONTROL! Control is developed over time by learning the correct mechanics and hours of throwing/pitching. As with hitting, good pitching is the result of perfect practice. Remember: It takes patience, hard work, focus/concentration to learn how to pitch a baseball.
NOTE: Proper arm care is a MUST! Do not throw or pitch with a sore arm.
BASIC PITCHING MECHANICS
1. ATTITUDE: “King of the Hill”; I can throw strikes!
2. CONSISTENCY OF MOTION: Throw each pitch off the same arm motion
3. ADDRESS THE BATTER: Both feet on the rubber(mound) in the athletic position
4. GRIP: Use the 4—finger grip(fingers across the seams, thumb under the ball)
5. FOCUS ON THE CATCHER’s MITT: SEE and HIT the target
6. WIND-UP: Rock forward, small step straight back, and step in
7. LEG LIFT: Become a crane with front knee straight up
8. STRIDE: Stride to the target with eyes on target
9. DELIVERY: Extend the throwing arm with balance; stay long 9-12-6
10. FOLLOW THROUGH and FINISH: Pitching hand follows toward the ground and end in defensive position
1. Stretch and warm up as an individual or team(10-15 minutes)
Stretch major muscle groups, jog, sprint, short and long toss
2. Pitching Basics
Take the rubber and address the hitter in the athletic position
The “crane” and kick/stride
Delivery and Follow through to defensive player
Mirror: address, grip, motion
Target pitch(short and long)
Visual drills: See visual sheet
D. Throw bullpen and simulated batters(use live batter)
PRACTICE YOUR “FUNDIES”!! Fundamentals!! Focus on the catcher’s mitt/target. Do not over-practice…let your arm rest! The very essence of success in getting batters out is CONSISTENCY with LOCATION and changing speeds. RUN: Legs and the core body are the secret to success. VISUALIZE!!
“It is NOT how hard you throw BUT how accurate!”
The main goal of a pitcher is to deceive the batter and to upset his timing! A good efficient pitcher will get the batter to hit the ball early in the count and mix speeds with various grips/motions. Most importantly, a pitcher will never throw the same pitch, at the same speed, to the same location to the same batter in an at bat! Below are listed the things that a pitcher does not want a hitter to know:
1. The plate is only 17” wide: Actually it is 13” as the middle 4” is “clobberville”, hence the plate is a very small target for the pitcher to hit. In fact, some umps make it even smaller!! The size of the plate makes it very easy for a good hitter to protect. Hitters: Establish your strike zone and GYPTH!
2. NO Pitcher has perfect control and/or command: In each plate appearance, a hitter will get at least ONE very good pitch to hit…find YOURS! Take a pitch or two; getting deep into the count puts pressure on the pitcher. The more pitches you see the easier it is to time the pitch.
3. Pitcher’s effectiveness suffers as his pitch count rises: Arms tire and the legs lose push, therefore, control wanes and he makes more mistakes. Swinging early helps the pitcher! NEVER allow a pitcher a three(3) pitch inning!
4. Most pitchers love to work the outside corners: This creates more room for misses/error and these pitches are harder to hit. Increase plate coverage and hit the outside pitch to the opposite field. Do not try to pull the ball, but let it travel more and hit it with a short, quick swing the other way.
5. Everyone loves a Home Run hitter: Pitchers love to see the batter who swings with an upper cut and one who has a long swing. They will throw off speed and high(above the hands) to get the easy pop up. Pitchers hate the “chippers” who just “chip away”.
A pitchers WORST nightmare: He has to come to you with a pitch. He must throw the ball through a very small window. He will make a mistake during your at bat. You expect the outside pitch. The short, quick swing will lead to his short quick stay on the bump!!!
Hitters: Work the count and GYPTH!!!