Every baseball player should take proper care of his/her arm. The key is to develop a strong arm which will be able to endure rigorous work and game use, as well as avoiding any soreness or injury. Most importantly, young players should spend adequate time and thought in getting their arm in shape and to build the resiliency needed to avoid injury and undue strain. The important adage is to “warm up to throw” not “throw to warm up”. Young players must have a simple but effective regimen to prepare for the season as well as games and practices. They must be instructed in proper throwing/pitching mechanics, the importance of “shutting down” if arm soreness or injury occurs, and a belief in stretching and viable throwing drills.
Prior to each season, each practice, and each game, each player must warm up with ample arm stretching and throwing drills. Again, prior to throwing a single ball, players must “warm up to throw”! They must be taught not to run from the car, grab a ball, and begin throwing…stretch, run, and then throw! Arm preparation and safety are imperative to having a fun and successful experience!
One of the most effective drills is LONG TOSS. As a player goes through his/her pre-season, pre-practice, or pre-game drills, it is a very good idea to have them do a few minutes of long toss to further elongate the muscles, “warm up the gun”, and to get in a few longer throws before actual throwing or game situations.
Long toss should be a gradual exercise. Players begin at 15-20 feet(depends upon age/ability) and gradually move to longer distances. There are not set number of throws and these should be determined by the player/coach. Each throw must be at a 25-degree arc for initial throws(chest high:8-12U to 70 feet), then at 30-degree with a crow hop(to 100 feet), and finally longer distances(up to 150+) at a 35-degree arc. The number of feet per various throws should be determined according to age group and abilities. There must be NO strain in the throws; hence each individual will be throwing from different distances for long toss drills. A basic rule is to throw the ball so there is not a visible or high arc(balls no higher than teammate’s head). NEVER throw as hard as you can, and keep it so the arm is elongated without strain.
There is no set time at each distance and individuals should build a routine that is comfortable to best fit his/her needs, and to get the arm warm and ready to play! Upon reaching a realistic final distance, the players should continue to throw coming back towards each other at 15-20 feet intervals. Throughout the long toss work, players must maintain the same velocity/intensity to insure maximum results. A helpful hint: When preparing for each toss, the player should not step towards their target with the front foot, but step to the throwing hand side with the opposite foot and then to the target with the throwing side foot.
Long toss should be incorporated in all team and individual throwing workouts/practices. Moreover, to maintain good arm strength, durability, and health, a player should throw 3-5 times a week for 5-10 minutes!!
Final Thought: Nolan Ryan threw long toss by HIMSELF! He would take a bucket of balls to a field and throw various distances and then go pick up the balls and put them into a bucket. He would increase the distances until he reached his maximum distance…each time picking up each ball and carrying them back with his throwing hand/arm. Wonder why he suffered so few arm injuries and aberrations in all his years of playing and lasted 27 years in the Big Leagues???