Category Archives: Throwing

LONG TOSS: “Go Looong and Strooong!”

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???

THROWING 101: Basics

The most basic and important skill needed to play baseball is throwing the ball properly. If a player can throw, he/she can play almost any position, including pitcher! Baseball is a team game and requires accurate throwing in getting the ball from spot-to-spot. Each player MUST master throwing the ball properly in order to be a good team player AND to avoid arm injuries. Pitching is more advanced and specialized throwing with the same fundamental mechanics.

A player MUST practice throwing with the proper mechanics in order to be prepared to play. Repetition is the key in building arm strength and accuracy. It requires hard work, practice, and determination to throw properly.
NOTE: If a player’s arm is sore or aches, STOP throwing!! Rest for a few days and if it persists, see a doctor.

BASIC THROWING MECHANICS: “How to properly throw a ball”

  1. ATTITUDE: I can throw! Believe you can and visualize success!
  2. ATHLETIC POSITION: Balanced, feet outside hips, knees slightly bent
  3. PROPER GRIP: 4-seams(across the “C”), lightly!
  4. “T” FORMATION: Form a perfect “T” perpendicular to the target
  5. KNUCKLES UP: The ball in 4-seam grip with knuckles up
  6. 9-12-6: Rotate the arm/hips in a clockwise motion and stay LONG
  7. HIGH 5: At 12 reach high and keep the hand on top of the ball
  8. FOLLOW THROUGH: Pull down and pick up a $50 bill(defense)

DRILLS(5-15 minutes depending on skill level)

  1. Knee Drill: On one knee(throwing side) and do “T” drill(9-12-6)
  2. “T” Drill: Play catch 12-15’ apart. Emphasize motion and stay LONG!
  3. 30-35’ Catch: Play catch exaggerating proper mechanics. Focus on hip turn, staying LONG, and follow through.
  4. Long Toss: Play catch from extended lengths(depends on age/skill) in order to “stretch out” the arm to build arm strength.
  5. “Goose Flip”: The elbow of the throwing hand “sits” in the glove hand with arm straight up. Bend wrist with ball in 4-seam grip and “flip” it to teammate or wall without moving arm. (30-40 reps)

PRACTICE YOUR “FUNDIES”!! Fundamentals! Throw EVERY day during the season and create a daily, weekly, and monthly routine for both the season and off-season.

The Tony Lucadello Wall and Plan

The GREAT Wall of Dreams!

Tony Lucadello’s concept of a 4’x4’ concrete wall in every kid’s back yard is based on the same principle of having a basketball hoop available for youngsters. The wall would provide a viable opportunity for a youth to just go outside and throw the ball against the wall in order to develop his/her baseball fundamentals without needing any adult or other person. Just throwing the ball and fielding it will lead to self exploration and empower a player to learn that the game is played, physically, below the waist, and that one needs to repeat the drills in order that the mechanics become second nature. The last and most important stage of learning is repetition…over and over again and again! If a wall was not affordable, Tony recommended that a player use the garage door, wood fence, the school yard’s concrete walls, or other; today one could utilize various throwbacks that are prevalent in the marketplace.

The Lucadello Plan explained how to build the Wall as well as how to practice with it. The basis of his Plan was to instill the value of building arm strength, increasing reaction time, improving footwork, developing an accurate throwing motion, and learning the value and art of visualization. His Plan had six basic principles: 1. Learn to position your feet for groundballs. 2. Keep head and glove down. 3. Grip the ball cross-seamed(4-seam). 4. Throw with a strong over-the-top delivery. 5. Take 100 groundballs every day. 6. Play with enthusiasm. Moreover, he encouraged each player to take 50 swings per day and if possible have someone(Dad?/mom?) throw him/her 50 plastic golf balls/whiffles to hit. These swings, along with the 100 groundballs and 100 throws(to create the grounders), would establish the Wall as the perfect environment for developing the work ethic and repetitions needed to become a solid player. It would take less than an hour!

The Lucadello Wall and Plan are very simplistic opportunities for youth who really want to learn the game and develop the skill sets to GET GOOD! If the Wall is there, they will find it! If a youngster thinks that the Wall is boring, then it is not their “Wall of Dreams” or passion. However, if the love and the passion of the game is real, the youngster(s) will go to the wall and work without complaint and figure out the proper mechanics of throwing and fielding with accuracy, and will develop arm strength, endurance, and success on the diamond.

The Wall itself may be used for practicing other sport skill sets..only one’s creativity will delimit the usage. Moreover, a player can play “wall ball”, tape a target on it for improving accuracy, do the “hat in the mouth” defensive drill, practice on one’s knees(pad or grass) keeping the ball in front of the body/eyes, throw a golf ball gently to work on faster grounders, use a reaction ball or other “odd ones” etc., or just throw at various distances to stretch out the arm and its muscle groups. Again, all these can be done without pressure, fear of failure, and can become a regular time to release stress and learn the basic mechanics of the greatest game!!

Thanks Tony, for the “Wall of Dreams”!! Hopefully, young players will heed the call and get to it. Not just for getting the baseball mechanics down, but for the love of the game, and the lessons of life that baseball teaches!!! GAGPTH! YBON! KWTP!

Arm Care and Injuries: Pitchers

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!!

The POWER of the FINGER(s)

“It’s finger poppin’ time”

Baseball is a game of hand-eye coordination. The use of the hands, and fingers in particular, are key in playing the game with success. It is imperative to develop small motor skills and working with the fingers to insure that a player has the strength and grip to pick up and throw the ball accurately! Also, fingers are essential in hitting and catching!

It is key to be in good physical shape (lungs, legs, arms, CORE, etc) but finger strength is one of the most important areas to develop. Obviously, a person uses his/her fingers every day in many activities. The normal daily use is not enough to develop strong fingers, wrist, and/or hands. Below are listed some ways to strengthen the muscles in the hands/fingers/wrists and prepare the player for the rigors of throwing, catching, and hitting a baseball/softball.

1. Eat with chop sticks: This will empower a player to increase hand-eye and develop strong fingers. Begin with one kernel of corn and work down to one kernel of rice. A good drill is to have a pile of rice (uncooked) and pick each piece up and put it into a jar.
2. Finger Warm up: Begin by touching your thumb of one hand to each finger tip in turn, making sure that each touch makes a perfect O shape. Do this ten times for each finger on both hands.
3. Flipping Coins: Learn to flip coins with each finger. After practicing, try to flip coins into a small container 2-3 feet away. Hard but FUN! Use EVERY finger!
4. Fingertip Push Ups: The best of these is do a conventional fingertip pushup on the floor. Stiffen the fingers and do perfect pushups; 3 reps of ten each. The other fingertip pushup is to use a wall and lean forward with just your hands flat against the wall (distance should be a bit more than arms length). Bend your arms and elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall, use only your fingertips to push your way back to the original position; 3 sets of 10 reps.
5. Buy a large bag of rice (20 pounds or so). Each day (1-3 times) put your hand completely in the bag and open and shut your hand 25-35 times per hand. Also, twist your wrists 30-50 times. Do both hands. Be sure to wash rice before eating!!
6. Roll-ups: Using a bat or rod, hold it straight out chest high and with both hands on it, roll it 20 or 30 revolutions without lowering the bat. Then reverse the roll. You may also make a roll-up device by taking a dowel, drilling a hole in it, and attaching a 24” or so piece of twine with a 1-2 pound weight on it. Do 3 reps of 10 with this and your hands/fingers will “muscle up”.
7. Paper Crunches: Hold a sheet of newspaper between your thumb and forefinger at arm’s length. Then, using ONLY your fingertips, crumple the newspaper into a ball. Repeat with other hand!
8. Tennis Balls or Other Hand Exercisers: You may buy many commercial hand-stretchers and they are all good. A cheaper way is to take an old tennis ball and squeeze it 40-50 times (thumb off the ball) 2-3 times per day with each hand!

There are many other drills and exercises you may do, as well as household chores that will improve your fingertip, wrist, and hand strength. Do something each and every day as well as surprise your parents by helping out!! Win-win!! Remember: Perfect practice makes Perfect! GAGPTH!