For Teaching Young Players who are Learning how to Throw!
So where do we begin?
I nor anyone can promise they'll throw like Roger Clemens :), but we're going to maximize potential, so let's explore a sequence of drills build up a proper throw and encourage proper mechanics by working backwards, simplifying and isolating each unique element of the throw. I believe in these drills and I use them religiously on my teams and with my son. I credit these drills with improving the my son's mechanics helping him become a young fireballer. This sequence is the set of core drills. There are many other specialized drills, some of which we will be adding later or upon request, but these are essential.
The proper two figure grip is shown in figure 1. Index finger and middle finger span the "horseshoe" shape made by the laces. The thumb is positioned under the ball, almost directly centered under the two figures above.
Baseball Throw 101
So many of our young players never achieve a full body throw. Here are some common problems:
Start with the drills below - they are tried and true !!
When kids are young their hands will be too small to use a two seam grip, it is find to use three fingers until their hands are big enough for the two finger grip. Try to encourage the thumb underneath the ball, close to dead center. If you're coaching a team, line up all the boys and show them the correct grip. Visually inspect and adjust as necessary.
Throwing drill #1: Finger Roll....
With a throwing partner, stand about 8 feet apart. Using the correct grip, raise your throwing arm up in front int he direction of your throwing partner. Position your glove under your throwing elbow to ensure the elbow remains at shoulder height. With ball in hand, rock the throwing arm backward towards the throwing shoulder and then forward with the wrist and hand lagging. It is not a basketball shot, and should take a flat or down hill path to your throwing partner. The ball should roll of the the tips/pads of the two fingers close to the same time, middle finger a hair later. Repeat.
Objective: The purpose of this drill is to remove all other degrees of freedom other than the those associated with the forearm, wrist and fingers, and to learn how to make the ball spin backwards. It also replicates the final push (big wheel) from the forearm and fingers.
Throwing drill #2: One Knee Throw....
Move about 20 feet from you partner and get down on one knee (throwing arm side knee) as shown, and the glove side knee pointed toward throwing partner. With the correct grip, rotate the torso and point the ball toward third base (pretending your on a pitchers mound) keeping the elbow at shoulder height. Point the glove side elbow at the throwing partner - eyes scope down the elbow toward the partner. The throw should initiate from the torso rotating and moving down toward the knee, and this should be the focus, feeling the power of the torso rotation and having that initiate the throw. The arm should remain long, with the ball outside the elbow and the elbow remain near shoulder height or above (not dropping). Much like the Finger Roll drill, the throw should culminate with the final twitch out through the finger tips. Focus on moving the body first. Body, then arm at the end. Body then arm. Repeat
Objective: The purpose of this drill is to remove the degrees of freedom from the waist down, and only to focus on using the torso to generate the rotational force.
Throwing drill #3: Straddle Stretch....
Moving a bit further apart now, stand facing your partner with throwing hand and ball in the glove out in front. Rotate the upper body into same position as the "One Knee Throw" with the ball pointing towards third base by separating the hands as the torso rotates and builds up potential rotational energy. Just like the "One Knee Throw" initiate the throw with the torso, and maintain the same form as described above.
Objective: The purpose of this drill is to remove the degrees of freedom from the waist down, and only to focus on using the torso to generate the rotational force. The feeling of using the torso is exaggerated because in this drill, the hips are open toward our throwing partner. This helps players recognize where the power is coming from.
Throwing Drill #4: Rock and Throw
Moving about 90 feet apart position your body sideways relative to your throwing partner. One of the most common mistakes in a baseball throw is not position sideways and staying "closed". In doing so, players fail to maximize the potential of their throw because surrender the power of their legs, thus surrendering the rotational force they can generate in the torso, and thus the throw becomes mostly upper body and arm. Start perfectly sideways relative to your throwing partner with hands together as shown. Then rock the weight forward, then back, then forward into the throw. In doing so, players will feel the energy that can come from the strong back leg.
Objective: The purpose of this drill is to promote use of legs and torso in the throw. In sequence with the drills above, we have built a proper throw by starting and the end and working backwards.
Throwing Drill #5 Shuffle Throw....
Now that we've built up the throw by working backwards, continue with a shuffle throw. This is done by again standing sideways relative to your throwing partner, and shuffling the back foot either in front of or behind the front foot (preference), ultimately putting the throwing partner in a position similar to the rock and throw drill above (frame 3). Continue into a long toss.
Time is on your side....
As we all know, we are setting examples for these kids, and so we'll need some patience. These drills require practice and reputation, but eventually, players' bodies will learn to maximize their own potential if they are practiced religiously. It took me 2 years of repeating these drills with my young player before we achieved the form we were looking for.
Also keep it fun. If playing, throwing, practicing isn't fun for the kids, they aren't going to want to keep doing it. While 7 y/o baseball may seem like the most important thing in the world for you and your son, I look back now and think...it was a marathon not a sprint....I shouldn't have taken it so super seriously. I should have been more patient. Time is on your side. If you religiously use these drills with every warm up, their bodies will adjust, adapt, improve. Thanks for reading! I hope this helps!