Right around the age of 8, kids transition from tee ball and/or coach pitch and get their first taste of toeing the rubber. Kids and parents alike want nothing more than for little Johnny to become the next Nolan Ryan. With nothing but the best of intentions in mind, coaches and parents overwhelm the kids’ heads with a ton of pitching mechanics needed to fulfill those dreams. Unfortunately, most times, the information is either false wisdoms or over the kids’ heads. Or it is information they are simply not ready for.
Here are a few basic guidelines to follow on how to best guide your kid as they begin their journey as a pitcher:
Do not buy little Johnny, who is 60 pounds soaking wet, a humongous baseball glove. The weight of that huge glove will pull the glove arm down when he throws and create one of the worst, and hardest habits to correct. You want that glove to “stay strong”, meaning the glove stays in place at foot strike as he brings his chest to the glove in his pitching delivery.
Do not try an alter his throwing arm. Do not have him “throw over the top” or “extend your arm back or stop short arming the ball…or vice versa”. How a pitcher throws is their signature, meaning unique to them. It is normal for some to have a lower natural arm slot than others and it is normal to be short on the back side and some to be longer.
Have them start pitching from the stretch and not the windup. All the windup is, is a transition to the stretch. You will not throw faster in a windup (most of the hardest throwers in the MLB are the relievers, and they all throw from the stretch every pitch…think Aroldis Chapman) and the windup creates more variables in the delivery and therefore much harder to repeat the delivery for a young and functionally weak athlete.
Throw every day, year-round, just not on the mound. The mound is the only unnatural thing about throwing and adds stress to the arm. Also, it does not have to be a baseball. He can throw a wiffle ball, tennis ball, football, dodgeball, etc. The more he throws, the more he will build up arm speed and strength. Mix it up and make throwing fun.
Simplify the teaching ques to the following:
Go Fast - Lift the leg as high as he can without losing balance and get your body going fast to home plate. The faster he goes, the less that can go wrong.
Eyes Level – his natural arm slot is one that keeps his eyes level at release. If you are unsure, hit a grounder to him at shortstop and have him throw to first base. How he throws in that situation without thinking will likely be his natural arm slot.
Stay Strong – Keep that glove up and in the middle up the body and make sure he brings his chest to the glove. Don’t let the glove drop off the side (that will make his head pull to that side and make it so his eyes cannot be level) and do not tuck the glove.
Drag the back foot – that back foot is like a rudder on the boat helping to keep his body mass going as direct to home plate as possible.
Good luck and have fun. Pitching is the best position in all of sports. You control everything that happens. No matter how good hitters get, good pitching will always beat good hitting.