Softball Pitching Drills
JOE’S LONG TOSS
The following speed drill also works for accuracy, while building arm strength. I have my pitchers pitch from approximately 20 feet, 10 balls. Then I have them move in ten foot increments back until they are throwing from as far back as 60 feet.
Once we have maxed out the “comfortable accurate distance” for the drill, I have them move to the rubber, and throw 20-50 hard pitches. I find that combining the short and long distances works on two things at the same time…arm stength (speed) and accuracy.
I recently attended a clinic at Arizona State University that Linda Wells and her staff put on specifically for our team. Assistant Coach Sara Griffin, was working with the pitchers and she had them do a drill that I thought was really good. It goes like this:
Start out in the “K” position. This is the position your body is in when you have taken your stride toward the plate, your glove hand is pointing toward the target and your ball hand is at its highest point. If you look at the body from the third base side, it resembles the letter “K”. As you bring your ball hand around toward the release point, push off the pitching rubber with your trail foot violently so it squares your body to the target. This does a couple of different things. First it adds some power to your release and secondly, it squares your body to the target making it easier to be more consistent. Try this drill.
This drill can be done either with a catcher or against a backstop. The pitcher takes a bucket of balls and moves to a point just behind pitcher’s rubber. Pitch a ball that crosses over the plate. If it crosses the plate, move back 5 feet and toss another one. Continue moving back and increasing the arc of the pitch until you cannot get it across the plate anymore. Then move back to the last sucessful toss and toss 3 more. Measure your distance and next workout, try to beat the mark.
We use this at EVERY practice!!
OFF SPEED PITCHING
Teaching your pitcher to throw Off-Speed.
If a pitcher throws every pitch at the same speed, no matter how fast that is, she gets pounded by the third inning. Batters rely and depend on timing the pitcher’s motions to make that big decision – when to pull the trigger and start their swing. To be a successful pitcher, you must take that
advantage away form the batters.
One tactic a winning pitcher will use is to throw off-speed pitches. Many pitchers will throw a certain pitch for an off-speed pitch and that is all. I have found it is effective to throw all of your different pitches at
different speeds, from one pitch to the next.
Let’s take the fast ball, the pitch you throw with your fast ball grip. That same fast ball can be thrown at say, 55, 45 and 40mph. Now your one single fast ball can be disguised to look like three different pitches. That same
fast ball, thrown at a different speed, from one pitch to the next, forces the batter to have to stop and decide exactly when to start her swing.
This is the best way I have ever found to train a pitcher to throw one pitch at different speeds (an off-speed pitch). It will require a solid concrete wall, a piece of chalk and a tape measure.
Find a concrete or foundation brick wall (preferably with no windows). A handball court wall is ideal. DO NOT USE A STUCCO WALL – a stucco wall is only around 1 inch thick and will be damaged.
Draw a strike zone on the wall with chalk, the strike zone representing the pitcher’s height. Now draw a line across the box dividing the zone into top and bottom halves. For this drill, the pitcher should only throw to the top half of the zone.
Have the pitcher throw at the top half of the zone at 100 percent full speed. Have her keep throwing and backing up to the point the ball just reaches her without hitting the ground. Draw a line on the ground where she starts that pitch. Now we have established the 100 percent mark.
Next, measure the distance from the wall to the point of what would be the regulation throwing distance for the pitcher’s level of play, then subtract two feet. Draw a line at that point. You want the distance to be from the rubber to where the batter would hit the
ball, usually around two feet in front of the back tip of home plate. Now, have the pitcher throw her slowest change-up several times and draw a line at an average distance where the ball comes back and hits the ground. Now we
have established the 40 per cent mark. (The percentage is not accurate but I will use this as an estimate for argument’s sake).
Now measure the distance between the 40 percent mark and the 100 percent mark. Divide that distance into three equal parts and draw a line at what would be the 60 percent and 80 percent distances. Now have the pitcher
return to the 100 percent mark and throw from there.
Have the pitcher throw her fast ball, the pitch she throws with her fast ball grip. Have the pitcher gently put on the brakes at the end of the wind-up so the ball only returns as far as the 60 percent mark. Have her practice that until she can consistently throw it to where the ball comes off the wall and lands on, or very near, the 60 percent line. It will not take long for her to figure this out, as she will catch on to this quickly. It is important to continue keeping the wind-up at 100 percent full speed, but gently slow it down at the last moment.
Once she is consistent at 60 percent, have her do the same thing and have the ball return to the 80 percent mark by again applying the brakes to the last bit of the wind-up. Have her practice throwing at that speed until she can consistently come down on, or very near, the 80 percent line.
Then have her throw to the different lines on command. Have her throw a pitch at 100 percent, then 60 percent, 100 percent, 80 percent, 80 percent, 60 percent, 60 percent, 100 percent, 60 percent, etc. Once she can do this and come pretty close to the correct speed/line, she is ready to try it on the batters.
When one pitch is a different rate of speed then the last pitch – and there are seldom two pitches in a row the same speed – the batters have greater difficulty deciding when to swing. They will have to depend on watching the ball travel from the pitcher’s hand to determine exactly how fast it is
coming. Forcing them to do that reduces the amount of time they have available to around 40 percent of normal.
You can also divide the distance between the 40 percent and 100 percent lines into two equal parts and establish 40 percent, 70 percent and 100 percent distances. This will give the pitcher two speeds available for any
particular pitch. Again, the 100 percent distance will be accurate, the others are estimated distances.
One of the drills that I have the pitchers do is: Stand next to a wall, approximately 4 to 6 inches away, feet angled at a 45 degree, then go through the motion of either slingshot or windmill. What I found by this, is that when they do actually pitch, they do not drop their shoulders and make that swooping motion.
I hope that this helps someone in their pitching practice.
STRIPED BALL FOR PITCHING
I have a few striped balls in my pitching bag for use when teaching the roll drop and the riseball. They are invaluable. I place a stripe right down the middle of the ball and use them in close rotational work to insure the proper rotation is being imparted to the ball. The stripe gives instant feedback to the player and is easy for the catcher to see and determine what rotation has been imparted to the ball.
When throwing a riseball or a peel drop (straight dropball) the pitcher and catcher should see a solid line as the ball flies toward the target. If the line looks solid, the rotation is probably correct. If the line wavers or is non-existant, the rotation is incorrect and more rotational work is needed. The straight drop (peel drop) is released off the “birdie” finger and the rotation is clockwise as viewed from 3rd base. If any other rotation is being imparted to the ball, the ball will not drop. The riseball is just the opposite from the peel drop. The ball must have counter-clockwise rotation as viewed from 3rd base.
Try utilizing the striped ball in your next practice and watch the throwing errors disappear!
THE WALL WORKOUT
Every pitcher has one problem in common; sometimes you need or want to practice your pitching and can’t come up with anyone to catch for you. You don’t need a catcher, a coach or even a softball park to practice your pitching.
Find a solid concrete or foundation brick wall; a handball court wall is ideal. Take a piece of chalk and draw a strike zone box on the wall. Make it the strike zone for your height. Then draw a line through the box, going from left to right, at the same height as the belt on your waist. Draw it all the way across the strike zone box you chalked out. Measure off the same distance you use at your level of play, from the pitcher’s rubber to home plate, then subtract 2 feet. You want the distance to be where the ball may or would be hit by the batter, about 1 foot in front of the plate. Throw from there.
Work on accuracy first. You should be able to catch the returning ball without stepping left or right. An accurate throw will return straight back to you. Once you have become consistent at doing that, then work on throwing harder. Remember, to give up a handful of accuracy for a pinch more speed, is NEVER a good trade. Accuracy first, then work on speed.
You don’t need a pitching coach, or an expensive radar gun, to tell you if you are throwing harder than you were a few weeks ago. The harder you throw, the closer the ball will return to you without hitting the ground. If you can catch the ball without it hitting the ground, or without you taking a step closer to the wall, you have fairly good speed for your level of play. As you progress, when you catch the ball it will have more force behind it and you will be able to tell when you are throwing harder and faster.
Again, don’t trade accuracy for speed. An 80mph pitch is not very impressive if you can’t throw it for a strike. When you do the wall workout, take a portable radio/tape/CD unit along and play your favorite lively paced music. Try not to play slow stuff because that tends to slow down your workout pace. When I was a kid I threw for an hour a day after school.
Don’t use “I couldn’t find a catcher” as an excuse not to workout your pitching arm. You don’t need a catcher, a coach or a radar gun to workout and tell you if you’re throwing faster. But, we’ll just keep that between you, me and the wall.
#1. Go and get a towel.
#2. If you are a right handed pitcher then you would face to the right of the rubber and put your knee on towel which is on the rubber.
#3. Next you will put your other knee facing home plate.
#4. Put your hands in front of you.
#5. Then you will do the windmill motion.
#6. On your way around stop your left hand right above your knee.
#7. Come all the way around with to your right hand.
#8. Then drop both of your hands and pop your wrist and the ball should go right across the plate. It will take a while to get the accuracy down.
This drill is my favorite drill and it has really helped me.
I feel that every pitcher has to do some sort of weight training to increase her speed. I recommend starting with a light weight (4 pound) dumbbell doing arm curls, butterflies, and wrist snaps in 10 rep sets. Once your pitcher can do 3 sets of 10 reps, increase the weight and start with 1 set and work up.
DO NOT OVEREXERT!! These are ladies, not weight lifters. I strongly suggest consulting a doctor before installing a weight program for your pitchers.
3 KEYS TO PITCHING
The secret to an effective softball career is muscle memory, which is obtained with the constant repetition of proper mechanics used in playing the game. Good muscle memory is gained by drills, drills and more drills.
Those of you who are not pitchers, please read the keys and apply the concepts to your position. Figure out a routine for yourself to follow for practice and games. The keys are the same for any position, Preparation (drills and muscle memory), Confidence (knowing that you can perform any athletic task required because of your hard work and muscle memory) and Relaxation (when your have confidence in your preparation you are relaxed and can focus on the game).
3 KEYS TO PITCHING
To become a successful pitcher you must practice at least every other day. This means, after warm-up, pitching 75-150 balls, hitting locations and working on rotations and if at all possible, throwing long toss.
WORKOUT: (ALL PITCHES MUST BE THROWN USING THE NORMAL PITCHING ROUTINE)
1. Warm-up with snap drills (3 ball drill) Do 25-50 snaps
2. Once warmed, work on locations. Start with pitches right down the middle and then work the corners (inside and outside) also high and low. Do 25-50 locations
3. Throw some heavy balls or close rotation drills to perfect rotation of the ball for certain pitches. Do 5-10 riseballs, peel drops, and roll drops.
4. Move back to 40 feet and throw 5-10 riseballs, peel drops and roll drops.
5. Work on change-ups. Throw 5 change-ups, then throw fastball-change, fastball-change. Do 5 sets of fastball-change.
6. If you have the room, do the long-toss drill. 7. Finish up with 5 fastballs on the corners.
1. Before each pitch take, a deep breath, wink or do whatever is comfortable in order to get relaxed. Use this every time!! You cannot deliver a quality pitch if you are tense.
2. If you are in a game and you get tense, try playing with the dirt in the pitcher’s circle. This will relax you. You may also call time out to talk to the catcher.
3. Take your time. Everyone waits for you. The play does not start until you make a pitch.
If you are prepared and relaxed, you will be confident. The batters can sense your confidence and you have already won half the battle. Just deliver the pitch in the location called and you have done your job.
1. Focus your best on the first batter of every inning. Try very hard not to walk her.
2. You must finish each pitch in a “ready position”. This will enable you to field your position and protect you from line-drives back at you.
3. Even in practice, deliver each pitch from the normal pitching routine. This will help you deal with pressure situations because all you need to do is to relax and deliver the pitch just like in practice.
4. With a runner on base, you cannot throw a pitch in the dirt. This will give the runner the next base. If you do (everybody does) go through your relaxation routine and increase your focus the next time you are in that situation.
5. Pitchers need short memories. If you have just thrown a homerun ball or walked the last batter, Shake it off! Go through your relaxation routine. “Never let them see you sweat!!”
6. If you are hurt, TELL THE COACHES. Pitching when you are hurt will only make your injury worse.
7. HAVE FUN!!, but focus on the job at hand.
To work on movement pitches, I have my pitchers stand in a line a short distance from me in a power position (stride taken) and softly toss the ball using the proper rotation for peel drop, roll drop, and rise ball. While doing this, emphasize the proper weight distribution. This is the most important aspect of throwing a breaking pitch. For drop balls, the weight must be on the front foot at release. For rise balls, the weight must be on the trail foot and release must be against a firm and resistant front foot.
After 10 to 15 pitches from this distance, we move back to about 25 feet and throw at about 50% speed. We throw 10 to 15 pitches at this distance.
Finally we move to the regulation distance and throw 10 to 15 pitches at full speed. Make sure that at each distance, the rotation and weight distribution is correct. If not, correct it immediately, before moving on to the next distance. At first, do not be concerned with accuracy. This will come with reps.
After all these pitches have been thrown, I have the pitchers throw peel drop, roll drop, change-up, fastball and rise ball in that order to feel the difference in pitches.
Finally I give the pitchers 10 pitches to hit 8 spots. I hold my glove at a certain location and the pitch has to hit it without moving the glove. If they hit these locations in the 10 pitches or less, they are done, if not, they must go to the end of the line and try again. Peer pressure works wonders here. I have the pitchers throw over hand again to cool down once practice is done.
I like to start each pitching practice with the players playing the 3-ball game. I got this game from ASU Head Softball Coach Linda Wells. One player has one ball, the other player has 2 balls. The one with two balls throws a pitch to the other, the receiving player must throw a pitch to the first. These “pitches” are not thrown from the pitching stance. They are “walk-ins”, meaning that they are thrown while walking into the pitch. When done correctly, each pitcher can throw 50 pitches in a very short time. The reason for this is that the pitcher is not waiting for a ball to be thrown to her. She always has one in her hand.
After warming up with 3 ball we go directly to the tempo drills.
First we throw 8 balls into a net concentrating on wrist snap. During this drill, the player snaps her wrist as quickly and violently as possible.
Next we throw 8 balls concentrating on arm speed.
Next is stride. I like for the players to make a mark in the dirt for her stride on the first pitch and then try to beat her mark.
After that, we do one I call “Reach For The Sky”. It is done with both feet together. The pitcher throws 8 pitches concentrating on reaching for the sky at the very top of the windmill. This emphasises the full arm extension.
Finally we put the whole thing together and throw 8 balls incorporating all the drills above.
In between each of these drills, I have the pitchers do weights with a 9 pound dumbbell. First arm curls. Next are butterflies, then wrist curls isolating just the wrist.
We do a lot of drill work, along with pitching. Two myfavorites came to me from Doug Gillis, US National Men’s team member. I find that many young pitchers have their weight too far forward, even bending at the waist on delivery. In addition, many don’t use their back leg by driving it forward. As Doug worded it to me when I first worked with him, “think about most really good pitchers you’ve seen. Most have their weight back and, when throwing a rise, almost falling or stepping back.” I went back and viewed old game tapes, Michele Smith, Susie Parra and other instructional tapes. Of course he was right, and I knew that intuitively. But I digress. Here are two simple drills we do every day to keep weight back, have a firm front leg, drive the back leg and stay on the line of force (all in one drill).
1) From an open-hipped position (front foot toward the target/catcher), the pitcher does a snap drill, driving the back knee in to the front knee. Then she immediately takes a step back with the back leg. It almost has the feeling of “falling” back. The pitcher should fall back along the straight line of force. If she goes to either side, she was off-stride or off-balance.
1a) Same drill, but when the pitcher drives the back knee to the front, she stays there, on balance, until the catcher throws the ball back.
2) From the pitching plate, the pitcher repeats drill 1, but with her full motion. In order to do this drill, the pitcher should be throwing at maybe 75%. We don’t want to teach her to drive and step back on every pitch.
2a) Same as 2, but from a pitching motion. I have to remind my pitchers who are just now learning how to throw a rise ball, that the lower body mechanics for a rise ball should not be carried over to a fast ball. After all, most pitchers in NCAA D-III are very successful without a rise ball (though this is changing).
We try to end each of our practices with a speed/strength drill. These can be long toss, speed circles, triple-arm circles, etc.
As far as drills for a curve the most useful is having the pitcher throw from the slingshot position.
Concentrating on the proper position of the hand at the hip. Instead of the ball facing the batter when it is at the hip, the hand should be palm up to the sky and the ball laying in the hand so if you were to stop the motion the ball would stay in the hand. Once the pitcher starts her push off the rubber she should concentrate on bringing the hand around with the hip and peeling the ball off the side of the hand. The forefinger (the middle one) will be along the seam and the index finger under the forefinger ( basically the same grip as the rise). The forefinger will peel the ball off sideways by using the seam, in effect spinning the ball. Be careful not to get under the ball that will cause it to rise. As far as in and out all you can do is try different release points, the more a pitcher throws the more comfortable and accurate she will become.
Heres a tip a coach told me about quite a number of years ago. This drill can increase your strength in the hand, wrist, and especially the forearm. Using this exercise really helped me in my pitching.
Put a pile of single sheet newspapers in an area you would normally walk by the most times during the day. Every time you walk by, grab a sheet and wad it up, using only one hand. This is the kind of exercise that you hardly notice doing after awhile.
The only true way to get accuracy is to have the pitcher throw pitches, pitches and more pitches. She has to throw 100 to 150 pitches every night, PERIOD!! If she is not willing to sacrifice this time and effort, find another pitcher. Enough said here!!
Ok that was a bit harsh. I use an inflatable toy in pitching practice a lot. The one I use is an inflatable Mickey Mouse. It is the kind with sand in the bottom of it so it stays upright. If the ball hits it (which with young players is often) the ball drops straight down and does not deflect to the catcher (me). I set Mickey in the batters box and call for inside drop balls (peel drop) and inside fastballs.
It works Great!! There is one drawback. Every now and then, the pitchers hit Mickey on purpose. You can count on replacing Mickey about twice a season, but at about $5.00, it is a great tool!
Injuries are part of the game, but in a pitcher they are nevitable. When a pitcher is experiencing soreness or pain stop immediately! The pain is almost always due to a mechanical flaw in their motion. This pain may also be caused by a muscle imbalance. This is especially true in younger pitchers (12-15).
I have spoken to a lot of coaches who have had players experience this injury. If it is not treated promptly, it will lead to a long rehab time and possibly something more serious. As a coach, it is your responsibility to find that flaw and eliminate it. This is a difficult task, but a necessity. You cannot have your pitcher throwing pitches that cause damage to her arm or elbow. If you cannot locate the problem, ask one of your assistant coaches to watch or take your pitcher to another coach. They may be able to see something you cannot! Remember, this game is for the players! Do not let pride stand in the way of producing a Great Athlete.
These drills were taken from an article written by Duffy O’Neill, Pitching Coach of the Ohio Emeralds
“One of my favourite gadgets is one I call the “changeup glove.” In reality it is an old bowling glove which locks the pitcher’s wrist so that she cannot snap it. The glove allows the pitcher to grip the ball and, with some decrease in stride. she can throw with the same motion as her fastball and still have a perceptible decrease in speed.”
“These pitches can range from slightly offspeed to one that have almost a slowpitch arc to them. At the higher levels, the slower pitches give the hitters time to “reload” and crush the ball, but at the younger levels (through high school) there is nothing more entertaining than watching “the big floater” baffle a batter.”
“Improper ball rotation on the pitch can be corrected with several gadgets. To acheive our goal of the 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock rotation on the ball as it travels to home plate, we use hockey pucks, rolls of tape and even cocktail peanut cans (for the cans, you need to add weight by stuffing them with bunched up paper, or sawdust, then tape extensively).”
Also in this article was a “weighted ball” made with 100 finishing nails (2″ to 2 1/2″) pounded sub-flush in the seam holes, using another nail to get them sub-flush. As I coach younger girls, I used 1 1/2″ finishing nails and used every other seam (84 nails). I have the pitchers throw 8-10 of these weighted balls into a net,concentrating on the spin of the ball, then move to 40 feet and throw the movement pitches. The results have been remarkable!! Thanks to Duffy O’Neill for the article and the tips.
PITCHING HOOK KICK
I was having a hard time breaking a bad habit of “HOOK” sliding the trailing foot on my 10 year old pitcher (who happens to be my daughter). I told her all the technical stuff on power and control but she kept doing that old bowlers hook kick during her delivery.
Then I bought her a pair of mid-high shoes. She hates them!!! So I told her before she would get a new pair she would have to wear the toe out of the mids. The only way for her to do so is to properly drag her toe through the delivery.
She now has broken a bad habit and is on her way to a new pair of “Nikes”.
SEQUENCING THE RISEBALL MOTION
Here is a teaching aid I have had great results with recently for the riseball. I am certain it will work for other pitches also.
When one of my pitchers is having a tough time getting her riseball to move, I have her go through her pitching motion in super slow motion. I have her stop at each section of the pitch so I can assure her and myself that her mechanics are correct.
You will be able to locate problems in the mechanics area a lot faster this way. In most cases, the pitchers are merely sliding their hand under the ball to give the proper rotation for the riseball, however, if you want a riseball that RIPS, try this. Sequence the riseball mechanics and locate the position when the wrist turns over. A lot of pitchers throw very good “floaters” that are tough to hit, but why not have one the RIPS?? The key to this is too have the wrist turn over and propel the ball with tons of rotation. The way to do this is to have the wrist turn over very late in the pitch. This will impart some incredible rotation to the ball and will create remarkable movement.
Attacking the Hitters
By: Jocelyn Forest
New England Riptide Pitcher, National Pro Fastpitch
There are, obviously, many different approaches a pitcher can take to beat a good hitter. I often see pitchers working the low outside corner (with say drops and curves) on “Big hitters” in order to keep them from getting the sweet part of the bat on the ball. However, batters today are getting smarter and better and learning to go with those outside pitches.
One of my favorite ways to beat a big hitter is to throw hard and at the hands with inside pitches. When you bust a batter hard and inside it is difficult for them to get their bat head around and/or to get extended on the ball. And often, if they do get a hold of one, it’s nothing more than a foul ball.
I like to start low and inside with a low rise or screwball for the first strike (getting that first pitch in there for a strike is extremely important and gives you as a pitcher more room to “play”.) Then I like to “climb the ladder”, meaning, throw the next pitch slightly higher than the one before. Once they bite, I continue to climb. To the batter it seems as though it’s that same pitch (the strike) over and over.
But if you’re going to go inside on a big hitter, you’ve GOT to make sure you get that ball INSIDE and be careful not to hang the pitch over the plate. Otherwise you just might be waving goodbye to the ball as it leaves the park.
Choosing the right pitch (Part 2 of 3 part series)
By Michael Cisneros
Editor, Softball Today Magazine
From what I have seen, most outs in the course of a ball game are due to swinging at the wrong pitch. There are two ways to avoid doing this. One, use what I call the ever increasing strike zone: with no strikes on you, decide to hit a pitch only if it is in a specific zone – for me it is chest high in front of the plate – and if the ball is there, hit it, and more importantly if it isn’t there, don’t swing. It is OK to take a strike; hitting the pitch just because it is a strike lowers your chances of getting a hit because the pitch was not what you were looking for. Now with one strike, your zone should expand a bit. Look for something in a wider area and follow the same discipline. If the pitch is not where you want it but is still a strike, don’t worry. You still have one more strike coming. Now, with two strikes, you must hit anything that is a strike, but don’t panic, look at it this way – in the past you were swinging at this pitch on the first strike. Now you only swing at it on the third. So if you were a .500 hitter before, now you are a .500 hitter with two strikes on you and, by being patient and pickier, you are a better hitter with one strike and a much better hitter with on strikes.
The other thing you can do is take a lot of batting practice. During batting practice, you will swing at hundreds of pitches, as opposed to the four that you swing at in a game. And chances are the majority of those practice pitches will be bad pitches. But since it is practice, you will swing at them. And that is OK; by hitting bad pitches in practice you slowly figure out that hitting short pitches allows you to drive the ball back through the middle, that in addition to hitting outside deep pitches to right field you can use an inside-out swing to hit inside short pitches down that line as well, or that flat pitches are easy to hit into the corner down the left field line. This way you give yourself a better chance for success even if the pitch you choose to swing at is not necessarily a good one.
Training during your noncompetitive season?
Pam Newton, ASA Junior Olympic Coach
First, I would suggest to all athletes that building their stamina and leg strength comes in the off season. It is imperative that you start a 3 day per week running regime for long distance during this time. Running 20 to 30 minutes three times a week will help to build a strong mind and body. If running is not your thing then you can ride a bike, kick box, aerobics or swim doing these for 30 minutes to one hour. This starter program should go for 5 to 6 months for maximum results and convert to sprint training during season.
I have been pitching men’s fastpitch now for almost 20 years. One thing that I believe helped me was one of those squeezer deals. You know, you squeeze them with your hand to increase your grip. While you are doing this, notice what it does to your forearm. It will increase forearm strength also. This can be done anywhere–in a car, bus, rain, snow, summer, winter, etc.
TAKE AIM WITH YOUR GLOVE
Many coaches and players overlook the importance the glove hand plays in the ability to control the ball when pitching. When you watch a pitcher, a lot of times all you do is hear the slap of the glove on the thigh and think that the glove is used only as a way to make some noise, in order to perhaps distract the batter, or time the release of the ball. While it can do these things, the main job of the glove in pitching is to aim the ball.
In the normal delivery, the hands separate and the ball hand moves back and up in a rocker motion. For some pitchers, this motion is shortened and they come right out of the glove. After this motion, both hands come forward with the glove hand pointing directly at the target as the stride is taken. This motion does a couple of different things. The motion of the hands going forward as the stride is being taken helps move the body forward and helps elongate the stride, but the important job here is the aiming. If your pitcher is having problems with control, this is one area I would take a long look at. This motion happens so quickly it is tough to see sometimes, but it is always there in good pitchers. Make sure your pitcher is pointing her glove at the target with the wrist pointing up, which will in turn point the glove webbing straight up.
A lot of pitchers get lazy, overlooking this mechanic, and then wonder what happened to their control. If the wrist on the glove hand is pointing to one side, chances are very good that they will be throwing to that side of the plate. Video tape your pitcher if you cannot see this motion and run it back slowly. Watch the placement of the glove, the angle of it, and the angle of the wrist.
The majority of control problems I see are directly related to 2 areas. The release of the ball is incorrect due to the pitcher working on the riseball, (that is another discussion for another time), and the pitcher not using her glove to aim at the target. Make sure these two areas are correct and your pitcher will have much better control, and, in turn, will be more effective.
USING THE POWER LINE FOR FINE TUNING
If you are working with a pitcher and you are the one catching for her, it’s tough to see exactly what is going on with the stride foot when it touches down. You are around 40 feet or so away and, let’s face it, you have a ball coming at your nose at 45 to 60mph.
With 99% of your attention devoted to catching the ball and not getting hit, it is very hard to try and focus on the pitcher’s feet to see exactly where she is on the power line. Unless something is DRASTICALLY off, you probably won’t see it.
To check a pitcher on the power line most folks will take their shoe and draw a fat line in the dirt right in front of the rubber. This is OK and it will help the pitcher, however, it seldom gives the person catching a good point of reference to see EXACTLY where the foot comes down. There is a lot of room for error.
When I have a pitching student that I want to ‘fine tune’ them, ( because of problems staying on the power line) here is what I do.
-I will drive a 16 penny nail into the dirt just behind the back tip of home plate. I will use a roll of bright colored construction twine and stretch it tightly from that nail at the back tip of home plate, to the front of 2nd base. This will place the twine going over the exact center of the pitcher’s rubber. I leave the twine lying on the dirt in that straight line.
-I will then drive a 16 penny nail, touching the twine, about 10 feet in front of the rubber.
-Then I drive nails just behind the rubber and just in front of 2nd base.
-Then I stretch the string from home plate to the next nail in front of the rubber and tie them off so the twine is taught.
-Then I let the string go loose and all the way around the edge of the circle (so it is not in the pitcher’s way of throwing) and tie it to the nail behind the rubber.
-I then stretch the twine taught to the nail in front of 2nd base and tie it off there.
Now we have a taught power line from home plate to second base, except for the 10 feet just in front of the rubber.
Have you pitcher take a pitching position with the power line exactly under the center of her body, feet equally far from the power line to each side.
IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE TO CATCH as your pitcher is throwing, take a position about 8 feet in front of 2nd base and get down on one knee or sit on the power line to where your eyes are directly over it. Do not move the twine while sitting or kneeling.
Have the pitcher throw the same pitch several times and focus only on the legs and especially the feet.
Having a thin and bright colored power line behind the pitcher will give you an exact reference point and you will see exactly where the stride foot comes down in relationship to the power line and any inconsistencies with
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE SOMEONE TO CATCH FOR YOU, set up a video camera at the same spot you were sitting/kneeling down. Make sure the picture shows as much of the power line behind the rubber as you can get in the shot and still see the pitcher at least from the middle of the back down.
Again, have her throw the same pitch several times and then review the tape with her. You will both be very surprised at how much you can tell about the pitcher’s motions when you see it from behind.
As an example (R/H pitcher). If the pitcher is occasionally throwing wide to one side or another she might very well be crossing over the power line or landing way to the left. This will be very evident in the rear view. Rewind the tape and watch it a few more times and you might also discover the pitcher leaning at the waist to the opposite side of the power line to try and compensate for the error and still hit reasonably close to the target. Her landing might not be off by much and she might not be leaning much to compensate for it, maybe not enough to be evident from 40 feet away when you are concentrating on catching the ball. You will definitely see it show up from behind when you have 100% attention on her feet and the power line. Letting the young pitcher see it is always beneficial for them.
If you are catching the pitcher, having that bright colored twine power line, going from home plate to 10 feet in front of the rubber, will make it much easier to tell if the pitcher is off the power line without distracting you from the ball coming at you. Never stare at the line, always watch the ball during a pitch. With the line extended you will be able to tell, fairly well, if she is off the line.
Judge the stride length of your pitcher and you can extend that section of the line closer to the rubber than 10 feet but make sure it does not get so close she lands on it or gets her feet caught up in it.
If you do have a video camera, also try to get shots from the left, right and front views too. There is also much that can be used for analysing a pitcher from those angles.