What good baseball players need to learn? The answer is pitching. However, until a boy gets out of high school, he just need to develop two basic pitches-the curve and the fast ball. In the first place, he’ll get four pitches with the fast ball alone-low inside, low outside, high inside, high outside. If he then learns to change the speed of each pitch, he can double his assortment.
The overall grip is the same for the curve and fast ball; forefinger and middle finger spread in a comfortable V on top of the ball, thumb underneath. For the fast ball from the overhand or three-quarter delivery, the hand should be directly behind the ball. When the ball leaves the hand it should rotate upward, or toward the pitcher. To make this spin more effective, pitchers usually grip the ball across the stitches-some across the fat part of the figure 8 pattern, some at the narrow part.
To throw the curve, the pitcher makes the ball spin, or rotate, away from the hitter at an angle. He wants the ball to go out and down; not on a horizontal plane or “flat.” To accomplish this, run the top fingers along the stitches. Go slowly through the delivery as with the fast ball.
At the forward snap of the wrist, twist the hand outward and bear down on the outside finger. Beginners should first learn to twirl the ball at the proper angle. (It’s a good idea to paint a large black spot on one side of the ball to help get the correct angle to the spin.)
To improve a pitcher’s control, managers might consider erecting a set of “strings”. Here’s how it’s done: stretch a string between two poles, or trees at average shoulder height. Stretch out another one at knee height. Then tie two pieces of twine, 12″ apart, to the top string and loop both around the bottom string. The rectangle forms the strike zone. To complete the job, build a pitching mound in front of the strings at the proper distance.
Let’s switch to the body movements now, using the three-quarter delivery as our example since it is the most popular. Two basic positions are employed-the full windup and the “stretch”. The full windup is used mostly when the bases are unoccupied. In professional ball, it is used when runners are on 3rd, on 2nd and 3rd or on 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Pitchers usually “stretch” with runners on 1st, or 1st and 2nd, and also 1st and 3rd.
Good baseball players at eight years old probably should first be taught to throw from the stretch position and then gradually be introduced to the full windup. Before starting any move, the pitcher must learn how and where to stand on the mound. The rules say he must have one foot in contact with the pitching rubber until the ball is delivered.
This means his pitching foot-the right foot for a right hander, the left for a southpaw-is to be an the plate at the start of windup and remain in contact until the body is in the final part of the delivery cycle. (The pitcher cannot step forward to the pitching plate and make that part of the windup.)
The toe of the pitching foot ought to extend over the forward edge of the rubber with the heel on top. The weight should be on the back foot, located comfortably behind the rubber. The pitching hand holds the ball out of the batter’s sight behind the pitching leg.
As soon as the pitcher gets his eyes on the target, with the catcher in proper receiving position, he can start his move.
Remember that faithful, regular practice is the best way to improve all aspects of your game. Good baseball players are made, not born!
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