9 yr old Change Up Question

So, my 9 yr old son and I were practicing pitching the other day and his fastball is really coming along. So, I thought, let’s try a change-up. I showed him a few possible grips to try, which didn’t really seem to slow down his pitch. So, I told him to just try different grips by raising different fingers off of the ball. So, he tried one in which he lifts his index and thumb fingers off the ball and tries throwing it like a fastball. That worked awesome as far as slowing the ball down, however, there was also a slight curve to the pitch also. I do not want him throwing curve balls at this age, however, he isn’t trying to throw a curve. I think that the ball is slipping off the side of his middle finger causing the ball to spin similar to a curve. I don’t know if I should discourage that grip and do something different or not.


first of all… he had lifted his thumb off the ball?
How can you throw a ball without your thumb? Apart from taking the ball completely into your handpalm… although even then the thumb is kinda useful :wink:

The bad thing about throwing curve is snapping the ball…
You put extra pressure on your wrist and elbow and that’s bad for someone who’s still growing. BUT if he doesn’t turn his wrist to snap like a regular curveball I can’t see any danger.
Any other thoughts on this?

I’ve instructed for awhile and have never seen a 9 year old with a “good” changeup. It’s going to be difficult at that age to have a great speed difference while keeping the hand speed the same because the velocity is so low. You can’t expect that if a 9 year old is throwing 50 mph, to throw his changeup at 40. That’s a 20 percent drop in velocity. That would be like someone throwing 90 mph, and having his changeup be 72, it’s not going to happen. Look at the percentage of difference rather than the actual speed difference. Just try and get your son comfortable with something close to a circle change while trying to keep the same hand speed. Worry about the speed difference when he’s 14.

I agree on this point—you need to have your thumb for balance and support, whatever the pitch you’re throwing. One thing I would suggest for a changeup—and this is good any time, at any age—is a palm ball. It’s easy to throw, because you use the same arm motion and the same arm speed as a fast ball; that was the first changeup I acquired. What it is, you grip the ball with all four fingers on top and the thumb underneath, way back in the palm of the hand (but don’t grip it too tightly, because you DON"T want to squeeze the juice out of the ball)—and throw it the way you do a fast ball. You could change speeds on it by loosening up the grip or moving the ball a little further forward in your hand. This pitch puts no strain on the arm or the shoulder, so the kid can feel comfortable throwing it.
As far as the circle change is concerned, I have one question—is the kid’s hand big enough to form the complete circle on the side of the ball? If not, he can make use of a half-circle—a backwards “c”, as it were—and either have the other three fingers on top of the ball or use an off-center grip. Again, be sure to throw the thing with the same arm motion and the same arm speed as the fast ball. Hope this helps. :idea:

First of all, kudos to you recognizing that a change up is a great secondary pitch to teach a pitcher at that age. It gets frustrating watching 11-12 years old throw curveballs, much less 9 year olds.

Hammer’s point is exactly right. I think it’s worth teaching him a change up, but a 9 year old doesn’t throw hard enough to create enough variability between a fastball and change up to have movement. He probably doesn’t throw hard enough either to have movement on a different fastball either such as a two seam.

I think the real opportunity is challenging your son to locate his fastball. I’ve had a chance to coach kids that age, and understandably, they have huge holes in their swings. If you can teach him how to locate and take advantage of this, that will serve him very well in the future, as well as now.

I have been coaching youth baseball for 5 years now. I coached my son to have 2 pitches… normal and a change up. The change up is a pitch where he just doesnt throw it as hard. That is the most imporiant pitch he has. When he gets behind in the count or the batter gets his timming I tell him to throw it. It only works if he can put it down the plate for a strike. I think under the age of 10 every pitcher needs to be able to throw a pitch that is going to put the ball in play and leave it up to the defence.

I listened to a Coach Woolforth - web radio broadcast last night and he talked about teaching a changeup. He said the pitch is his 2nd favorite pitch. He said his favorite pitch is a “big hairy, well located fastball”.

He also said that throwing a changeup much below 15U & 16U year isn’t necessary since the only thing you are doing is slowing down your fastball & most kids below that age have trouble hitting a good fastball but don’t have trouble hitting a slower pitch, such as a changeup. When you get to the high school level or more elite travel levels you can start throwing the pitch to good aggressive hitters and they may swing at it. He did say to be working on it though because you should be preparing for the next level of baseball. He also said you could ask 99 pitches to show you a grip they use for their changeup and you would get 100 different answers. So grip wise there is no one right grip.

A couple of teaching points that I have learned are:

Make sure the pitcher isn’t slowing down his body or arm speed to take velocity off the ball. Velocity change should come from the grip. I worked this in my pens by alternating pitches between a fastball and changeup. I would throw one fast ball followed by a changeup & do this for the whole pen. If you catch his pens - tell him not to worry about where the changeup goes initially - but pay attention to what his motion & tempo looks like - if he slows it down - tell him about it & keep working on it until he has the same action for both pitches.

To keep my arm speed the same I would use my change up grip on some throws when I was doing long toss. With a 9 year old - it might not be long-toss but just when you are playing catch with him in the backyard.

I do agree with the what other people have said that at 9 - there probably isn’t a reason to throwing a changeup during a game - but I think learning it does make pitching more interesting.

I have worked on a straight change for 3 years now and can finally throw it with good movement and location and I have used it in games - but the first couple of games I threw it in - it got hit pretty good - so something else to remember is not to give up on it.

I think this is the key for throwing the change-up. My son (10) was playing with the change, and was all over the place. Once he comprehended to keep his body and arm speed the same as his fastball, then he started throwing the change for strikes. He was very excited to know he can throw a strike using a change up.

I didnt need any sort of offspeed until I was 13, after little league. Then I used a slip grip pitch too, (the change up you taught your son is slip grip, thus not bad for your arm, as long as the palm is facing the batter), but only because I didn’t know a good change up. The way my coach teaches the circle change in high school if you want to get him started on the change up early (not that necessary until he’s older) is to throw the ball like a 2 seamer using your ring finger and middle finger instead on top of the ball. The circle part doesn’t matter, it is all about getting those fingers comfortable.

I disagree that kids younger than 15 or 16 don’t need a change-up. Kids certainly need a change-up by 15 or 16 (I’d argue earlier) and the only way they’ll have one by that age is to start developing one at a younger age. Change-ups can certainly be effective at younger ages.

It’s true that kids who throw hard at a young age can get by with just throwing heat. But that is very short-sighted and allowing such pitchers to not develop an off-speed pitch is doing them a disservice. Don’t be that coach.

Do You NEED an offspeed pitch till high school…No. Is it helpful, sure, but not necessary, and I am speaking from experience. If you can locate your fastball and you have an above average fastball, you will be fine before highschool. If you aren’t lucky enough to have that plus fastball, might be a good idea to learn an off speed pitch like the change up, but I believe that a good change up is the hardest pitch to learn, behind the knuckler. If you can teach a 13 or 14 year old to throw a GOOD change up, there is no reason you can’t teach them to have the mechanics to have a plus fastball at that age either. Both is just cake though, but what I think you will find is that if you try teaching the vast majority of kids the change up, they will slow their arm down, or not have accuracy with it.

All in all, I would say you could go for teaching a younger kid offspeed, but it probably isn’t completely necessary and it will be quite difficult.