Breaking pitch for 9yr old by changing grip


#1

My 9-yr old son is playing AAA-level All Star Minor Mosquito. He’s pitched for (2) years (left-hand pitcher), and has a good fastball (I’d estimate low 50 mph range when he’s throwing well) & has a great changeup that takes its toll on batters, especially when thrown low (this keeps things deceptive).

Here’s the conundrum.

We were talking about Daisuke Matsuzaka’s supposed “gyro ball” a few weeks ago, and my point was that a pure “bullet” spin would not cause the ball to break (this would render rifling on firearms barrels quite useless, but that’s another topic). For kicks, we tossed a few to see if the spin was easily done and with what ball action, and we managed a few with no results, and soon (or so I thought) forgot about it.

Segue to present:

A few games ago my son pitched quite well against the 2nd place team in his AAA league (we’re 1st), and had quite a few K’s. He casually mentioned he’d thrown a “gyroball” against one leftie, and the kid grounded out weakly because the ball broke away from his bat on the swing. I was both concerned that he’d tried a breaking ball (I’ve stressed only fastballs & changeups for young players, for all the right reasons) and dubious he’d actually made the ball break.

Next day or two afterward, I asked him to show me his “gyro ball”, after he’d been practicing. The spin was “gryo-like”: imagine the ball coming at you spinning perfectly CLOCKWISE, and then tilted slightly forwards towards the catcher. The thing must have darted 6-8 inches to the left side of the plate! I was floored.

Quickly asked the lad how he threw it, as I saw nothing but arm issues resulting from this. But he simply took his 4-seam grip and just held it off-center to the left-side of the ball, and did a normal fastball release. At the bottom of his release (throwing 3/4 arm slot, more or less) his arm follows through and the thumb is left pointing slightly upwards, but he is adamant there is no twisting of the wrist as you’d do with a slider. And he’s not throwing over & pulling down (curveball) as the pitch is practically full-speed; there’s no off-speed velocity here, and the ball spins like crazy. I asked him to stick with the fastball/changeup until I had more info/advice on the topic.

Last night he tossed the thing twice in a row to a hitter (leftie), and the poor kid almost dislocated his arms on the 2nd pitch (3rd strike) trying to hit it; he wasn’t even close. Even the team catcher was shaking his head after the 3rd pitch, and couldn’t believe the ball break.

So: what should I do here, folks? My biggest fear is obviously risk of injury. But if this breaking ball is not dangerous because he’s simply changing grips & delivering a “normal” fastball, then my other concern is he leans on it too much, & starts to neglect the fastball.

I’m rather wishing we’d never gone out to fool around with the gyro spin in the first place, but the horse is officially out of the barn.

We play in a Major Mosquito tourney this weekend (we’re a Minor team) and my boy will be pitching. He’s already asked for my OK to use this pitch “a couple of times if there are lefties at the plate”, and it would certainly help with the older opposition.

Your thoughts? Comments? How should we deal with this?

Many thanks.

/Steve

sjd7aa at gmail d0t calm


#2

I really want to see this. Try getting a video. But for the meantime i wouldn’t use it in a game. If your son sees its an effective pitch then he might use it a lot even if it is causing stress. Chances are if he likes it and does good with it he wont tell you if its hurting him. But i also don’t know your exact relationship with him so I’m not sure if he’d ever lie in that situation.


#3

You seem to have a good understanding of the issues and proper concerns as well. But here are the issues as I see them:

(1) If your son truly is twisting (i.e. supinating) the hand/wrist, then he is increasing his chance for injury. I didn’t quite follow your description of how he throws the pitch but if he ends up with the thumb pointing up, then that sure sounds to me like he is supinating. Many people will tell you that breaking pitches are safe to throw - even for young pitchers - if they are thrown correctly. The problem is that it is next to impossible to verify with the naked eye. Do you really want to take that gamble?

(2) Too much focus on the breaking pitch will detract from practicing not only the fastball - as you mention - but also the change-up which is the pitch that is all too often under-developed.


#4

ive been messing around with this same spin…

just i hold the ball like a 2 Seam but with my index finger on the outside of the left seam and middle finger on the inside of the right seam.

you do supinate in order to get the ball to spin but like roger, i didn’t quite understand your explanation of how he throws and grips it.


#5

hate to tell you but all that pitch is is a slider.

Gyro ball has no movement at all and its throw by throwing it like a slider then pronating the wrist and throwing a screwball.

So your son throws a slider, I would tell him to only throw fastball change-up to young for curveball or slider.


#6

I can’t think of a logical reason that would cause the ball spin you describe without a twisting of the wrist/forearm. Try the grip yourself and see if you can do it without a twist.

Fastball/change up is sufficient at this age. Don’t let the results of this “gyro ball” sway you. He’ll have plenty of time later on in life to develop it.

I have an 8 year old who started pitching at age 7 and I do everything possible to protect him because he plays with much older players and sometimes coaches forget he is still young in comparison (he’s tall). His coach last year wisely limited him to 1 inning per outing and that worked well for him and the team.


#7

Bullets don’t have seems on them, hence why it wouldn’t move. And I think its a side and forward spin a bit.


#8

like everyone else, even if the pitch isn’t damaging for the arm you dont want him to fall in love with it. he has plenty of time to develop a nasty breaking ball when he will be 15-16 year old. make sure he can locate his fastball by that time


#9

What about changing location along with speed change? Up and in hard, low and away soft mixed with low and in hard and low and away hard, for instance. Now is the time to work on location and control. If he can hit spots and change speed at his age, he’ll be very successful. He’ll still give up hits to good hitters, but so do all pitchers! That’s what defense is for.

Send a video if you can, it would be fun to see!

Cheers and keep up the good work!!

O


#10

It sounds like your son is throwing a slider, not the Gyro. A true Gyro, as you said does not move at all. I’ve also thrown one before, it really isn’t that hard to do. You just throw it like a football, and get the spin down. Try it with a wiffleball, you’ll be able to get it straight as an arrow.