Frustrating to watch son's first outing

This was my son’s debut as a pitcher last night. He just turned 9 a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve been working on stuff for a month or so…but this is the first time he’s faced any batters.

He struggled to throw strikes. He faced about 9 batters and walked most of them with a few hits given up. Several times he looked over at me and put his hands up as to say “What’s wrong Daddy? Why can’t I throw a strike?” It was hard to watch. But, he didn’t get down about it and is ready to get back on the mound again ASAP.

I think his mechanics are pretty decent, with certainly some things to work on: glove tuck, breaking of the hands, proper motion of the back leg. But, it was that dreaded release point that doomed him. He just couldn’t find it.

What I think frustrated me the most was that of all the pitchers that pitched in the two games we played, he had the best mechanics of any of them (except for a couple of 11 year olds)…but, struggled the most. Most of the other kids just went up there and threw the ball like any kid would warming up before a game. No leg kick, short-arming, no follow-through…not pitching…just throwing. It stinks for him to work so hard to do things the “right way” and not get the benefit of it. I guess us working on mechanics makes it harder for him to throw the ball straight until he can put all that I"m trying to teach him together.

Oh well…I’m taking it harder than he his because I really wanted him to be able to walk off the field feeling like hard work had paid off. Maybe next outing.

Well, I’ve rambled too long. I’d like some other input from you guys on some things that should be addressed. [/youtube]

Now, this is just my opinion and I may get shredded for it by somebody idk. But stop trying to make your son throw like a pitcher, just let him go up there and throw. Tell him not to worry about anything but hitting the glove. I think you may find that he might suddenly seem more focused and have an easier time finding his release point. Pitching is nothing but throwing with a leg lift. Pitchers just have more focus There is no set mechanics for him to follow. Just allow him to do whats natural. Also another thing since he is nine you can and should expect some issues with control. This because very, very few 9 year olds have the same kind of control over their bodies that older players have. Body control is a huge key to consistently repeating your delivery. When I see his delivery I see a very typical little leaguer. I guarentee that if you continue to reinforce the idea to not worry about his mechanics and to just hit the glove as he grows and matures you will start seeing better control.
One final thing, you shouldn’t be overly worried about his struggles because he has only pitched for a little while. I am just really starting to figure it out and I took up pitching about two years ago. Add in the fact that I’m 17 and am much more along physically (obviously) then your son is.

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You have a lot more depth, reasonability, and common sense that most adults who coach the age of the youngster on that video. His father would be wise to listen to a 17 year old whose already gone the route that his 9 year old is about to travel.

Very nice job Priceless … very nice. My compliments.

Coach B.

[quote=“Coach Baker”][i]

You have a lot more depth, reasonability, and common sense that most adults who coach the age of the youngster on that video. His father would be wise to listen to a 17 year old whose already gone the route that his 9 year old is about to travel.

Very nice job Priceless … very nice. My compliments.

Coach B.[/quote]

Thanks Coach B., that really means alot coming from you.

Campsdad, I forgot to add that you shouldn’t let your son get discouraged. There wil be days we puts it all together and days we he will want to scream obscenities (well maybe not hes 9) for hours because he couldn’t do anything right. Even the best have those days, but its worth it when you throw and everything clicks and you discover “hey I can do this.”

I’m certainly not going to shred Priceless’s advice, or Coach B’s–at 9 years old, pitcher/thrower training should be kept pretty simple. I liked Priceless’s analogy that “pitching is like throwing with a leg lift” (and with a bit more focus on precisely hitting the target).

Where I often disagree with the “let him do whatever comes naturally” type of notion is that most of us actually do not seem to throw a baseball very efficiently without some training, either from flat-ground or from a mound. There are really very few “pitcher savants” in the entire history of the sport, I think. The few that might qualify as savants, because they had highly public and successful careers, belie the simple fact that they are a very, very tiny fraction of a percent of all baseball pitchers.

As insightful as Priceless’s words are, there is also this to consider (and I hope he might agree with me): At 17 years old, Priceless has undoubtedly seen the entire spectrum of abilities at each successive level leading up to his current level. However, at the level he is currently playing, baseball has effectively already weeded out the pitchers and position players who don’t throw efficiently. The ones who made all the cuts along the way and are still playing alongside of Priceless did not get there on natural ability, for the most part. Baseball is one of, if not the most, skill-dependent sports in existence. Performance of high-skill sports does require training to be good–but at 9 years old the baseball skills-training just needs to be age-appropriate.

Here is one very simple thing that may help your son, if you work with him on it consistently: Your son’s starting posture should be lowered a little with a slight bend in the knees–show him how to start every delivery in a posture that is similar to a “free-throw” posture, and to keep that slightly lower posture as he strides forward to deliver the ball.

Here is another tip: Your son cantilevers backward somewhat as he lifts his leg. (At 9 yo, he won’t know what ‘cantilever’ means, so you can see why you may have to stay deeply involved in his training for awhile. Somebody (you) has to crunch through all the hard information, and misinformation, and make sense of it all…

So, anyway–cantilevering backward during his leg lift is counterproductive. Instead (and you should learn the feel of this yourself, so you can demo it for him)…from his balanced starting posture, your son should get his front hip moving toward the target at the same time that he is lifting his leg. This will get his momentum headed in the right direction (the target!!) and will give his moving parts less time to go out of balance as he completes his delivery.

If he trains for awhile to do those two things,i.e., adopts a lower (more stable) posture and gets his booty going toward the target from commencement of his leg lift, he will develop two things: (1) A noticeable drag-line in the dirt that is made by his post foot and (2) better strike-throwing consistency.

There are many other things that pitchers are always working on and honing and refining. But those two simple things might help your boy, in my opinion.

Again, at 9 yo, he will not be able to understand what he should or shouldn’t be doing on his own…he’s going to need your continued support and help. If you both stick with this, by the time he is a teenager you two may still be enjoying baseball together as one of your strongest bonds.

Here’s a young pee-wee who still needs work but who does a lot of things very well: I don’t intend that your son should copy his mechanics verbatim, but just notice the points made above: He starts in a comfortable balanced posture, he has a drag-line, and his booty starts moving toward the target before the top of his leg-lift. There is no backward cantilevering.

It’s important not to get discouraged, and also important to learn from mistakes when things go south. And he’s just nine and facing his first batters!! It will get better! My 10-y-o has made so much progress in so many aspects of the game, including pitching, over the past year. He’s sooo much better than he was as a 9-y-o. Just last night he was the guy who came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and shut the opposition down with a pop-up and 2K’s. Last year he would have been the guy who loaded the bases. And he’s getting the mental part too. On the way home last night, he says “Ryan (the starter) needs to learn not to throw his change until the guy shows he can get around on a fastball”

I agree with what LAF says. Kids really get the free throw posture thing so I would use that. Also his feet should be arm-pit width apart to help with the cantilever issue. They’re too wide now, so his weight has to shift back when he picks up his leg.

His mechanics do look pretty good, but he seems to be aiming the ball and not just firing at the target. I bet he’s a lot more accurate in practice. Probably just nerves; he seems tentative. His arm is decelerating instead of following through. He just needs to trust himself and throw. Roger (I think) has a drill where he gets the player to run to a line and throw hard at a target. You might try that. Also, if he is more accurate in practice, remember that it’s a big adjustment to have a batter there. Lots of beginning pitchers are afraid they’ll hit him. It helps to have another kid stand in the box during your pitching practice. An adult or even a dummy of some sort if there are no kids available.

[quote=“laflippin”]I’m certainly not going to shred Priceless’s advice, or Coach B’s–at 9 years old, pitcher/thrower training should be kept pretty simple. I liked Priceless’s analogy that “pitching is like throwing with a leg lift” (and with a bit more focus on precisely hitting the target).

Where I often disagree with the “let him do whatever comes naturally” type of notion is that most of us actually do not seem to throw a baseball very efficiently without some training, either from flat-ground or from a mound. There are really very few “pitcher savants” in the entire history of the sport, I think. The few that might qualify as savants, because they had highly public and successful careers, belie the simple fact that they are a very, very tiny fraction of a percent of all baseball pitchers.

As insightful as Priceless’s words are, there is also this to consider (and I hope he might agree with me): At 17 years old, Priceless has undoubtedly seen the entire spectrum of abilities at each successive level leading up to his current level. However, at the level he is currently playing, baseball has effectively already weeded out the pitchers and position players who don’t throw efficiently. The ones who made all the cuts along the way and are still playing alongside of Priceless did not get there on natural ability, for the most part. Baseball is one of, if not the most, skill-dependent sports in existence. Performance of high-skill sports does require training to be good–but at 9 years old the baseball skills-training just needs to be age-appropriate.

[/quote]

I agree with you, and I guess that I need to clarify when I say “naturally”. Pitching is a very skill specific sport and it does require countless hours and sacrifices to become better. You do have to have some instruction. I think that thats what you saying in the statement above and I agree. Idk exactly what those “absolutes” are, but I believe that often coaches (I know that even in high school we have them) follow a set number of absolutes: balance point, arm swing, etc. and that often they create cookie cutter pitchers. This is a style vs. flaw debate. I am on more of the style side and believe that if a pitcher has consistent control and good ball flight why mess with their delivery even if it has “flaws”, nearly every successful major league pitcher has some supposed “flaw” in their delivery whether that be landing on their heel to some degree, or not keeping their toes underneath their knees when they lift their legs. If it works, their is no need to change it.

However, if their are continued issues with control and command, then pitchers needs to be creative and find what works for them.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have seen plenty of promising pitchers become to robotic and follow their coaches “rule book” to a point where you can’t tell one pitcher from another. I used to be that way, but I see where I went wrong. I realize now that I need to do what works for me. Every single pitcher has some quirk in their delivery, I guess if I was to give some guidelines it would be (again this isn’t an exact science):

  1. lift your leg
  2. throw the ball
    and thats about it. even 1s not an absolute I belive that Zita has said that he used the slide-step and thats what worked for him. In my years playing I have gotten the best advice about playing baseball and about pitching from a hitting coach. I went to a camp in late december and it was run by a few professional coaches and one of them was the padres hitting coach. I was struggling with my swing and he said “Just go out, trust your swing (or mechanics for pitching) and have at it.” I find that when I focus too much on my mechanics pitching, I tend to forget about hitting the glove and lose my control. But I have realized that by just focusing on hitting my spots and just that on the mound, I instantly found my release point. But thats just what works for me.

Hey quaff…nice to hear from you again. Glad to hear your son is doing well and enjoying the game!

Priceless, You’ve got a lot going, man–and I do agree with you: My own son has been fighting the cookie-cutter vision of his youth league coaches since he was 9 yo, just like the OP’s son.

There aren’t too many cookies cut from this mold…

By the way, I just noticed something interesting from campsdad’s video…every time his young man throws a pitch, he turns and looks at the camera. I understand that this was his 1st ever pitching experience, and his dad went to the trouble of using a tripod (which is really good for analysis purposes); however, I really suggest that in future outings that dad should remove the additional pressure of performing on-camera in games, especially when the camera set-up is distractingly close to the field. If you must have every inning pitched on video, at least quietly choose a vantage point where your son will not be distracted and pressured by the movie-making.

I strongly encourage campsdad to use video (w/ tripod) to record practice sessions where there is no pressure at all to perform. I also encourage him to study the video himself, but not to use it to show his young son the flaws in his delivery. This young man can benefit from his dad becoming familiar with the details of his son’s delivery, and the high-quality coaching that his dad can provide if dad continues to educate himself deeply, but young athletes do not benefit from seeing themselves performing badly on video.

I have a small mechanical suggestion that may help simplify his delivery. When he comes to his set position, try and get most of his weight over his back foot. He seems to have his weight centered or maybe slightly forward during his set which requires a rocking back motion during the leg lift. This is difficult to repeat even with excellent body control. If his weight is already over his back leg, he can simply lift his leg and throw.

Don’t give up all the mechanical work… it will pay off down the road. It’s hard for a youngster to understand this but it is true. I was never a hard-thrower growing up, but I was mechanically sound thanks to help from my father. When I matured physically I surpassed my teammates almost immediately.

www.deartommyjohnletters.blogspot.com

[color=blue]There is no set mechanics for him to follow. Just allow him to do whats natural. Also another thing since he is nine you can and should expect some issues with control. This because very, very few 9 year olds have the same kind of control over their bodies that older players have. Body control is a huge key to consistently repeating your delivery. When I see his delivery I see a very typical little leaguer. I guarentee that if you continue to reinforce the idea to not worry about his mechanics and to just hit the glove as he grows and matures you will start seeing better control.
One final thing, you shouldn’t be overly worried about his struggles because he has only pitched for a little while
[/color]

As generalized as those statements are, there is more going for this direction, that’s between the lines, missed by the casual reader.

The very young involved in pitching have to bring a certain self imposed style with them that a professional pitching coach can observe and make fundamental judgements of. All self imposed pitching styles have a signature to them that pronouces a “type” and “character” of that human body’s ability to function - in a specific order and tempo. An as a youngster grows and progesses in sized, strenght, and maturity, his “type” and “character” of his body’s ability to function - in a specific order and tempo will evolve many times. Add to this mix, sickness, injury recovery, dramtic impacts to his social life and family conditions, only complicates the process.

Be assured that whatever advice that you recieve on this subject - when speific and semi-directional, is authored by an opinion based on what has worked for someone else. And above all, I am no exception.

The life cycle and interests of a youngster at nine will change over the years, as will his health, motor skills, attention span, and a host of other things. In no way should any of these experiences alter his natural talent in sports or other subjects, but life has a way of changing even the best of plans.

At nine, whether it’s baseball or playing the tuba, a parent has to go outside of the realm of one’s own experiences to get help. And if a parent could only take the coaching, teach the muscles how to act, or not, then presto … the kid gets it, that would be great. But it don’t work that way.
Pitching is pressure, for some youngsters it’s the last thing they need at certain times in their life. A professional pitching coach who deals with the youth spectrum understands this and sets the stage for understanding the rights-of-passage in this regard.

At Nine years of age:
Failure is not the subject when an appearance goes south. The fraility of youth and just short of leaping tall buildings in a single bound are all part of day. No big thing. Monday’s the start of a new week and we’ll give it shot again.

At twelve years of age:
Failure IS the subject when an appearance goes south. Let’s take note of what wasn’t taken from the practice field.

At fourteen years of age:
Failure is no longer a subject - it’s a reason for digging deeper into the heart and soul of the of the why’s and why not’s.

At sixteen years of age:
Progress is thee subject.

Coach B.

I was going to post, but Priceless answer summed up my ideas all at one, check how he is constantly looking at you with the pressure within himself of letting you down. Sometimes I over pressed my brother (he is in another thread) when he was 11 and he did bad because he had the pressure of the game plus me sitting in front of him, and when I didn’t attend the game he usually did really good. Just let him be so he can gain confidence in-game, and then (after 5-6 games) you start tinkering again with his mechanics and such.

I guess i sparked up a little debate between “just let 'em throw” vs. “give 'em the tools early.”

I want to say from the start I think everyone has voiced his opinion nicely. Priceless, although I don’t agree with you fully…I do value your words and opinion (especially from a 17 year old…and it will give me pause next time I’m working with my son. But, I want to make sure nobody has a misconception of me that I locked my son in the basement after this outing…never to touch the rubber again. On the contrary…we talked several times after the game and the next couple of days about how much fun he had and how he wants to do it again. I think that tells me that I’m doing something right.

My original post was to hopefully elicit some response about his mechanics. And, most of the advice toward that has been great. I think the first thing that I hope he’ll work on for his next outing would be the weight on the front foot prior to leg-raise.

I would say I fall more toward the “teach them how to do it right early” school. My son isn’t naturally gifted, but he does have a decent arm. I think for him to get the most out of his abilities, he’s going to have to have some sort of form that he repeats. So, giving him instructions on how to be a “cookie cutter” pitcher, in my mind, is giving him his best chance to find some success…thus enjoying his time more. He’s got years to tweak his style to something that suits him better. He’s had a great attitude about it already and he knows that what he’s trying to do is tougher than the other kids who are just getting up there and aiming the ball down the middle.

As long as he’s willing to work hard and learn…then, I don’t see why I wouldn’t try to teach him something he’s wanting. I’m hoping he’ll realize his potential sooner rather than not at all.

campsdad, good luck with your son. Now I don’t exactly what to teach your son (or any pitcher), because you do need some instruction. However, I just want to warn you againest trying to fit your son in some mold. Let him be creative with his mechanics and allow him to have feel of his mechanics. If you try a change in mechanics, work with it for a few weeks and observe him off a mound. If control, movement, and velocity improve stick with it, if not go back to what it was originally. Don’t force your son into a mechanical trait just because it looks “wrong”. It may just be some quirk he has. And on the mound tell him to not to worry about mechanics, because its hard enough to have good control when your just worried about the glove. You seem like a a good father and one who wants to let your son have fun, which is what baseball is all about. So good luck, and tell your son to trust his mechancis and just throw the ball.

campsdad, I think you’ve got it right for your son and your circumstances…your boy will enjoy learning effective mechanics from an early age, and he will probably see some quality results from his work with you.

As far as the ‘cookie cutter vs natural’ debate, I think there is a lot more agreement between various parties here than meets the eye.

For example, my son’s pitching coach has long made an important distinction between cookie cutter approaches to pitching mechanics vs the recognition of common elements that characterize almost every efficient delivery. Highly effective elite pitchers do not look exactly like one another when the pitch, but they do share many mechanical commonalities.

Training with those important fundamentals in mind (your mind, mostly, of course) will benefit your son very greatly, I think. Learning to perform the fundamentals of efficient pitching mechanics from a young age will not turn him into a clone of someone else, any more than Roger Clemens is a clone of Don Drysdale or Randy Johnson is a clone of Sandy Koufax.

That being said, I do agree very much with much of what Priceless says–your boy should be having fun with his training toward better mechanics in practices and he should never be made to dwell on his mechanics in game situations. You will meet many coaches along the way who have no clear conception of the separation between training and game performance.

One thing that might help is to have him set up from the center of the pitching plate to the first base side. His right arm and right hip will be more centered on the plate in that position. It would also allow him to set up with his right toe even with the arch of his left foot. This slightly closed position will put his hips in solid position to take his momentum directly towards the plate.

Good luck,

Ted

[quote=“Ted”]One thing that might help is to have him set up from the center of the pitching plate to the first base side. His right arm and right hip will be more centered on the plate in that position. It would also allow him to set up with his right toe even with the arch of his left foot. This slightly closed position will put his hips in solid position to take his momentum directly towards the plate.

Good luck,

Ted[/quote]

yeah, yeah…good idea. He’s on the third base side of middle right now. Might help him to center his line up. Now that I think of it, he didn’t miss inside at all. I think he was the only pitcher in both games that didn’t hit a kid. I’m wondering if he was overcompensating for being right of center and his balls were ending up outside on the righty’s.

thanks…