Hello, I am 30 years old and I am going to try to coach pitching for 13-16 year-olds next month. I feel that I already have a lot of pitching experience under my belt and that I am knowledgeable about pitching mechanics, different pitches and pitching strategy. But I was wondering if anyone thought if there was an absolute correct way to pitch mechanically? There are all sorts of theories out there about what will create maximum efficiency on the mound, but some of those theories are often in conflict with each other. For example, some pitching coaches teach to fall off the mound as opposed to pushing off the rubber so a pitcher won’t overstride to the plate. Other pitching coaches are insistent that a pitcher push off the rubber. Also, some pitching coaches teach loading up on the backleg when a pitcher lifts his leg, meaning lifting the leg in the opposite direction from homeplate and showing your back pocket to the hitter. But there are some pitching coaches who believe this is counterproductive. I would like to hear your thoughts about this.
I’m not a big fan of burying kids in drills but there are some excellent ones. One of the best for your quandry is the Hershiser drill. Look it up. It’s been discussed at length on this site. I just think it is the best way I’ve seen to date to help pitchers understand how to use thier lower bodies. How it really feels to lead with your hip. Push, don’t push off, tall and fall won’t even have to be mentioned. I think alot of that talk just confuses kids and messes with their timing. Hope this helps.
When I was a kid, just getting into pitching, I used to go to the original Yankee Stadium every chance I got, and I would watch the pitchers. I
noticed that the Yankees’ legendary Big Three rotation—all three of them—were doing the same thing: they were driving off the lower half of the body, using the legs, the hips and the torso in one continuous motion, and that was how they were generating the power behind their pitches—not to mention taking a big load off the arm and the shoulder so that they were throwing harder with less effort (even Ed Lopat who was not a fireballer). I realized that this use of the lower body was the real key to a pitcher’s power, and so I made a note of it and started working on it on my own. The result? Even though I was not much on speed, I could throw harder with less effort, and no sore arm or sore elbow or sore shoulder or sore anything else.
The “Hershiser” drill is an excellent place to start, It is aimed at getting the hips fully involved—and you don’t even need a lot of equipment, just a wall or a fence. The hips are central to this essential—and believe me, it is essential—aspect of good solid mechanics, and once the kids you’re working with master this they’re on their way. There are some other drills you can use in addition, but this one’s the key.
A word about repertoire—Tom Gordon, a very good relief pitcher who spent a couple of years with the Yankees, had this to say: “Because I played as long as I did, I understand that you don’t have to change too many things. You don’t have to learn too many different pitches. Just try and make sure you understand the pitches you have, and be great with the stuff you have.” For most pitchers in the age group you’ll be working with, three pitches—a fast ball, a curve (or something like it) and a changeup are sufficient: of course, there’ll be the ones who want to try something more offspeed or more esoteric, like a slider or even a knuckleball—but make sure they get the right instruction.
And a word of warning: DON’T ever mess with a pitcher’s natural motion or arm slot. When I was playing I had a wise and wonderful pitching coach, an active major league pitcher who firmly believed that every pitcher has a natural motion and who would work with that pitcher to help him (or, in my case, her) make the most of it. I was a natural sidearmer, and he helped me take full advantage of it. 8)