Never take eyes off catcher's target?


#1

During my son’s windup, as he brings the arms above and behind the head, and pivots on the rubber, he looks down. Always has.

I see most pitchers either do that, or tuck the chin into the glove side shoulder and momentarily look away from the target, or go “semi-Fernando” and look up a little bit (this seems to have diminished in popularity though).

However, his coach is relentless in trying to convert him to locking his eyes on the glove and keeping them there. My son’s control is very good. Personally, I see no need for him to change what he’s doing. I see a lot of good pitchers do the same thing and he’s quite comfortable with it. When I hit a golf tee shot, I don’t keep my eyes locked on the target. Doesn’t mean I’m unaware of how I want to hit the shot or where I “wish” it would go.

He has told me that the brief time he looks down is a time of refocus and allows him to really load up. There’s an instructor in our area that he really likes. The guy’s credentials are A+. He had a long MLB career. Bonus is that he’s good with kids. He though really preaches what his coaches are preaching and for that reason my son won’t go to him.

Why do some (actually he’s not had a coach that didn’t, but then again LL coaches are better plumbers and real estate agents than coaches) insist that a kid do this?


#2

There will be a time that a coach wants him to change and it will really mean something, such as a college coach asking him to change something to see if he has the ability to be “coached”, players resist change and it takes so much time and effort to effect the change, that they judge the effort to be too much, but if his coach wants the change and the coach feels it’s going to make a difference in his pitching why wouldn’t he make every effort to make it happen?


#3

If he was convinced it’d result in a positive change, the effort wouldn’t be an issue. What he doesn’t get is there’s no reason why other than “because.”

Anybody really advocate not taking your eyes off the target? If so, why? And why are so many very good pitchers (I’ll use one - Halladay - as an example) doing exactly what my son is doing. By the way, he did not start doing this to emulate anyone. It’s how he pitches.


#4

Exactly what I am talking about, the answer to a coach in High School and College isn’t why are you asking me to do this, I feel it should be I am going to work on what you are trying to get me to do. Most highschool coaches don’t want to hear from parents and they don’t want to hear from players asking why do you want me to change…it’s about making the changes that are asked of a player.

On the other note, I do agree that you shouldn’t take your eyes off the target, it might be for better defese, maybe for consistency or whatever. These are just my thoughts though.


#5

So if they ask him to throw left handed he should just say, “OK, Whatever you say…” That’s ridiculous.

I’m just not getting the picture here I guess for the reason behind what’s for all intents and purpose no more than an arbitrary change.


#6

Most pitchers who bring their arms overhead do indeed look down just before the arms pass their line of vision. There are a few advantages to doing this and I believe it is the natural inclination on the part of most pitchers who pitch this way from the wind up. First, the arms are going to momentarily obstruct the pitcher’s view of the target as they go up and will do so again as they go down, so it is not essential to lock in on the target at this point in the delivery. A few other points: if the pitcher uses a step-back during the wind-up, he will tip his head forward and look down to counter-balance the step in conjunction with the arms going overhead; the pitcher also often looks down to be certain of foot placement as the foot moves off of the rubber and turns to be placed in the dirt. There is plenty of time to pick up the target once the arms come down and the hips start moving forward.

I agree - give me a reason to make the change (especially if the pitcher is successful with his current method)… I could see if mechanically there was an issue, but I would still want a valid explanation as to why I should change something that I have worked hard to achieve. I see no problem in asking respectfully why you want me to do it this way?


#7

I used to worry about that. Don’t anymore. Unless turning the head to look at the target mid-delivery is accompanied by a turn of the front shoulder too. But that’s the only problem I’ve seen caused by taking the eyes off the problem and I haven’t seen it often.

Now, when kids start their delivery, look back at the runner on 2B, and then look at the target late in their delivery, I will intruct my pitchers not to do that. Once they’re committed to going home, there’s no value and only harm in looking back at the runner.


#8

[quote]So if they ask him to throw left handed he should just say, “OK, Whatever you say…” That’s ridiculous. Just like when my son has brought up, “what about when there’s runners on? I share my attention with the runner and the glove much more then and that’s not a problem?”

Just trying to get an idea why these guys feel the need to enforce their unfounded OPINIONS as though they are fact. When it’s obvious watching pros doing the exact same thing he’s doing. Perhaps his coach knows more about pitching than say Roy Halladay or King Felix. Works for them. More importantly though, it’s what feels right for my son and he’s good. He’s not doing it to be anyone else but himself.

I’m just not getting the picture here I guess for the reason behind what’s for all intents and purpose no more than an arbitrary change.[/quote]

Now don’t be rediculous BigShug, but it is their team, they know what they want for that team and “their” players. Once my kids were in high school ball, and with my youngest sons teams with coaches that have a understanding with the parents and players…that is what they want. I played college football, and this one line backer that I played with just wouldn’t take the advice of the coaches of how they wanted certain mechanics to be done well that turned into how certain defenses should be run…do you think that was going to get him playing time no way, well by the middle of his sophomore year he started adjusting and finally started seeing playing time…by the way, with positive results.

My question to you is, do you really think this coach is making these adjustments just to be a pain in your kids butt? He has the team in mind and wants an improvement, why isn’t the answer “Yes Coach”!

What will your reaction be if next year he gets cut because he can’t make the adjustments that the coaching staff is trying to make. I know that I wont convince you that there is a problem with this because you are looking at it as though it’s a problem with the mechanics, I am making this comment based on how players should take coaching and move their careers forward into high school and farther when coaches want to hear nothing from parents except, woo hoo and to whom do I write the check.


#9

This is one thing I will never understand…when a coach wants a player to make a certain change and will not explain why, just says “Just because” or “Because I said so”. That’s not a reason or an excuse—just an arbitrary decision, and in my opinion unreasonable. Don’t you think that a player, or anyone else for that matter, with a modicum of brains in his head is entitled to an explanation of the logic behind such a move?


#10

Zita what I am saying is that players and parents need to think about the battles that they are going to wage. In order to get PT you don’t need to be viewed as the player that won’t make adjustments because it isn’t the way I do it now.


#11

Yes, absolutely…I believe the player is entitled to an explanation.

If it’s something that they’ve worked on for weeks or an entire off season and a coach wants them to change it, then I think it’s reasonable to get an answer as to why.


#12

Unfortunately, this happens at all levels of the game.
The old St. Louis Browns once had a pitcher named Fred Sanford. He wasn’t a bad pitcher—in fact, he was a pretty fair country hurler who hust happened to pitch for the lousiest team in the majors. The Yankees saw something in him, and so they acquired him in a trade. And then the trouble began. Sanford had a delivery best described as herky-jerky, and never mind that he was getting the batters out; pitching coach Jim Turner didn’t like it. Third-base coach Frank Crosetti (and how did he, an former infielder, get mixed up in this?) didn’t like it. They both wanted Sanford to have a smooth, Spalding Guide-perfect delivery—and for no other reason than what he was doing offended their esthetic sensibillities! So they started futzing around with him—and they ended up destroying him. When they got through with him he wasn’t a good pitcher any more, and at the end of the 1950 season he was traded to another team. Esthetic sensibilities, my Aunt Fanny!!! Those two guys knew not what they were doing.
And some years later Turner went over to the Cincinnati Reds and became their pitching coach. He had on his staff a relief pitcher whose motion was even more extreme. That pitcher’s name was Howie Nunn, and he was really one for the books; he wiggled and wabbled and jerked around like a jackrabbit on steroids and threw his arms and his legs and his neck and just about every other part of his anatomy into his delivery. It looked awfully funny, even bizarre—except to the batters who had to face him, because he got good stuff on his pitches and was getting the batters out! And Turner never said boo to him.
Yes, I firmly believe that if a change is to be made there has to be a reason—some logic to it—and not just “because”. It’s not a matter of determining whether a player is “coachable” or something like that; it’s a matter of both the coach and the player understanding the reasoning for a change. And I’ll tell you something else—if a pitcher has a delivery, an arm slot, that is working for him, any coach who has it in mind to change it for no reason at all is asking for trouble. I’ve seen too much of that.
And I think, very fondly, of a pitching coach I had many years ago. His name was Ed Lopat, he was a key member of the Yankees’ legendary Big Three pitching rotation, and one of his basic tenets was that every pitcher has a natural motion—and what he would do was work with that pitcher to help him or her make the most of it. When, in response to a question I had about the slider, he took me aside and showed me how to throw a good one, he noted that I was a natural sidearmer—and he worked with that. He helped me refine my crossfire and expand my repertoire, he showed me how to adapt certain pitches to my sidearm motion, and he helped me become a better pitcher than I had been before. Why aren’t there more like him?
Oh, I know, people will say that this is Little League they’re talking about—but my frame of reference is major league, and I don’t see why some of this kind of thinking can’t be applied to the lower levels of the game. :greenmartian:


#13

I used to look down, too, when I was pivoting, but was taught to lift up the eyes back on the glove when I lifted my knee up again.


#14

SO?!?!?!?!? :roll:
You just going to leave us hanging there old boy? Did it matter? Were you effected by the change? Would you approach it differently today? Will you coach your team this way?
We need the goods, the juice, give us the “what it is” 8)


#15

Yeah JD - Like Roger and other have said, I also don’t think it makes any difference where the eyes go, as long as your delivery is locked in. For fun, one minor league pitching coach has us close our eyes and pitch, slowly, to a catcher and most of us could still throw strikes! Now these were pro pitchers, granted, but it proves a point sort of :slight_smile:


#16

I’m always telling my 7-y/o to “focus on the target”… it helps him a lot.

I’m not sure a habit of looking down or elsewhere at the beginning of the windup is a problem.

But I think young kids are easily distracted - even when pitching, so it’s a good general rule for the pitcher to lock his attention on the target. Heaven forbid he looks over to the stands to see who’s yelling, “Just play catch, Johnny!” as he goes into his stride…

Ever play catch with a kid and see what happens when he gets distracted and is looking at something else when he’s throwing?


#17

Looking off is the only thing that makes sense. Remember the old pictures that you’d stare at for 15 seconds until your mind went numb and you saw something else there? That’s total “lack of focus”. Rapid eye movement slows down the brain, and allows for better focus and ability to see what you’re throwing to. A kid needs to make sure he has picked his target up early enough at the leg kick so he can lock into it, but prior to that it should be taught to look off the target, in both the windup and the stretch.


#18

I got a kid on my team that does this as well. Most of the time it is not an issue. He picks the target back up as he goes into stride. There are occasions that he won’t look at his target until after foot plant though and then I will just remind him to lock back in a little sooner. Pro’s can pitch with their eyes closed. Most 10-11U’s absolutely have to see what they are throwing at (which is what my guys are). While their coordination is improving everyday, at that age it is still not to the level that they can get away with “winging” it too many times. I would imagine this is true even at some of the older levels.


#19

First of all I will say that I am a former major leaguer of 9 seasons who does a lot of private pitching instruction in my area. Doesn’t mean I know it all but I have spent many hours studying, playing and coaching the game I love. Just my perspective. If it helps great. I will give you my thoughts on the eyes and a few other things.
I also teach not taking the eyes off the target for this reason. I used to do what your son does and look away and then pick up the target at the last second. I changed it part way through my minor league years because I realized that my eyes would react to all kinds of movement happening during the pitch. A shift by the batter (body or hands), an umpire getting into position a little late etc… My eyes were drawn to the greatest movement. It was a problem for me.
I taught myself to stare at the glove so I could essentially see nothing else. That’s when my career started to take off. I learned to train my eyes like I did the rest of my body. My control became much more consistent and my success increased. How I did it would be for another conversation.
Let me say this about the instructor in your area. Your son is still young and he may see potential in him. He may also see that even though he has decent control for his age, if he wants to take it to the next level he needs to get even more consistent in this area and this is one way he knows to get him there.
I know that for me I don’t care much about my pitchers stats because they are facing a lot of kids that don’t know much about hitting or what their zone is or how to lay off bad pitches. I’ve seen many kids (not talking about your son, don’t know, never seen him) breeze through youth baseball with awful mechanics and think they’re ok because they’re getting outs.
I will say that if the guy in your area is as good as people say then you
should have a conversation with him and say we like you but he is not going to change this. I will caution you though that you need to consider that just because it might be an uncomfortable adjustment for your son for a while doesn’t mean the instructor is wrong. You may be sacrificing good solid teaching in a lot of areas (which is next to impossible to get anymore) over one part of the mechanic. He should really commit to working on it for a while before throwing in the towel. His other options are to teach himself how to take it to the next level or go to some guy who pitched in high school or college (nothing wrong with that) but didn’t have what it took to make it to the top. I know quite a bit about hitting. Had to to get people out but I turn my son over to someone who knows a lot more about it because the guy lived it at the highest levels. I got a few at bats every 5 days. Hardly an impressive resume.
That being said, a good instructor will never try to teach all of his pitchers to pitch like he did. That would be a mistake. If this guy says my way or the highway and is not willing to teach around this issue then he probably isn’t the guy for you. I believe however if the instructor is an A+ in all the other areas like you say then why not trust him in this one. i would commit to working on it after this season is over when there isn’t the pressure of competition. This is an off-season project in my book. Your son needs to take his other good mechanics to the mound and compete right now.
Hope this helps a little. Just wanted to share my thoughts.


#20

I was watching Baseball Tonight and they were reflecting back on Luis Tiant and demonstrating how King Felix turns his back to the hitter. Extreme, but very successful, cases of not looking at the catcher’s glove.