Teaching and learning the change-up

My son and I started working on throwing a change up today. I showed him the circle change grip and told him to throw with his regular motion and speed but hold the ball loosely and let the ball slip from his fingers as he comes through.

It really didn’t go very well. It seemed as though he either held the ball too tightly which resulted in a pitch with velocity just about like his regular fastball or the ball slipped from his hand too soon and went very high and wide to my left. What should we be doing different?

BTW, his knee lift and stride is much improved.

Thanks,
Doublebag

If I’m not mistaken, your son is ten (10) years old. So, I’m going to assume that his hand, shoulders, and other physical features are typical for a ten (10) year.

First off, I’ve had no experience with youngsters that age, but using deductive reasoning, and a lot of assumptions - I’m going to make some observations — then suggestions.

The change-up/off-speed pitch requires a reasonable amount of strength and hand dexterity to accomplish. I say this from a coaching standpoint of dealing primarily with adults - but with some characteristics that may apply to your ten (10) year old.

The palm of the hand, especially where the fingers join the palm, or better known as the calluses portion of the hand, has to have enough, deliberate - action/strength, to contribute to the pitch more than any other part of the arm’s pitching motion. Hence, the release is deliberate but … blunt. No small order for a ten (10) year old. Heck, I’ve had guys who’ll cruise at 90-94 all day, but’ll struggle like crazy not to put the same “pop” in their off-speed.

For those pitchers that I’ve had problems with on their off-speed, I’ve had to take something away … something that would cancel out the “pop”. After all - an off-speed is suppose to be just that … off-speed.

Try this grip —
Hold the ball like your would a four (4) seam fastball. Take your middle finger (now be nice) and let that be the only finger on a seam. Let the other two fingers rest on the sides - smooth part of the ball. Let the pinkie and the thumb balance the grip underneath. Now rest the ball on the palm of the hand, and slowly play a game of catch to get use to the grip.

At first the ball will pop out of the hand and go skyward - no big deal. But, with deliberate concentration, it (ball) will have the control and off-speed results that your looking for. In fact, it’s not unsual for a pitcher to develop some neat movement on the ball with this grip.

I’m sure someone on the site who deals a lot with youngsters can offer something different - until then try this suggestion.

Coach B.

I also wanted to add, the off-speed pitch for a ten (10) year old playing in that age bracket may not have favorable results using that pitch. (just guessing here)

I say this because bat speeds at that level aren’t necessarily things of legend, and slower bat speeds may send that pitch right into the parking lot. Which by the way would be a negative reinforcement for a ten (10) year old pitcher trying to accumulate some confidence for the position.

Like I mentioned before, I’m not from the youth game, but using some assumptions you might want to stay clear of the off-speed stuff for now and work on fastball by locations. Again, I’m probably wrong on this one.

Coach B.

10 is not too early to learn a changeup but a circle change can be difficult simply because of hand size. Most kids morph into forming more of a “C” with the thumb and index finger and thus some people refer to this as the “C” change. This is fine if the pitcher can master turning the palm out, or pronating at release. In many cases this is a difficult pitch to master for a young kid.

The NPA teaches a split finger pitch as a changeup for young kids. Hold the ball like a traditional two-seam fastball and then spread the fingers to the outside of each seam. If possible drag the thumb a little as the ball is released. Throw the pitch like a fastball. Velocity is controlled by the spread of the fingers- the wider the spread the slower the pitch.

Another grip that I’ve seen succesful with younger kids is again similar to a two seam fastball except the seams are gripped with the middle and ring finger. If you make sure the thumb and middle finger split the ball in half then this will turn the palm out slightly at release and take some velocity off the pitch. It’s also a good way to transition into the circle change.

Coach Baker’s advice is very wise. If your son has a good fastball for his age throwing a changeup may just be slow enough to meet bats at that age group. It’s never too early to learn though because somewhere there’s a hitter waiting for your son. I seem to remember reading that from Coach Baker as well.

One final thought. Whatever grip your son settles on for his changeup make sure he throws the pitch with fastball arm speed. Arm speed is a key component of a succesful off-speed pitch.

Having just gone through this this year with my son he’s my .02.

The grip feels weird, and takes them out of their comfort zone. That leads to varying degrees of wildness and a aversion to throwing the pitch. At the beginning of the year my son wanted nothing to do with the pitch, but his pitching coach really hammered home throwing it and not worrying where it went. By the end of this year he had become comfortable with the grip and used it with very good results the later tournaments we played.

Also Coach Baker makes a good point. My son has another off speed pitch he throws. About midpoint through this season he stated how the pitch worked really well at travel ball, but the rec kids hit it. If a batter is use to/expecting to see heat a change-up works. If a batter is use to slower pitching the effects will be limited.

The way i taught my son was to just start playing catch with it. After a couple of months we stated trying to throw it during bullpens.

It is a pitch that takes a while to learn. After about a year now he has pretty good control.

Good luck, it will take some time.

My son actually has better luck using a 2 seam grip for a change up than the circle grip. He has small hands(also 10) & normally uses a 3 or even 4 finger grip on his fastball & goes to a 2 seam for his change. I guess the way his hand has to grip the ball with his small hands takes some speed off of it using the same arm action.

Many moons ago my pitching coach told me that just about any pitch can be turned into a nice changeup, and he demonstrated a few such for me. Now—as I see it, the kid is ten years old and has a small hand, so it’s not surprising that he’s having problems getting the hang of a changeup. I remember when I was having difficulty with the circle change, and when I told my coach (an active major-league pitcher) about it he took one look and noticed that my hand wasn’t quite large enough to form a complete circle. He told me that I should go to a backwards “c” with the thumb and index finger and also move the middle and ring fingers closer together, creating a sort of off-center grip. That made all the difference for me.
Another thing the kid could work on is a palm ball—that is actually an easy one to pick up, and because you throw it the same way you do the fast ball it puts no added strain on the arm and shoulder. You grip the ball with all four fingers on top, thumb underneath for support, and you grip it way back in the palm of your hand—but not too tightly, because one thing you don’t want to do is squeeze the juice out of the ball! That was actually the first changeup I acquired, and a good one it was; I used it effectively for more than two decades.
The important thing to remember is this: you have to throw every pitch with the same arm motion and the same arm speed. :slight_smile: 8)

Thanks, everybody. Once again you have been very helpful.

Coach Baker’s statement statement about dexterity and working with adults got me thinking - If you look my ten year old’s handwriting it is clear that fine motor control of his fingers and hands is still developing. I am also 6’ 5" and have very big hands, so what might be easy for me is probably near impossible for him.

So today we took JP’s suggestion and tried a split finger grip. I figured that it would pretty much take dexterity out of the equation and let his smaller fingers work to his benefit.

I showed him the grip and we threw it a few times. After a little while he was pretty comfortable holding and throwing the ball. So then I backed up to about 100 feet and told him I was going to hold the ball with a split finger grip and throw it hard. I asked him to pay attention to how much longer than usual it took for the ball to get to him.

He saw the result and then he tried it himself. BINGO - the light goes on. He’s throwing with the same arm speed, but the ball is going slower. After a little while we go back to 45 feet and he’s got it. He also notices that when he moves his fingers further apart, whe ball goes slower. When we’re done, he goes in and tells Mom he’s got a “new pitch.” :smiley:

A few observations from watching my 10 YO:

  1. He typically only throws 2 or 3 change ups during a 75 pitch outing. These he throws for fun when he’s playing with the hitter. Therefore, the change up is rarely used. It’s not an important pitch at this age.
  2. He prefers working on pitching to the corners, knees and at the letters.
  3. Unfortunately, some LL (volunteer) umps limit the strike zone (to make the game “fair”) to belt high down the middle. He calls it the dollar size strike zone. When this happens, he aims it down the middle, belt-high and hopes for the best. This pitch is at least 5 to 7 MPH slower than his fast ball, but still fast enough for his age.

He does play with a change up in the back yard and tries to perfect it. Unfortunately, I don’t know what he’s throwing. He experiments and uses what feels the best.

[quote=“shoshonte”]A few observations from watching my 10 YO:
These he throws for fun when he’s playing with the hitter. Therefore, the change up is rarely used. It’s not an important pitch at this age.
[/quote]

That’s because your screwing around in rec league. In travel ball, even at 10, it’s a very effective pitch. The pitchers who can throw it well have the most success, because there are hitters who, no matter how good your son is, will tee off on his fastball.

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]

That’s because your screwing around in rec league. In travel ball, even at 10, it’s a very effective pitch. The pitchers who can throw it well have the most success, because there are hitters who, no matter how good your son is, will tee off on his fastball.[/quote]

Ouch! That’s some fairly hard hitting words towards a 4th grader.

He pitched one TT (9U) Tournament this past summer. Two games. Eight innings. One little dink single. 3:1 strike-out to walk ratio. No runs allowed. No change ups!. Just moving the ball inside, out, up and down. Wasn’t rattled on bad calls. Never lost his composure. These kids he faced could hit. They blasted rest of our pitchers. The kids with the change ups gave up lots of runs because they couldn’t find the plate! These kids had terrific form and the best training money can buy. But they couldn’t find the strike zone. Once they got rattle, their “fast ball” was bad and their change ups (which were never good to begin with) weren’t any better. Instead of having one dominant pitch that they threw for strikes, they had two or three bad pitches that they had no clue about were it was going. It may be a little better at 10U, but from what I saw in the game I watched, not much better. From what I saw at the 10U Tournament, the 10U age kids had more velocity but still little control.

It’s been said before, mechanics and physical maturity are the two most important development stages for a young pitcher. Feeding the ego (my kid is better than your kid 'cause he plays Travel Ball . . . Yada . . . Yada . . . Yada, and I’m the coach . . . and I make the rules . . and the line-up . . . and say if your kid can pitch or not . . Yada . . . ) at this age can set the youngster up for a big disappointment later, as well as being arrogant and believing he is better (more righteous) than everyone else. Mechanics can be taught in the back yard and physical maturity isn’t dependent on whether Junior is in a competitive league or a rec league. From what I’ve seen, arrogance, which is a bad development trait, is part of Travel Ball training. It goes hand in hand with statements like “screwing around in rec league.”

Yeah, he does play in the rec league (LL). It may not be competitive to your taste, or even to mine, but he’s a kid having fun. And he doesn’t see himself being any better of a person (or more special) than the weakest kid on the team. Having the right attitude about himself will pay off as he becomes a man - whether he pitches or not.

My son exhibited (false) pride when he struck out all those TT kids. And to be honest, it’s not really much fun striking out a rec league kid who doesn’t have a chance. But it’s the same experience (75 pitches) and with the same objective (three outs per inning): Throw strikes. Hit your spots. Don’t give up a free base.

[quote=“shoshonte”][quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]

That’s because your screwing around in rec league. In travel ball, even at 10, it’s a very effective pitch. The pitchers who can throw it well have the most success, because there are hitters who, no matter how good your son is, will tee off on his fastball.[/quote]

Ouch! That’s some fairly hard hitting words towards a 4th grader.

He pitched one TT (9U) Tournament this past summer. Two games. Eight innings. One little dink single. 3:1 strike-out to walk ratio. No runs allowed. No change ups!. Just moving the ball inside, out, up and down. Wasn’t rattled on bad calls. Never lost his composure. These kids he faced could hit. They blasted rest of our pitchers. The kids with the change ups gave up lots of runs because they couldn’t find the plate! These kids had terrific form and the best training money can buy. But they couldn’t find the strike zone. Once they got rattle, their “fast ball” was bad and their change ups (which were never good to begin with) weren’t any better. Instead of having one dominant pitch that they threw for strikes, they had two or three bad pitches that they had no clue about were it was going. It may be a little better at 10U, but from what I saw in the game I watched, not much better. From what I saw at the 10U Tournament, the 10U age kids had more velocity but still little control.

It’s been said before, mechanics and physical maturity are the two most important development stages for a young pitcher. Feeding the ego (my kid is better than your kid 'cause he plays Travel Ball . . . Yada . . . Yada . . . Yada, and I’m the coach . . . and I make the rules . . and the line-up . . . and say if your kid can pitch or not . . Yada . . . ) at this age can set the youngster up for a big disappointment later, as well as being arrogant and believing he is better (more righteous) than everyone else. Mechanics can be taught in the back yard and physical maturity isn’t dependent on whether Junior is in a competitive league or a rec league. From what I’ve seen, arrogance, which is a bad development trait, is part of Travel Ball training. It goes hand in hand with statements like “screwing around in rec league.”

Yeah, he does play in the rec league (LL). It may not be competitive to your taste, or even to mine, but he’s a kid having fun. And he doesn’t see himself being any better of a person (or more special) than the weakest kid on the team. Having the right attitude about himself will pay off as he becomes a man - whether he pitches or not.

My son exhibited (false) pride when he struck out all those TT kids. And to be honest, it’s not really much fun striking out a rec league kid who doesn’t have a chance. But it’s the same experience (75 pitches) and with the same objective (three outs per inning): Throw strikes. Hit your spots. Don’t give up a free base.[/quote]
Congratulations to you, we played travel ball for 2 years & are going back to rec to have FUN playing ball again. To many dad’s & their ego’s who think JR is going to play in the MLB get a grip it’s 10 year old baseball & means nothing other than fun

First of all let me say that I’m sorry some here have had a bad experience with travel ball. But it’s been a blast for us, coaches are down to earth, good parents, kids get along, good time all in all.

shoshonte

You stated in this thread a kid doesn’t need a change up based on time spent in rec and one travel tourney. We’ve been playing TT for three years now and I disagree. The last tournament we played up in 11U and faced a kid in the championship game that threw heat, a knuckle change, and a mean curve. Needless to say he pitched a great game. Are there weak teams in travel ball, yea. But on the whole a pitcher from 10U on better have more than one pitch, even if he is the second coming of Nolan Ryan like yours.

I made a simple statement, sorry my wording offended you. That said you don’t know me, and you can take your pompous azz BS and stick it right where the sun doesn’t shine. How’s that for a reply? :wink:

Doublebag, I can tell you from experience with my kid that a 10yo with small hands can learn to throw a very effective circle change. All it takes is the magic word - practice. I don’t mean a few pitches, I mean a few months at least. It really takes time to throw it right and throw if for strikes. Some time ago I posted a link to a NY Times piece about Johan Santana learning the pitch as an adult. He kept a baseball in his hand constantly for months, just getting used to the grip.

Two other points raised in this thread - somebody mentioned kids teeing off on it. Yeah, if you lead off with it. A kid needs to establish the fastball to a batter before throwing the change. The first few months my kid only threw his change 0-2. Now that he knows he can throw it for a strike constantly, he’ll go 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-1 - always showing at least one fastball first. The only batters he won’t use it on are guys who have proven that they can’t begin to get around on his fastball. He’s been working on a curve, so he shows that to those guys.

Somebody else said that a kid doesn’t need an off-speed pitch in rec ball. Maybe where you live. Around here, there are plenty of good travel team players also playing Little League, and you most definitely need some kind of off speed pitch or they’ll eat you alive.

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]
You stated in this thread a kid doesn’t need a change up based on time spent in rec and one travel tourney. We’ve been playing TT for three years now and I disagree. The last tournament we played up in 11U and faced a kid in the championship game that threw heat, a knuckle change, and a mean curve. Needless to say he pitched a great game. Are there weak teams in travel ball, yea. But on the whole a pitcher from 10U on better have more than one pitch, . . . [/quote]

I agree that at 11U a change up is needed. Bats catch up, players are more even, etc. Kids have learned to key off of one pitch and a 2nd good pitch is needed or the kid is toast.

My argument stems from watching to many kids throwing multiple types of pitches at 9 and 10 without ever getting control of their primary pitch, the fast ball. Control the fastball and progress on to the change up. Control the change up, and progress onto a 3rd pitch. The goal would be that by 11U they have two or three pitches they can spot where they want the ball to go.

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]
. . . even if he is the second coming of Nolan Ryan like yours. [/quote]

There will never be another Nolan Ryan. My son dominates now 'cause he is both mentally and physically more mature than his peers. In time, others will be stronger, faster, throw harder and bigger than he, and 9U/10U/11U success will mean nothing. Yet, if anybody decides to be disciplined and work hard at what they are gifted at, then tomorrow may have some meaning.

BTW, he had a blast and a great experience with the TT. It was only the attitudes of a few parents and their kids that ruined it for me. We’re still contemplating TT for next year.

[quote=“SomeBaseballDad”]
I made a simple statement, sorry my wording offended you. . . . How’s that for a reply? :wink:[/quote]

Not offended. :wink:

I’ve gleaned understanding from following your comments.

It’s very true that a kid doesn’t need a whole arsenal of breaking pitches, just a good fast ball and a good changeup. The problem is what kind of changeup; there are so many different ones, and some are harder to master than others. If what is needed is a change that won’t put any additional stress on the arm and the shoulder, may I suggest the palm ball? That’s an easy one to pick up; you just grip it with all four fingers on top of the ball and the thumb underneath for support, and you throw it with the same motion as for a fast ball. The trick is not to grip it too tightly; after all, you don’t want to squeeze the juice out of the ball! That was the first changeup I acquired, and a very good one it was, and I used it effectively for more than two decades. 8)

My youngest kid played a combination of 9U Rec and 10U Travel ball this year and my observations were that there is a huge difference in the hitting ability between the two (and not just because of age). Legitimate travel ball players can all hit, and they can all hit the fastball. To repeat a common quote… “the art of hitting is timing. The art of pitching is upsetting timing.” Unless your kid is an absolute freak of nature and is throwing 10MPH faster than any other 10 year old, the kids in travel will time his fastball and hit it. Its that simple. My kid enjoyed some success pitching travel, but only had a couple fastballs (2 and 4 seam), so it was obvious that as he continued to work on location, he also needed to develop an off speed pitch. Our travel commissioner made a suggestion to play rec fall ball and to use it as an opportunity to work on his changeup. That is exactly what we did. There was no pressure, so it was the perfect setting. My kid turned 9 in August, so he played 9U rec fallball, and to be honest it was almost unfair, but it definately helped him prepare for 11U travel next year. Anyone that thinks that a changeup will not be effective at that age should have watched. When you see kids gearing up for a 50mph fastball, only to see a 37 or 38 MPH changeup at 45 ft, it looks like a bugs bunny video. The kids were either swinging when the ball was barely 1/2 way there or completely freezing and not swinging at all since their timing was thrown off so much. There were other travel kids in the league as well sharpening their skills, and it was equally effective against them. Only one made contact, and he pulled it way foul because he was so far out in front. I’m not saying this to brag about my kid. He still needs a lot of work, but my point is that a changeup is a good pitch for that age because it is thrown just like a fastball and doesn’t put any extra stress on their arms, but can be a fantastic weapon for a young pitcher since the young hitter’s timing can be thrown off so easily.

As for the earlier argument about travel versus rec baseball. I won’t bash rec ball, but there is a HUGE difference. And you don’t need to think your kid will play MLB ball to get him or her into travel. Travel baseball is for kids that want more competition in order to prepare them for High School and possibly college baseball, and there will be a huge disparity in the development of a kid that plays rec and one that plays travel. The travel kid is playing with (hopefully) an entire team of kids that have skills and a desire to play baseball, whereas rec teams do not. Sorry, but I have coached both. Every rec team has several kids with limitted or no skill or desire to really play baseball. Kids that show up, look at the planes, play in the dirt, etc. and they hinder the development of the kids that have skills. One example from fall ball this year: Bases loaded and two outs. My kid is playing SS. A grounder is hit slightly to his right and he comes up firing the ball home. the ball arrives in time and on target, but is dropped by the catcher. I then hear a couple bewildered parents ask out loud why he threw home in that situation. I could not tell them, but the asnwer was because he knew that was his best chance for getting the out. The kid at 3rd was not paying attention and could not catch, the kid at 2B was not covering the base (and probably would not catch it either) and the kid at 1B would not have been able to catch the hard throw that he would make across the infield. The catcher was the kid most likely to catch the ball. When he came in I asked him privately why he made that decision, and he told me what I already knew. Kids, even at that age, that can play, know who can catch and who can’t. So by being in that situation, my kid made the wrong play to try to make the out because he can’t trust several of his team mates. In order for a kid to develop, he/she needs to be able to throw full strength to team mates knowing that they will catch it, and be able to have team mates that can throw to them. They all need to be playing their positions and ready. Travel ball offers that. Travel ball also pushes the kids because they face better talent. As I wrote earlier, every travel ball kid can hit, therfor pitchers have to work harder. They can’t get away with getting through 3 or 4 batters then gliding through the rest of the lineup. They need to work hard against every hitter. Rec ball has its place. And for the kids that either don’t live in a community with a strong highschool program or who don’t plan to play in high school and just want to have fun, rec ball is great. But in communities that have very competitive high school programs like ours, where there are 600+ kids per grade and only 15 or 16 roster spots on the varsity team, if your kid wants to play on that team when he or she is 16, 17 or 18, then they need to be facing the best talent they can when they are 10, 11, 12… That is not arrogant, it is just being realistic and prepared. And travel ball is the best option for those kids. If you think about it, there are 11 - 12 kids on a travel team. Most big high schools have a freshman, JV and Varsity baseball team. Therefor 4 travel teams (one for each age group) are feeding only 3 high school baseball teams, so some of the travel kids may not even make one of the teams. What chance do you think a kid that played rec his whole childhood will have of making the team?

I would second the opinion of teaching the palm ball/change up. I would teach it to any kid who has mastered the fastball regardless of age. I would also recommend only using it against kids who have proven they can hit your fastball.

My experience is that a significant number of kids 12U play both Travel/Select and Little League. In many of the larger leagues here the entire LL All Star teams have players that play both. Not that either are better it is they have different goals. The thing you get with Select baseball is like anything else you get what you pay for. Typically the coaches are better and the biggest thing is that all the kids are focused and want to be there. With the kind of money involved I have found very few parents are willing to pay and then watch their kid screw around in practice.

I also agree that if your kid goes to a large school and wants to play HS baseball, he better play some sort of select/travel ball where he will challenged. I know a number of kids here that have played Select and are good players and are cut from their HS team. It isn’t always about ability, it is about knowledge of the game how much the HS coach has to teach him, it is about coachability/attitude and one of the best ways to get all of that is from select.

I would also say that just because Johnny is dominant as a 12 yr old doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good HS player. Over my 20+ years of coaching I have come to realize that most players that are dominant at 12 are so because of size and they have very little incentive to work on fundamentals. A good coach will recognize that and focus more on the process of learning fundamentals rather than success. I have seen very few rec coaches that do that.

Too many coaches today will watch a kid take a grounder to the side of him and make a play and throw the kid out and praise him on what a good play he made. Then 4 innings later the kid will do the same thing and misplay the ball and scream at him to get in front of the ball not recognizing that the first play led to the second play.

Focus on the process of learning fundamental baseball and doing things right and the players that do that will eventually pass up players that don’t. My son is a perfect example of that. He has always been pretty tall but also pretty weak but I always hammered him on fundamentals. He was never a superstar and in fact did’t make the Majors in LL until he was 12 and that was more the fact he was 12 than his ability. He started making strides at 13 and had a very good Babe Ruth coach. I put him on a travel team when he was 14 and now after talking to his HS coaches, he has a legitimate shot of making Varsity as a Freshman more due to the fact that he goes to a small HS and they will be going thru a rebuilding year, but he has still passed up nearly every player he played LL with.