As kids learn to throw the change up with whatever grip worlds best for them (hand size, arm angle, comfort, etc.), what is the best way to teach the kids to pronate, or is it even worth trying to teach at this age? Is it to start throwing short distances with an emphasis on the follow through? Looking for ideas or teaching tools/points 12 year olds can understand.
There are changeups and there are changeups, and some are easier to throw and to control and some are calculated to give the most experienced pitchers the willies. My wise and wonderful pitching coach once told me that just about any pitch can be turned into a nice changeup, and he demonstrated some for me and showed me how to throw them. One of the easiest, believe it or not, is the “Bugs Bunny” changeup—a very nice palmball, which was the first one I acquired at age 12, and a very good one it was. And here it is.
To throw this one you grip the ball with all four fingers on top and the thumb underneath for support, well back in the palm of the hand (hence the name), but you don’t want to squeeze the juice out of it—a firm but not-too-tight grip will suffice. And you throw it just like the fastball, and you can throw it overhand, 3/4 or sidearm. You can vary the speed by either tightening the grip or loosening it. This will do for a start, and once the young pitcher has it down and can discombooberate the hitters with it s/he can go on to experiment with a couple of others. So go to it. 8)
I’ve found that for the change to be effective at that age the arm slot needs to stay the same as FB, arm speed needs to stay the same as FB, and what needs to happen is you must take spin off the ball.
At 12 I think a good grip might be the C change. The fore finger and thumb create a C shape on the inside part of the ball while the other three fingers remain on top of the ball. The ball should be held farther back in the hand than a fast ball. The ball when thrown can be thrown with a stiffer wrist than the FB taking more spin off.
This is the change my son used when his hands weren’t quite big enough to grip the circle change. He graduated to the circle change around 15 and now throws it with full pronation. Throwing the change with full pronation is trial and error, and takes a while to get used to.
Pronation will help turn the ball over giving it sharp diving action. However, when learning the change their natural pronation may be enough for now. Each kid is different and IMO each may need to adjust grip to get the desired results.
So true, each kid is different. A coach taught my son a circle change at 11 he was never comfortable throwing, possibly due to size of his hands. Current pitching coach taught him a loose three finger grip (middle to pinky) when he was he was 12 that he continues to use today with some slight modification. Key is lots & lots of practice. Find the grip & throw it a lot. Not just off a mound; playing catch, long toss, shagging fly balls, etc; Got to get the feel of it. Original grip has evolved over time with experimentation.
Expect this to happen also as the kids’ hands get bigger and stronger and as motor skills improve.
Regarding pronaton specifically, two things to watch for and to avoid are:
(1) Allowing the throwing arm to “sweep” across in front of them. Sometimes, in an attempt to pronate, their whole throwing arm sweeps across towards the glove side instead of staying on path to the target. That produces poor results.
(2) Late posture shift. Sometimes, in an attempt to pronate more than their flexibility allows, kids shift their posture to the glove side to help the arm come through with pronation. They should only pronate to the degree that’s still comfortable and for which posture can be maintained.
Each kid is different and IMO each may need to adjust grip to get the desired results.
Indeed, comfort with the arm angle (arm slot) has a lot to do with it.
Many moons ago, I was watching Yankee ace Ed Lopat conduct a workshop for some high-school pitchers, and there was one kid who seemed to be having issues with his pitching. It happened that he had a coach who could best be described as a child’s garden of misinformation—a royal pain in the gluteus maximus who insisted that the only way to throw was over the top, straight overhand, and never mind that it was screwing up the kid’s arm to the point that he was thinking about giving up the game altogether. Lopat, who had a basic premise that every pitcher has a natural motion, went after the problem, worked with the kid, cleared up some dangerous misconceptions, and ended up by making a sudden snatching motion with his hand and saying “And THIS is what you do with a mosquito!” The kid’s natural motion was 3/4 and he was encouraged to stay with it.
When you’re comfortable with your arm slot, whatever it is, stick with it and disregard any attempts to change it—just work on making the most of what you have and can do. And that goes for changeups. Lopat—one of the finest pitching coaches anyone could ever hope to work with—told me once that just about any pitch can be turned into a nice changeup, and he demonstrated several for me and showed me how to throw them. A twelve-year-old kid could do very nicely with what has been referred to as the “Bugs Bunny change”—a nice palmball which is easy to throw and to control and which will give batters conniption fits galore.