Tom House Towel Drills

Okay I know not everyone subscribes to the towel drill, but Mark Prior had used the towel drill at one point to work on finding his “release point.” from an article I read:

ATLANTA – Mark Prior threw off flat ground and did some towel drills off the mound Sunday, but the Chicago Cubs pitcher is still at least one week away from throwing in the bullpen.
Prior, sidelined with an inflamed right Achilles, is building up arm strength as well as testing his ankle. In the towel drill, Prior goes through his throwing motion but uses a towel instead of a ball. The two weigh about the same and the exercise allows the pitcher to concentrate on his mechanics, not where the ball is going.

“I’m trying to find my release point,” Prior said. “The sooner I find my release point, the easier it’ll be.”

You can actually use a towel drill to get your release point in sync with the front leg, and I have used it to teach curve balls. Some coaches use it to work on a pitcher’s follow through as well. I have heard some young kids rave about this drill and Tom House speaks about it as well.

I am interested to see if anyone used the towel drill for these drills and what successes they may have. Perhaps some even may want to learn the drill and find that it actually helps them or not. Either way i’m curious.

If you have an opinion but haven’t actually done the drill yourself please be reasonable with your response. I am not looking for opinions without basis.

Thanks :slight_smile:

I believe that House is actually the inventor of the towel drill concept and he combines replacement of the ball with a towel in many of the drills that he uses to isolate and train different mechanical and timing issues.

It is a low-impact way of performing hundreds or thousands of repetitions of a pitching delivery, or an isolated part of a delivery, and unlike throwing drills that use a real baseball, towel drills can be performed almost anywhere.

In his teens, Mark Prior learned the towel drill from House as a part of the training he was doing under House’s tutelage.

In my view, everything in a pitching delivery must essentially come down to creating a repeatable release point…or else you won’t have a delivery that can be used to get pitches into the strike zone with consistency. That means that mechanics must be repeatable, and sequencing and timing must also be repeatable.

House tells a very funny story of a power pitcher that he worked with in Japan–awesome velocity, but in serious danger of being demoted to Japanese minor leagues because he had almost no command of the zone. One day House taught him how to replicate his delivery using the towel drill and surprisingly the team coaches saw tremendous improvement in command the very next day. House says it takes perhaps a thousand quality reps to make most useful changes, and it turns out that this pitcher had stayed up all night performing several weeks worth of towel drills in his hotel room.

Do you think that coaches teach the towel drill the wrong way? Can that contribute to the fact that some people advocate against it? I know a parent at the little league who is a coach for a team that was teaching the towel drill to his kids, but was having the kids hold the towel between the thumb and index finger snapping it down. This was making some of the kids throw pitches with different wrist action.

Yeah, towel drills start with more-or-less flipping the bird, then you hook your middle finger over the rolled up towel, about in the middle of the towel (one of those small hotel-sized face towels). Proper towel drills, like proper deliveries, do not include any twisting or flipping of the wrist during the throwing motion.

But I think that some coaches advocate against this drill for other reasons–some believe that there is simply no adequate substitute for throwing a 5 oz baseball 60’6" from a properly sloped mound, for example.

I don’t think the world is quite that black-and-white: All drills that are different from what a pitcher does in a game are, by definition, artificial. Towel drills may seem too artificial to be useful but I think they do have benefits as stated before: Performed thoughtfully, towel drills can give you a very convenient low-impact way to perform large numbers of reps. Yes, the reps will of course need to carry over to the mound but I’m convinced they can be extremely helpful for training mechanics, sequencing, or timing in preparation for real-life pitching.

My son is doing 15 reps of a full-delivery towel drill per day, along with all his other conditioning work, and we like the practical results (judging by his Sunday afternoon Fall Ball innings in an 18U league.)

Its something to work on pitching when you are at home or in a place where you don’t have the room to throw but want to work on mechanics. I am honestly surprised it isn’t bigger than what it is because you can get your release in sync with the front leg by making sure your leg goes stiff then snap the towel. That alone increases velocity and I have seen many releases on here that need some work such as that. Not having to worry about where the ball goes gives you a chance to work on the motion.

Anyway thats my opinion. I am hoping for more discussion. Maybe someone knows of other drills to be done. I know Dick Mills doesn’t approve of this drill, but I have mixed thoughts about what he teaches. First of all, he never pitched the way he is teaching. To me that is a warning indicator. My next post will be about who has had success with his program.