My son is pitching for the second year, he is 11. First year he was slightly above average velocity and control for majority of the year. He did have a couple outstanding games in a row last year. We were tinkering with his footwork and instead of stepping straight back for his windup he started stepping more towards 1st base. After making this adjustment he saw a big increase in velocity and accuracy. However after about 2 games (maybe even a game and half) it’s like his body adjusted and he went right back to slightly above average in both. Well this year he has started like last year. He is still slightly above average in velocity and control. However when throwing in the yard the other day I noticed something. I asked him to just stand normal with ball in glove and step to me and throw to me (no windup/leg kick or anything) and he has great control. He was nearly hitting my glove everytime. Also when he is just stepping and throwing normal he has nearly the same velocity as from a windup, maybe more. After doing this, I had him try to “pitch to me” from the windup and he went back to same old average control and velocity. Any advice on how to proceed? I think based on 2 games last year when it clicked he seems to have a lot more potential, but currently does better just throwing with no leg lift or windup.
Go with what works best for him.
Andrew Miller has a great story about how he went from a failed starter using a windup and conventional stretch deliveries to a lights out reliever who uses only a slide step. Strausberg ditched the wind up this year. Whatever works.
Fewer moving parts means less power leeching from parts moving the wrong way.
Stepping and throwing works better right now, but I know with the proper timing and mechanics he has the potential to be almost dominate as he was for a two game stretch last year. I posted this hoping for someone to offer ideas based on what seemed to work for two games last year and the fact that know he throws better with no leg lift that someone could offer some ideas for his timing/mechanics to get him to throw like he did for the two games last year. It was almost hard to believe how he threw for two games. He was blowing away the better hitters in the league with a lot more velocity and control than he has now.
“I asked him to just stand normal with ball in glove and step to me and throw to me (no windup/leg kick or anything) and he has great control. He was nearly hitting my glove everytime. Also when he is just stepping and throwing normal he has nearly the same velocity as from a windup”
spghbaseballdad nailed it, and here’s why.
First off, let’s get this out of the way - trying to emulate a fully matured, seasoned athlete is impossible for a youngster trying to develop and physically grow and balance his body’s muscular maturity. Don’t go there.
Second - Your son is on a journey of learning how to… in addition to meeting his complex responsibilities in the center of the infield, juggling the balancing act that makes him feel confident from setup to delivery, is by no means easy.
So, combining the first and second issues, IS THEE LEARNING CURVE that your boy is going through right now. If he had the muscular maturity to manage the strength it takes to go through what others suggest to him … do this…do that, he’d be able to adjust, there and there, and then finally come up with something that looks dynamic enough to put his movement side by side with the professionals that others think is the way to pitch.
Now here’s something that goes by the boards with the majority of amateur pitchers, their coaches and the lawn chair crowd. The human body has an amazing defense mechanism. This defense mechanism goes into action … when say, something comes flying by the face … and then arms and hands automatically go up to protect said face. So, the same defense mechanism kicks in when the eyes spot something on the ground that the subconscious immediately recognizes as not wanting to step in, or on. Take a walk out to any amateur ball field yourself, stand on the mound in front of the rubber, then look down and the slanting surface. Is that surface telling you something? It should. It’s telling you that your gonna have problems balancing yourself. Now when your son is on the mound, this kind of surface is not going unnoticed by his subconscious, whether he realizes or not. So his immediate setup posture, progress down towards his release, then his release, is in a hesitation mode. However, when he keeps an upright posture, his sense of balance and security relaxes that posture, just a bit, allowing him to do better.
I would suggest talking to you boy and asking him what he feels, physically and emotionally, with the leg kick and other styles, then without the animation. Ask him to narrate his moves, and why he does what he does. I say this because he’s the one that has to learn, apply, learn again, then reapply. That’s the training and learning process in this sport for any pitcher and position player. In fact, if your son is really serious about pitching, having him start a notebook of what he’s learning about himself - physically and mentally, every time you play catch, he pitches, his physical workouts, and the various batters he faces.
Here’s another suggestion, take video if you can from the sides, front and back, when your playing catch with your son. The human body goes through a natural set of movements when it’s relaxed and with no pressure. The motion of turning the body - or not, shoulder movement - or not, and even stepping towards you during arm movements - or not, are indications of why and how he accomplishes what he does. So, if your boy is coached or instructed to do something out of the ordinary from what he does while he’s relaxed doing what he does naturally (not that this may be correct) you and your son have a starting point to reason out and compare things.
My son is a 15 year old high school freshman now.
When he was 11, he went through exactly the same thing. He chased those dominant games for weeks after it left.
Like Coach_Baker said, it’s a journey for these kids. My son has always been tall, so it’s been a tortured journey at times during the growth spurts. Tightness, lack of core strength, lack of coordination, good mechanics seem to come and go for a lot of kids.
After 13u, he went to a slide step only, see the Andrew Miller comment above.
It worked well through 14u fall and the first 1/3 of the 14u season. At some point, one of the coaches on his team thought he would get more if he had a leg kick. His entire season went into the crapper right there. Even when he tried to go back to the slide step, his balance and timing of the arm and lower half was gone. Especially the offspeed pitches.
Took some time off, no fall baseball last year, started throwing again this winter before high school, and his mechanics look really really good. Using a high leg kick. His mechanics now look like nothing he’s used before.
My point is as kids grow, things change. Chasing what worked and left didn’t work for my son. Expertimenting with what might work next became a huge part of his journey. He’s become his own coach now because of it. He knows why he misses with certain pitches better than his coaches.
Kids have to love the grind. Have to love experimenting. Can’t be afraid to try and fail. Especially as the field sizes and distances change every few years.
If the step and throw worked, that’s really the slide step working, ride it until it doesn’t work any more, then start trying something new until something works.
Thank you for the replies. Obviously I was hoping someone would have offered a quick remedy to try based on my description of what we changed and worked and suddenly stopped working. But I am starting to figure out that this pitching thing if similar to my golf swing where all of a sudden an adjustment works and then stops working for no reason and there is no magic solution. All we can do is slowly try to get better.
But if anyone does have something to try, please offer it
Eventually, a leg-lift type delivery will be the way to go as it provides power to the throw unlike any other platform: taking undue strain off the arm and setting the stage for a powerful rotation, which is needed for the best fastballs. Just a little sage advice from a former pro pitcher and semi-retired physics professor who specializes in the Physics of Sport.
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