By Coach Bill Thurston, Amherst College
What Is "Flying Open"?
Flying open early during the stride and cocking phase of the baseball pitching delivery is a common fault experienced by all pitchers no matter of age or experience. Young high school and college pitchers have to learn HOW to stay closed, and experienced pitchers must FOCUS on staying closed until the stride foot plants during the pitching delivery.
What Is "Staying Closed"?
Staying closed means that until the stride foot plants giving the baseball pitcher a stable base, the lead elbow, the shoulders, and throwing arm stay aligned to the plate during the pitching delivery.
The next action (sequence) in the pitching deliveries is for the trunk to powerfully horizontally rotate tocreate angular velocity (torque), which is the major source of power, arm speed and pitching velocity!
The fault of "flying open" occurs when upper body, shoulders, and arms open with the stride leg and front hip. This is a natural tendency biomechanically, but this action decreases rotational forces (angular velocity) and puts the pitching motion out of sequence, negatively effecting control and velocity plus creating unnecessary stress on the shoulder and arm muscles.
"Flying open" causes the arm to drag because the stronger & larger muscles of the legs, hips, and trunk have already fired and are not available to create torque. Because of the lack of torque, most of the pitch velocity has to come from the shoulder and arm muscles, which will cause early fatigue.
Pitching Techniques And Drills To Stay Closed
Teach the baseball pitcher an efficient, balanced, aligned and compact pitching delivery.
1. Rocker-pivot-lift drill
Get to a balanced posting position without swinging the foot or leg up. Make certain the pitcher closed up the front side but doesn't over-rotate.
2. Down and out stride drill
Do not swing the leg or foot around and down. This technique will help keep the body aligned to the plate.
3. Lead with the front hip bone
This pitching technique helps alignment and generates lower body forces for a longer and more powerful stride.
4. Stride drill
For direction, landing flat-footed on a stable base with the toes pointing inward slightly (10-15 degrees).
5. Hand break and lead arm action drill
Use a flexed elbow as a rifle sight. This helps to keep the arms and shoulders aligned to the plate and keeps the upper body closed.
6. Mirror and abdominal drill
Perform the "down and out drill" and "stride drill" in front of a mirror. Concentrate on the lead elbow and shoulders staying aligned (closed) to the plate.
Even though the front hip has opened upon stride foot plant, the lead elbow and front shoulder should stay aligned and closed. Learn to contract the abdominal muscles to keep upper body closed. A pitcher should consciously feel the abdominal tighten during his pitching delivery.
7. Cocked position drill
Remember that the natural tendency is for a pitcher's upper body to come open with the front hip and stride leg. "Staying closed" is a LEARNED, not a natural TRAIT, and must be understood and developed.
Once a young pitcher masters this pitching delivery technique, you'll see improved control, more movement on the fast ball (due to torque), and an increase in pitching velocity.
Related Pitching Materials
Want to learn more about baseball pitching mechanics and techniques? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!