Youth Pitching Fundamentals
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
A strong and accurate arm, unfettered composure, and unwavering focus are all essential for success on the mound. These comprise the fundamentals of pitching.
However, without proper pitching mechanics these pitching fundamentals will go to waste. Proper mechanics are what enable pitchers to get their body into position to deliver the ball with maximum velocity and accuracy. They also help keep pitchers injury free.
It is extremely important to develop proper pitching mechanics at a young age. Baseball pitching fundamentals that are developed in youth—good or bad—are very hard to break as pitchers grow older.
Before delivering the ball to the plate, the pitcher must be in a relaxed and athletic position. Feet should be spread to approximately shoulder width, while knees are slightly flexed and shoulders and arms are relaxed. Once the pitcher begins the delivery, he or she should keep their eyes locked on the target. This will limit head movement and help keep the pitcher's motion on a direct path to the catcher.
The delivery starts with a short back- or diagonal back-step with the lead or non-dominant leg. There should not be a noticeable weight transfer at this point. This is followed by a pivot step by the drive or dominant leg. The drive foot should be flush against the pitching rubber, not on top or half-on, half-off the rubber.
The pitcher should then, in a controlled manner, raise the lead-leg—lifting from the knee—slightly back toward the throwing-shoulder. At this point, the ball should be in the throwing-hand, joined with the glove, at the mid-chest region.
The next movement is for the pitcher to take the lead leg down toward the ground, and then, out toward the catcher. As the lead leg starts its downward path, the hands should separate. The throwing-hand should be taken back, and up, away from the head. The glove-arm should open slightly toward the plate (Throwing-hand must be higher than glove-hand). When the lead-foot hits the ground—pointing at the target—the pitcher's weight should be predominantly on the slightly flexed drive-leg. This is what we refer to as the power position.
From the power position, the pitcher should drive the hips toward the catcher. As this happens, the throwing hand should also be traveling toward the target. As the hips become square to the plate, the pitcher should push off the ball (not flat footed) of the drive-foot. This push should be felt up the calf and hamstring, not in the thigh.
Finally, the pitcher should drive his or her fingertips down through the ball and toward the target.
As you can see from watching any big league baseball game, there are many different pitching deliveries that can accomplish the desired result. But the three facets we have discussed must be incorporated into any effective pitching motion.
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