AHhh… spring is in the air, the MLB season is officially underway, and I’ve got the soundtrack from “The Natural” pumping in the background…

Makes me wanna get outside and throw the ball around!

Alas, those days are over…

So instead, on this fine spring day, I’m gonna share a little tidbit for maximizing your throwing program I picked up from my JERK teammate (at least that’s what I thought of him at the time).

It’s my freshman year at Northwestern, and I’m coming off a fall and winter of rehab and limited throwing.

After a thorough introduction to the brutal cold of winter in Chicago, we’re finally getting outside as a staff to get our throwing in.

Coach Stodds takes us out onto the football turf while the position players are working on… whatever they do when us pitchers aren’t around.

I’m pumped to finally be able to air it, let it go… unleash my arm after being forced to keep it contained… and at the same time I’m a little nervous.

I got paired up with one of the seniors – he was built more like a bodybuilder than a pitcher, and let’s just say he wasn’t the friendliest of guys.

I could tell he wasn’t especially happy to be throwing with me, either… In his mind, I was just a DUMB freshman who was probably gonna steal innings from him.

And with the perspective you only get when removed by time and a thousand-plus games, I can look back now and realize he was pretty much spot on.

I had a LOT to learn…  (and he made sure I knew it)

Anyway, we work it back to about 120 feet, then 150… and I have ZERO feel for the ball.

Every throw from HIM hits me right in the chest.

Every throw I make forces him to reach up (or JUMP up) to keep it from flying over his head.

I can tell he’s getting annoyed.

Then I completely airmail one 10 feet high, sending him trotting after it. I hear him say to a fellow senior, “Are you KIDDING me with this guy?”

He fires it back at me on a line and hits me right in the chest…

My next throw?

15 feet over his head.

This time I can literally SEE the fire burning in his eyes…

He gets the ball, regroups, and in angry fit of rage proceeds to launch one 100 ft over my head…

I watch it sail over and CLANG against the metal bleachers halfway up the stadium steps.

“What a complete #&*%!”   I think to myself.

I turn to glare back at him, only to be met by a smile and look that says, “No, YOU’RE the #&%!”

“Go get the BALL!” he shouts.

I can hear some my teammates laughing, telling him to take it easy on me as I’m climbing the steps to retrieve the ball.

But I also realized (even though I didn’t appreciate his approach) he was right…

Here I was playing D1 baseball and I can’t even go through my throwing program without it turning into a circus. Something had to change.

I had to demand MORE of myself, hold myself to a higher standard…

I had to learn to make an ADJUSTMENT.

As I geared up for my next throw I was fuming…. But I was also determined NOT to overthrow it and give him more ammunition.

I purposely reset my sights LOW, made a good hard throw, and one-hopped it off the turf, hitting him right in the chest.

Gradually, my throws got more and more accurate… His anger subsided, I got in a groove, and all of sudden I was feeling pretty good.

And while I may not agree with (or condone) his approach, I will say this:

My teammate taught me a valuable lesson that day. 

It was the start of me turning into a PITCHER instead of a thrower…

And taking a new approach with my daily throwing program.

And today, it’s something I preach all the time with my pitchers…

Your daily throwing program is one of your most valuable training tools if you know how to use it.

Over the years I developed a system that worked for me. And I encourage my pitchers to try it out for themselves, while giving them the freedom to tweak things to fit their style.

And it starts right in your warmup.

They’re often amazed at first by how they can improve their command and velocity at the same time.

Every throw matters.

You can see this approach in action inside my Motion Mapping Method program (and discover a step by step process for getting IN-TUNE with your pitching delivery).

Until next time…

Committed to Your Pitching Success,

Coach Phil

PS – Dealing with “jerks” is an unfortunate fact of life… (another little tidbit – a lot of times, they’re really just mad at themselves).

Don’t let ’em get you down… Instead, look for what you can LEARN to help you get better (even if it’s from someone you think is a jerk at the time). Maybe someday you’ll even thank them for it.

Curveball-GripSo I’ve been spending a lot of time recently on a new project, and I’m excited to say it’s finally getting close to being ready for release. I’ll never know the thrill (and pain) of childbirth, but this is probably as close as I’ll ever get… So today I’m just going to share a little bit of what it’s about (without completely giving everything away).

As a pitcher, your first priority should always be developing a good fastball. No question – that has to come first, and this is something I’ve written about before numerous times. See these articles for reference:

Pitch Grips: How Many Pitches Do You Really Need?

Fastball Command: Location, Location, Location

That said, once you’ve established decent command of your fastball, to be a complete pitcher you want to add quality secondary pitches to round out your arsenal. And developing new pitches (or expanding your skill-set) is something that can take your game to a whole new level – just ask Max Scherzer. But if you’re a young pitcher looking to add a new pitch, you better make sure you have a good process…

When I was a kid I was a mediocre ballplayer. I had some raw ability, but I wasn’t a standout by any means. Every day was a struggle, often ending in tears on the car ride home – embarrassing to say, but true (thankfully, baseball’s helped me develop better perspective over the years). It got so frustrating that I didn’t even play little league when I was 11 and 12.

But when I was teenager I learned how to throw a good curveball and my whole world changed.

I fell in love with pitching and went from being a kid who nearly gave up on the game completely to averaging 14 strikeouts a game by my senior year in high school, getting drafted and earning a division I scholarship to my dream school.

I mean it, you would have never seen that coming if you’d seen me when I was 11 years old!

Then one night, after years grinding in the minors playing all over the country, I found myself pitching back home for the Bridgeport Bluefish and buckled Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson with my curveball to end the game… a pretty cool moment for a kid who grew up a Yankee fan watching him on TV.

And the Curveball had such a huge impact on my career (and really the whole path of my life), that I’ve decided to put together some special training focused entirely on this pitch.

Curveball-Video-Training
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3 Part Video Training Series for Developing a Good Curveball

See, as nasty as a good curveball can be, it can also be one of the toughest pitches to Master. And as a coach working with pitchers over the past 10+ years, I’ve seen all kinds of mistakes that guys make with this pitch that prevent them from ever developing a really good one.

So I’ve just put together a Free 3-Part Video Training Series for developing a good curveball. Just a heads up, I’m not giving this away to everybody – you will need to enter your email. But after that, you’re in! Check it out and let me know what you think!

Click Here for your free video series: CurveballMastery.com/Video-Series

I’ve talked before about how when it comes to throwing strikes, one of things that can get you into trouble is thinking too much about your mechanics (for more on that read this article).

But today I’m going to contradict myself a little (it’s never black and white, after all), and talk about an easy mechanical tweak that can often get a pitcher right back on track.

[h5]An Easy Mechanical Adjustment for Improving Control[/h5]  
One of the things I like to do when I work with young pitchers is spend some time catching them in their bullpen sessions. I know, you don’t see everything going on in the delivery when you’re doing this… so I also try to spend time watching guys from the side and behind (and this is where video is a big help).

But catching allows me to see the ball out of their hand, see what the batter would see. I also get a feel for how their ball is moving and how their mechanics look different on a ball vs. a strike.

And after countless hours and zillions of pitches caught, I can often tell if it’s going to be a ball or strike before it even leaves their hand. I haven’t documented it, but I’m sure there are plenty of other coaches and catchers who experience the same thing.

Blink-Malcolm-Gladwell

And it’s not always the case of recognizing anything specific in the mechanics. Sometimes it’s just a sort of right-brained, synthesis sort of thing, along the the lines of what Malcom Gladwell talks about in his book Blink.

In it he examines Vic Braden, a legendary tennis coach who could predict with near 100% accuracy whether a player would double fault on a serve before the ball even hit the racket… without even knowing how he was doing it.

 
But other times, you do spot something mechanically… and one thing I can spot pretty quickly is when a pitcher is about to miss high and to his arm side.

You can see it happening in his stride before he even touches down with his front foot. Whoops… There goes the front side… There goes the glove arm… There goes the ball sailing over my head.

And a lot of times, when a pitcher misses high, they’ll say things like “I need to work on my release point.” Well good luck with that… do you realize how fast the arm actually moves when you’re pitching?

So if you want to get out to a good release point, don’t always focus on the throwing arm… instead, you’ll be a lot better off if you look to your glove side.

See, when the glove arm gets sloppy or too aggressive and pulls away from your body, things get out of sync. You end up with early trunk rotation and your throwing arm will tend to drag. What do you think this does to your release point?

Bottom line, when accuracy matters, your glove arm matters. Think accuracy matters to any of these guys?

throwing-mechanics-glove-arm
 
And I’m not talking about blocking yourself off with your glove, or bringing your chest to your glove… we still want to have powerful trunk rotation (read this article for more on Good Glove Arm Action).
 

Notice Cliff Lee here, staying closed and controlling the glove arm, but still getting through it with good trunk rotation (not blocking himself off with the glove).

And the good news is this is usually a pretty easy fix. After a pitcher flies open and misses high to his arm side, sometimes it’s just as simple as a gentle reminder:

“Hey, remember, stay closed…” (point to the front arm)

And if it’s something he’s worked on before and he knows what staying closed feels like, he can usually make the adjustment on the very next pitch. And boom, he’s back down in the zone. I’ve seen it work again and again… Now is it fool proof? Of course not.

If a pitcher doesn’t have a good feel for staying closed it’s another story…

One of the best drills I’ve found for working on this is what I call Torque & Turns. And basically it helps work on good glove arm action and trunk rotation. Just make sure you’re not pulling that glove arm out or leaning way over to to the side.

So again, it’s not always about mechanics. But instead of thinking about your release point, the next time you’re missing high… Look to your front side.
[hr] Side note for coaches and parents: I want to address a great comment a reader made to my last post. And the basic jist was to save the coaching for after the game – let the kids play. And shouting out mechanical cues and advice from the stands and the dugout usually doesn’t have the desired effect.

So if you see a pitcher flying open and missing high, instead of shouting out to him, try this approach:

Have some kind of signal with your catcher (work it out before the game). And before he throws the ball back to the pitcher, have him gesture to the pitcher by closing his front side and tapping his glove arm. This kind of reminder is sometimes all it takes.

And if he’s not making the adjustment, don’t keep harping on it. That just leads to frustration. It just means he needs to work on it more between outings.

More deliberate practice, less pitching…

Love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment in the box below.

And if you know any coaches or pitchers who could benefit, you can do me a huge favor and share this article – Thanks!

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