What if you can’t long toss in the winter?

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In Part II of my series on the long toss debate, we took a look at some of the benefits of long toss. For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re sold on long toss and want to make it a part of your regular training regimen. Well that’s great, but during the winter months that can be a bit of a problem.

See, one of the limiting factors when it comes to long toss is you need the right training environment. Key requirements:

  • Open space: A big field or open space so you can really open it up (up to 350 ft)
  • Decent throwing weather… tough to long toss when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.
  • Daylight (unless you have access to a huge indoor turf field). With the sun rising later and setting by 5pm, good daylight can be tough to come by during the winter months.
So what do you do when you can’t long toss?

If you like long toss, that’s great. I’m all for it if you’re smart about it and it doesn’t take away from improving other aspects of your pitching. But when it comes down to it, all you really need for an adequate throwing program is a bucket of baseballs and a net.

Here are some things I used to do during the cold winter months:

My brother and I worked out a deal with the local high school Athletic Director who let us use the gymnasium to throw in the early morning before school started. We couldn’t go past 120 feet, but it was better than nothing.

One winter I lived in Hoboken, NJ and didn’t have a throwing partner nearby, so I set up a net in my garage and did my full throwing program from no more than 10 feet away. Caveat: one day a week I would drive 30 minutes to the local baseball facility to get my throwing in at a full 60 ft.

One off-season I got an apartment in FL with my brother so we could throw outside during the winter. But even then, our schedules didn’t always line up. So there were plenty of days where I would just get a ball and go seek out the nearest supermarket or Home Depot and throw against the wall near the loading dock in back.

So if you like long toss, fine that’s great, it’s just not always practical. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your throwing in.

Bottom line, if you’re committed, you find a way. No excuses.

Here are some guidelines if you’re forced to throw inside this winter:
 
Warm up to throw, don’t throw to warm up: It’s easy to get warmed up when it’s hot and humid. In the winter you’ve got to work a little harder, but it’s critical. Sometimes when you’re throwing into a net or a wall on your own there’s a tendency to rush through it without setting aside the appropriate amount of time to get your body heated up. Don’t make this mistake!

Ease into it: Similar to the early high-arc phase of long toss, build up to full speed gradually to set the arm up well to throw max effort safely. Again, avoid rushing. Once your arm is really feeling good, then you can start letting it go.

Use step behinds: Throwing this way helps you simulate long toss and get some of the same benefits (throwing with good momentum, getting your arms and legs in sync).

Use a radar gun for instant feedback: One of the biggest benefits of long toss is the instant feedback it provides. To throw far, you have to throw hard. Using a radar gun can give you that same kind of instant feedback to know when you’re implementing more efficient mechanics.

So if you can’t get outside to throw this winter, don’t use it as an excuse to not get your throwing in. You can still get plenty of quality throwing done when the environment is less than ideal. And as you get closer to the start of your pre-season, make sure you’re spending more and more time pitching on the mound.

 
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