Friday, March 4, 2011

Throw With a Purpose

During a recent bullpen session, both a freshman and senior pitcher unleashed wild pitches that sailed eight feet above the respective catchers’ heads. And while this is typical at the beginning of the year because pitchers haven’t thrown off a mound, we are in the sixth and final week of our preseason bullpens. 

My guys have also thrown to live hitters over the last two weeks in our shorter bullpen sessions and not once did a pitcher air mail a pitch over the catcher’s head. 

After each threw their pitch in question, I asked them what was happening with their location. But I didn’t let them answer; I answered my own question for them. 

They weren’t focusing. 

When little kids first sign up for the local youth league, they go out in the outfield and throw to get loose. That habit develops and kids end up spending the first ten minutes of every practice they take part in throwing to get loose. Nothing more. 

Shouldn’t there be a little more attention paid to each throw? 

Again, I am not only talking about when a pitcher throws off a mound or an infielder is taking ground balls at his position or a catcher is making throws to a base, although all are extremely important. What can you do in that first ten minutes? 

For pitchers, there are several things to work on. Developing better mechanics, improving movement on pitches and working on control are three good places to start. 

If a pitcher limits him to improving only when throwing off a mound, it will be difficult. You can only throw off of a mound so much before you increase your risk of injury. A pitcher has to take advantage of every throw they make through the course of a practice. 

Every other position – infield, outfield and catcher – can also work on their accuracy. I have witnessed very few games in my life that didn’t have a throw that was off target. A first baseman may have scooped the ball from the dirt or a shortstop saved the ball from going into centerfield, but the throws were still not where they should have been. 

Maybe throwing isn’t your problem. You can still work on quickly getting the ball from your glove to your hand after catching it. Or you can see how quickly you can move your feet and turn your body to get ready to throw. 

Every player can get better at something – especially an aspect of throwing – everyday.
I challenge you to do a couple of things. 

First, think about your current habits. Do you make each throw with a purpose? Do you focus on getting better every time the ball is leaving your hand or you are getting ready to catch it? 

Next, if you don’t answer my questions correctly, change. Start to make every throw with a purpose.

When I was playing in a local youth league, our coach had us play a game when playing catch. If your partner caught the ball at his head, it was three points. A throw at his chest was worth two points and his waist one. Any other throw our partner had to reach for that was at least chest high and was caught was zero points. If you threw a ball that had to be reached down for to be caught, you had to subtract a point. Any ball that was too high or wide to be caught and anything that hit the ground allowed your partner to subtract three points from your score. 

The final part of my challenge is to start playing this game. It works.

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