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Developing Proper Throwing Techniques

When it comes to teaching youth ballplayers the art of throwing a baseball, coaches and instructors have different opinions as to the proper style. Some believe all players, particularly pitchers, should throw sidearm, because the over top method puts more stress on the arm. Others are just as adamant throwing over top is best.

Tim Saunders, the baseball coach for Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio, prefers the over top approach. Saunders, a former pitcher, initially threw sidearm. Eventually, however, he realized it limits your throwing ability, especially as a position player.

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“It’s hard to play third base and shortstop and be a full-time sidearm guy,” explained Saunders, who’s beginning his 30th season at Coffman. “It’s terrible to go to the outfield and be sidearm.”

If it’s true that a thousand repetitions creates a habit, Saunders says once muscle memory takes root, it’s hard to break that habit. Therefore, it’s important for younger players to learn proper throwing techniques early, before they have time to form bad habits.

While speed and velocity are critical, it’s not always healthy to throw hard at a young age.

“Your muscles and joints can't hold the force,” Saunders said.

One way coaches can emphasize correct technique, particularly for position players, is to teach proper rotation. Saunders says this starts with placing two fingers on top with the four-seam throw in what he calls a “12-6 rotation.” If the ball is rotating backwards in an up and down motion, it’s a good release. If it’s off to the side, it either means the elbow is dropping as in a curveball, or it ends up like a screwball.

“The red seams dictate to you how you’re throwing,” Saunders said. “If I see a lot of red, I’m throwing correctly. If it’s going off to the side, I’m throwing more of a changeup. We don’t want to throw changeups from the infield or (other positions).”

Tony Lucadello, a former scout for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies from 1943 to the late 1980s, believed the best throwing drill for any player was to toss either baseballs or tennis balls against a flat wall of cement blocks. The idea is to throw over top in order for the ball to bounce straight back to you.

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Saunders teaches this drill to his players.

“If the ball is not coming straight back to us, that means we’re throwing out to the side of our body and whipping it at an angle, versus throwing over top, where we’re more accurate,” he explained.

An exception would be if you’re close, Saunders said. You wouldn’t throw over top if you’re a short distance from, say, first base; otherwise, the ball would land at the first baseman’s feet. As you get past 45, 60, 90 or more feet away, throwing sidearm causes it to tail.

Saunders also teaches what he refers to as “point, step, throw.” This is a directional throw, stepping to your target and pointing the glove shoulder to that target.

Above all, Saunders says to instruct players on the importance of versatility, especially where throwing is concerned.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills