There are many ways to teach a young player how to pitch.
Larry Anderson prefers to instruct kids by using momentum pitching, which entails a six-step process when a player is throwing out of the windup. For pitchers who opt during their delivery to step to the side before going back toward center, it’s a seven-step process.
“When you think about the whole pitching motion, it takes less than two seconds,” said Anderson, who is the director of player and coach development for the Germantown (Wisconsin) Jr. Warhawks program. “So when you’re talking about going from step three to step four, it’s pretty much a continuous flow. There really isn’t a lot of time to say, ‘Well, gee, he went from this step to this step.’ That’s why I’m a big believer in videotape, because you can actually stop it at a certain point and say, ‘OK, this is probably what you should look like.’”
Step 1: Takeaway or rocker step. In momentum pitching, it’s when the player takes an initial step back. On side-to-side pitching, a right-handed pitcher would make a motion toward first base.
Step 2-3: Weight shift. In momentum pitching, the player has gone back and now wants to get the momentum going forward; this is also when the knee lift occurs.
“As you’re going forward, your knee will actually come up, you just don’t rotate as much,” Anderson said. “In the side to side, you are coming from the side your back is towards, let’s call it, straight with home plate. That’s where they get the balance point.”
The player is getting the weight shift going home.
“If in step two your balance point gets all the way to the top and you haven’t started shifting home yet, you’ve stopped and you’ve basically slowed all your momentum,” Anderson said. “That weight shift should actually start happening before your leg comes all the way up.”
Step 4: Hand break. In momentum pitching, as the body goes forward, the knee comes up. As the knee starts to lower, the hands should break almost simultaneously. This is the same with side-to-side pitching.
Step 5: Landing. Anderson notes this step is difficult to explain without a visual.
“A big thing I see with youth pitchers is they tense up their foot and their toe is actually higher than their heel,” Anderson said. “We try to get them to relax and that toe should actually drop from gravity below their heel.”
As the pitcher starts striding toward home plate — for a left-hander, the foot is facing first base and a righty is facing third — right before the foot hits the ground, the hips will start to turn. Anderson said that will get that foot pointed toward home plate. Once that foot lands and the front leg stabilizes, the hips are in motion, which goes right into external rotation.
Step 6: External rotation. It starts with the hips and then goes up into the chest and then eventually the arm will follow through. During external rotation, Anderson believes the arms should be “opposite equal.”
“When I try and teach this, I like their pitching arm to be long and their front arm needs to mimic that also,” Anderson said. “Some guys teach that their front arm is at a 90-degree bent, so that it’s almost parallel to the ground. If they do that, their back arm needs to be a mirror image. You can’t have your back arm straight and your front arm bent. It throws you out of balance.”
Anderson, 54, was taught growing up to point his glove right at the target — that way you have a long arm in the front and long arm in the back. As the pitcher starts to rotate, the glove side arm will not swing around, it will actually pull back in toward their side. Anderson notes that will help with external rotation, because if the player swings his arm, they aren’t going to get true rotation out of their hips and lose a lot of power.
Step 7: Finish/extension. When a pitcher releases the ball, it should be out in front of their ear. Anderson talks to kids about reaching out toward the catcher with that arm.
“If they have good mechanics, that arm will follow through down to the opposite knee and that arm should be as limp as a noodle,” Anderson said. “What I see in a lot of kids when they end up with injuries is that arm comes down to the knee, but it doesn’t make it all the way down and they stop. Well, that arm is basically stopping way back before then.
“It’s like if you were going to run into a wall, you can’t stop right before that wall, you have to stop before that. If I see somebody throwing and that arm doesn’t flop like a wet noodle, that means that they actually stopped some of that momentum ahead of time and now they’re putting a lot of stress on that arm.”