Before I start talking about pitching I have some very exciting news. If you follow my facebook page you probably already know. Last week I signed a contract with Ogaki Minamo in Japan. I will leave the Netherlands by the end of January to join the team and prepare for the 2018 season. Of course I will continue my blogs then, probably with a lot of Japanese adventure stories included.
But for now: the Pitch it project.
The focus of this first blog is on the basics of pitching, because without the basics there is no advanced pitching. The basics of pitching are basically about teaching the body to pitch a fastball right down the middle. A pitch that is not used in a game (preferably), but is used as a reference point/pitch for all the other pitches. Once your body can find and control the right down the middle pitch, it is a small step to teach the body to pitch and in- or outside pitch, or a low or high pitch. Another reason (sort of the same but slightly different) to start with this right down the middle pitch, is the mechanics of the pitch. If you first learn how to pitch to the inside, or maybe even a curve ball, it is a bigger adjustment to the outside or any other pitch from that inside or curveball then from the middle, basic, mechanics. Looking at injuries this is an important factor.
Okay, so it is important to start in the middle. How do we build these basic mechanics? The simplest answer would be practice, practice and practice. But as anyone knows who ever tried to pitch, the windmill technique is quite a challenging one.
The start of learning a good fastball is at the end of the pitch: the fingers and wrist snap.
How do you grip a fastball?
Well there are different terms used for this, the way it was taught to me was grabbing the 'C' from Centrals because that was my clubteam. So be creative and find your way of teaching/remembering the grip. As long as you hold the 'long' side of the seems you are doing it right (photo).
How to practice spin?
A drill that is used quite often is the wrist drill, starting in sideways position and just pitching the very last part of the pitch. A useful drill, but with a slight risk, that in my opinion should be in the back of your mind with every single drill. When pitching in full motion there is a sequence of movements that all follow each other at a certain pace and speed. A wrist drill while just standing still might not represent the movement that is apparent in the actual pitch.
In order to still practice just the spin there is a nice alternative: grip the ball and just practice spinning it while throwing it in the air. To make it go up in the air you need to use some power and to make it spin you need to use your fingers; this is the same combination of power and spin which you need in the actual pitch.
How to put it to work?
Once you have practiced the basic fastball spin it is time to start moving that body. I am not going to tell you how to perform this drill into details. You face the wall, screen sidewards. I want you to grab your glove, grab a ball and put them in a horizontal line next to your shoulders (video). Take a step with your left foot (if you are a lefty (yeah), then step with your right foot) towards the wall/screen and while doing that, you just let your arms drop down and try to spin the ball once your hand gets to the bottom.
Next week I will explain what details to look for in this particular exercise, but for now, just try out first, no better way of learning than trying.
Oh and if you have any feedback and/or questions, please feel free to let me know so I can put that into the blogs.