Keys to become a Successful Baseball Pitcher
Pitching is an art in the game of baseball. It cannot be learned by everyone, but most that are willing to put in the work, mentally and physically, can have moderate success at a high level.
Let's face it, there are thousands of forums, sites and ideas out there of how to become that "big league pitcher". No single one is right and there is no perfect answer to this question. Honestly, what defines success as a baseball pitcher? Is it winning games at the Little League level? Is it winning at the high school level? Or is it the Cy Young winners in the MLB that we watch every night throughout the summer? Some say big league pitchers are born, not bred; while others suggest it can be taught. It's all personal belief, but there are definitely certain fundamental factors that can improve a pitchers overall game.
The first and foremost thing a pitcher needs is to have control over his mind and body when on the hill. If you cannot handle pressure or cannot keep a cool under stressful situations, you will never be able to be a successful baseball pitcher at any level. You have to visualize positive results and get in the zone. When a pro pitcher is on he is in such a rhythm that he wouldn't know it if every fan left the stadium during a game. This is one of the things that some say can't be taught but others say otherwise. It has been suggested that Yoga classes can help teach one to be calm under pressure, just ask Barry Zito, he's done it for solely this purpose. (not to mention it keeps pitchers flexible)
The second key fundamental to a pitchers success is natural talent. Talent can be improved upon through mechanical correction but every person has a natural limit, or do they? Yes, this is just another topic for debate which is what almost all baseball fans have been doing for the past 20 years and will continue to do ... well maybe forever, who knows. In order to define a big league pitcher you have to physically see it happen. There is no law or rule of what you have to do or be to pitch in the big leagues. There are to many misconceptions that you need to throw 90+ mph or have a 12-6 curveball and a fading circle changeup to match to make it to the show.
The truth be told, succeeding until you fail is what separates the big league pitchers from the rest. They have never failed, but you know why, because they never stopped trying. Those who didn't make it may have quit to soon, but again it brings me back to the debate of can anyone and everyone be a big league pitcher. To tell you the truth, its really up to you my friends, you and only you control your destiny, and if you believe you can do something, you can do it. Kids never stop dreaming because truthfully, without a dream you have nothing.
The most important thing is to glide out leading with your hip while staying closed meaning your front shoulder is square to the catcher along with your hips. Many people think you drive off the rubber but in turn they lose there energy and have no power to put in the pitch resulting in a great loss of velocity. Usually should be about as long as you are tall so your height is your stride length - but there is no rule, whatever is natural w/ good mechanics is the way to go. Once stride is reached, your arm should be back with your fingers on top of the ball no matter what pitch your are throwing being as it helps with control and velocity. Once you land, your leading foot will naturally fall hopefully closed off slightly to home plate. This next phase is the power phase where all big league pitchers put in motion that stored up energy from the glide out. Now landed, your hips will torque around the arm like a whip releasing the ball with great velocity.
It is key when releasing the ball, our body is bent over, back flat and parallel to the ground and are arm is extended as far as possible on release. This is called extension and is very important as the closer you get to the catcher when you release the ball, the shorter the distance the ball has to travel resulting in a better pitch. After you release the ball your arm naturally pronate meaning it twists outward and this happens when throwing anything, it doesn't matter what its just your bodies natural mechanism to take strain off your arm. Then the your momentum from the pitch will hopefully, (if done correctly) carry your back leg up so it is higher than your head, but it again is not a rule. The main thing to look for is that your back is flat and you continue through the pitch, go wherever it takes you. If you look at pitchers in history, some have the weirdest finishes but thats because there energy takes their body that way and its important to let it.
This is a brief overview of the main phases of proper pitching mechanics and even though there are many theories and it is taught many ways, there is only one big league way. The pros all are taught the same stuff and you have just seen a sneak peek of what they get from the pitching coaches all the time.
The last section I want to cover are some drills that help pitchers with heir mechanics. There's the ever famous "towel drill" It consists of a pitcher and a towel that can be wrapped around one finger with tape to hold it. Then you need either a partner or some object that you can use to hit with the towel. You place the object a strides length and 3-5 steps in front of you. So measure your stride and walk 3-5 steps out and place the object. It should be about knee-high or a little higher if possible. You then go through your mechanics and your goal is to reach out using "extension to hit the object with the towel" This is the best drill tot teach extension and even helps with follow through. It even lets you know if you have improper mechanics as you will not hit the object square and/or hard with bad mechanics.
The other drills are just some simple partner drills that work on simple phases of the mechanics. With a partner, gloves and a ball you can work on having a catch incorporating these next few things. 1 knee drill - put glove knee up and in front of other knee. Rotate your hips and then throw the ball to your partner working on release and follow though. Then go to 2 knees and do the same thing. Then you and your partner can stand with feet at shoulder width and work on rotating the hips with ball in glove and then release out in front and reach down to your opposite foot.
There's also a figure-eight drill where you stand sideways to your partner and bend down with hand and ball in glove and make figure eights in front of your body. After a set of 2 you reach back and out with your fingers on top and then rotate your hips and release with nice crisp follow through. This drill helps with getting the ball out of your glove and getting your arm into the proper power position. These few drills are key drills to building the proper mechanics on the mound. Utilize these properly and you are guaranteed to see results in velocity, accuracy and you will even have more stamina from your new economic delivery. Bad mechanics strain not only your arm but your body, but good ones conserve more energy and help reduce the risk of injury. Thats all for this baseball edition, Thanks for reading and just remember, "The most important thing is to have fun, but guess what, losing isn't fun is it?"
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Coach Mark is the founder of PlayFamously, a blog talks about nothing but baseball. He has been coaching since 2008, read and watched tons of videos on how to bring out the best in the team and players.