Pitching - Tools & Practices
#1. RULE ONE: Use the proper pitching procedure on every pitch! (See the other sheet on pitching.)
Always practice at the actual distance you will be pitching in games. Younger leagues: 35-36’, and older girls’ leagues and high school: it’s 40’. Don’t guess at the distance or pace it off, measure it! It makes no sense to practice at 30’ day after day and then go into a game where the distance is 40’ and expect your pitch to do what you intend it to. Use paint, a stick or chalk, mark the correct distance, and use this whenever you pitch. Of course you should warm up and do your exercises at a much shorter distance; don’t pitch all out or at full distance until you have loosened up and warmed up.
Best training tool: A pitching wall and
an Incrediball. If at all possible, build a pitching wall. A 4’ x 4’
piece of plywood fastened to a tree, fence, basement wall or garage will do.
Paint on it a strike zone. Make or buy a pitching rubber or board. Mark off
the correct distance. Don’t make a mound! Girls pitch from a completely
flat surface; they push off the rubber. The Incrediball is the same size and
weight of an actual softball, except it is much softer. It bounces; this not
only lets you pitch but lets you field the ball after the pitch. Plus it’s
much quieter than using a real softball. You can also sink two or three 4"-by-4"
fence posts a couple feet into the ground and mount a 4-foot by 4-foot or 4-foot
by 6-foot sheet of plywood on it. Anything is better then nothing! See picture
below for a portable moveable wall (helpful when mowing).
This becomes a one-girl training facility. After school or on a weekend, she can go out anytime and pitch. No catcher needed. Once a pitcher is throwing straight and level and fast, put a home plate down, move the rubber back a couple feet and catch for her. Then have someone catch and someone else stand in the batter’s box (Mom?) as if ready to hit. NEVER ACTUALLY SWING AT THE PITCHES. Just stand there; this helps a pitcher overcome the fear of throwing at a hitter. Next, after she’s used to this, have the "batter" stand in the bunting position. The pitcher must look at the catcher’s glove, look right past the batter and throw a HIGH STRIKE into the catcher’s glove. This is difficult at first, but easy once learned!
In actual game conditions, girls may too often end up playing on a baseball field. Baseball pitchers use a mound; after they leave the rubber it’s downhill and usually into a narrow trench. Also the distance may be different. This makes things difficult for girls pitching; it throws everything off. Mention this to your coach, or take a rake and try to fix the mound a little before the game. As I said before, in high school, college and the Olympics, the softball mound is flat.
Exercises: Very important! You must do your exercises, every day during the season. There are plenty of videos, CDs and books you can get at the library on pitching exercises. Even Barnes & Noble or Borders has books on fast pitch; just browse through them and see if you can see various training exercises. If the weather is bad you can do the training inside into a couch or blanket using a wiffle ball or even a rolled up pair of socks! GIRLS: I can’t tell you how many girls get to high school and become the No. 1 pitcher and say to me: " I wish I paid more attention to what you said and practiced and did those exercises." They then try to do it all at once in their Junior or Senior year and during the season. The secret is to do a little at a time and build a strong foundation for your future. The best pitchers work year round, maintaining and improving their in-season skills in the off season. Yes, it can be boring pitching to a wall in a chilly garage, but the pay-off comes in season. It is VERY difficult to master or learn skills during a school season.
Last: Make sure you’re properly warmed up before you go into a game. Pitch to a parent or catcher on the sidelines. Start slow and gradually work up to your full pitching speed. It takes 20 to 50 pitches to be properly warmed up and go into a game and strike batters out. Let your coach know this at the beginning of the season. If you go into a game cold and not loosened up, not only will you probably do badly, you could damage your arm and shoulder. On the other hand, if you’re warm, you can go into a game and blow the next three batters away! Throw fast, it’s much easier to throw strikes if you throw all out. Often pitchers will let up a little on the speed, thinking it will help control the pitch. IT DOESN’T!