I never pitched in a baseball game after the age of fourteen. The good news is that I went out on a high note. If I would have known then, what I know now, my career may have been better. Here are the youth baseball coaching tips I want my young baseball players to know. Of course, the sooner in their careers coaches teach these the better, so kids do not ruin their arm like I did.
Back to my story. In my first outing at the age of fourteen, I struck out twenty out of twenty-one batters. I followed that game by striking out fifteen out of twenty-one batters. For reasons I didn’t know then and do not know now, my arm went dead after those two games. No pain, just no life either. I pitched a few games after those gems before my coaches, and I realized I no longer had it. The rest of my playing days I was a weak-armed second baseman. I surmise that I experienced first-hand the dangers of overuse. There is no telling how many pitches I threw to get all those strikeouts, as it was way before anyone came up with the importance of pitch counts. Baseball people now know more about the dangers of pitching. Here are the youth baseball pitching tips I wish I had known when I grew up.
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Youth baseball pitching tips coaches should instill
- Throw the ball correctly when playing catch and with a purpose. It bugs me to see ballplayers take their throwing warmups too lightly. They fail to warm up with a purpose, which may lead to arm soreness. Most of all. It’s time wasted for improving their pitching delivery and control. One’s pitching mechanics will come much easier once players have the correct throwing fundamentals. Pitchers should begin at short distance and gradually build up distance and speed. A pitcher’s last few throws before getting on the mound should be from a further distance than the pitching distance. That’s what the pros do. That process makes sure the arm is loose and gives pitchers a powerful feeling when they go back to the shorter distance.
- Believe that it takes courage to pitch. One cannot hide in the game of baseball and front and center on that stage is the pitcher. The plate can seem awfully small at times, and the opposition is holding a big club to swing. It takes guts to stand on that hill, not to mention the ball can come back at them in a heartbeat. Not only do I want pitchers to know this, but I also want every player on the team to recognize the nerve it takes to pitch. That knowledge has every player trying their best to help the pitcher’s task, and it allows empathy when pitchers struggle.
- Realize that composure is crucial. Just as I want the pitcher’s teammates to understand the mettle it takes to pitch, pitchers must know that the players behind them are trying just as hard as they are. It is easy for pitchers to become frustrated as the runs cross the plate because of misplays, as they feel responsible. Pitchers must learn that hits, errors, and inconsistent umpiring are part of the game. Once they recognize that gaffes occur, they are on their way to developing the necessary composure to succeed.
- Understand the reason for radar guns. Trying to impress the radar gun has led to more arm injuries than any other thing over the last number of years. Kids must learn that the main use of the radar gun is to see differences in speeds from fastball to off-speed pitches.
- Know when to work on mechanics. The pre-game bullpen session is for getting loose, developing rhythm, and mentally preparing for the game. Right before and during games is not the times to be messing with one’s mechanics, except for some minor adjustments. Practice is the time to work on the mechanics.
- Practice off-speed pitches in warmups after the arm is loose. Arm fatigue prevents over pitching so players should work on grips, pitches, and mechanics when playing catch. That practice helps them get the necessary feel for the ball and release points.
Other key youth baseball coaching tips to know
- Know the value of running. A few laps or sprints after pitching helps the body and arm recover. Additionally, it is good for the mind to wind down, too.
- Use throwing deception tactics. A blazing fastball isn’t the only way to get batters out. , but all can develop some form of deception in their delivery. Throwing deception is an action that either hides the ball from the target or a deceiving action that serves to diminish the opposing player’s concentration level. Any move that hides the ball from the batter’s vision or inhibits their focus can give the pitcher an edge.
- Understand the odds are in your favor. Eight players including themselves are ready to catch one baseball. Throwing strikes so balls are put in play is better than walks. And the ninth player on the field is the most helpful of all – the catcher. Working with their catcher for pitch selection and figuring out ways of setting up the batters gets better results than doing it all on one’s own.
- Never try to strike everyone out. Recognizing that getting outs with one or two pitches is better than throwing six or seven to every batter.
- Practice out of the stretch even if there are no lead-offs yet. Pitchers should practice for the future. In time, when lead-offs are a part of baseball, the most important pitches they make are with runners on base. Furthermore, the stretch position can simplify their mechanics that help with accuracy.
- Know the value of changing speeds. Realizing they do not have to throw their hardest or the same speed on every fastball is a great benefit. Any speed variation can be useful. Pitching is upsetting the hitter’s timing.
- Understand the change up’s primary purpose. Most youths think of a changeup as their out pitch but it is also a setup pitch. After seeing a slower rate, their usual speed fastball will look quicker to a batter’s eyes
- Realize the strike one is the key to pitching. Getting ahead of batters with a first-pitch strike puts them in control. The odds go in a pitcher’s favor when they are ahead in the count.
- Work on the two and four seam fastball. Most pitchers have a preference, but it is good even at the young age to practice both grips. If not right away, eventually, that practice will come in very handy.
When kids learn these youth baseball pitching tips at a young age, their achievement rate goes up. That success leads to confidence necessary to have the courage to keep pitching.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.