Throwing Practice- Not Warming Up!!

If you go to any little league baseball complex and observe pre-game warmups, you may see a group of 12 players playing more fetch than catch.  Inaccurate throws and uncommitted catching result in sloppy games of catch, leading to inconsistent play on the field in practices and games.

We learn quickly in college and professional baseball how important our throwing practice is to our performance on the field.  Establishing solid routines during our throwing practice is where we learn how to be consistent with our throwing mechanics, improve arm strength and make accurate throws on the field.

There are many different throwing programs that will work for the youth and high school athlete, but the structure or routine, used consistently is the key to success.  Each player must take on the philosophy of building mechanics every day during the throwing practice.  It is not a “warm up”, but an opportunity to practice mechanics and prepare for strong throws and catches in the game.  

Below is a sample throwing practice that can be used at the beginning of practice or pre-game warmup.

Throwing Practice- Youth Players (Ages 13 and below)

  1. Flip Drill (2 min at 20 ft.)
  2. Power Position Drill (3 min at 45 ft.)
  3. Lob Toss (3 min at 60-70ft)
  4. QB Throws (2 min at 60-70ft)
  5. Field to Throw (3 min at 60-70ft)- Option:  Pitch to Target
  6. Option:  Long toss (3 min at 80-90ft)

Throwing Practice- Standard (Ages 14 and up)

  1. Flip Drill (2 min at 20 ft.)
  2. Power Position Drill (3 min at 45 ft.)
  3. Lob Toss- Short Hops (3 min at 70ft)
  4. QB Throws (2 min at 60-70ft)
  5. Field to Throw (3 min at 60-70ft)- Option:  Pitch to Target
  6. 2-3 Days/week Option:  Long toss (3 min at 100ft)

Flip Drill
Players stand 15-20 feet apart, facing each other.  Hold ball in “L” position where throwing elbow is to side of body at shoulder height.  From this position, use the levers of wrist and fingers to create backspin on the ball in an easy throw to the partner.  

Keys:  

  1. Stay in an athletic position for throws and catches
  2. Keep fingers behind the ball with 4-seam grip to create perfect backspin
  3. Glove is in “end position” tucked at glove side of body at armpit
  4. Keep shoulders still- No shoulder turn
  5. Focus on using the “hinges” of wrist and fingers to create maximum backspin

Power Position Drill

Video Examples:  Power Position Drill Explained     

Keys:  

  1. Set feet in stride position (slightly wider than shoulder width)
  2. Weight back – Head over back foot
  3. Glove Out and Up- Pocket of glove facing the target and slightly higher than shoulder height
  4. Pause at this Power Position with weight back, ball back, and glove out
  5. No Stride Turn and Throw- from the Power Position, pull glove in elbow first to turn shoulders, and throw
  6. Back foot toe stays on the ground and foot rotates to shoelaces facing ground position
  7. Nose goes to the target, and chest is out over front knee

Lob Toss

  1. Thrower lobs the ball to partner, while partner moves feet under the ball to catch.
  2. Thrower focuses on front side (glove) mechanics, nose and chin to target.
  3. Receiver focuses on tracking ball and moving feet to get under the ball, catching ball above head if possible
  4. Lob Toss Short Hop Drill for older players- Player catching the ball must position himself for a short hop, moving feet in position and move through the short hop for a successful catch

QB Throws
Purpose of this drill to get the players to move athletically and have active feet to throw.  

  1. Thrower drops back two steps, plants, and quickly shuffles/hops into throw.
  2. Focus on front side (glove) action and active feet
  3. Follow throw with nose and chin

Field to Throw
Purpose of this drill is to simulate game movement from fielding position of ground ball to set feet to throw.

Keys:

  1. Start in fielding position with glove on the ground in front of feet
  2. Right-Left step to throw
  3. 5 throws from middle, 5 from forehand (hard step to the left, touch glove to the ground, set feet and throw, five from backhand fielding position.

Pitchers Option:  Work through pitching mechanics and locate pitches to either hip of partner.

This is  one of many examples of a set of drills to set our mechanics each day for added arm strength and accurate throws.  The structure and commitment to a throwing routine to prepare for on field performance is the key to success.  Every Throw has a purpose!!  

See you on the field!!

Brad Woodall

Owner- Woodall Baseball Academy and Silver Sluggers Baseball

 

The Absolutes of a Great Swing

If you watch baseball games from little league to the major leagues, you see that hitters have a wide variety of stances from which to hit.  However, there are many common denominators in all good hitters.  Stances may be different, but the similarities in the moving parts of the swing are “non-negotiable” if a player wants to give himself the best chance to be a good hitter.

Below you will find guidelines for the proper stance and swing.  Also keep in mind that every player’s body is different and interprets movement patterns differently.  Therefore, every swing will not look exactly the same.  Use the following as a checklist but also understand that slight variations from these guidelines are accepted.

See the Photo Gallery at the end for visual examples of some of the best hitters in the world finding the proper position from which to hit.  

STANCE

  • Athletic and Balanced
      1. Feet are slightly wider than shoulder width, knees bent in an athletic position
  • Hands Up-  Knob Down
      1. Hands are even with back shoulder, with top hand slightly above shoulder (near ear)
      2. Bat Barrel is upright (up/down) than flat (sideways).  This creates a cleaner path for the barrel to get to contact. (Picture 2).  Knob of the bat points down.
  • Toes In — Knees Bent
      1. Front foot toes to home plate, back foot slightly turned in. Every pitch, check feet to see if they are turned in correctly, make adjustment if necessary.
  • Face to the Pitcher
      1. Good practice is to scan head and eyes from the shortstop to the pitcher when getting stance.  This allows for better posture and head positioning, with both eyes square to the pitcher
  • Weight Back – Flexed Back Leg
    1. Shift weight back into the inside edge of the back foot while still keeping head positioned between feet.
    2. Head should not drift back with weight shift.  Keep head “centered” between feet to keep from drifting to the ball.
  1. Movement and Rhythm
    1. Small, soft movement with hands and weight transfer
    2. “Little League” movement is big and violent, moving the bat barrell.  
    3. “Big League” movement is soft and subtle, relaxed and small.  Ideal movement is back and forth in line with the pitcher.

STRIDE

  • Hands Back/Head Still
      1. The phrase commonly used is “Stride and Separate”.  Hands should go back to even with the back foot while front foot strides out to pitcher
      2. During stride, weight stays back on back foot.
      3. Head stays still in balanced position between feet.  Head should not travel forward too much during stride and should stop moving completely during swing turn.
  • Launch Position
    1. With hands back, weight back, and stride out to pitcher (on balls of feet in athletic position), this is the Load or Launch Position.  Should be loaded, strong position to drive the bat through the ball.
    2. Knob of the bat should be pointed toward the catcher’s feet.  Keep barrel of the bat up. Try to keep from wrapping bat behind head or flattening the bat lower than shoulder height at launch position.

GETTING TO CONTACT

  • Swing the Knob, not Barrel
      1. The swing begins with a pull with the bottom hand (left hand for right handed hitters) straight to the pitcher.  The knob of the bat leads the way with the barrel of the bat “lagging” behind.  The first half of the swing (to contact) with the bottom hand pulling through sets the path of the bat correctly to the ball.
  • Bottom Hand – Back Hip
    1. As the hands move forward, the back heel releases and turns to heel up and shoelaces to the pitcher.  Think of hands connected with the back heel so that as the hands move forward, the back heel goes up and turns to free the back hip to drive to the pitcher.
    2. Focus on the bottom hand and the back hip at the front half of the swing

CONTACT POSITION

  • Big and Balanced
      1. At contact, hitters need to be in their most powerful and balanced position.
      2. Posture is up, not leaning over the plate.  At contact the back knee, hip, and shoulder should be in alignment.
      3. Weight is distributed against the front foot (inside edge of front foot) with head behind the hands and the point of contact
  • Front foot closed
      1. Back foot is heel up, shoelaces to pitcher, back knee bent with little to no weight on back foot at contact.
  • Palm Up/Palm Down
      1. Hands are palm down (RHH- left hand)/palm up (right hand) with bottom hand (left hand) pulling through the inside of the ball — top hand punching through inside of ball.
  • Back Hip Drive
      1. Hitter should focus on back hip driving through the pitcher.
  • Head Down — Hands In
      1. Head, nose, chin and both eyes are focused down on the barrel of the ball at point of contact and through finish of swing
      2. Hands should stay close to body, extending out to pitcher through the front hip, with backside arm in the strong “V” position.
  • Contact Position Changes – Swing Does not Change
    1. Contact point varies depending on the pitch, but body positioning should not change
      1. Outside pitch- contact at or around middle of home plate
      2. Middle Pitch- Contact point at or around front of home plate
      3. Inside pitch- Out in front of home plate

EXTENSION AND FINISH

  • Extension through the Path of the Ball
      1. Hands extend past the ball through the point of contact, with back hip drive supporting the hands to maintain acceleration of hands and bat through the ball.
      2. Extension is through the ball, not around the body
  • Balanced and Grounded
      1. Finish is balanced and stable
      2. Front foot stays planted, with hitter trying to keep lower half stable through the extension phase
  • Finish High
    1. Hands and bat finish high, with bat finishing above front shoulder

Our intent is to not have a perfect swing, but one that is powerful, repeatable, and efficient to get the barrel of the bat to the ball quickly with maximum bat speed.  No-one can be a good hitter without hitting — a lot!!

See you on the field!

–Brad Woodall
Owner- Woodall Baseball Academy and Silver Sluggers
Former Major League Pitcher and Author

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