Ask the Coach
Rollie Pike in Kentucky asks:
Which is the best way to begin developing a young pitcher, pitching from the stretch or the wind-up? Or does it matter, as long as you teach proper mechanics?
Coach Swift answers:
There is little question about how most coaches teach it and that’s from the full wind up position.
First and foremost, a kid must learn how to throw. In fact, to teach a kid how to pitch have him play catch with you and make him throw the ball directly at your body. When he can get it to you every time within the framework of your body then you can start teaching him to pitch.
Pitching at its base element is nothing more than playing catch with someone. It’s after they have shown control that we start teaching the finer elements of pitching. Throwing from the full wind up is the natural thing to do, so that is where coaches start.
I would note that pitching is as much about thinking as throwing but do not overcomplicate things for the young pitcher. Just ask him to throw the ball down the middle and low and he will be successful.
Lastly, I don’t personally believe kids should pitch before 11-12 years old. It’s not because they will hurt themselves, but because it kills the game. At earlier ages, a pitcher is normally bad and no one gets to hit or field….or they are good and no one can hit or needs to field. What then happens is that the rest of the game is not learned or enjoyed.
But the reality of youth baseball is that younger kids will be pitching in games, and before they are truly ready. With that said, we (coaches) do the best we can by finding the kid who can throw strikes and make him the pitcher. But when he gets to be 12-years old we need to start teaching him about pitching. Prior to that, just throwing strikes is enough.