Flying open early during the stride and cocking phase is a common fault experienced by all pitchers no matter of age or experience. Young high school and college pitchers have to learn HOW to stay closed, and experienced pitchers must FOCUS on staying closed until the stride foot plants.
Staying closed means that until the stride foot plants giving the pitcher a stable base, the lead elbow, the shoulders, and the throwing arm stay aligned to the plate. The next action (sequence) is for the trunk to powerfully horizontally rotate to create angular velocity (torque), which is the major source of power, arm speed, and velocity!
The fault of “flying open” occurs when upper body, shoulders, and arms open with the stride leg and front hip. This is a natural tendency biomechanically, but this action decreases rotational forces (angular velocity) and puts the motion out of sequence, negatively affecting control and velocity plus creating unnecessary stress on the shoulder and arm muscles.
“Flying open” causes the arm to drag because the stronger & larger muscles of the legs, hips, and trunk have already fired and are not available to create torque. Because of the lack of torque, most of the pitch velocity has to come from the shoulder and arm muscles, which will cause early fatigue.
TECHNIQUES & DRILLS TO STAY CLOSED
Teach the pitcher an efficient, balanced, aligned & compact motion.
- Rocker-Pivot-Lift Drill
Get to a balanced posting position without swinging the foot or leg up. Make certain the pitcher closed up the front side but doesn’t over-rotate.
- Down & Out Stride Drill
Do not swing the leg or foot around and down. This technique will help keep the body aligned to the plate.
- Lead with the Front Hip Bone
This technique helps alignment and generates lower body forces for a longer and more powerful stride.
- Stride Drill
For direction, landing flat-footed on a stable base with the toes pointing inward slightly (10-15 degrees).
- Hand Break & Lead Arm Action Drill
Use a flexed elbow as a rifle sight. This helps to keep the arms and shoulders aligned to the plate and keeps the upper body closed.
- Mirror & Abdominal Drill
Perform the “down and out drill” and “stride drill” in front of a mirror. Concentrate on the lead elbow and shoulders staying aligned (closed) to the plate. Even though the front hip has opened upon stride foot plant, the lead elbow and front shoulder should stay aligned and closed. Learn to contract the abdominal muscles to keep upper body closed. A pitcher should consciously feel the abdominal tighten.
- Cocked Position Drill
Remember that the natural tendency is for a pitcher’s upper body to come open with the front hip and stride leg. “Staying closed” is a LEARNED, not a natural TRAIT, and must be understood and developed. Once a young pitcher masters this technique, you’ll see improved control, more movement on the fast ball (due to torque), and an increase in pitch velocity.
Bill Thurston was at Amherst College in Massachusetts for 42 years and his teams have won nearly 65% of all games played (771-441). Bill was a full-time tenured professor of physical education at Amherst and he is widely respected as a teacher of baseball skills and techniques. Prior to coaching, Thurston starred in baseball at the University of Michigan and later played three years with the Detroit Tigers organization. Since 1990, Thurston has served as the pitching consultant for the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. Bill has conducted baseball clinics in over 25 states and five provinces of Canada and was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997. He also served as the NCAA Baseball Rules Editor for 14 years.
Thurston is a nationally known clinic speaker, and many of his instructional materials have been published and videotaped. He is an expert on proper pitching mechanics, video analysis of the pitching motion, proper care of the pitching arm and prevention of arm injuries.