We live in a world of pitch counts and innings limits. Most of the time, these rules are set by tournament and league officials with the good intentions of protecting young arms. Coaches usually keep a close eye on pitching limitations. Some do it because they don’t want to see a young player get hurt, while others do it so they don’t get kicked out of a tournament.
So, if coaches are monitoring pitch counts, then what is the problem? The problem is not many coaches or parents take into consideration what the pitcher does when he isn’t on the mound.
If a 12-year old travel ball pitcher is your “ace”, then he is probably a pretty good all-around player. Let’s assume he starts the game on the mound and throws 40 pitches in three innings. That is perfectly acceptable by MLB/USA Baseball Pitch Smart guidelines. By those standards, he should rest two days before taking the mound again.
Here is the issue and I have seen it happen over and over again. The kid with the rocket arm leaves the mound and heads into the dugout – TO PUT ON CATCHER’S GEAR! Are you kidding me? The reverse is just as bad.
Pitching and catching in the same day borders on lunacy. Catcher is the most physically demanding position on the baseball field. Coaches forget that when the pitcher throws a pitch, someone usually needs to throw it back to him. Sure, those aren’t terribly taxing on the arm but combine that with attempting to throw out baserunners and you will be surprised how much the catcher throws.
Pitching requires you to use your legs. A kid with tired legs who just took off the catcher’s gear will involuntarily transfer that stress someplace else. That’s right…his arm.
Check out this statement from the American Sports Medicine Institute.
A pitcher should not also be a catcher for his team as it is the next most throwing-intensive position and results in far more throws than players at other positions. ASMI found that amateurs who played catcher while not pitching were 2.7 times more likely to suffer a major arm injury.
Don’t be an idiot.
The pitcher’s mound is one of the loneliest spots in all of sports. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and anxious. One of the biggest things a pitcher can do to combat these unwanted emotions is breathe. Yes, just breathe. Proper breathing helps you relax and concentrate.
Remember that it is harder to hit than it is to pitch.
Never step on the pitching rubber until you are completely ready and focused on the task at hand. Imagine a place behind the mound where you can “take out the trash” before stepping up to get the sign. You are in control. The game cannot start until you throw the ball.
Do not show emotion on the mound. Demonstrate your mental toughness by keeping a level head during success and failure.
Focus on the task at hand – one pitch at a time. You cannot go back and change the last pitch. The only thing you can control is the pitch you are about to throw. Focus on the target and purpose of that particular pitch.
Try to avoid crooked numbers. You won’t get beat by giving up 1s and 0s.
Trust your catcher!
Be sure to follow through with the pitch. Finish with a flat back and your throwing arm over your glove side knee. Be ready to field your position.
The release point of the baseball happens when your throwing arm is out in front of your body and the glove is tucked. Release the ball on a downward trajectory.
When your glove side foot hits the ground, you are in the power position. Your legs provide a wide base. Your arm is up and ready to transition forward. Your throwing side elbow should be about shoulder height. Your glove begins to pull into your chest and upper body shifts momentum over the front leg.
The break is when the ball and glove separate. Your hand should take the ball down, back and up. Keep your head over your throwing side foot. Stride in line with your target (catcher’s mitt).
The leg lift and balance point begins the pitching motion from the stretch position. It allows you to gather energy and power to deliver the baseball. Bring your glove side knee up so your thigh is parallel to the ground. You must maintain balance on your throwing side leg.