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Between on the foam rolls, lacrosse ball roll-out, dynamics, bands, wrist weights, shoulder tube and plyo balls for pitchers, there is an assortment of tools to help them get ready to throw. These same tools are also used in a multitude of ways. All in order to help pitchers throw harder and more efficiently.
However, for most position players their daily throwing routine looks very different. Some stretching, lite bands and then they grab a baseball. The arm issues I see from position players that come through the facility are usually the same problems I see from pitchers' poor mechanics or lack of preparation for the body to move.
The first position player I worked with is a 14-year-old softball player. She was experiencing shoulder pain after throwing. Like most softball players I see she separated into a soft M or inverted W whichever you prefer to call it. Because of this, she then pushed forward with the upper body disconnecting the arm.
Our goal was to get her connected to the body in order to get the throwing hand up on time so she could get to a proper lay back to throw progression. This mechanical change on her part led to relieving stress on the shoulder and bicep. We also saw an increase in velocity.
I started by introducing a dynamic warmup and band routine which she now uses on a regular basis. We relied a lot on connection ball throwing drills. The connection ball has been an awesome tool for players of all ages. I highly suggest adding this tool to your bag if you are an instructor or coach.
The same principles that apply to develop higher exit velocities and more distance in hitting apply to throw harder in pitching. It's all about force production and mechanical efficiency. For most players, higher force production develops a few different ways. The most common is moving with more intent, natural growth that comes with age and the weight room.
The second position player I worked with is currently a college player who had developed a 'hitch' in his throwing motion. This caused a loss in velocity and accuracy. At first, I thought reliance on mechanics would be the route necessary to make the changes he needed. But, lots of slow-motion videos and 'feel' was the answer. After watching the video and implementing the use of the connection ball he was able to better understand what his arm was doing and why he was having an issue.
The hitch he had developed not only caused some accuracy issues but had affected his velocity as well as willingness to “cut it loose”.
After a few lessons and plenty of work in between, he was able to develop a more consistent arm circle that was hitch-free. This more efficient movement pattern allowed him to attack his throw with a much higher level of intent and took him from the low to mid 80’s to the low 90’s with his shuffle throws as well as a confidence boost on the field.
The first part of the headline is obvious. We want players to be healthy and there are ways to help ensure that players can continue to play pain-free. That being said injuries, after all, are unavoidable. We as instructors and coaches can take the proper steps to ensure a better environment. This is by monitoring how players warmup and taking a closer look at how they throw.
For the individuals above it was important to them for a multitude of reasons. One player wanted to be pain-free and enhance a part of her game that would help her get noticed by college coaches. The other player wanted to secure a starting spot by adding a tool that would make him a better asset on the field. The real importance of both arm health and velo development for position players is treating them like all other parts of player development. And giving them the necessary attention needed to keep players on the field or help them find playing time.