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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.
Earlier this week I got a chance to sit down with Zack Littell, of the Minnesota Twins. Being able to open the mind and hear directly from a Major League pitcher about their craft is awesome. Here is someone who is amongst the best of the best in what he does in the entire world and being able to pick his brain and have him give our readers some advice is something we are very thankful for.
Here are some things that Zack will talk about throughout our conversation, don't miss it:
Check out the video below.
Many have criticized the videos that are posted all over social media with guys running/jogging into a shuffle/etc. and throwing a ball into a net with the radar gun flashing big numbers. If you believe in a long toss program, such as Jaegers well known long toss routine, then you love what all those crazy kids are doing on social media. Pull down throws are super important when it comes to the arm strength development of players.
There are really great things being accomplished when a player performs a pull down run and gun throw. The main purpose of them is for us as trainers/coaches/teachers are to see how the body goes through its progression of the kinematic sequence and how to properly translate it to everyday use.
So for instance, if you do a long toss program that incorporates pulldowns which any good program should, this will help you better understand how properly execute a run and gun throw.
But I don't pitch, why should I do a pull-down? Well, let's take you through all the different types of run and gun throws that happen during a baseball game or practice:
Here are three things you'll want to look for when executing a successful run and gun throw:
As you can see, every single one of those throws was max effort and max intent. Baseball players must put themselves in the best position to be successful in all aspects of the game. If you disagree with the 'pull-down' and 'run and gun' method of throwing then think about what the first question a scout should ask when evaluating someone's arm:
"How hard does he throw?"
Now velocity is not the end all be all by any means but it definitely is a factor that most look at. So I challenge you as coaches, parents, etc. to film your athlete performing Run & Guns/Pulldowns or whatever it is you feel comfortable calling it and record it if possible with a radar gun to get a baseline so you know where they are at and where they need to go.