A new student will often ask one of our instructors, “What is the best way to throw a drop?” The best way to throw any pitch is the way that works best for you.
We always want you to get maximum movement on a pitch with the least effort.
Recently a kid came back from a college camp where the pitching coach promoted a certain drop ball because she believed the other one causes injuries. Either one will only cause you pain if you throw it incorrectly. Our job is to learn the safe and effective way to use every pitch. There are dozens of successful pitchers throwing different ways. Which one do I prefer? The one that works for you.
Which is the right way to throw a curve? Right now we teach three different curves, but next week it could be four. When a kid does something unconventional that works, we don’t want to correct it. We want to study it and learn how we can make it even better. This may be the answer we need for another kid who is struggling with one of the curves we have been teaching.
We teach a half dozen different changeups, a couple of screwballs, and some variations on the drop. We have our favorites with each pitch, but we want to work within her natural movements. The sooner we find one that works best for her, the sooner we can get down to the business of maximizing its break and mastering its location.
When a kid comes to a lesson and says, “Hey, I tried something new and it worked”, I get excited. This is the kind of kid I want. We will grow together and that will benefit a lot of other kids. Never, ever close your mind or you might miss some exciting opportunities. Cookie cutters are for bakers.
How about the riseball? We have some variations within the pitch. It is one of my favorite pitches, yet one of the hardest to master. When we do clinics and I have one of my great riseball pitchers there, we will ask a catcher who has never worked with that pitcher to put on the gear and catch her riseball. The catcher will step forward with confidence and proceed to miss several pitches which are headed right at her mitt and then jump over it. I always tease them a bit and say, “I thought you had caught riseballs before”. Their response is always the same. They say something like, “I have caught riseballs, but I never saw anything like that”. Most people have never seen a real riseball, but simply a pitch thrown uphill. A riseball is not always a high pitch…but a pitch that jumps upward. It is a rare pitch, and there are very few kids who can throw it well, so most people have never seen the real thing.
So, how do I want kids to grip the riseball? It depends on a couple of things within their natural tendencies. How do I want their body positioned? Again, slight variations based on build and her movement patterns.
The bottom line is that each kid is unique, and sometimes they still surprise me with approaches that would never occur to me. If, in their creativity, they find a shortcut (we often call it streamlining) which gives the ball explosive movement, resist the temptation to stop them because that is not the way someone else does it. Study it. If it is safe, efficient, and she can dominate batters with it, let’s go.
One of the most valuable assets a pitcher can have is intelligence, and the freedom to use that quality to command her body to perform in ways that give her an advantage. The last thing we want to do is stifle that with preconceived notions on our part.