Son’s pitch (and subsequent research) throws my old-school ways for a curve…
My son, who will be 13 next month, was playing catch last Sunday with our good friends’ son….my son is on a makeshift rubber 50 feet away and our good friends’ son is catching. My son says to me “Dad…watch this” and he toes the rubber, flicks his glove and fires a curveball. Not just any curveball, one that would have started out at a batter’s chin and broke right over the plate and at the knees. Our friends’ son, who is a high school freshman who catches on his school’s junior varsity team, said “wow…that’s filthy”. Apparently my son had learned how to throw a curveball on YouTube and my goodness what a curveball it was.
Meanwhile, I can literally feel my eyes widen…I am very old school when it comes to curveballs which means they are simply not to be thrown until you are eligible to get your driver’s license. All you need is a good fastball and a changeup and maybe a cut fastball and you’ll keep hitters off balance (and your elbow and shoulder in good health) all day.
But I thought about it some more and then started to do some research. And sure enough there were the anti-curveball articles as well as the pro-curveball articles. But I stumbled across several, including this one http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/sports/baseball/debate-grows-over-how-to-protect-young-pitching-arms.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. One of the many points that the article make is that when it comes to arm injuries it’s not what you throw, but how you throw it and more arm injuries come from not throwing properly or throwing too much, not from curveballs or sliders per se.
So I went back in my mind and went over his motion. He was fortunate that he has/had some excellent managers who have taught the proper pitching mechanics to him at a very early age. And he primarily plays catcher – while your arm gets plenty of use it’s a lot different motion – and he’s pitched exactly one inning in the last two years after being one of his team’s top pitchers for his last two Little League years. His motion was nice and smooth…he used the lower half of his body, his fingers on top of the ball, elbow above his shoulder and throwing overhand, not sidearm and his follow-through was very good and he ended up in a good fielding position.
After using all of the research and thinking about all the kids that my son has played with and played against who have developed arm problems it came to me…all were because of either not throwing properly or throwing too much.
When I was a personal fitness trainer we had a nutritionist on our staff at one of the places I worked at and she explained about reading labels and that what people eat usually doesn’t get them into trouble, it’s how much they eat. Everything is OK in moderation was her point. And where I sit from the cheap seats that applies to pitching and young arms as well…it’s not necessarily what they throw it’s how and how much.