Daily Archives: May 12, 2009

Shortening the stride for the drop

One of the most common cues for learning the drop ball (either peel or rollover) is that you need to get up and over the pitch. One of the ways of doing that is shortening the stride so you can lean out over it.

NOTE: If you are one of those people who believes that all pitchers can be taught to throw all pitches from the same position, go ahead and skip this article. It’s only going to make you mad. My experience is that most pitchers need a little help to get the ball to move the way it should, i.e. they need to vary from their core mechanics, not just spin the ball a different way. If the pitchers you know don’t do that, awesome! But not everyone can do that. I’ve found that leaning over the drop ball, for example, definitely helps.

Ok, for the rest of you, as I mentioned shortening the stride is a well-accepted technique for getting that forward lean. Not a bend at the waist, but a lean out over the front with the head, shoulders and chest. The question is, how much shorter should the stride be? I’ve seen pitchers who would leap out hard on their fastball, then barely step off to get over their drops. That’s way too short, and way too obvious.

The target I like to use is to have the toes land where the heel was. In other words, you land roughly one length of your foot shorter. It’s not obvious to the hitter, yet it can have a big effect on the pitcher’s success.

Indoors, I use my trusty garden kneeling pad to mark the distance. Outdoors, and especially in a game, there’s an easier way to do it. Have pitcher throw her normal fastball, but keep her stride foot in place after she throws. Then pivot on the heel and draw a line. That’s the goal line for the drop. It’s simple and not very obvious to the hitter. But it does give the pitcher a visual to shoot for.

One thing about the shorter stride to keep in mind: the pitcher still needs to drive out hard. She’s not landing her whole body short, just her foot. The effect then becomes akin to stumbling, i.e. the upper body continues out forward while the foot stops short. If she just lets up on her stride she’ll remain vertical, and thus there’s no reason to land short. She will also lose speed. But if she drives out hard she not only gets into position, she maintains speed. Or in some cases might even throw faster (due to working harder to spin the ball).

If you have a pitcher who’s having trouble getting the drop to work, try having her draw the line. It can make a real difference.

Why so serious?

Since my own daughter opted out of playing high school softball her senior year, I’ve found I have a lot of time on my hands. It doesn’t go to waste, though. I tend to wander out and catch games that either involve students of mine, players on my team, kids I know, or sometimes even some random game.

If you’ve never done it — gone to a game where you don’t have a direct stake in the outcome — it’s really an interesting experience. What you notice the most is how emotional, upset, angry, etc. otherwise seemingly reasonable people can get. I’ve watched as parents and/or other fans totally freak out over an umpire’s call — even if it’s the right call. They get angry over a poor strategic move, a missed play or dozens of other things.

I understand. I’ve been there too. But when you stop and watch a game you ‘re not totally invested in you can see how silly it sounds at times.

For most of us, we are watching kids playing a kid’s game. Winning that game, that tournament, that league championship may seem important at the time, but it’s really not. At least not in the big scheme of things.

We want to see our kids do well, or better yet do their best. But sometimes that desire gets in the way of common sense. If you find your blood boiling and your tolerance level dropping, take a deep breath, take a step back, and ask yourself the Joker’s question — why so serious? Then take a chill pill and be glad you live somewhere that a fastpitch softball game can be your biggest concern in the world.

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