Curve ball drill: The student becomes the teacher
Last night I was doing lessons as usual, and it came time for my first student (Megan) to start working on the curve ball. She threw a couple, then told me she wanted to ask me about a drill she’d learned at a college pitching clinic the previous week.
For the drill, the pitcher stands with her back to the catcher, starts her arm circle (which will be going out toward third and then first base for a right handed pitcher), then twists her upper body and delivers the ball to the plate. She was told she should hug herself when she was done.
I looked at her doing the drill, imitated the movements, and gave her the thumbs up. In fact, I thanked her for showing it to me because I plan to use it with other students. See? I’m not completely set in my ways!
I was happy with this whole encounter for a couple of reasons. First, Megan asked me what I thought of the drill before really incorporating it into her routine. She’s a HS pitcher and we’ve only been working together for a short time, so it was good to see that the rapport is there and she trusts my judgement. That’s always important in the coach-player relationship. She wanted to be sure, I think, that it didn’t teach something that I didn’t want her doing. Since her pitching has been improving she’s generally bought in to the idea that I know what I’m doing.
The other is this is the first time I’ve seen anyone teaching the same mechanics I do for the curve ball. The normal curve I’ve seen has the pitcher start the wrist snap behind the back hip and then come around it. (That’s a poor description but you get the general idea.) I’ve always found the movement to be fairly minimal with that method, so I teach pitcher to actually cut the circle off at the top, drive the elbow down toward the bellybutton, and when the elbow is “pinned” snap around it. You get more dynamic movement that way, and once pitchers learn to cut the circle off instead of bringing it all the way back it eliminates a lot of the problems of the pitch going wildly inside.
The drill Megan showed me encourages the same arm path and pivot point I teach, and makes it pretty easy to feel. The only thing that’s really different is I like the front shoulder to stay in, angled toward the back of the batter’s box on the throwing side (RH batter’s box for a RHP), so you end up throwing around it. I call it throwing around the corner. But that’s a trifle, and I am not worried about that part of it crossing over into the actual pitch.
It’s not necessarily a drill I would do every time, but then again I don’t really do particular drills every time anyway. I prefer to keep drills for specific teaching moments or to correct specific problems. For the pitcher who’s having trouble getting the feeling, though, I think this one is a keeper. I will definitely add it to my arsenal, and can thank Megan for bringing it to me. I love it when the student becomes the teacher!