Different throws for different positions
The other day as I was getting ready to start teaching a catching clinic I was watching the participants as they warmed up to throw. It was clear that they had been taught the old rhyme, “Thumb to the thigh, raise it to the sky, wave bye bye.”
That’s fine as an early teaching tool, or for outfielders who need a big arm circle to throw far. But for many positions that same motion is a time waster.
Once players get their basic throwing motions down, it is important to start making adjustments based on position. As a rule of thumb, the closer a player starts to home, the shorter the arm circle should be.
Clearly, catchers will have (and need) the shortest arm circles. The most they have to throw is 84 feet, 10.25 inches (home to second), and when they do it they usually have about 2 seconds or less to make that throw. Dropping the thumb to the thigh takes up way too much of those 2 seconds.
Instead, they should bring the almost (but not quite) straight back, making a very small arm circle that dips down and then comes up quickly before throwing – all in one continuous motion. That last part is very important, as any hesitation at all gives the runner more time to get to the base.
Infielders will likely have a little larger circle, although part of that depends on whether they are moving toward or away from the base they’re throwing to. A shortstop going into the hole, for example, will need a larger arm circle to make the long throw. The same shortstop moving in and to her left will make a quick release.
Third or first basement fielding a bunt will also have a minimal arm circle, trading that extra power for a faster release. Generally they’re a little stronger and can put some zip on the ball without too much circle.
But it can’t be a straight pullback either – what I call a Katniss Everdeen throw because it looks like you’re firing a bow and arrow. A small arm circle will provide the action/reaction needed to get the ball there quickly.
Once you understand this, it’s important to have players practice these throws. Which means they may need to consciously work on different types of throws during warmups if they play different positions. For example, a catcher who also plays outfield may want to start with a full motion to loosen up, switch to a catcher throw around 60 feet, then go back to a longer motion if you’re extending it further.
The more they understand the different types of throws, the better they’ll be able to execute them in the games – and the better chance you’ll have of getting more outs. Especially on close plays.
Do you have your players work on different types of throws by position? If so, has it helped? Anything you wish your players did differently?