Youth Baseball Drills: The Definitive Guide to Throwing Precision
Today Swing Smarter is going to break from hitting and address a progression of youth baseball drills called the Throwing Package.
Herein lies a larger problem in youth baseball today...
With all the arm problems I'm seeing at every field I go to, I think it's time to expose the 80/20 of throwing, but don't worry, hitting will remain the primary topic of Swing Smarter. I feel bad throwing mechanics are becoming a pandemic in the baseball world, and it's crucial these youth baseball drills get revealed.
I was fortunate to be taught the 4 Phase Throwing Package at an early age under the tutelage of legendary Coach Mike Noakes at Bullard High School, and now, often wonder why, with all the available information both offline and online, coaches don't know about this simple but powerful toss program.
The good news is, there's NO age limit on how early you can teach it...the earlier the better.
Enter the Throwing Package...
(The video is of my 6-year-old nephew, the execution is NOT perfect, but he's throwing better than 98% of the kids his age)
Things to know before you go:
Work a 4-Seam grip: fingers running perpendicular to the horse shoe [4-Seam gets its name because when the ball rotates, 4 seams cut through the air],
The first two phases of the youth baseball drills Throwing Package are isolating the upper body from the lower, so start throwing at a shorter distance. When you hit Phases 2, 3, and 4, then start slowly backing the throwing distance up.
Phase One: Kneeling Catch
Get on a knee*, with the glove arm shoulder closest your partner; if you're right handed, kneel on the right knee, and vice versa if you're left handed...with a 4-Seam grip in the glove,
To start the throwing motion, bring both hands down towards the belt and break them, continuing a circular path away from the body and up in a wide "U" shape,
Step 3 upper body movement: slide into the broken elbow position: glove hand is bent, elbow pointing at your target with a slightly larger than 90 degree angle; with the glove a tad closer to the target...the throwing hand is bent at a 90 degree angle, elbow level with the shoulder, and the baseball is turned away from the head. And finally
As you start rotating the torso to square up the shoulders, focus on pulling and twisting the glove arm palm up into the armpit, and reaching out (towards the target) with the release point of the throwing arm. Follow through with the throwing arm outside of the front knee, and the chest over the front thigh.
*On a knee means kneeling tall, NOT resting back on the haunches of the back leg...younger players will tend to do this because they want to be lazy; push your kids to keep their body upright as they practice these important youth baseball drills.
Phase Two: Standing in Cement
Step 1 is in a standing position, feet a little over shoulder width apart, and the body is squared up and facing your partner,
Twist the upper torso and repeat steps 2 and 3 from above (the feet should NOT move, imagine they are cemented in the ground).
The follow through is almost the same as above, tuck the glove into the armpit, palm up, and reach out with the release point; don't forget to finish with the chest parallel to the ground.
Phase Three: Pitcher's Launch
Step One positioning is to get out into a would be pitcher's stride off the mound, so the feet are fairly far apart with a good balanced athletic base; back foot is running parallel to the pitcher's rubber (imagine one there), and the front toes are facing the target slightly closed,
To initiate the throw, begin to transfer your weight to the back leg (about 70% back, 30% front), in concert with Step 2 of Kneeling Catch above,
Then repeat Step 3 of Kneeling Catch above, and
Lastly, use the same principals of Step 4 of Kneeling Catch above but now, you're letting the back leg follow through.
Phase Four: Regular Catch Now you're able to play your regular catch following the: 4-Seam grip in glove, break the hands upward in a "U", broken elbow, glove tuck and reaching release point, and follow through steps. Then start backing up the throwing distances from 40 feet, to 60, to 90, to 120 feet depending on the age group and fielding position.
Use the glove hand broken elbow as a site on a gun to your target,
"Reach out" with the release point,
Make sure the throwing elbow never dips below the throwing shoulder during and after the broken elbow steps,
Follow through with the back leg, meaning: letting the back leg kick through while releasing the ball.
Also note: outfielders, because they have a longer throw to make, need to have a longer glove arm lever, so instead of the glove hand side elbow being the "gun site," have them extend the arm out with a slight bend in the elbow using the glove as the gun site instead.
Now that your players have their throwing mechanics down, how do you tame all the wild throws after these progressive youth baseball drills?
The Belt to Hat drill.
The players are only allowed to hit their partners from the belt to the hat, hitting the:
Belt is 1 point,
Chest is 2 points, and
Hat is 3 points.
The player with the most points at the end of the throwing session is the winner. Make errand throws worth negative points to mix in a little accountability to the drill.
The Throwing Package is definitely part of the 20% of youth baseball drills contributing to 80% of success and longevity as a player. Please spread the word because if I see another young player with horrible throwing mechanics I'm going to puke my guts out!
Please check out some of the easy and effective Swing Smarter NOT Harder hitting articles on the site, we guarantee you won't be let down.