Baseball Instruction/Middle Infield throwing mechanics for 9 year old
My 9 year old son is a middle infielder and currently plays on a local travel team. His natural arm slot is low 3/4 and he habitually throws side arm. He is effective and accurate with his throws, but he often lets his elbow drop during his throws, and when he does, it looks awkward. He also will "over bend" at the waist when he throws. His coaches are working to correct his throwing mechanics and want him to throw "over the top", but it's just unnatural for him. I realize the elbow drop and extreme waist bend need to be corrected ASAP, but I don't think we should mess with his natural low 3/4 arm slot. Any thoughts on this? Are there any drills I could use to help correct his elbow drop and waist bend issue? Thanks!
Mark: Thank you for your question.
Throwing and receiving are two of the most important baseball skills a player needs to have for success in the game.
While he may be effective and accurate with his throws at this point in time, as the speed and distances increase, both will deteriorate and become a liability for him.
There is only one lineup spot in every batting order that will accommodate a player who has throwing or receiving issues, that is the DH.
Certainly there are times when infielders are forced to throw sidearm, submarine and all sorts of positions in between; but the overwhelming number of throws will be overhand. Outfielders need to always throw overhand. At this point in time he is a middle infielder, a lot can change as he moves forward. A solid, overhand motion, will provide him with throwing skills to play anywhere on the field defensively, thus opening other options for himself, as well as his future coaches.
Throwing sidearm is hard on the elbow, especially as the distances to be thrown are increased. The sidearm motion, in itself, causes the ball to come out the side of the players hand, thus imparting a sideways spin to the ball. That spin, over a distance, causes the ball to slice away from it's target. Less velocity, limited accuracy, longer time in the air as it slices sideways.
In the infield, that slice on a ball thrown to first base, takes the first baseman directly up the baseline into the path of the oncoming runner.
The advantages of overhand versus sidearm:
1. Overhand spin imparted is front to back, not sideways, thus the ball tracks straight, travels on a shorter path ( shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line).
2. Arm slot keeps the elbow up, less stress on the elbow and shoulder.
In the 14 years I have worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Academies, throwing properly is one of our main focus points, for all ages.
They teach, and I have carried it over into my high school and travel ball teams as well, the following rhyme, to help players easily get their arm motion developed.
Start with them getting their glove side alignment squared up to their target: knee, ankle, shoulder, hip pointed towards their target.
Teach it all with a four seam grip on the baseball, it is the most accurate and allows for the most velocity. Takes time, and doesn't always happen in game situations; but it is the goal, after catching the ball, to get that grip.
The rhyme: Thumb to the thigh
Knuckles to the sky
Elbow up high
Let It Fly
If you start just from the glove side alignment and then step online with their lead foot, they can start to get into the rhythm. When they become consistent, you can get them to start walking into their throw with their throwing side foot, rotating it sideways as they close their front shoulder to their target and complete the 4 steps above.
Taking it step, by step, initially allows them to stop at each step and evaluate their positioning. Thumb to thigh is pretty easy to get down, the "knuckles to the sky" part is tougher. Stop them and have them look back, they should see the back of their hand, not the baseball. If they are seeing the baseball instead, the ball is already headed out the side of their hand.
Getting that ball back and up is what gets their elbow up high.
Then step on line directly at their target, and let it fly.
If they have stayed true, the ball will be rotating backwards, towards them; not sideways.
The links below are to pages on my website, both dedicated to throwing.
One thought, his over bend at the waist may be an attempt to increase his velocity, or if he is not stepping on line towards his target, that could cause him to bend at the waist as his sidearm motion comes through.
On the advanced throwing page, there is a throwing drill you can build into playing catch, where they work to keep the ball between 4 points on their partner's body:
Button of Cap
Outside edge of each shoulder
Over time, focusing in on those points will increase their accuracy, which is always a plus.
Good luck as you both go forward. You can contact me here at All Experts, or on my website, www.theoleballgame.com, should you have additional questions.
Yours in baseball,