DECEMBER TIP of the MONTH
Coach Jerry “Kal” Kalista
FROM December 1, 2013
WHEN SHOULD PITCHERS BEGIN THROWING A CURVEBALL?
In my over 40 years of coaching baseball, “When should pitchers begin throwing a curveball?” is probably the question I am asked the most. Usually the question is…..”At what age can my son start throwing a curveball?”. Age should not be a factor when it comes to throwing a curveball! The main factors to be considered when a pitcher can throw a curveball are; physical maturity (have I been through puberty?), strength, pitching mechanics and command of their fast ball!
No matter what pitches a youngster throws, it comes down to each and every pitcher, in my
opinion, only has so many throws in their arm. Whatever that number is, each pitcher’s level of physical maturity, strength and pitching mechanics will determine that number. Physical maturity (puberty) has no true time-table. It doesn’t happen at any particular age. It will happen when it happens. Strength is something you can have an effect on. Push-ups, sit-ups, leg-lifts, lifting light weights (supervised by a professional coach), throwing long-toss (stadium toss), running sprints, energy workout, etc., can all help you gain strength. Proper pitching mechanics can be obtained through your desire to get better, hard work, learning all you can from pitching coaches and pitching lessons. Command of your fast ball is achieved by developing a consistent delivery of the baseball over time through hard work and good muscle memory.
Let me go back to my belief that each pitcher only has so many throws in their arm. Most rec leagues, travel leagues and high schools have an innings limit of some sort. It may be innings per week, per day or consecutive days. In my opinion, the number of pitches should be counted, not the number of innings. A pitcher may take anywhere from 3 to 30+ pitches per inning to get 3 outs. At the end of a 7 inning game, the pitcher could throw anywhere from 21 to 210 pitches. Big difference! Now throw in the fact that some pitchers play rec ball and travel ball and probably will pitch in both each and every week. Also, a number of pitchers play summer ball as well as fall ball. In addition to pitching, most of these players play another position, warm-up, take infield & outfield practice, etc. Get the picture? Coaches at all levels need to take pitch counts into consideration at all times. Coaches need to know their pitchers. All pitchers are not alike and will not have the same pitch count. Maybe pitchers should be limited to the number of curveballs thrown per inning or per game? Just a thought!
An alternative to the curveball is the sinker. It can be thrown by pitchers of all ages and maturity. It is fairly easy to learn, and can be used as an out pitch. If thrown properly, there is no more stress to the arm as there is when throwing a four seam fastball.
Commanding a good fastball should be every pitchers priority at all levels. Pitchers, as they mature, should develop strength, good mechanics and demonstrate the ability to command their fastball before working on the curveball.
Always be Positive! Always Give 100%!
Coach Jerry “Kal” Kalista