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Child throwing a baseball from the pitcher's mound on a baseball field

9 Steps to the Perfect (and Safe) Pitch

The weather is slowly starting to warm up. You know what that means: adult league baseball and softball. OK, and high school too!

Whether you were a star pitcher in high school or you’ve never stood on the mound before, we have some reminders on how to properly throw out a pitch plus some tips for avoiding injuries.

Dean Taylor, M.A., AT, Great Lakes regional director, National Pitching Association, says there is no difference when it comes to throwing or holding a softball or baseball. Position your middle finger and thumb so they divide the ball equally to maximize accuracy, the certified athletic trainer says.

Learn how to throw a baseball or softball for the most efficient delivery

From there, Taylor says, there are nine variables to keep in mind for efficient delivery:

1. Balance and Posture

“Pitchers need to be aware that by maintaining their posture, [the] energy moving toward the target can be optimized and efficiency increases.”

2. Leg Lift and Body Thrust

“[This should] happen at the same time. A common misconception is to lift and balance prior to starting to the target. Pitchers should lift their lead leg while driving the front hip at the same time. If posture changes as the leg is lifting, then the athlete isn’t strong enough to support how high the leg is lifting. Only lift as high as posture can be maintained.”

3. Stride and Momentum

“Force equals mass times acceleration. Stride should equal 6- to 7-foot lengths of the athlete — 6 on flat ground, 7 on the mound. When we can maximize acceleration and stride length together, stress on the smaller upper-body muscles decreases since the larger lower-body muscles are working optimally, leading to increased velocity and the ability to ‘throw hard, easy.’”

4. Equal and Opposite

“This position is defined as the angle of both the throwing side and glove side at foot-strike with the ground; the angles should be the same. The glove-side angle should match the ball side. As long as the angles match, their overall positions aren’t as important.”

5. Hip/Shoulder Separation and Delayed Shoulder Rotation

Taylor says every pitcher can maximize velocity with torque, with 40 to 60 degrees of separation between the front hip and back shoulder.

6. Stack and Track

“This refers to the ability to maintain an upright posture with the spine as the shoulders turn toward the target. This also represents the final 20 percent of a person’s capable velocity. The head is upright above the shoulders, and low back hyperextends as the throwing arm externally rotates.”

7. Swivel and Stabilize

“The shoulders begin to rotate as the glove side is stabilized over the front foot and in front of the chest throughout release. The chest should then move to the glove.”

8. Preset Forearm and Wrist Angle, Pitch Grip

“There’s a common misconception that your hand should manipulate the ball to make it move, or ‘break.’ Anytime you actively try to manipulate the ball with the small muscles of the wrist and hand, the stresses on the elbow become too much to handle over time.”

9. Release Point and Follow-Through

“If the previous steps are done correctly, then the release point and follow-through happen naturally and occur about 8 to 12 inches out in front of the front foot and happens .25 to .35 seconds after foot-strike.”

Pitching Warmup and Recovery

According to Taylor, kids have a tendency to throw to warm up instead of warming to throw. But this includes you grown-ups, too. Taylor says a proper warmup — which should last 20 to 30 minutes prior to or at the start of practice — should include all of the following concepts:

  • Arm care and recovery: Practice arm circles to help give your shoulder an opportunity to gain strength and endurance. A healthy and functionally strong upper body can support five minutes of continuous movement with this exercise.
  • Core temperature elevation: Working in forward/backward jobs, skips and bounds can help to get your body moving to prepare all muscles of the body.
  • Functional strength body work: Warm up using a series of presses, pushes and upper body saws and scissor movements to encourage full range of motion.
  • Joint integrity work: Practice a series of heavy and light “holds” to help strengthen the posterior shoulder and prepare the muscles of the arm for activity for the day.

As you plan your next game, remember to always warm up and listen to your body. Taylor says pain is likely the result of one of three things: improper mechanics, lack of functional strength, workload demands. These are categories that can be worked on, so listen to your body and stay safe out there!

If you think you’ve already had a sports injury, get in touch with one of our physicians!