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Establish the change-up and turn up the power.

What is the first question a college recruiter will ask about a high school pitcher?

Not, "What is his won-lost record?"

Not, "What is his earned-run average?"

But, almost always, "How hard does he throw?"

College coaches, as well as the pros, for that matter, look for power. They love the hard-throwing strikeout pitchers, the youngsters who can blow away the hitters and dominate the game.

But what if you don't have a kid with that kind of power? All is not lost. Allow us to tell you how to turn a high school hurler with a fair fastball into a power-pitching prospect.

We believe you can do it by teaching him a good change-up. At Pine Forest High School, we start teaching our pitchers how to throw the change-up the very first time they throw in practice.

We have them progress through a series of 15-minute throwing drills every day, from working on one knee, both knees, no steps, and long tossing to loosen and strengthen their arms - using the change-up grip on every drill except the long tossing.

The most important thing they must do is become comfortable with the grip. Once this is established, they will go on to acquire the confidence needed to throw the pitch on any ball-strike count.

There is no one "correct" grip for the change-up. Atlantic Braves star Tom Glavine holds the baseball with the okay grip - making a circle with Ins index finger and thumb.

Glavine's teammate, Greg Maddux, grips the pitch with all five fingers.

Some pitchers will choke the ball in their palms, others will hold the ball lightly with their fingertips, while still others will hold the ball with the seams, or off the seams.

Each pitcher has to find the grip most comfortable for him, both physically and mentally.

Vitally important is the necessity of delivering the pitch without any change in the regular motion. Any difference in the motion would be instantly spotted by the opposing coaches and hitters.

A good hard change-up will come up to the plate about five to seven miles per hour slower than the fastball. You don't want it much slower or the batters will find it easy to keep their hands back and adjust to the pitch.

Pitchers can turn their wrists outward to give the pitch a downward and sinking movement. The main keys are the speed differential and the pitch location. An artful mixture of fastball and change-ups can make the fastball look much faster than it really is.

Remember, hitting is all about timing. The smart pitchers are always trying to disrupt it - throwing change-ups when the hitter is expecting fastballs, and vice versa. A crafty pitcher can make a 75 mph fastball look like an 85 mph fastball.

The keys lie in mixing up the repertoire, throwing all pitches for strikes, throwing the change-up on any count, and throwing every pitch with the same motion.

As we stated, our pitchers throw nothing but fastballs and change-ups the first three weeks of practice. As the days go by, they start throwing a greater number of pitches to increase their arm strength, endurance, and, just as important, to develop confidence in their change-ups.

Our pitchers throw as many change-ups as fastballs, but the fastball definitely remains their "out" pitch. The fastball begins looking a lot better than the radar gun estimates it is - thanks to the change-up.

You have to remember that power pitching is definitely advantageous. Breaking-ball pitches tend to be unhittable one day and B.P. pitches the next. Since off-speed pitches are hit for home runs more often that any other pitch, it is important to develop pitchers who can throw a "heater" for the important outs.

You can increase their effectiveness by adding a change-up to their repertoires.
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Title Annotation:baseball pitching power and high school pitchers
Author:Hessman, Rick
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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