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How to get your pitcher to throw strikes (without the coach saying a word from the bench!).

Small high school baseball coaches with a limited number of players who can pitch, or inexperienced coaches with just a faint knowledge of pitching, will reveal their shortcomings when they begin yelling at pitchers who are having trouble throwing strikes.

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1. "Just relax out there!"

2. "Just like batting practice!"

3. "Just hit the pitcher's glove!"

These are meaningless exhortations to the inexperienced or struggling young pitcher. To throw strikes consistently, he must be taught a consistent power release point and be able to do the following three things:

1. Throw strikes in different home plate areas.

2. Throw pitches at different speeds.

3. Most important, make sure the pitching changes are on a horizontal plane.

These can be taught very easily and quickly with four different hand signals from the coach, the catcher, or even a team fan in the stands.

Photos 1 through 4 show our "SECC" plan of communicating to the pitchers from the dugout without yelling (which most young pitchers will appreciate).

"SECC" is an acronym that breaks down as follows:

1. Elbow above the shoulder.

2. Body centered over the line.

3. Feet square to home plate.

4. Chest touching or close to lead-leg knee.

5. Readiness position to protect against line drives.

All of the four hand signals are designed to give the pitcher a consistent release point for throwing strikes. The technique should be practiced in the bullpen before the game (20% from the stretch position), at the start of an inning, and between innings.

Before any instruction on the four hand signals can have any meaning before practice or a game, the pitcher must draw a straight line on the mound with his shoe from the center of the rubber toward the center of home plate.

This centering point on the rubber is the point from which the pitcher pushes off the rubber with his driving back leg.

The straight line should extend approximately six feet or less.

The four hand signals given by the coach will be based upon the location of the previous non-strike pitch, not in relation to home plate.

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To correct a high pitch: Signal #1 by the coach. Points to his chest with one finger.

Reason for high pitch: The pitcher not getting his chest down to the front knee for a good follow through. Happens when the pitcher is trying to throw too hard in the late innings when he is tiring.

To correct an inside or outside pitch: Signal #2 by the coach. Draws a line down his chest with all four fingers.

Reason for inside or outside: Pitcher's feet not evenly splitting the line on the ground during the follow-through.

To correct the low pitch in the dirt: Signal #3 by the coach. Makes a square with both hands in front of his chest.

Reason for the low pitch in the dirt: Pitcher's lead leg stride is too long and he cannot square feet on the follow-through.

To correct the low pitch over home plate that is not a strike: Signal #4 by the coach. Points to his elbow.

Reason for low pitch over home plate: Pitcher's elbow was not above the shoulder when pitching the ball. Not a good power position release point.

By teaching these four simple pitching techniques, the young pitcher will learn the proper body leverage for pitching a baseball from the ground up. He will also have:

1. Better control.

2. Less arm fatigue.

3. Less chance for injury.

4. More confidence.

Probably the biggest advantage of this system is that it will lower the anxiety level for the pitcher, coach, other players, and the parents.

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RELATED ARTICLE: CENTERING POINT FOR PITCHER

Draws a straight line with shoe from center of rubber towards center of plate. Extends about six feet. Pitcher pushes off rubber with his drive (back) leg

By Butch Marliani, Retired Baseball Coach, East Union H.S., Manteca, CA
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Title Annotation:BASEBALL
Author:Marliani, Butch
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:662
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