How Young Players Can Throw a Safe Curveball
Watch the Little League World Series these days and you’ll notice that almost all the pitchers throw breaking pitches. For some, it is their dominant pitch, even more than the fastball.
The decision of when you should begin to throw curve balls is something to be discussed with parents and coaches - and if you’ve read this column before, you know I and a lot of other coaches prefer that you master the fastball before moving on to another pitch.
That belief is based on the fact that, in order to get a baseball to curve, you have to make it spin really, really fast. At the major league level, pitchers throw curveballs at close to 2000 RPM. That means the ball is spinning at a rate of 2000 revolutions per minute.
And it puts a lot of stress on younger arms in order to make that happen.
But here’s a pitch you can learn to throw that, even though it breaks like a curveball, shouldn’t put much stress on your arm at all.
The traditional curveball grip is where you hold the ball with your middle finger along a seam. The index, or second, finger is alongside that finger. Pressure is applied by the middle finger as you release the ball.
The grip I’m talking about is more like a change-up grip, where the ball is held farther back in the hand, in that “V” shape where the thumb and first finger come together. In fact, you want to have the back of the ball touching the palm of your hand. (Figure above)
Hold the ball between your thumb and first finger, without touching a seam. That’s what helps it come out of your hand like a change-up. Put your ring, or fourth finger, on a seam behind the ball (Figure below). That’s what helps it rotate like a curveball.
To throw this pitch, you don’t have to rotate your wrist over the top of the ball, like you do with traditional curveballs. All you have to do is keep your wrist firm and let the ball tumble out of your hand.
Just as with the traditional change-up, it’s important that you throw this pitch with exactly the same motion, exactly the same arm speed, as you do your fastball.
Remember that, as with any other pitch, it’s important that you follow-through with your arm coming across your body to the opposite knee. This helps make sure the ball crosses the plate low in the strike zone.
Try this pitch the next time you play catch. Watch the ball tumble as it makes its way to the target. It’s a real easy pitch to learn, an effective pitch to throw. And best of all, it’s relatively safe.