In Little League baseball, it's crucial that coaches first make sure that their pitchers master an accurate fastball before all else. Trying to mix in offspeed pitches will simply make the learning process much more difficult, and could affect how they work on the mound later in life. The time will come for coaches to introduce new pitches, but it's important for them to look out for the health of their athletes' young arms.
Teaching a true curveball to developing pitchers is a highly contested topic, as many experts have indicated this could damage their shoulders, elbows and wrists. But there are ways to put movement on the ball without unnaturally snapping the wrist.
One great technique starts with the young pitcher making a big "C" shape with his thumb and index fingers. Place the ball in his hand so that those two fingers are resting snug along the laces. Have the pitcher hold the ball out in front of himself, and adjust his hand so that his two fingers, which should be on opposite sides of the ball, are parallel to the ground. Have him bring his arm back, and instruct him to throw it just like a fastball.
The effect here is a big looping curveball that doesn't require any odd arm movements. Just like any good breaking pitch, the most important thing for pitchers to remember is keeping the ball low in the strike zone.
While this is effective for young players, it shouldn't be a pitch they hang onto as they grow up. In essence, this is a "meatball," so while it's very effective on young hitters, more mature batters will be swinging out of their baseball pants to get a piece of it.
Do you have any unique pitches you teach your young hurlers? Share your thoughts below, and be sure to visit YouthBaseballPlans.com for more great coaching tips and tricks.