Youth baseball doesn’t focus on pitching and pitching mechanics as much as it should. Pitching is probably the most important component of a successful baseball team. Youth baseball teams with pitchers that can do more than just throw fastballs over the strike zone will have a significant edge in regular season games.
Pitching Drills for youth geared towards pitching mechanics will improve throwing accuracy. Foot position on the pitching rubber, winding up and ball release are all addressed in drills for pitchers.
Youth baseball pitching mechanics and drills focus on specific aspects of the pitcher’s delivery. Over the years I’ve coached teams where few or none of my players really stood out as great hitters. Unable to generate a lot of runs in a game, we changed our focus to pitching.
As a result, we went from a .500 team in wins and losses to .650 and on to post season play. The difference was when we instituted pitching drills to training pitchers in their delivery and fielding. Once drills for pitchers were instituted and became part of a routine in baseball practice, we began winning a lot more games.
The baseball pitching drills outlined here produced fantastic results which improved the team’s win-loss ratio. They also improved the self-confidence of the team, especially the pitchers.
The best drills are fun and rewarding, so they seem less like work and discipline and more like enjoyable activities.
Practice is the only way to ensure that pitchers really learn and understand the mechanics of the game, so pitching drills are designed to help players develop technique, speed, and correct form.
Some drills focus on foot placement, others on arm rotation. After working through basic pitching drills that work on specific areas, later ones put everything together and work on the pitch as a whole. By providing separate drills for separate pitching components, coaches can observe parts of the windup that need correction.
Certain baseball pitching drills focus on the pitcher’s legs, others the throwing arm, and still others are complete pitching drills which focus on the mechanics of the windup and the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. Still other drills focus on how to throw better fastballs, curves, sliders, changeups and breaking balls.
Below are 12 drills for pitchers, focusing on the arms and hands, the windup, followed by the effective fielding drills. Baseball pitching drills help strengthen the effectiveness of the pitcher, one of the key players on the team, along with the catcher. Both are involved in every defensive play.
Hand Rhythm Drill
This is a simple warmup drill that pitchers should get in the habit of doing at baseball practice while they’re waiting. The Hand Rhythm Drill focuses on the pitcher’s mechanics as he’s winding up. This can be practiced anywhere, even at home.
- The pitcher starts with his hands together
- He brings the elbow of his glove arm up while the pitching arm is in the cocked position.
- The arms should be in sync and move together in a fluid motion. If one hand moves before the other, it will affect the rhythm of the pitch as well as his balance.
- Once the hands are in sync, the player can add his step back followed by his kick to complete the windup move.
Pitcher Follow Through
For this drill, the pitcher kneels at the pitcher’s mound, and the catcher or a net is in front of home plate.
The pitcher, on his knees, goes through his pitching motion. Just before he is about to release the ball, he stands up. Then he throws to his catcher.
Standing up just prior to releasing the ball encourages pitchers to break at the waist. This causes the ball to go further and improves his follow through. When his wrist flicks, the pitcher’s body bends forward at the waist. The wrist flick together with the bend forces the baseball away, without pushing the ball, or aiming it.
The purpose of the Follow Through Drill is to get the ball near the catcher by forcing it away from the pitcher’s body. It also helps the ball maintain its speed, making it hard to hit.
The purpose of this drill is to help the pitcher shorten his stride by limiting how far he can land on his stride foot. The closer the striding foot lands to his body, the more control the pitcher will have over the direction and speed of the ball.
The coach will give his pitcher instruction as he follows through his windup. You will need a pad large enough for the pitcher to aim for.
Place a pad in front of the pitching rubber and at a distance away from him that is equal to the pitcher’s height. For example, if the pitcher is 5 feet 7 inches tall, place the pad about the same distance away and in front of the mound.
The coach instructs his pitcher not to touch the pad with his foot. He goes through his windup motion making sure his striding foot doesn’t come into contact with the pad. Another way to shorten the stride is for the pitcher to point the toes of his striding foot down before it comes in contact with the ground.
Knee Pinch Drill – Pitcher Fielding Practice Drill
The purpose of this drill is to prevent the pitcher from dragging his back foot. It can be run anywhere on the field. A baseball, pitcher and catcher (or net) are needed for this drill.
- The pitcher stands with his feet about shoulder width apart.
- As he throws the ball, he pinches his knees together. The insures his back foot is getting up and over and not dragging.
- Pitchers should repeat knee pinching and throwing for 20 repetitions.
Coaches should have his pitchers take positions where they can field any overthrows. This pitching drill can be run to other bases. Your pitcher should understand that whenever the runner is going, is where he needs to be backing up the play.
Pitching Stance Drill
This drill and the next three work on youth baseball pitching mechanics. This and subsequent drills for pitchers are run at baseball practice. The entire pitching squad does the drill as a group. The purpose of the drill is to help your pitchers understand and develop each step of their pitching motion. Coaches observe each pitcher closely and instruct his players to make corrections and adjustments.
The coach lines his pitchers facing the coach with about 6 feet of space between them. Have them each wear their gloves. There is no baseball required for this drill.
You’ll be taking your pitchers through each step of the pitching motion one at a time and will stop to make corrections and adjustments at the end of each phase of the drill.
- Make sure the pitcher’s weight is evenly distributed on each foot.
- Pitcher’s eyes facing the target
- Their gloves should be held with the palm up
- The throwing had should be palm down in order to conceal the ball
Pivoting and Balancing
- Pitchers now rock back, step on the stride foot backwards, away from the rubber
- This “rocker step” should be compact and short. The pitcher’s head should remain over the foot that’s under the same arm that the pitcher throws with
- The foot used to pivot (on the same side as the hand with the ball) will square off, parallel to the rubber
- Pitchers now bring the stride leg up with a slow and controlled motion to transfer weight to the pivot leg
- Coaches instruct pitchers to hold the position of balance with the striding leg up until the coach says “Stop.”
- When the stride leg reaches its highest point of elevation, instruct pitchers to separate their hands in a thumbs down position as the pitcher begins his stride toward home plate
- Execute “falling forward”. The head and the knee are on the same side as the glove, while elbow and shoulder lead the way.
- While falling forward, coaches make certain their pitchers’ pivot legs are firm and not collapsing down. If the pivot leg remains stiff and firm, it will help keep the ball release point high. Pitches released higher up will travel in a downward angle towards the hitter, and has more power.
- The arms and body form a “T” when the striding foot impacts the mound. Coach makes sure their pitchers bend their knees on impact.
Release and Follow Through
- Once your pitchers have achieved the “T” position, the throwing shoulder accelerates powerfully towards the plate for the release and follow through.
- Observe and see that the pitcher’s head moves directly over his stride leg.
- Make sure their upper torsos, arms and throwing shoulders extend toward home plate.
- See that the the throwing elbow should be even or slightly higher than the throwing shoulder as the throwing arm moves forward.
- Other things the coach checks is that the elbow extends fully, the wrist is straight, and the pitcher’s fingers are on top of the ball.
- Make sure his pivot foot rotates up and out. It should then come off the rubber to complete weight transfer from the back foot to the front foot.
It might be a good idea to hold a practice only for your pitching squad, because you need to progress through each of these stages one at a time. Don’t move to the next stage until each of your pitchers can execute each step completely, from stance to pivoting and balancing and release of the ball. Youth baseball pitching mechanics and drills can take time to perfect, and it’s also good to have the whole squad running the drill all at the same time.
Once each stage is mastered, have your pitchers work together reviewing the steps, then proceed to the next stage. Allow an entire practice for these drills for pitchers.
Pitcher Drill for Accuracy
This is another drill that the whole pitching squad gets involved with and can be made into a fun competition. The idea is to increase pitching accuracy.
What you’ll need is a target, such as a soccer goal crossbar, along with your pitching squad. Have pitchers stand about 60 feet away from the target. Your players will throw fast balls at the target, trying to hit it.
You can turn it into a friendly competition by establishing the winner as the pitcher who hits the target first 15 times. Allow them three misses within the 15 hits on the target. Whoever misses four times before hitting 15 times has to start over.
Towel Pitching Drill
This drill is done with one pitcher at a time, and is a fun way to help pitchers extend their arms and snap their wrists well enough to hit the coaches’ glove. This drill helps solidify the pitching motion. A small towel and rubber band or tape is wrapped around the towel, making sure it stays together, is also needed.
The pitcher starts out in his full stride stance, holding the small towel like a baseball. The coach stands in front of him, holding out a glove. The coach makes sure he is far enough out front so the pitcher has to reach out in order to hit the glove. The pitcher goes through his windup and pitch motion, hitting the glove with the towel.
Bullpen Pitching Drill
This baseball pitching drill is designed to help your pitchers overcome their fear of hitting a batter during the course of a game. For the drill, you’ll need two adults, a bucket of baseballs and the pitcher in the bullpen. If there isn’t a bullpen on the field, the two adults should stand about 4 feet apart from each other.
In this drill, two adults stand next to each other in each batter’s box. The pitcher first lobs the ball down the middle between them, until he feels more confident. Then he slowly increases the velocity of the ball until he is pitching fastballs.
Now one of the adults crowds the plate. The pitcher works to a point where he is able to throw strikes comfortably. Then have the other adult crowd his plate. Progressing this way, the pitcher can learn how to throw in the strike zone without hitting the batters.
Pitcher Fielding Drill – Charging the Ball
With so much time dedicated to a pitcher’s drills to improve his pitching mechanics, helping him improve his fielding is often neglected. It’s important for the pitcher to be well-rounded in his defensive skills to avoid errors and negate his throwing accomplishments during games.
In general, all pitching drills for youth players should include a lot of infield defense practice. The purpose of this drill is for the pitcher to effectively scoop up a ground ball with his glove only and pitch it to the catcher when there is a runner on third heading towards home.
In this drill, the pitcher stands on the mound while the coach stands at the plate. The pitcher then simulates a pitch to home plate and the coach bats a slow rolling grounder back to him.
The pitcher scoops the ball with his glove only and releases it from his glove back to the coach. Pitchers learn to keep their glove open to field the ball. As an alternative, have the pitcher try to retrieve the ball barehanded. Practice this drill 10 times or more.
Covering First Base as a Pitcher
This drill teaches the pitcher how to run to first base when the ball is hit to the right of the first baseman. The pitcher will need to run and cover first base, and catch the ball to force the runner out. The first baseman will lob the ball to him. This is also a timing exercise. Even after the play is complete, and the pitcher has tagged first base, he needs to be aware of other runners on the field and be ready to throw to another base.
In this drill, the pitcher stands at the mound and the coach is between first base and the second baseman’s fielding position. The coach has about a dozen baseballs in a bucket to his right in the infield.
- Pitcher simulates throwing to home plate.
- Pitcher then turns and runs towards the first cut in the infield grass.
- Upon reaching the cut, he turns towards first base and runs parallel to the baseline and the bag.
- The coach tosses the ball to the pitcher at the bag.
- The pitcher touches the bag with his foot for the out.
A variation of this play happens when the coach pretends to bobble the ball. In this situation the pitcher sets up like the first baseman usually does at the bag to receive the throw. The coach should observe his pitcher running to first, reminding him to take short, choppy steps to the bag instead of a full trot. When tagging first base, the pitcher only needs touch the inside third of the bag with his foot.
After he touches the bag at first base, the pitcher pushes off towards the infield and sees what is happening in the game. If a runner is advancing to a base, he needs to position his body to throw long to third base.
Most important, to avoid injury, the pitcher needs to always stay out of the path of the runner, and avoid drifting into the baseline. This drill should be repeated up to 10 times.
Grounders with No Power
Slow balls hit down the first and third base lines need to be fielded quickly. The slower the ball moves, the easier it is for the batter to outrun the play, resulting in a base hit. Pitchers need to move off the mound fast, pick up and throw accurately to first base.
To set up for this drill, the coach places three baseballs along the first baseline, and there more balls along the third baseline. The pitcher stands on the mound.
The pitcher goes through his motion, simulating a pitch. The coach yells out either “first” or “third.” The pitcher breaks off the mound runs to the baseline called by the coach, picks up the ball and throws to first.
- First base technique: the pitcher steps back from the line before throwing, so he doesn’t hit the runner in the back. Left handed pitchers should circle around the ball so they’re in a better position to stand and throw.
- Third base technique: Here, the pitcher turns and point shoulders and feet toward first base before before throwing so his throw is more accurate.
Two Hand Ground Balls
This drill instructs pitchers how to field a ground ball, either by charging towards it or letting the ball come to him. It also reinforces controlling the ball after it’s caught, demonstrating the importance of complete control before throwing it. Footwork and cradling the ball are also emphasized.
The pitcher simulates a throw off the mound to home plate. He immediately sets up his body in the proper position so he can come off the mound and field the ground ball with both hands. Only after he sets his feet up should the pitcher throw the ball to the base to cut off the runner.
- The pitcher simulates a throw, then immediately goes into a fielding position. His glove is up and his body is directly in front of the ball.
- The coach hits a ground ball back to the pitcher. It’s advised to use a bat to hit the ball to simulate a real game scenario.
- The pitcher focuses on setting his feet and keeping his glove close to the ground.
- After making the catch, he brings his hands up together.
- The pitcher steps and throws, keeping his feet spread so it’s easy to move to the left or the right.
- Repeat the drill, having the pitcher practice moving in all directions.
The coach observes his pitcher, reminding him not to pull his head up until the ball is secured in his glove. If he lifts up too quickly, he will miss the ball. Instead, the pitcher should keep his head level and see the ball move to him all the way.
Also, the pitcher needs to be certain he has a good drop on the ball before he pulls it up to throw. Positioning is everything.