3 Pitching Workouts for the Body & Mind

Peaches James

Many club and high school coaches rely heavily on the private pitching coaches to make their pitchers better. Sending teenagers to go warm-up during practice is not a pitching workout. Even if you don’t know the mechanics of Fastpitch pitching, you can still learn and implement effective workouts for your young pitchers within a practice setting.

Before sharing these workouts I want to emphasize the importance of teaching pitchers location and command. Many times coaches and parents will brag about how hard a pitcher throws, but what I don’t hear often enough is how proud they are about their accuracy. In reality, even at top tier of the Division I level, most elite pitchers are throwing between 62-68mph consistently. Of course there are outliers who throw harder OR even slower. Translate this to what a hitter at the same level sees day in and day out. The speed of 62-68mph is no longer intimidating in any way. It’s what pitchers do with their pitches that make all the difference, not how hard they throw it. Teaching command and location to youth athletes will take them much further in their development. All they do is get bigger, faster, and stronger. If they have efficient mechanics, the velocity comes naturally. Command equals control. Location equals hitting spots, not areas.

Right before an MLB or NCAA Softball game starts, the announcers highlight the pitchers and their go-to pitches. They do not list 7 pitches; they list 2-3 pitches that the pitcher will rely on. Out of those 2-3, that particular pitcher will still primarily throw 1 pitch more than the others listed. With this in mind, let’s not overwhelm our athletes with learning 6 pitches; let’s help them to be confident and effective with three.

Here are a 3 workouts that promote focus, location, and command.

1. Around the world-

Many hitters have weaknesses based purely on location. Around the world focuses on hitting spots with a fastball. YES, a fastball in softball is an important tool to have. This is the pitch that should be called when you need a spot. Gone is the mentality that fastballs don’t work in Fastpitch. Hitting spots effectively can beat a lot of hitters. Around the World: If you don’t have a stand-in batter, place a large cone or in the ground on either side of the batters box. Put something there for a visual that covers the bottom to the top of the strike zone. The pitcher is on a timer of 15 minutes to get around the plate and back starting on either side of the plate in the lowest part of the zone. They cannot move on until they hit the exact spot. In total there should be 10 spots hit. 5 spots on each side of the plate with the 1st and the 5th spot being a ball below the zone, and a ball above the zone, respectively. Be strict on the accuracy and keep track of how many pitches it took to hit each spot. There will no doubt be frustration along the way. Challenges and struggle are okay to have in practice. It’s a great way for players to work on their mental stability and reset methods.

2. Sequences- Moving pitches around the zone is a great way to disrupt a hitters’ timing. In sequence, the pitcher and the catcher will each pick a sequence of 3 pitches that the pitcher will throw 8-10 times in a row. These sequences should use a change in plane/speed from each one to the next.

Here are 2 examples of effective sequences:

1 Screw Ball, 2 Change Up Outside (low), 3 Rise Ball (High In)

1 Fastball (low out) 2 Change Up In, 3 Rise Ball (High In)

From each pitch to the next, the timing and the plane in which the pitch is thrown is different. Have the pitchers keep track of how many out of 10 sequences they threw successfully.

3. Take Away- Pitchers have their favorite pitch they like to throw, but every once and awhile, a pitcher doesn’t feel perfect (insert sarcasm). Have your pitcher do an entire workout like throwing to 10 batters or phantom batters without the use of their favorite pitch. It’s challenging both mentally and physically but the reality is, they’ll be days when their go-to isn’t working or their go-to just isn’t good enough to beat certain hitters. For example, take a look at Charlie Blackmon's hitting chart. One of the most feared hitters at the highest level still has locations that prove weaker than the others. The question is, can the pitchers command the zone and get him to chase where he shows he chases the most? A good pitcher can create holes in a hitters’ swing if they work their location, and plan of attack.

Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott are 2 of the best pitchers in the history of the game. Cat’s go-to pitch was a drop ball and it worked at its best when she threw it at 61-62mph. Monica Abbott throws significantly harder than most hitters ever see. She doesn’t just throw it down the middle and hope her speed is enough. Her go-to is a rise ball. She’s also worked to develop a change-up that is useful when hitters are catching up. Each of these pitchers mastered 1 pitch and grew a small but effective repertoire of pitches behind them. Let’s challenge our pitchers to be masters of two or three quality pitches, instead of being mediocre at six.

#pitching #mentalgame #focus #location #command #pitchingworkout #fastpitch