Pitching for Beginners: Windmill Mechanics
I have a lot of pitchers who have either never pitched before or are just learning the windmill mechanics. Going from coach-pitch to kid-pitch to windmill-pitch can be a large jump for the pitchers, the field players, the hitters, and the coach! Here, I describe the basics of the windmill pitch and some need-to-know lingo if you are going to be a serious pitcher.
Windup - The backwards movement the pitcher makes to "load" the pitch before pushing off. (Think of a spring that is being squished down)
Windmill - The act of moving the pitching hand/arm in a complete circle before releasing the ball.
Release Point - The split second where the pitcher releases the ball from her hand. The release point should happen close to the pitcher's back hip.
Follow Through / Finish - Everything that happens after the release of the ball. 2 important pieces of the follow through are the pitching hand and the back foot. The pitching hand/wrist should stay loose after releasing the ball and "flick" the ball off of the fingertips. The back foot should continue the pitcher's momentum by dragging and moving forward towards the catcher. Note: the drag foot has to stay in contact with the ground until the ball is released. Once the ball is released, the drag foot can come off the ground and either finish in a "figure 4" position, or step through.
Push-off Foot/Leg - This is your front foot - Rightys start with right foot in front and Leftys start with left foot in front. Most of your power is coming from the push-ff leg, so having a bent knee and bent hip at the start of the windup can making pushing off the rubber that much easier. (Think of jumping up without bending your legs, then jumping up with bending your legs... obviously you can jump higher when you can bend your legs!)
Drag Foot/Leg - This is the same as the push-off leg. After pushing off the rubber, keep the drag foot in contact with the ground until the ball is released.
Landing Foot/Leg - This is the back leg at the start of the pitch, and the leg that will stride out towards the catcher. This leg should be strong enough to brace the impact of the stride and is used to create rotation for the pitcher's back leg and hips. Being able to step straight out towards your catcher, see Power Line below, will keep your pitcher's hips, shoulders, and arm moving straight.
Power Line - The imaginary line that runs from the middle of the pitching rubber to the middle of home plate. Drawing this line in the dirt can help pitchers step straight, which will in turn keep their hips, shoulders, and arm straight.
Positions of a Pitch:
Follow Through / Finish
To get to these positions, we move through 6 phases of a pitch, shown below. During phase 1, we move from the starting position into the load position with our windup. Phase 2 consists of the transition between the load position and the drive position. Phase 3 and 4 is where the drive position becomes the K position with your push-off leg extending and your arm moving from the 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock position. The glove hand should come up with the pitching hand to the 3 o'clock position to keep the pitcher moving forward in a straight line.
The best few drills to teach your new pitcher are as follows:
Wrist Flicks - Being able to correctly hold and flick the ball will help the pitcher find their "release point" early on. This is key to throwing more strikes and building confidence in your pitchers.
K Drill - Warming up the shoulder and arm muscles before whipping right into a windmill is important at any age! Use the K drill to work on good arm mechanics (straight circle, loose wrist, arm is tight to the body) and to work on good stepping/lower body mechanics (stepping towards the catcher, dragging the back leg).
Kneeling Arm Circle Drill - Before heading right into the full windmill, it is always nice to get a few practice kneeling reps in. This drill takes away your lower half and the pitcher can focus on a straight and precise arm circle as well as a loose wrist and repetitive release point.
Full Windmill Pitch - Putting it all together! Check back in with the vocab words and positions above to make sure you are doing it right!
Time to get out there and throw some pitches!!
Keep working hard,