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  • Ankiel Syndrome?

    You all know what happened with Rick Ankiel. It sure was weird. And right now I have a 10-year-old kid who reminds me of Ankiel. This kid is a super athlete. He's faster than any of the other kids, throws harder than any of the other kids and hits balls a mile.

    He's supposed to be my ace pitcher. But he can't quite seem to get it figured out. In two innings today, he walked eight batters and threw 64 pitches. He had a 2-2 count on four guys and walked all four. I've seen him get ahead 0-2 with back-to-back 60 mph heaters. Then he'll just throw a few in the dirt and a few into the back stop and walk the guy. My own son was struggling with accuracy. We worked on it, and he's fine now. But this other guy just isn't developing. I can work with him on mechanics, and he gets it. He'll throw a few perfect pitches.

    I've had several people tell me that he changes his delivery almost every pitch. It's true. And it's really tough to explain. But he'll start his motion different ways from pitch to pitch. Today, he turned to pitch from the wind up. I've seen him throw about 20 innings, and I've never seen him throw a single pitch from the wind up. One time, he'll lift his stride leg really high. The next time, he'll barely lift it at all. One time, he'll release out front. The next time, he'll lean back and throw it with his shoulders tilted back. Sometimes, his legs seem to bend way too much at the knee. I watch four pitches, and I have no idea what to tell him. Because each pitch is so different.

    In a tournament last week, he just started standing there on the mound for 20 seconds after coming set. We were freaking out. It was taking forever for him to pitch, and we couldn't figure out why he was taking so long.

    He's a really nice kid. But he's not the brightest. And I wonder if that has something to do with his problems.

    At a practice a few weeks ago, someone commented that some kids just aren't pitchers. It would be a shame if this fireballer just wasn't meant to pitch. It makes me think of Ankiel. I'm just not quite ready to give up on this kid, though. For one thing, he loves to pitch. Plus, his parents want him to work on it. And, frankly, I need his contribution for the sake of our fall ball team.

    Have you ever had a kid who just couldn't pitch no matter how much you worked with him? Is there a point where you just throw in the towel? I'm at the point now where I'm going to hire an instruction (a current minor league pitcher) to work with him. I feel like I've tried everything I know of to help him.

    I should add that he also has trouble batting. He swings really hard. But two other coaches said they noticed that he closes his eyes when he swings. I talked to him about it, and he started making good contact. Could he be closing his eyes when he pitches?

  • #2
    It is kind of early to be making those kind of judgements on a 10 year old or even a 14 year old. I am surprised you let a 10 year old throw 64 pitches in two innings. If a kid is not throwing strikes, or it is not his day and he is not getting the calls, or his defense is not doing their job behind him, you pull him. And you tell him today is not his day, and you tell him his day will come. My kids have had their bad days, but they have also had their great days. That is what makes baseball great. Perhaps you should not be coaching.
    Last edited by Baseball gLove; 09-15-2012, 11:22 PM.

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    • #3
      Keep working mechanics and talk with him about the "ever changing delivery". Explain why his pitching delivery needs to stay consistent....and pray that the lightbulb turns on. Ten is a silly age to talk about Ankiel syndrome or if he will ever be a pitcher. Too young to know yet. Probably needs a set of five lessons from a top notch pitching coach to get a more repeatable delivery.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Baseball gLove View Post
        It is kind of early to be making those kind of judgements on a 10 year old or even a 14 year old. I am surprised you let a 10 year old throw 64 pitches in two innings. If a kid is not throwing strikes, or it is not his day and he is not getting the calls, or his defense is not doing their job behind him, you pull him. And you tell him today is not his day, and you tell him his day will come. My kids have had their bad days, but they have also had their great days. That is what makes baseball great. Perhaps you should not be coaching.
        Good idea. Next time, I'll just walk off the field and leave them without a coach. LOL

        I was being facetious when I mentioned Ankiel. However, I am in a bit of a quandary. I can't figure out why I have taught a half-dozen kids to pitch with accuracy and consistency. But this kid can't seem to figure it out.

        In the second inning, he got a bad call on a 3-2 pitch that should have been the second out. I went out to talk to him. I found out an assistant coach had introduced the slide step to him before the game. But he wasn't using it correctly. He was just pushing his foot out and then stopping his motion and starting again. I got him to go back to his normal style.

        He struck out the next batter on three pitches. Then he got a slow roller on a 1-1 pitch. But the first baseman let the ball roll through his legs. Now he's at 49 pitches, but six of his last eight were strikes. I could have replaced him at that point. But we needed one more out and the other team needed one more run. There was a guy on second with the top of the order up. I expected that he would only throw 3-5 more pitches. Instead, he threw 13 more. He walked the next batter on five pitches. Then he lost a guy on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. The inning ended on a wild pitch/passed ball.

        This kid is really close to being great. It's just that he can't seem to repeat his motion. It's like he is thinking about something other than pitching when he is out there. He's psyching himself out or something. It seems purely psychological. He can't focus or something. He gets too nervous, maybe. I don't know what it is. But he crumbles on a 3-2 count. He just can't throw a 3-2 pitch for a strike. While most of his pitches are close, his 3-2 pitches are never anywhere near the strike zone. Otherwise, kids would be swinging at them.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by crazyhawk View Post
          Keep working mechanics and talk with him about the "ever changing delivery". Explain why his pitching delivery needs to stay consistent....and pray that the lightbulb turns on. Ten is a silly age to talk about Ankiel syndrome or if he will ever be a pitcher. Too young to know yet. Probably needs a set of five lessons from a top notch pitching coach to get a more repeatable delivery.
          See, when some guy quipped that some kids just aren't pitchers, I just rolled my eyes. I was asking the guy for help. And the guy brags like he's the greatest coach on the planet. I can't believe he said that, and he said it right in front of the kid. I have had a lot of faith in this kid. I worked with him about six times during the summer. It should have been about 10 times, but his mom doesn't always seem the importance in getting him to practice.

          I did some drill work with him, and it really helped. I told him to do the drills at home. But I don't think he does them. In fact, he only does them when I'm working with him. I tried to get him to do the drills with my son. But he reverts to just playing regular catch as soon as I look away.

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          • #6
            Maybe instead of coming up with Ankiel Syndrome posts you could ask: I have this athletic kid that seems to be missing his spots, what can I do to help him? I coach at a league that has a disproportionate number of players that have made it to college and pro ranks in its relatively short existence as a league. We do not have the same high expectations of our 10U's, that you seem to have of yours, nor are we quick to judge. I love one of my fellow coaches' comments when a kid did not have a great game: "he's fine, he just needs to focus a little more, he's fine" And most importantly we are not going to let a 10U throw 64 pitches in 2 innings. The high number of pitches in one inning do more damage than having it spread over 4 or 5 innings. I didn't let my big 12U throw more than 4 innings and 80 pitches and rarely did I allow a pitcher to reach 20 in an inning if he is struggling. When you let a young pitcher get that deep in the inning the pitcher starts losing focus and there is a bigger breakdown in mechanics, perhaps causing the beginning of the breakdown of his arm.

            When my older boy was 14U he was throwing a no hitter through 5 innings. He was pulled at the end of 5 innings. The game finished as a 1 hit shutout. When he was in high school he had 10 strike outs in 5 innings and looked to be throwing harder and seemed to be frustrating the other team more. One kid started walking to the dugout on strike 2. My son's HS coach (who had pitched in college and helped coach a D-1 to the College WS) did not bring him back for the 6th, commenting let's save those bullets for another game.
            Last edited by Baseball gLove; 09-16-2012, 12:15 PM.

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            • #7
              Ankiel's problem with hitting emanated from the fact that his swing sucked... not because he had some mental issue.

              His pitching problems, on the other hand, appear to have been mostly mental. As for your player, his problem is likely a lack of a consistent delivery. Just discuss with him the importance of having repeatable mechanics, and he should be fine.

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              • #8
                He's 10............
                efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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                • #9
                  At ten baseball is supposed to be a lot of fun so kids can develop a passion for the game. If he doesn't come around don't place him in a situation where he is unlikely to succeed.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by songtitle View Post
                    He's 10............
                    QUOTED FOR TRUTH! Come on, when I was 10, I could throw harder than anyone my age but could not hit the side of a barn. Still, I was a pitcher. It took coaches who believed in me and had patience because I was as wild as could be and I know it was frustrating for my coaches. I started every year for my small town all star team and probably didn't have control until I was 14. Don Shaw, Cecil Knight, and Roger Smith who coached me several of those years were so supportive of me. I can never repay them. HM, you have to do that for this young man.

                    I wanted to edit this post and add an Umpire. Mr. Maynard umpired our rec league for years. He would pull me aside and talk to me about my ball running. He seemed to have something nice to say every time he umpired a game I pitch in.
                    Last edited by Cannonball; 09-16-2012, 05:39 PM.
                    Granny said Sonny stick to your guns if you believe in something no matter what. Because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not.

                    I am an ex expert. I've done this long enough to know that those who think that they know it all, know nothing.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cannonball View Post
                      QUOTED FOR TRUTH! Come on, when I was 10, I could throw harder than anyone my age but could not hit the side of a barn. Still, I was a pitcher. It took coaches who believed in me and had patience because I was as wild as could be and I know it was frustrating for my coaches. I started every year for my small town all star team and probably didn't have control until I was 14. Don Shaw, Cecil Knight, and Roger Smith who coached me several of those years were so supportive of me. I can never repay them. HM, you have to do that for this young man.

                      I wanted to edit this post and add an Umpire. Mr. Maynard umpired our rec league for years. He would pull me aside and talk to me about my ball running. He seemed to have something nice to say every time he umpired a game I pitch in.
                      Well, I've been very patient with this kid. He's a nice kid. He's my son's best friend. He spends the night. He loves Eminem and shows up to practice with his hat on crooked. He is interesting. He practices in baseball pants with a striped Polo-style shirt. He has purple laces in his cleats.

                      He looks up to me. I try to guide him. He has issues at home and likes to spend time at our house. I had no idea he had thrown so many pitches in two innings. I don't think he's ready to throw more than 40-45 pitches. I should have pulled him earlier. But that really isn't the point of my question, of course. Thanks for answering the question. By the way, that kid has improved his batting a ton. I actually told him that two coaches said he was closing his eyes and turning his head. Since I told him that, he has been ripping the ball into the gap. It's been that way for the past two games.

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                      • #12
                        I'd say simply more practice and stay off the mound during game level stress for a while. His mechanics are obviously not "muscle memory" yet. He's still thinking about what he's doing. This is actually the best time in his life you'll have to mold him and make better mechanics "muscle memory" as opposed to trying to break bad habits years from now. JMHO anyways.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by clayadams View Post
                          I'd say simply more practice and stay off the mound during game level stress for a while. His mechanics are obviously not "muscle memory" yet. He's still thinking about what he's doing. This is actually the best time in his life you'll have to mold him and make better mechanics "muscle memory" as opposed to trying to break bad habits years from now. JMHO anyways.
                          Thanks. We started to build that muscle memory over the summer. But fall ball started, and I find myself working with pitchers less and less. I need to set aside some time to work with my pitchers and catchers.

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                          • #14
                            HM, is it possible that you are giving him too many things to work on? IMO, the best way to coach hitting or pitching is to develope a base. Then, you have an idea of how to help him while at the same time, he can add his style to his motion. By developing a base, you can bring him back to it and then add things one at a time. I had one pitcher who was taught thumb to the thigh - knuckles to the sky and so, that cue was not good for him. In talking to him and watching him throw from the OF, I asked him what he was thinking when he loaded his body to throw home. He was thinking, arm out and up, drive at the base he was throwing at. So, we tried to use that in his motion. Those cues made sense to him. You have to be able to have these types of conversations with anyone you are coaching. I recently gave a lesson to a young man who I had never known before the lesson. We sat down and talked a lot during the lesson. I needed to know what he was thinking. In short, in that way, as in a classroom, the student understand more because they are so involved in the lesson. JMHO!
                            Granny said Sonny stick to your guns if you believe in something no matter what. Because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not.

                            I am an ex expert. I've done this long enough to know that those who think that they know it all, know nothing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Sounds like there's a couple of things going on. First, it's not necessarily an issue of Ankiel/mental issues, but rather more just inconsistency in delivery mechanics. He needs to have CHECKPOINTS that you work on: such as where he steps back, how he breaks his hands, what he does to bring his pitching hand back, how does he turn, how high does his leg go, does he balance at the "post" position, does he keep his knee and/or foot closed as he strides, what is his arm angle, etc. Obviously, you don't want to give him all these as checkpoints, but sometimes if you can get him focused on two or three, the rest of his motion will come together; the trick is figuring out which checkpoints trigger the right results in the rest of his motion.

                              I agree wholeheartedly with Cannonball's suggestion about finding a "base". Too often kids at that age have too many moving parts. Simplify. Maybe pitch only from the stretch, or have a small leg lift, or bring the pitching hand back only a short distance to load up. Sure, he may lose a little velocity, but it'll get the ball over the plate more consistently and then you can add back to bells and whistles one step at a time.

                              Another trick is to stop him after he's made a perfect pitch in practice (and video can help too) and ask him what he did that worked. Or show him what mechanics he was using and get him to "remember that feeling". (This isn't foolproof - sometimes a great pitch results from a lot of bad techniques cancelling each other out.) But kids teach themselves to pitch a lot more than they teach themselves to hit, as pitching is more intuitive. Also, (and see the next paragraph) kids are more likely to listen to you if you're not imposing some exogenous technique but instead are saying to them, "You already know how to throw a great pitch; my job is to help you find that great pitching form time-after-time."

                              But, I fear that what you also are encountering is a very common disease of players at that age - experimentation. For no good reason, they'll decide to change their hitting or pitching mechanics because of something they saw someone do (and remember kids copying Craig Counsell's stance and high hand position?), or what they were told, or what they saw a samurai do in a video game. It's just the way some kids are wired, and it's hard to knock that propensity out of them and maybe you don't want to. That's why some players with great arms really aren't wired to be pitchers - they don't have the focus, wiring and mindset to do things the same way time after time. A lot of ultimately successful pitchers walk away from the mound at this age and play other positions, only to come back to it at age 14 or 15. And I'll bet a lot of kids with good arms but undisciplined mindsets really don't enjoy pitching much at ages 9 and 10 but are pushed into it by coaches who only see their velocity and the opportunity to win all-star tournaments. It may not hurt to ask the kid if he's really enjoying pitching in games; you might be surprised to find that or some other inconsistent pitchers will confess that they're as happy playing elsewhere.
                              Last edited by Ursa Major; 09-17-2012, 12:38 AM.
                              sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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