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  • Pitching the ball "football" style

    My son is will be 9 in a few months. Pitching in our league is mostly fastball and change up. My son tried the circle change, but couldn't spot it well. So he throws fast, and the slow (same grip etc.). Recently, someone showed him a football grip pitch. Basically, you hold it making a C shape with your hand like a football. It's a change up, but it tends to curve a bit too. Is this a safe pitch for my son to use? Let him throw it or no?
    Never played baseball, just a dad of someone that loves to play. So take any advice I post with a grain of salt.

  • #2
    Probably not. The way you describe it he is basically throwing a curve-his hand is on the side of the ball and not behind the ball. I have my doubts that even a circle change grip is safe. I'd stay away from it. 9 years old? I'd just have him just throw slower. If you must get clever then throw a 3 fingered change or maybe have him deaden his legs or drag his foot. Make sure his hand is directly behind the ball with a fairly comfortable grip.
    Major Figure

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    • #3
      You seem to be describing the "little league" curveball.

      I don't know if a study has ever been done regarding younger kids using that particular pitch - so I'll sit on the fence as to the safety of it. You could make the argument that quarterbacks in football use that grip and motion, and they don't have nearly the arm issues that pitchers do - but there are a bunch of factors that you would have to take in to consideration before being sure on that conclusion.

      The problem with that pitch is probably not the grip itself, but the fact that kids tend to snap their wrist/arm to get more spin and break on the ball. The rule of thumb I always told younger pitchers is to finish palm down. It's simplistic, but it seemed to work well enough. If they finish palm up they are placing unnecessary torque on their elbow.

      The circle change is properly thrown with the circle facing the catcher. It's a weird angle, and it takes a while to learn how to throw it. Most likely a 9 year old isn't going to have a big enough hand to grip it properly anyway. The 3 finger change omg mentioned, or even a palm ball will probably be easier to master. The whole idea is to slow down the pitch, and the easiest way to do that is to increase the amount of friction there is when the ball leaves the hand. More fingers on the ball = more friction. If your son can manage to throw the pitch while using the same arm speed and motion he used to throw his fastball, it will fool most batters even if it doesn't have much movement.

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      • #4
        I love the circle change. I really dislike the Football curve or change-up as you described. In my opinion, why teach them a pitch they will not use at all in two years? In teaching the circle change, I teach the younger players to create the small circle with their thumb and index finger. If they cannot make a tight circle because of the size of their hand, then widen the circle until its comfortable. From there, work on pitching the ball. If he is all over the place, then continue to widen the circle until he can control his pitch. It may even look like more of a palm ball if he has really small hands - that' OK. As he gets better and bigger, work on having him tighten his circle.

        Some things to keep in mind:
        When he throws his normal circle change, is his grip too tight (no daylight in the circle)?
        Too loose (barely gripping the ball)?
        Is his deliver the same as a fastball or is he trying to add movement or pull away to slow the ball down? He should be throwing it just like a fastball. The grip itself is what slows it down.


        I can't say if the football grip is better or worse for a player's arm - but he won't be throwing it in a couple years (and if he is, probably won't be successful with it), so why teach it?

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        • #5
          Here's what I did. Teach your kid every grip. Have him throw in a game, the ones that work that day.

          Use the same motion/delivery for every pitch.

          This formula worked for us.

          BTW, the grip you describe sounds like a palm ball to me.

          My kid could not throw a circle change when he was little. He could throw a palm ball, and/or a split finger. We never tried a 3 finger pitch then, but he uses it now sometimes.
          Last edited by songtitle; 12-10-2012, 08:26 AM.
          efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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          • #6
            IMO...

            The "knuckle-curve" or "knuckle-change" is a good gimmick pitch that a youngster can throw once in a while to upset a batter's timing. It's worth beginning to learn the various changeups, but at this age they aren't very effective.

            Of course, the big emphasis at this age should be on throwing fastballs for strikes. Your kid needs to be at the point where he's not walking too many batters and he's getting some decent pop on the ball... until you have reached this point, there's no sense in adding secondary pitches.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by songtitle View Post
              Here's what I did. Teach your kid every grip. Have him throw in a game, the ones that work that day.

              Use the same motion/delivery for every pitch.

              This formula worked for us.

              BTW, the grip you describe sounds like a palm ball to me.

              My kid could not throw a circle change when he was little. He could throw a palm ball, and/or a split finger. We never tried a 3 finger pitch then, but he uses it now sometimes.
              It is what the old-timers called a palmball, but today's players call a football changeup or football curve. Perfectly safe. I teach it and they continue to use it for years. Just like any other change, though, if you can't throw it without changing arm speed, then you ought to leave it alone.In fact, Yu Darvish throws a variation of it, but calls it a gyro I believe. And OMG, I know this has been covered plenty already, but most current research has debunked the old myth about curveballs being dangerous to young arms. Well, at least no more, and probably less dangerous, than the fastball.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by pthawaii View Post
                My son is will be 9 in a few months. Pitching in our league is mostly fastball and change up. My son tried the circle change, but couldn't spot it well. So he throws fast, and the slow (same grip etc.). Recently, someone showed him a football grip pitch. Basically, you hold it making a C shape with your hand like a football. It's a change up, but it tends to curve a bit too. Is this a safe pitch for my son to use? Let him throw it or no?
                That pitch is called the gyroball pitch.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bbrages View Post
                  Your kid needs to be at the point where he's not walking too many batters and he's getting some decent pop on the ball... until you have reached this point, there's no sense in adding secondary pitches.
                  How do you get people out just throwing fastballs? This is nonsense.
                  efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Roothog66 View Post
                    And OMG, I know this has been covered plenty already, but most current research has debunked the old myth about curveballs being dangerous to young arms. Well, at least no more, and probably less dangerous, than the fastball.
                    Right, we can agree to disagree on that. And my position is that the breaking stuff is not just dangerous to young arms but experienced arms as well.
                    Major Figure

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by songtitle View Post
                      How do you get people out just throwing fastballs? This is nonsense.
                      Maybe my kid plays at too low of a level... He played this age group (8-9) last year, and besides my son I don't recall ever seeing anything but fastballs thrown by pitchers on any team. We're talking about what is typically the second year of kid pitch!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by bbrages View Post
                        He played this age group (8-9) last year, and besides my son I don't recall ever seeing anything but fastballs thrown by pitchers on any team. We're talking about what is typically the second year of kid pitch!
                        OK, I see what you're saying here. You're probably right then. 7/8 was machine pitch for us. Then we played a kid-pitch 9/10 league, where he had to have a 2nd pitch to bring at-bats to a close.
                        efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bbrages View Post
                          IMO...

                          The "knuckle-curve" or "knuckle-change" is a good gimmick pitch that a youngster can throw once in a while to upset a batter's timing. It's worth beginning to learn the various changeups, but at this age they aren't very effective.

                          Of course, the big emphasis at this age should be on throwing fastballs for strikes. Your kid needs to be at the point where he's not walking too many batters and he's getting some decent pop on the ball... until you have reached this point, there's no sense in adding secondary pitches.
                          Gimmick pitch? Mike Messina threw the nastiest knuckle curve I've seen. Watch a replay of the first six innings against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. It's a great pitch starting in LL and all the way through.

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                          • #14
                            This league is 9's and 10's. Only saw fast and change in fall season. My son's change has a slower arm speed cause he's using the same grip as the fastball. Was fine cause the focus on his first time was just throw strikes. I'd guess he only needs the changeup for 20% of the better batters. Fast balls around the plate worked fine for most of the kids.

                            Oddly enough, he can throw a knuckle ball. It doesn't rotate, but it also doesn't seem to have any movement on it. Is this dangerous for him to throw? Doesn't locate it as well as the fastball, but he can throw it for a strike about 30%-40% of the time (and has fun throwing it).
                            Never played baseball, just a dad of someone that loves to play. So take any advice I post with a grain of salt.

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                            • #15
                              A 'knuckle ball' is basically a slow change-up at that age. It's a great 2nd/3rd pitch for a couple of years. Then, around 11 or 12 they no longer work.

                              Is this dangerous for him to throw?
                              Make sure that he follows through after release, and doesn't put the brakes on his arm.
                              Last edited by songtitle; 12-10-2012, 08:05 PM.
                              efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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