At the Lifeletics Summer Academies, most of my coaching time is spent in throwing or pitching stations. I've found that a surprising amount of young players do not understand how to properly grip the baseball.
Which Grip Do You Use?
There are two basic baseball grips, the 4-seam grip and the 2-seam grip. While pitchers use both of these grips for their fastballs, position players most commonly use the four-seam grip.
Normally, the four-seam grip moves less than the two-seam, and therefore has slightly more velocity. It is the easiest grip for an athlete to control, with the best chance for consistent accuracy.
Following is a full description of the proper four-seam grip to teach young baseball players.
Understanding the Four-Seam Grip
The four-seam fastball grip is formed using the index and middle fingers, the thumb and the inside of the bent ring finger. Gripped across two of the wide seams ("the horseshoe" or "the smile"), the pads of the index and middle finger rest on top of the stitches, approximately a half-inch apart.
Placement of the Thumb
The thumb is tucked below the ball, resting on or near a bottom seam, and the ring finger and pinkie are curled on the side of the ball.
As the size of a pitcher's hand increases, there should be enough space between the palm and the baseball to move a finger in and out of the space (between the thumb and the index finger).
Four-seam rotation should have all four seams rotating directly away from the target (backspin).
Keeping the Thumb Off the Side
The proper four-seam grip has the thumb directly below the baseball, forming a triangle between the two fingers above the ball. This allows the ball to evenly roll off of the index and middle fingers upon release. Young athletes tend to leave their thumbs up on the side of the baseball, closer to their index finger.
Typically, this is a habit learned when their hands were not big enough to comfortably keep the thumb underneath. Encourage athletes to keep the thumb underneath the baseball so that the hand and arm rotate correctly.
Making Accurate Throws
Accuracy is a direct result of knowing and understanding one's own movement tendencies on the flight of a thrown baseball. These tendencies are caused by different arm angles and release points. Gripping the ball correctly and consistently can accelerate an athlete's ability to develop accuracy.
For example, an athlete like Nomar Garciaparra used to throw from a very low arm slot. Nearing a sidearm throw, Garciaparra's ball flight had considerable movement from left to right (as well as top to bottom).
A four-seam grip will help to maintain a consistent pattern of movement, while the repetitions using that grip will eventually result in an athlete that understands his movement tendencies and therefore can aggressively throw with accuracy.
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This article was an excerpt from Lifeletics Instructional Manual, "Coaching the Beginning Pitcher." Head over to the Lifeletics website to purchase your copy.
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