Pitching 101… At Least From My Point Of View

By Cat Osterman

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CC_Logo_2 copyThere are a lot of common themes to pitching, that these days, I feel are relatively overlooked. The art of pitching is just that; it’s an art. It’s something that takes time, a lot of time. I feel like the following are some basic principles to pitching, that many pitchers, beginning or not, should remember.

1. Prioritize what’s important:

While speed kills early on, as your progress in the sport, spin and location are what make you dominate. Once you’re older it doesn’t matter how hard you throw if it doesn’t move, and if you don’t know where it’s going. Any girl who starts pitching at 8, 9, or 10, probably won’t throw fast. Most of the time, the girls who throw hard at this age have developed faster. There’s nothing to say they won’t be great pitchers in the long run, but it shouldn’t discourage the pitchers who aren't flame throwers. I was little most of my career. I didn’t throw hard. I worked on spins and placement. Spin and control will win out in the long run. With this, and I will touch on it later in this article, is the understanding of true spins and mastering them.

2. Commitment:

Time and Mechanics. Just because you’ve attended one lesson, and know your arm is supposed to go in a circle doesn’t make you a pitcher. Pitching takes a true commitment to learn and master (there’s that word again) correct mechanics or form. To master these mechanics takes time. You won’t be a pitcher in a few weeks. I learned and practiced with my dad in a drive way for almost a year before throwing in a game. Time also means
the amount you practice. You can’t pitch once a week, and expect to be able to throw a ball correctly. Muscle memory is important in pitching, and it’s only built with repetition, so throw often. I should mention, correctly is defined as mechanically sound so you won’t injure yourself or put stress on your shoulder. Go into pitching with the mindset that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take a lot of hard work, over a longer period of time, to really be able to know and feel what you are doing when pitching.

3. Pitches:

Mastering them! When giving clinics or lessons I have many kids who say they have 8 pitches. I chuckle because I didn’t know there were 8 pitches in our game, and I’ve really only thrown 3 in my career. I concede to there being 5 pitches other than a fastball (curve, rise, drop, screw, and change up). After that, I feel other pitches are just variations of these. For instance I have a backdoor curve and an off speed curve, but they are still a curve. While you may disagree with this view, the next point is the most important. When learning pitches, there is no need for a girl to try and learn them all at once. Pitching is a hard enough skill, you don’t need to try to learn to throw 2,3 or 4 pitches at once. I’ve found the most successful pitchers learned 1 pitch at a time.

Personally, I learned a rise ball first. Using the commitment to time, I worked on it, and threw it in the driveway for 8-9 months before ever throwing it in a game. This goes back to rule 1. Why would you throw it in a game if you don’t know how it will really move or where you are really throwing it? Commit to your pitch. Learn how it is truly supposed to spin. Commit to spinning it correctly. More importantly, don’t rush throwing it in a game until you can control it when throwing to a catcher. Learn 1 pitch at a time, it not only makes your pitcher better, but makes you a better pitcher in the process.

4. Pitches again:

You don’t need them all before college. The last piece of pitching 101 for this week is the quest to have them all. I mentioned young pitchers tell me they have 8 pitches, but the truth if, not many elite pitchers have all 5 pitches mastered prior to college. That is part of the time it takes to master each pitch. If you can master a pitch, then learn a new one. You should be able to be equipped with 2 great pitches (aside from a fastball and change up). Personally, I went to college with a good rise ball, a pretty good curve I admittedly only threw to one side of the plate, and the beginning of a drop, which became my signature pitch. To this day, I still don’t throw a screw ball. It’s better to have a few great pitches, then 5 decent ones.

Pitching is a challenge. There is always something to learn, always something to tweak, always a way to improve. We don’t ever 100% master pitching. If we did, we’d have perfect games every time we take the mound. Strive for perfection, achieve excellence. In order to do that, you have to commit to the little things: time, mechanics, spins, and above all patience to master this art!

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cat-osterman Cat Osterman’s accomplished career as a softball pitcher precedes her, starting with a record-breaking 4 years at the University of Texas and continuing with her impressive Olympic achievements and professional softball endeavors. In fact, she was the first pitcher to register over 2,000 NCAA strikeouts.

After taking home the gold at the 2004 Olympic games and enjoying years of success playing with the USA Softball Women's National team, Cat began her professional career in 2007 with National Pro Fastpitch. She is an inspiration to countless young softball players all over the world. Visit her website at www.CatOsterman.com

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