When younger players start to learn how to throw, the emphasis is not on speed or distance. In order for a youth player to learn how to throw a baseball with accuracy and without getting injured, the focus must be on creating a foundation of solid throwing mechanics.
There is the right way to throw a baseball, and there is the wrong way. A youth player who learns to throw a baseball the wrong way may find it difficult to throw with any kind of accuracy, and they could be risking serious injury. It is important for young players to learn proper baseball throwing mechanics so that they develop good throwing habits as they get older and develop into more experienced players.
Starting with the Basics
There are a few basic elements to throwing a baseball that have to be mastered before any kind of special tactics, such as pitching, can be taught. These basics include the grip, placement of the elbow while throwing and the placement of the glove on follow through. By learning these basics, a young player can get more accuracy from their throw, and make their throw more effortless.
The best way to throw a baseball in the regular course of play is with what is called a four-seam grip. With this grip, you tuck your thumb under the ball and grip it with two fingers across the seams. If your two fingers were to go with the seams, then that would be the two-finger grip that is used in pitching.
A good drill to use to master the four-seam grip is to play catch with someone and focus on pulling the ball out of your glove with the fingers across the seams. It can take some time and practice, but you will get more velocity and accuracy if you focus on throwing a four-seam ball instead of a two-seam.
As you pull the ball from your glove and bring it back to throw it, your thumb should be facing down towards the ground through the entire motion. Once your hand is at the top part of your throwing motion, you should be able to look back and see the back of your hand, and not the ball. Good hand placement ensures that you always have control of the ball, and that you can get it out of your glove quickly.
Placing Your Glove During the Throw
Younger players may not realize it, but they need to develop good glove placement habits if they want to be accurate throwers. If you get into the habit of allowing your glove hand to be thrown behind your back while you are throwing the ball, then you will knock yourself off balance and create an inaccurate throw. Instead, young players should learn to bring their glove hand under their arm like a wing to create good balance, and deliver a good throw.
Perfecting the Path of the Arm
A big part of the mechanics of throwing a baseball has to do with maintaining the proper path that the arm follows while it is throwing the ball. In golf, a good swing arc determines the power and accuracy of each shot. In baseball, the proper swing circle that the arm makes also determines power and accuracy. If you are making the right motion with your arm while throwing a baseball, then you do not need to force the throw to get velocity.
Your Throwing Arm
We mentioned earlier that your throwing hand should be turned so that you cannot see the ball when you bring the ball back to throw it, but we also need to talk about the proper motion of your throwing arm. The elbow of the throwing arm should be above the height of the shoulder in order to deliver an accurate ball that does not damage the tendons or muscles in the arm. Each day, a young player should do an exercise where they purposely bring the elbow of their throwing arm above shoulder height to make this proper throwing motion second nature.
To throw a baseball accurately, you need to perfect the wrist snapping motion that you use to release the ball at the end of your throw. A good exercise for developing this wrist snapping motion is to place your glove hand level with the ground between your abdomen and chest, then place your throwing arm perpendicular to your glove arm with your throwing elbow resting on your glove. That configuration allows you to practice snapping the ball without moving the rest of your arm, and gives you plenty of opportunity to develop the snap that you need to complete the throwing motion.
Using the Thigh as a Guide
As we discussed earlier, the thumb of the throwing hand needs to be facing down as the player is pulling the ball out of the glove to get the best results. The way to ensure that this motion gets done properly is to use the thigh as a guide.
As the player pulls the ball from their glove, the thumb should be turned towards the thigh to make sure that it stays in the right position. Some players even make it a habit to rub their thumb across their upper thigh as they throw the ball, but this can be a hard habit to break as they get older. By using the thigh as a guide, a young player can create the habit of making sure their thumb is pointed down while throwing the ball.
Point the Ball to the Clouds
To complete a good throwing arc after the thumb has passed the thigh, the best approach is to raise the ball and point it to the clouds. Once again, these are little drills that can help to create good throwing habits in young players by using points of reference they will understand. When you tell a young player that at the top of their throwing motion the ball should be pointed at the clouds, then that is something they can understand and use.
Completing the Circle
As a youth player brings the ball down to throw it, the motion needs to complete the circle that was started when the ball was first pulled from the glove. To get a bit of extra velocity behind the throw, the young player can also learn how to move their hips with their arm and put their body weight into the throw. All of this should be done in one motion, and it takes time to learn.
Young ball players are still learning how to properly use their bodies in the game of baseball so they do not get hurt, but still get the results they want. The best approach a parent or coach can take is to start with the basics and teach a young player the right way to throw a baseball. Once the player develops good habits, then they can start to develop in a quality player as they grow older.