So now that we have mastered very good mechanics, a great arm circle, good body positioning, maximum velocity and the ability to hit your spots with your fastball, let’s talk about pitches.
As we discussed earlier I believe there are only four directions that the ball can truly spin and, in turn, break. Having said that let’s put spin and break on the back burner for a while.
The first pitch every pitcher should learn to throw is the changeup! Always! And forever! The CHANGEUP!
There is no doubt that a pitcher with the ability to hit her spots with her fastball and throw a change up that looks like a strike will have a great deal of success. Even at the higher levels, the change-up is the great equalizer and can be devastating to most hitters.
Not too long ago there was a battle for the NCAA Division I National Championship that featured the hardest thrower our game has ever seen, Monica Abbott at Tennessee and a pitcher with one of the best changeups I have ever seen, Taryn Mowatt from the University of Arizona. This was a great series with a bunch of nail-biting, heart-wrenching games. Do we remember who won? That’s right, the girl with he amazing changeup.
There are many different grips that allow a pitcher to throw an effective change up. No matter what grip the pitcher uses, as long as it takes a substantial amount of speed off the ball, we are in business. There is no “right” way to grip the change up and each pitcher may want to experiment with some options to zero in on the best option for them.
Now that you have chosen a grip that works for you you must remember the most important thing about throwing an effective changeup.
Arm speed is crucial. You must throw your changeup with the same arm speed you use when throwing your fastball.
If you slow your arm down to throw a changeup, someone, most likely you, may end up in the hospital. When the arm slows down it is a clear indicator to the hitter that you are throwing a changeup. When a hitter knows the changeup is coming they are likely to destroy it.
BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!
I always suggest that a young pitcher practice the changeup while mixing it into a rotation where you may throw a fastball, then a change, then fast, then change. And so on. This helps them keep their arm speed up and allows them to use the grip to take speed off the ball rather than changing arm speed. If we throw a whole bunch of change ups in a row while learning, we are very likely to slow the arm down. This equals a recipe for disaster.
I have no doubt that a pitcher who has great control and a devastating changeup will beat most hitters, most of the time. When should a pitcher learn to spin the ball? After they can say I have total control of my fastball and a devastating change up. Not one day sooner!
When a pitcher has added the ability to throw her change up effectively in addition to her fastball she now has TWO pitches.
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.