Something has changed over the past 10 or 15 years. Once upon a time, when we did a camp we would ask kids to split up into groups. We put players into groups based on their position and what they wanted to work on. The biggest group was always the pitchers! Often, it was by a margin of 3 to 1.
Then, something happened. Now when we ask players to split up there are very few players who claim to be pitchers. For example, we just finished up our big holiday camp and never had more than a few kids in a group ask to work on pitching. When we did the pitchers and catchers clinic to wrap up the camp, we had more catchers than pitchers!
So what’s the point?
“Houston, we have a problem!” And it’s a big problem.
This game needs pitchers. The number of great pitchers has really fallen off in recent years. The overall number of players who want to pitch is dwindling. Clearly, logic tells us that if we have a larger pool of kids wanting to pitch, we’re going to have many more good pitchers available.
I think there are several explanations:
First, pitching is a lot of work. You have to dedicate a lot more time to pitching than you do to become good at any other position.
Second, there is more and more glory to be had as a position player. Once upon a time, the pitcher got the lion’s share of the credit when a team was highly successful. Now, the power-hitting shortstop or super-quick outfielder also gets a lot more recognition. Yes, those other players also work hard but, let’s be honest, much less than a great pitcher does.
Third, successful pitching requires access to the right kind of instruction. There is some room for “creativity” in basic pitching mechanics, but not much. When you look at all the best pitchers you see some clear similarities in form. If an athlete starts off with a pitching coach who isn’t going to be able to teach them the mechanics that lead to high level pitching they will become frustrated and possibly give up on the mission.
Fourth, hitters keep getting better and better. The offensive side of the game continues to grow with stronger and better-trained hitters. Having success in the circle has become much harder to come by. Again, many pitchers who have great potential become frustrated because they get hit, hard, too often and become discouraged.
Fifth, pitchers’ parents are often crazy. They push their kids to try to become Jennie Finch overnight. They want their kid to throw 17 pitches by the time they are 11. They want their kid to throw 70 miles an hour. And these expectations lead to many unhappy exchanges between pitcher and parent. Those unhappy exchanges lead to unhappy pitchers, who will become shortstops!
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.
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