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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pitching and Playing Other Positions

Advanced Skills Tee - Every team Must Have at Least One!
Pitching and Playing Other Positions

By Nate Barnett

Have you ever wondered why pitchers don't focus on hitting or play other positions once they sign a professional contract? I believe it is important when a pitcher plays through little league and high school to really have the opportunity to play a lot of positions. They get the opportunity to gain other baseball skills like fielding the ball correctly, thinking about how other players think in different game situations and so on.

Because most pitchers are tall, you will see many of them play first base, especially lefties of course; if they don't pitch that game. However there comes a time for a pitcher to be only a pitcher and it makes logical sense. I hope a lot of coaches and parents read this article and think about the ramifications of the pitcher/position player mentality in youth baseball.

Coaches need to understand that youth pitching requires a bit more attention than it has been given. Coaches must understand pitch counts at different age levels more clearly and the amount of position playing each pitcher can do in any given week if their pitch count is high.

What kills me is when coaches have their pitchers play long toss with the entire team during team warm ups, the day after the pitcher throws over 100 pitches in a game. Even if a pitcher throws a good 75 pitches they should not be throwing long toss the next day with the team. They should be in the rebuilding phase of the pitching cycle. There has to be a recuperation period and rebuilding the tendons and ligaments that support muscle fibers and connective tissues. The recuperation period varies with every pitcher and with many different game situations and scenarios.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow when you coach pitchers who play other positions.

I received some of this valuable information going to a pitching camp held by Tom House in 2007; I believe it to be very accurate and wise counsel to follow. I have also lived through some of it when my coaches didn't fully understand what pitchers really go through.

1. If a pitcher starts a game he should not be allowed to play another position that day unless they don't make it past the first inning.

2. If a pitcher has a higher number of pitches in one game they should have a low number of swings. I recall experiencing a tender elbow a handful of times when I would swing the bat after I pitched a lot. If you believe your pitchers can handle that amount of work in one day try it yourself. You will feel the pain too; it is not enjoyable at all. Take care of their arms.

3. If a pitcher throws a high number of pitches they should also have very little playing time in the infield. Why the infield? Quick, awkward and often hard throws are required! I would add the outfield to that list because the long throws to home plate are difficult after pitching a full game. Then the coaches have that same pitcher play long toss the next day; my word! Double headers can be tricky to work around; use your best judgment in those cases.

Some coaches and parents think this is a little overboard and they are being too soft if they just don't play their kids a ton. I think it does more harm than good to just throw your kids out there without having some background education. A lot of the coaches do their best and they simply don't know. Ignorance in this case is not bliss; it can be costly.

Nate Barnett is co-owner of The Pitching Academy.

After finishing a professional career in the Seattle Mariners Organization, Nate pursued his coaching and motivational training career. You can find The Pitching Academy's videos, blog, and more articles when you visit the website.

The Pitching Academy's pitching mechanics DVD.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick