As I am sitting here on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking the Caribbean (a surprise birthday present from my wonderful better half), I cannot help but notice the parallels between the waves crashing onto the beach and the smooth sequencing of an elite throwing catcher.
The rolling waves demonstrate exactly the type of feeling we should achieve while throwing. This smooth continuous overlapping of athletic movements that lead to an explosive release of the ball. The best in the game make throws seem effortless, and they should be exactly that… effortless.
Effortlessness is achieved through efficiency. Not an ounce of energy wasted, not an inch of movement unaccounted for. Every single tenth of a second contributing to the end goal of getting rid of the ball as quickly as we can while maxing our release velocity.
How do we achieve this result? Simple. Practice. But concerted, pointed and intent-driven practice.
I recently began working with a pro who was already pretty gifted behind the plate in his own right. But, there was an extreme reliance on athleticism and his strong arm when it came to throwing. He was never given an approach that would enable him to achieve peak results.
After sitting down for an afternoon, going through throws, breaking down video, it became glaringly obvious just how much better this guy could be. Before an hour had gone by he had shaved over a tenth of a second off of his release.
Now, that might not seem like a lot, but let’s put it perspective. Remember all of those stolen bases last year where the runner was safe by just a split second, and you though to yourself, “Ugh! I thought I had him!” Guess what, shave a tenth off of your throw, and now all of those runners are probably out. How big of an effect would that have had on your season?
The great thing is that most of the changes we made were simply allowing his body to do more than one thing at a time, tightening up the process and getting him further along in the throw earlier.
For years, as a player and a coach, I have heard of this strange idea that in order to throw well, we had to get into a “good throwing position”. To this day, I still have no idea what that means. If you are getting into a “good throwing position” you are stopping in the middle of your throw. You are delaying release and forcing yourself to restart your throw halfway through the sequence.
Let me be very clear. There is no such thing as a “good throwing position”. It does not exist. The best in the game do not get into a “good throwing position”. They don't stop. Neither should you. The key is making sure that your body isn’t moving in any direction that takes away from your ability to get the ball out of your hand effortlessly with max velocity.
I will go into all of the ways catchers generally waste time during throws in an article due out in the near future, but for now you should all understand that if you aren’t getting to an athletically upright level, turning, making the exchange AND starting your stride forward all at the same time, your going to hear the word “SAFE!” considerably more often than you should. Let those movements overlap, one move leaking into the next. Never stopping the process and you’ll throw out more runners.
Catchers, the throw is a process, not a position. Keep it moving.
Thanks for reading this Month’s Tip of the Month!