Baseball: Teaching Kids to Throw
... let's not forget that.
It is important to simplify and break down the actions needed when teaching young players new sports
skills. Remember that we want it to be fun and success to come quickly to keep them engaged and trying.
We are not teaching high school players how to throw - we are teaching first and second graders. If you
can get them started with proper fundamentals as they get bigger, stronger and more coordinated, they can
continue to build on the base you have helped established.
Gripping the ball- The size of a child’s hand may effect their ability to do this, but it is still important that the
player knows what the fundamentally correct way is to hold a ball. The thumb goes under the ball (in line
with the first finger), the first 2 fingers on top and the last 2 fingers and curled and on the side of the ball.
Most important is that the ball is not sitting back deep in the palm, but is being held in the fingers. Smaller
hands may need to use 3 or maybe all fingers on top, but still try to keep the ball off the palm.
Stance- 'Jump on your skateboard' is all you have to say and most kids these days knows what that stance
looks and feels like.
Ball position- The ball needs to be held in the proper position in the back before the forward motion can
begin. To get the ball in the proper position, have the child hold it down by their body so their thumb is to
their thigh and then with a full extended arm take it back with the knuckles to the sky. Starting knuckles to
the sky will create the right forward motion. Try it. Teach yourself to throw with your opposite hand and feel
the difference in your motion when you start knuckles to the sky versus knuckles facing down.
Learn to throw basics
Jump on your skateboard, aim and fire.
The main goals of this teaching technique are to get the thrower sideways to the target, to get the ball back
in the right position in the hand and to rotate the shoulders and hips as they come forward.
Jump on your skateboard- this is a simple and fun way to say “turn sideways to your target with your feet
shoulder width apart.”
Aim- have your players start with both hands down at their side. Lift both hands simultaneously, elbows
very slightly bent, until they get shoulder high. Palms should be down so that knuckles are to the sky.
Fire- from the aim position they are now ready to throw. Have them lift the front foot so the weight goes
back and then come forward as you throw. Lead slightly with the elbow and keep the ball high. They
should bring the front arm (the aiming arm) down as the throwing arm comes forward. This should
automatically engage the rotation of the shoulders and the hips. Shoulders and hips should open towards
the target as the arm comes forward. Follow all the way through so the throwing hand goes to the outside
of the front knee, the weight transfers over the front foot and the energy pulls the back foot off the ground.
Next step, lots of throwing, but remember to make it fun. Why do baseball players wear hats? So they can
use it to pick up all the balls they just threw.
Learn to throw better
For your players that are feeling comfortable throwing, are showing solid fundamentals and can follow
verbal instructions, it is now time to take their skills to the next level. For this explanation and to simplify left
and right throwers, I will refer to the player’s feet as either the stepping foot or the target foot. The stepping
foot is also on the same side as the gloved hand and the target foot is the same as the throwing hand. If
you throw right, your right foot is your target foot. Don’t introduce these all at once to young players. Work
down the list, starting from the top and remember to notice what they are doing right, not just what they are
2-step throw- This throw will actually start with the player’s footwork on the catch. Your players should
already be standing waiting for the ball with feet shoulder width apart. Have them stagger their feet so the
target foot is slightly behind the stepping foot. (This is the ideal ready position for infielders.) After making
the catch, the player should make a small step with the target foot placing it so the inside of the ankle faces
the target (similar to being on the skateboard.) The stepping foot now comes forward with a nice size stride
towards the target as the player throws the ball.
Follow through with back spin- Make sure the player is holding the ball correctly. (see fundamentals if you
are not sure what to look for.) After releasing the ball, the throwing hand should follow thru to the outside of
the opposite knee with enough force that the target foot (back foot) should be pulled of the ground. As the
ball leaves the hands, a flick of the wrist should help the fingers keep pressure as long as possible
creating backspin on the ball. The wrist should flex front to back and not be stiff. Backspin will help the ball
fly straighter and faster. A great way to see this is to put a piece of colored tape around the center of a ball.
Hold the ball so the line is between the 2 fingers on top of the ball. If thrown with backspin, you should be
able to see the line stay straight as the ball travels.
Elbow high- Check the elbow position of the throwing. It should be at least even with the shoulder. When
players drop the elbow, they start to push the ball instead of throwing it.
Hip rotation- Just like in batting, power for throwing starts in the rotation of the hips. After the player power
steps, the hips power rotate to transfer force to the shoulder and then to the throwing arm.
Gripping the ball Part 2- Above in fundamentals how to teach a young player to hold a ball was discussed.
For the older player, when ready, you can teach them how to pull the ball out of the glove and find the cross
seams so that every throw they make is a 4 seam fastball.
|4 seam fastball vs 2
These 2 rotations are
determined by how you
hold the ball but best
explained by how the
batter sees the ball.
Rotate a ball one way
and with one full
rotation you will see 2
seams. Rotate it the
other way, you will see
Check out the Flick It
game to help with
Throw, Throw, Throw
Isolate throwing from
catching for the young
players. Give them a
pile of balls and an
extra large target to
start every practice.
Throw out the Trash
is a great game to get
lots of throws in at
|Line Throw Relay (throwing/catching)
Skills taught: This is just a simple way to practice throwing and catching that introduces speed, precision
How the game works:
- Divide the players into 2 or more equal groups.
- Have the players line up evenly spaced in parallel lines. The distance between the players can be
varied depending on the age of the players and which type of throw you want to practice - soft toss
(4-5 ft), standard throws (20-30 ft) or outfield relays (30+ft).
- On your signal, the first players throw the ball to the second, on to the third, etc. When they reach
the end of the line, start the ball back the other way until it is in the hands of the first player again.
First team back to the start wins.
Tip: This game can also be played where the ball gets thrown back to the first player in line every time. So
player 1 throws to 2, back to 1, player 1 throws over 2 to 3, back to 1, player 1 throws over 2 and 3 to 4, back
to 1. When playing this way after the first game, rotate the players so everyone throws from each position.
Skill Building Games for Throwing
|Hot Potato (throwing/catching/speed)
Skills taught: This game helps develop catching, tossing on target, speed in getting the ball out of the
How the game works:
- Have the 5 players get in a circle with about 5 feet between them.
- The player who starts with the ball flips it to the player that is two players to his left. This next player
receives the ball and quickly moves it to the player 2 to his left. This continues until the ball reaches
the first player, at which point the ball will have traveled in a star pattern.
- The game can be 5 stars in a row without a miss, or how many stars in 2 minutes, or race another
team of 5 set up next to them.
Tip: This game is also referred to as the Star Drill in many books. Depending on what you want the kids to
practice you can throw soft tosses, grounders or spread out and use longer throws with a tag to the ground
required with each catch. Be creative.
|Throw out the Trash (fielding/throwing on the run)
Skills Taught: This is a great game to get players running full speed to a ball, picking it up and then
throwing as quickly as they can at a target.
How the game works:
- Put all the available balls on the ground around the short stop area.
- Place a large trash can (or some other large target) on its side on the spot where first base would
- Have 2 (or more) teams line up about 10 ft behind the scattered balls.
- On your whistle, the first player in each line runs to pick up a ball and tries to throw it into the trash
can. The player then runs to the back of the line and the next player in line goes.
- Play until all the balls have been thrown and each team counts their “makes” to determine the
winner. If you have more than 10 kids playing, either add a third line or make this a station game
with 6 total players to reduce the time of players standing in lines.
Tip: This game can be played from many different spots. Pick the spot that your team needs help on. For
older players, move the target to home and place balls in shallow outfield.
|Throw It In! (fielding/throwing/relay)
Skills taught: This a relay race simulating a ball thrown in to home from the outfield.
How the game works:
- Divide your players into 3-player teams (add a fourth for players under 9).
- Set up infielder #1, infielder #2, in the infield area and an outfielder in the outfield.
- Place several balls by the outfield fence, spreading them out as much as possible.
- On your whistle, the outfielders sprint to pick up a ball. Infielder #1 runs to the position just on the
grass behind the infield, lifts his or her hands and yells for the ball. Infielder #2 runs to cover the
area around home.
- First ball thrown in to infielder #2 near home plate wins.
- Do it again with the players switching positions. With more than three teams competing, have your
home infielders keep 5 feet between them when they set up around home plate for safety.
Tip: Don't worry that you are not throwing into a catcher and just let all the players practice the teamwork
needed to get a ball back into the infield as efficiently as possible.
|Flick It! (correct wrist and arm action when throwing)
Skills taught: In teaching kids to throw the ball, it is helpful to break down the action of the arm, wrist and
hand. This game isolates the wrist action so the players can feel how the wrist should flick, putting
backspin on the ball as it is released. Use this game to also teach how to hold the ball correctly in the
thumb and first 2 fingers, not with all fingers and down in the palm.
How the game works:
- Line the players up a foot apart and facing the same direction.
- Instruct the players to kneel down on one knee, with that knee being on the same side as their
throwing arm. (Right-handers would take a knee with the right knee down, left knee up.)
- Place a bucket or other target about 3-6 feet away depending on age and arm strength of the
- Have the players use their non-throwing hand to hold just below the wrist of the throwing hand.
- The players will use their wrist and hand only, to flick the ball into the bucket. Give each player 5
balls and see who can throw in 5 in a row first.
After you have isolated the hand and wrist, have the players move the non-throwing hand from the wrist to
the elbow. Repeat the game adding the movement of the forearm.
Tip: This is best done as a station drill with 4-6 players so the coach can give clear feedback and
assistance where needed. Give younger players a little time to figure out the correct motion themselves
without over instruction.
Skills taught: A fun throwing game that gets the kids moving at game speed and has them throw after
making a fielding play.
How the game works:
- Have 4-5 players line up one behind the other.
- Coach or another player rolls out a grounder that the first player in line picks up and throws back
and then goes to the back of the line.
- The second player steps up and the throwing sequence repeats.
- You can use this to practice throws after grounders, pop ups and line drives.
- Play against another line to see who can go through 3 times the fastest, without a bad throw, etc.
Tip: This is a great way to warm up before a game.