Why Throwing Fundamentals Are Important

Practice does not make Perfect. Practice makes Permanent. The best example of this principle is throwing. It constantly shocks me how many women on top college softball teams have poor throwing mechanics. It's not because they're women - I'm sure many college baseball players also have poor mechanics. It's just that I only *care* about softball. And why do they have these poor mechanics? Because their coaches don't insist on proper throwing during team practices. This is also the exact reason you want to perfect your throwing form NOW, while you're 10. You don't want to be this girl, who finds herself needing to make one throw under extreme pressure, in order to keep her team in this Women's College World Series game. I'm sure her throwing is 'good enough' for most plays, but her poor form here costs her team any chance to win the game. Here are the things to note:

1. Her front foot is not pointing slightly to the left of her target (from her perspective). It points almost to the third baseman!
2. Her glove swings in front of her body, removing power, and making accuracy very difficult.
3. She throws side-arm, her throwing hand going to the opposite shoulder, instead of the opposite hip.
4. All those combined mistakes cause her throw to go over the catcher's helmet. Her throw is SIX FEET away from the play.

All these things are easily fixable if you work on them diligently when you are 10. Don't be this girl who was happy just not to be yelled at for her poor throwing mechanics. Be the girl who is UNhappy with *herself* until she gets it right.

Amazing Throw; Terrible Slide

Observe the outfielder's form when he throws the ball to third. He pulls the ball out with his elbows, angles his shoulders way up (for additional power), and brings the ball down under his hip. Using a banana step, he gets both linear momentum and angular momentum, for maximum power and accuracy, and this drives his throwing hand to his opposite hip. His glove elbow continues past his side, and his back hip comes through, causing his knee to point down and his heel to point up. Meanwhile, the runner executes a terrible slide, sliding along his side and dragging his hand behind him in the dirt. Being on his side, instead of his back, causes his lead leg to pop up in the air, and so it never hits the base. This means he won't be safe until his bent leg touches the base. But his trailing hand is acting as an anchor by dragging in the dirt, slowing him down by maybe a tenth of a second. Which is by how much he's thrown out.

Fastest Recorded MLB Throw - 105MPH

Perfect form, perfect timing, perfect throw. Observe these mechanics.

Don't step forward to receive; wait until the ball is thrown and then step in the direction the ball is going...

On this play, the shortstop starts her throw toward first base, and the first baseman steps toward the thrower, instead of waiting to see where the ball is going before stepping. So when the ball is thrown to the right, the first baseman is unable to adjust to the throw, because she has already committed her feet to a throw down the middle The first baseman must *wait* to see where the ball is throw, and THEN step forward in that direction.

.. Oh, and touch the base with the THROWING HAND foot!

In the first play, the first baseman inexplicably sets up to receive the throw from the second baseman with her glove foot on the bag! This means that the potential put-out will occur a fraction of a second later because the glove will be further away from the ball. Also, she doesn't step toward the ball when it's thrown. So when the throw is off, the first baseman doesn't adjust to catch it. On the second play, JHU executes a bunt, and now the SECOND BASEMAN makes the exact same error with her feet: she puts her glove foot on the bag! The first play, not stepping toward the ball ensures a throwing error does not get caught. The second time, the base runner beats the throw by the fraction of a second extra that it took the ball to get to the glove, because the fielder had her wrong foot was on the bag.

There is never time to sulk, there is always a play going on

After the pitcher gives up a bases-loaded walk, she sulks around the circle, instead of paying attention to the game. The runner originally at second takes that opportunity to follow the runner from third home. Note that not one teammate of the pitcher, or any of her coaches, is paying attention either.

If The Catcher's Throw Is Up The Second Baseline, The Shortstop Runs Just In Front Of The Baseline To Receive The Throw

When a runner on first is stealing second, sometimes the catcher's throw goes too far to the 1st base side of second base. In this instance, the shortstop must run just in front of the 1st-to-2nd baseline, instead of going behind it. As long as she moves parallel to the baseline, and just in front of it, she has a chance to make a play without risking obstruction.

Playing The Fence: Find The Ball, Run To The Spot, Pick Up The Ball Again

The longer a fielder runs after a fly ball, while looking only at the ball, the slower she will run. In addition, if she is nearing a fence, 'fence anxiety' will start to grow pretty quickly. In the instances where a full-speed run is required to make a catch, especially if it requires the fielder to run up to, or into, a fence, a different technique is required. In these instances, the girl needs to first pick up the ball visually and determine its projected flight path. She then predicts where on the field the ball is going, and starts running full-speed to that spot, without tracking the ball. After sprinting, she looks up and reacquires the ball. This will let her run faster, and adjust properly to the fence, knowing when to leap (if required) and removing 'fence anxiety'. In this video, the fielder is the shortstop, and he is running to the left-side foul fence. Note that he does this technique THREE times in order to make this extremely difficult catch.

Peripheral Vision, Backhand Flicks, Leading Throws... All Kinds Of Good Stuff!

So much goodness in one play! Here are some interesting things to observe:

1. A good explanation of peripheral vision, and one of the many examples of when a ballplayer will use it.
2. A backhand flick. Note that the shoulder isn't used in a flick, just the arm from the elbow down, and especially the wrist.
3. A leading throw is required. The receiving fielder must run to where it is thrown, at full speed.
4. Watch the freeze-frame, toward the end, of the receiver at the moment he catches the ball. His eyes are directly on the ball, not on the base.

Know The Rules: Obstruction

As the runner comes around second base, she sees that she has no chance of making it to third without being thrown out. However, she also sees that the shortstop has strayed into the baseline. So she intentionally pushes the shortstop in the back to get obstruction. You can just see the field umpire behind second extending his arm to signal the obstruction; this is why the third base coach is waving the runner on to third. The runner then proceeds to third and gets called out by the third base umpire. Note that Obstruction is a delayed call. So what happens after she gets called out, and is not on the video, is that the second base umpire calls time-out and awards the runner third.

Know The Rules: Infield Fly

The instant the umpire calls Infield Fly, the batter is out. The fielders are under no obligation to catch the ball. Normal "tag-up" rules apply. If the ball is caught, the runners can tag-up if they wish. If the ball is not caught, the runners can run or stay put - they are NOT FORCED, since the batter is already out. On this play, the runner on first does not know that the Infield Fly means he is no longer forced. So he runs when the fielder misses the fly ball. (Or JOGS, really, which is a whole 'nother issue!). Meanwhile, the shortstop doesn't know the Infield Fly rule, either! So he steps on the base instead of tagging the runner. The runner does not wait to hear what the umpire calls; instead he overruns the base and begins to head to the dugout. At this point, the Mets second baseman - who appears to be the only one involved in the play who has bothered to learn the Infield Fly rule - tells his teammate to make the tag.

No Slide, No Play

The Women's National Team is playing Mexico and Lauren Gibson goes into second standing up after her teammate bunts. Though she is safe, Ken Eriksen, the Head Coach of the National Team, immediately pulls her for a pinch runner. No matter the level of softball, if you do not slide, you will not play.

View 1
So much going on in this one sequence of plays, it takes three views to show it all. Here in View 1, you can see:
A: The pitcher's throw is 6 feet from the play. She picks up the ball 23 feet from the play, and only gets the ball 17 feet closer. Know where the play is, and throw the ball there.
B: After the pitcher makes her poor throw, she quits on the play. She hangs her head, and waits to be tossed the ball. This means the catcher doesn't know what's going on, because no one is telling her. This is what allows the runner that began on first - Sydney Broderick (Ashburn, VA - Stone Bridge 2014) - to take third. Neither the pitcher, nor the shortstop, nor the third baseman was calling for a play at third.
C: After the second baseman misses her first tag attempt, the catcher has assumed the tag would be made. Instead of preparing for what follows, she just meanders around home plate, not paying attention to the play. This is what causes the first baseman to hold her first throw, and subsequently throw wildly on her second attempt: her intended target wasn't playing the game.
View 2
A: When changing direction when you're in a pickle, you slam the side of your foot into the dirt, like you do in Suicides. Dirt should spray at the fielder.
B: Play until the umpire calls you out. The runner caught between first and second does not assume the shortstop will make the tag. She goes full speed to first, since she didn't hear the umpire call her out. This extends the play and brings in an extra run at the end, when the catcher assumes the tag will be made.
C: Since the catcher assumes the tag will be made (see View 1), she is not looking when the first baseman wants to throw it to her. Therefore the first baseman double-clutches and throws the ball away. In this case, the only thing the first baseman can really do is throw the ball anyway and YELL LOUDLY for the catcher to turn around.
View 3
This is the view where you can see how Broderick is playing the game instead of watching the game! After being safely bunted to second, she immediately looks to see if she can make it to the next base. Seeing that the catcher has been knocked down by the play at home, she takes off for third. When she arrives at third, she still isn't satisfied. She immediately looks for a way to get home. She takes a small lead off of third and watches to see if the tag is made. When it isn't, she takes a longer, creeping lead, in case there's an opportunity to try for home. When the throw goes to first base, she sees an opportunity to try for home. This perfectly displays how a base runner must ALWAYS be looking to advance to the next base.

Push Bunt or Play The Ball First

This nicely demonstrates the purpose of a push bunt. See how the shortstop and second baseman are "cheating" and breaking early on bunts? So the hitter does a push bunt between the pitcher and short. Note that she could also have directed her bunt to second, since that fielder had abandoned her position, too. In this situation, the fielder must play the ball first and cover her base second.

Catcher Throws A Leading Throw To Third On A Steal

Sometimes, a third baseman must break late to third on a steal. In that situation, the catcher still throws the ball immediately, and simply leads her fielder with the throw.

Left Covers Third On A Bunt With A Runner At First

If there are no runners, or only a runner at first, the shortstop covers second base on a bunt, and the left fielder covers third base.

If Something Bad Happens, Flush It And Move On To The Next Play

There is never, ever any time to sulk when playing ball. If you make a mistake, flush and forget about it. If you let it get to you, bad things will happen. This pitcher just gave up a double with a runner on first, and now is upset that it's second and third. Baseball has no "Lookback Rule" so the runner on third just takes off for home. One of his teammates wakes the pitcher up, and he throws home... two feet over the catcher's glove. Then the pitcher compounds his error by immediately sulking about the fact he let in a bad run by not paying attention, and so doesn't see that the runner from second runs home, too. Two unearned runs from one temper tantrum.

You Must Play The Game, Not Watch The Game

Bases are loaded, and the pitcher uncorks a wild pitch. The catcher gets it and makes a play at home to the pitcher covering. Nobody is backing up the play. Why? Because the third baseman is watching the game instead of playing the game. So the second runner is now able to score also. At this point, everyone on the Rockies stops to watch the catcher bend over. While they're watching their teammate, the runner who was originally on first is busy playing the game. He runs home and scores. Three runs score on one wild pitch. Sit the Rockies down on the bench and buy them some popcorn!

Know The Game Situation

You must know what's going on in the game at all times. How many runners are on base; what you will do if the ball is hit to you; what you will do if the ball is NOT hit to you; and how many outs there are.

Know The Rules: You Can Not Pass The Runner Ahead Of You

When hitting, you must also be aware of where the other baserunners are. You may not pass a runner ahead of you on the base paths for any reason. If you do, you are out. So in this instance, even though the ball was hit over the fence, when the batter passes the runner on first, the batter is out. He only gets credit for a single.

Don't ever dive into first base (with ONE exception)

Diving into first base gets you there slower, not faster. This play is from game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The batter chooses to dive into first base, instead of run through the bag. It causes him to arrive a fraction of a second later than he would have, had he run through the bag. This is why the call becomes the first successful manager replay challenge in World Series history. Now, there is ONE exception to the 'Do Not Dive' rule: This is when the first baseman has to leave the bag to catch the ball, and is forced to try to tag the batter. In this situation, it is fine to dive into the bag to avoid the tag.
Here is a more scientific analysis of why you should not dive into first.

Run until the umpire calls "Foul"

A ball is not foul until the umpire says it is. If an 'obviously' foul ball hits a rock, or a ball just has a crazy spin on it, it can come back into fair territory. If it does, and you don't run, you will be out.