How to Throw a Curveball

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One of the biggest misconceptions in baseball is how to throw a proper curveball. Coaches, particularly at the youth and high school level, put young athletes at a great risk by teaching and promoting the improper mechanics on how to throw an effective curveball. As the American Journal of Sports Medicine reported in a 2005 article, "throwing a baseball overhand is both an unnatural motion and a burden on the shoulder and the elbow"--and this applies to Major Leaguers, who have perfected the "how to" of throwing a baseball. The stress such an action puts on a player's arm cannot be understated. However, by taking the necessary steps you can relieve much of the unnecessary strain on your arm in your quest to develop a Major League curveball.

Things You'll Need

  • Baseball
  • Baseball glove
  • Keep your pitch a secret -- don't let the batter know it's coming! A mistake often made by pitchers at every level is that they "tip" the batter to the pitch they are going to throw; in other words, the batter knows what pitch to expect. You can gain the upper-hand on the batter by following two basic rules even before you go into your windup: a) hide the ball in your glove, and b) have the ball already in the proper curveball grip. The best way to hide the ball is by having a closed web glove, opposed to an H-web glove, where the batter has a clear view of the ball and your grip.

  • Expect each pitch you are going to throw to be a curveball. If you have to "dig" into your glove to get the proper grip after you receive the curveball sign from the catcher the hitter is going to know what is coming. It is much easier to change your fingers to a fastball grip than it is to properly grip a curveball while the ball is already in your glove.

  • Grip the ball by placing your middle finger on the inside half of the seam and apply pressure to the ball. Your index finger should stay as close to your middle finger as possible. If you cannot comfortably grip the ball with these two fingers touching or nearly touching, then your hand is too small and you should wait for your hand to grow before trying to add this pitch to your repertoire. Your ring and pinkie finger should rest under the ball with only your ring finger in contact with the baseball. The ideal location for your ring finger is to have its "door knocking knuckle" on the seam (the same side of the baseball as your middle finger). Finally, the side of your thumb, and not the pad of the finger, should rest directly on the top of the seam. Your thumb and middle and ring finger should all be in contact with a seam, preferably the "horseshoe," the wide part of a baseball. Another way to look at it is to have your fingers going with the seams opposed to against them to ensure optimal control.

  • Deliver the baseball to your target. The mechanics of pitching a baseball stay the same, however, the angle by which your hand is positioned as it accelerates toward home plate is what makes the ball live up to its name...curve. This action involves NO "snapping" or "twisting" of the wrist. This popular belief is a good way to spend a considerable amount of time on the disabled list. The proper arm action and angle of your hand is very similar to pulling down a window shade or doing the tomahawk-chop at a Braves game. For right-handers, your palm should be facing first base as you prepare to release the baseball, and this angle should continue as you follow-through (third base for lefties.)

    Once the ball is released, the curveball's trajectory is from north to south. While a slider runs east to west, an ideal curveball is commonly referred to as "dropping off the table" or by going from "12-6" on a clock.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also try gripping the ball between and along the seams. Spread your fingers apart slightly and press your middle finger into the ball. Go with the grip that allows you a comfortable release, the proper spin and maximum control.
  • Develop your fastball and change-up and its placement before moving ahead to other pitches such as a curveball. Also, the belief that "well, I'll only throw a couple" is not a good strategy. Damage to young, immature arms can happen swiftly and nag the athlete throughout his playing days. It is not something that is progressive or can be staved off by limiting how many you throw in a given start. My advice for any young pitcher out there is to work on your mechanics and your fastball and how to consistently throw baseball's most effective pitch- a strike!
  • What slows down your arm? Your body. Just like how your back should stop your bat when swinging, your left hip (for righties) is responsible to stop your arm. To stop your arm before it reaches your hip means you had to start de-accelerating the very thing that gives you velocity-arm speed-before even releasing the baseball. This also puts a lot of added stress on the elbow and shoulder.
  • Throwing a curveball can cause serious and possibly permanent damage to your shoulder, elbow and wrist. For this reason, most managers and coaches advise that young players avoid this pitch until they reach physical maturity.

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