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Health & Exercise Forum

Before You Throw, Take It From a Pro: Pitching Tips

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Mar 28, 2011

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumGuest Columnist: Gary E. Mattingly, PT, PhD

The first robin, the last mound of snow melting, crocuses emerging from the ground, the budding of trees: these all signal the beginning of Spring. But for some, Spring doesn’t officially begin until the first pitch is thrown with the start of baseball practice. Ron Chiavacci, former professional baseball player, coaches aspiring pitchers, and offers advice on pitching with accuracy.

What got you started teaching young pitchers?

While in the off season, I was asked by parents and teams to help their young pitchers with some one-on-one instruction, which I enjoyed.  Later, I became an instructor at Pro Staff Baseball Camp, which I now run.

What are the major things you work on with young pitchers?

I work on all aspects of pitching: the basic fundamentals, strengthening and conditioning, the mechanics of the pitch delivery, and the physical and mental aspects of pitching.  With one-on-one instruction, I enjoy developing programs that are specific for the individual.

What are the three most common mistakes you see in young pitchers today?

  1. Poor balance and body awareness is the number-one problem that is found at all levels. One must have good balance and body awareness during all phases of the pitch.  If it’s lacking, speed, control, and endurance all suffer. (Fig 1)
  2. Poor directional patterns: a pitch should include a direct stride to the plate.  A stride toward the first base or third base line is a common problem that results in “landing open,” which is rotating the body excessively toward the first base line after your stride. (Fig 2&3)
  3. Poor knee elevation in the wind-up phase of the pitch, which ends up “rushing the pitch.” Inadequate knee elevation means that the pitching arm is not ready to throw at the appropriate time. This poor timing causes balance to suffer, creates poor directional patterns, and causes the pitcher to “land open.” (Fig 4&5)


What suggestions would you give to a young pitcher who wants to take it to the next level?

Other than dedicating and committing yourself to that goal, it is important to understand the game. Baseball is a game of failure. A batter with a 400 batting average fails 6 out of 10 times at bat and yet has a very good chance of ending up in the hall of fame. The same thing applies to pitching.  No pitcher is perfect and will always have times of failure. It’s important to learn how to deal with failure in the game. The people that fail the least are the ones that move on to the next level. As we like to say to all developing pitchers, “Strive for perfection, but be content with excellence, because you will never be perfect in this game.”

Chiavacci began playing locally with the Southside Little League and later played with the Moosic Mets, 948 Legion, Lackawanna Junior College, and Kutztown University. Professionally, Chiavacci has pitched for the Montreal Expos, Pittsburg Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Huston Astros. He also played one year of major league baseball in Korea.

Gary E. Mattingly, PT, PhD is a professor at the University of Scranton, Dept of Physical Therapy and an associate specializing in the prevention and rehabilitation of shoulder injuries at Mackarey & Mackarey PT Consultants in Scranton, PA.

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.