As I write this newsletter, everyone must understand something. It gets sent to almost 1000 email subscribers and published in a variety of softball magazines throughout the country. So, with all of those people who are reading this… I expect ALL of them to sign up on my Frappr Map <www.frappr.com/houseofpitching>. No more excuses, do it! It’s a great way to see/meet people from all over the world of softball.
Sometimes what I write is even printed in the NFCA’s newspaper. Sometimes not. I don’t really know what their criteria is for what gets printed or not. Perhaps it simply comes down to space. I would think there would be a huge demand for a monthly column on pitching advice, tips, etc. I mean, pitching is a huge aspect of the game. Any coach will tell you they are only as good as the person in the pitching circle. I mean, even the best and most respected coach cannot make a winner out of a team who doesn’t have solid pitching. Ask any manager of the Texas Rangers!
I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to become a speaker/clinician for some organizations who hold clinics, seminars, and conventions. While I already have more ‘business’ than I can possibly handle, I really enjoy doing the coaching clinics because I feel I can reach a broader audience. By ‘coaching the coaches’ and demonstrating right vs. wrong, it’s very easy to make sure everyone understands there IS a right way to do something, and a wrong way.
Yet, far too many people still buy this lie that men and women are so drastically different that they cannot possibly pitch the same way. Getting someone to explain that to me is downright comical! Where is the NOW organization or women’s rights advocates when we need them? Why are women equal in some areas but not others? Why do they accept they can’t do what men can do in pitching but, don’t believe it in other avenues of life?
The biggest fallacy about these differences is: “Men are stronger so they throw harder. Plus, women use their legs/hips more than men”. Another beauty is: “Men are allowed to jump when they pitch, which is illegal in women’s softball”. Ok, lets take this one at a time.
#1. Have you ever seen me? I’m 6’3, 180 lbs. HARDLY a strong, muscle guy. Sure, GENERALLY speaking, men are stronger than women. But if it was about strength wouldn’t I want to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger? I often make the joke that Lisa Fernandez could probably beat me at arm wrestling so, it’s obviously not about strength. Plus, it’s a blanket statement to say men throw harder because their stronger and it’s often said in PURE ignorance. Why? Because anyone who knows anything about men’s fastpitch softball will tell you that the best pitchers in the world are the ones who have flawless mechanics, same as the women’s top pitchers.
#2. The myth about the hips/legs thing is tougher. Many have been taught this method of “slamming the door” with their hips and are led to believe this means they are using them correctly. In reality, this “slam the door” method means the pitcher is pitching AROUND her hips, not through them. I’m willing to bet, if your pitcher was taught this method she either did or does the following: Right handed pitchers throwing INSIDE to right handed batters a lot. (Lefties would be the opposite, away from right handed batters). If this fits you, then you’ve fallen into the same category as 99% of the pitchers who’ve been taught this method. Bringing the hip and hand through together (slamming the door) takes the arm off line of the catcher and into the pitchers side. This tends to send the ball in the direction of the pitcher’s throwing side. If power is REALLY generated this way, I’d like someone to explain to me why, in overhand throwing, we don’t step with our right leg at the same time as we throw with our right hand. It’s because POWER is lost this way. When we throw overhand, our arm goes first, then the leg. When I throw underhand, the same thing must happen. Ever see still photos of your pitching heroes: Cat Osterman, Michelle Smith, etc.? Where is their hand/ball at the release? Answer: It’s under their stomach or in front of their body. The hips should PUSH the hand through, not go through together. Yet, “slam the door” has swept the nation and people continue to do this. Why, Why, Why, Why, Why????? The reality is, many are using their hips incorrectly and don’t realize it. This also ties into the riseball, which is the most misunderstood and controversial pitch in the game. Because so many people share this mechanical philosophy of “slam the door”, it’s physically impossible to get back spin on the ball. You cannot twist the ball and spin it backward if you’re going around your hips. This is one of the reasons so few women can throw an effective riseball. It starts from this habit of pitching at the side of the body which many young ladies and their parents are taught from the start. It’s not about gender and strength! It’s about mechanics!
#3. Men and women play by different rules, huh? Are you aware that the international rules for men and women are identical? Probably not because men’s softball is not shown on TV the way the US women’s team is. And while it’s true there are organizations in men’s softball who have different rules from the standard rules today, that doesn’t mean everyone pitches that way. In fact, the United States is the ONLY country on Earth that allows men to step back with one foot and leap off the rubber. This is like saying if ASA and another softball association (Pony, USSSA, NSA, etc.) have different pitching rules then someone who coaches and ASA team will have a different way of coaching in an “NSA” event. So, those of you in California.. don’t even think of coaching in New York! Or, does the different rules for different associations thing only count in men/women pitching? Besides, what’s a pitcher doing when he/she jumps or crowhops? Trying to get the legs into the pitch as much as possible, right? Even Osterman is crucified for doing this by the online softball message boards. While I won’t get into the legality of what she does, the point is she’s getting her legs and hips into the pitch as much as possible.. same way that men do in various leagues and associations where jumping/crowhopping is legal. So, if crowhopping/jumping is about getting the legs/hips into the pitch and that’s what men “do” then how can someone claim that women use their hips more? It’s somewhat of a contradiction.
Bottom line is there are male pitching coaches teaching horrible fundamentals. There are also female pitching coaches teaching horrible fundamentals. While my wife would probably disagree, stupidity and ignorance is not gender specific. A pitching coach, male or female, who teaches “muscle the pitch” is wrong in the same way that they’re wrong if they teach the “slam the door” mentality. This is not a gender issue. It’s a knowledge issue. We all have different opinions about what constitutes a successful pitcher. There are many that do well in their careers despite their mechanics/coaching. But, the great ones (Osterman, Finch, Smith, Ueno, etc.) all use mechanics not muscle. None ‘slam the door’ at the release. This is also the case for the elite pitchers in the Men’s game too.
I just wish people would realize gender is not the factor people want to believe. A woman has 2 arms, 2 legs, and hips, the same as a man. They move in the same way for both genders. This is why the shortstop of the US women’s national softball team throws to first base with the same mechanics as Derek Jeter of the Yankees.
Happy Holidays everyone.