In the Throwing Problems page I discussed my grandson Kolt, primarily a soccer player, and his interest in playing baseball for his middle school team this spring. To prepare for that possibility we began to throw occasionally and during some of the early throwing sessions Kolt had some elbow pain. I diagnosed his issue to be his tendency to get on the outside of the baseball at release, resulting in a ball flight that was similar to a slider.
Kolt has now been on the baseball team for a few weeks and goes to practice when it doesn’t conflict with classic soccer events. Recently the baseball team played its first game and Kolt again indicated afterward that he had elbow pain. He knows what causes the elbow discomfort, but, because he really doesn’t practice baseball much there isn’t a consistency to his throwing nor is there a consistency to meaningful feedback that is helpful.
I was at that first game and took my camera with a zoom lens. The following picture and cropped isolation of Kolt’s hand shows Kolt’s grip on the baseball as he was warming up before the game.
Reviewing the isolated picture of the grip showed that the meat of Kolt’s thumb was on the side (inside) of the baseball. This incorrect grip significantly increases the chances of Kolt throwing the ball with slider spin and putting stress on the ulnar ligament of the elbow. Compare Kolt’s grip to Paul’s grip (and a left hander’s) shown below where the edge of the thumbnail is located on the baseball
opposite the two throwing fingers. With this correct grip the natural arm and hand action will tend to keep the throwing fingers inside the baseball and reduce the stress on the elbow. Whether the grip is 4-seam or 2-seam, the edge of the thumbnail should be centered opposite the middle of the first two fingers. The grip doesn’t guarantee the player won’t be on the outside of the baseball at release, but it will certainly help.
Kolt’s type of problem is very typical of part time baseball players because there is so much to learn about playing the game that it is easy to forget what appear to be minor details. However, details associated with throwing correctly are critical to keeping the shoulder and elbow pain free.