Sunday, May 23, 2004
Q&A: Ted Power
Ted Power, a former Reds pitcher and minor league pitching instructor, is
now an instructor at Champions Baseball Academy in Sharonville. He recent sat
for a telephone Q&A with Enquirer reporter John Erardi.
Q. What's the biggest problem you're having these days as a pitching instructor?
A. The biggest problem I have is with dads bringing their kids in, and they (the dads) all want the same thing: They want the kid to throw harder. When a young kid - a 10- to 14-year-old - tries to throw harder, his good mechanics fall apart. He jerks his front shoulder; his head flies to the side. Basically what it is, is the righthanded pitcher is pulling his left-hand side. It makes his arm late coming through. His arm can't keep up. It's what we call "slow arm," and it stresses his shoulder.
Q. So, that's of great concern. ...
A. Yes, because I'm seeing some slightly built kids, and I know their arms are still developing. It worries me. When your arm is fully developed, you have a good, hard, calcified bone. But in these young kids, the growth plate can come loose. It can't hold the ligament. When you over-stress the arm at that age, what's going to give? The growth plate! The shoulder strength isn't there at that age to protect the elbow.
Q. Would you advocate conditioning the arm at that young an age, 10-11, so that it could take the rigors of pitching?
A. I'd advocate not pitching as much as some of these (50-60 game) schedules might require. Pitch counts are a good idea. It'd be very hard to get a 10-year-old to do all those exercises. Little leaguers don't need to be conditioning like that. Listen, we all know the stories about the physical condition of our children today. Our country is overweight and out of shape. I'd advocate the kids get out there and play ball - ride their bike all over town, play basketball, play tennis. Skip rocks on the water. Stay active.
Q. What saddens you about the things you see?
A. That we can't be there to watch every pitch these kids throw. Three weeks ago, I was working with a friend of a boy I'd been working with for a long time. We got his friend's arm angle corrected by having him do just a couple of things differently. He got his arm right where it should be. It was a good, healthy angle. He was all excited about it, and he told us how good his arm felt. Then, two weeks ago, he slipped back into his old habits. (Power doesn't know what caused it, whether it might have been some fatigue or perhaps some absentmindness that any young pitcher is prone to.) He came in to see Dr. Kremchek, and we had to shut him down. He had a slight separation of the growth plate. When the kid is here pitching in front of us, we can watch every pitch and we can remind them.
Q. I hear you're teaching the knuckle-curve as a pitch that gives the hitter a little wrinkle to deal with, but doesn't stress the pitcher's elbow because he's not snapping it off at the wrist and thereby stressing the elbow. Tell me about that pitch, how to grip it and all that.
A. It's the same grip that Pedro Martinez (of the Boston Red Sox) uses. You wrap your thumb and middle finger around the ball,and kink-up your index finger. When you throw it, the middle finger slides off to the side. It's like throwing a knuckleball. You don't snap it off. When you throw it, it comes out of your hand with a little spin on it, because of the grip.
Q. At what age can a kid start throwing that?
A. As soon as he can get it in his hand. Twelve to 13-year-olds can usually get it there.
Q. It's good that it doesn't involve a wrist snap, because everybody I've talked to has said don't snap off a conventional curveball before you're 14; some say not before you enter high school; some even say not before you're shaving. Do you feel the knuckle-curve is safe? It seems like some kids might have a tendency to want to snap it off when they really need a strikeout. What do you tell them to make sure they don't snap it off?
A. I try to scare 'em to death with the stories - you know, how painful it is when you pull a piece of bone loose in your elbow. That seems to work well. And the dads are watching them and catching them. When I teach the pitch, I teach the dad, too. He knows to pay special attention that the kid isn't twisting the arm, isn't snapping off the pitch (with a twist of the wrist). I try to school the parent even more than the kid.
Q. What about the change-up?
A. We start teaching that at as early an age as possible - as soon as a kid can get three or four of his fingers around the ball. There isn't much difference in speeds (between the fastball and changeup) at that age, but it's the idea. It's a second pitch. You're thinking out there. You've got something to work with. As the kid gets a little older and begins throwing the fastball harder, there is a difference in speeds. They're used to throwing the changeup, they can throw it for strikes and their arm speed is the same, so the changeup is very deceiving (to the hitter). A few years later, you add the knuckle-curve.
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curve easier on the wrist
Dr. Timothy Kremchek
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