While perusing the vendors at the 2016 NFCA Convention, we ran across an item called “pitching sticks.” They come from the makers of the G-Tee. We’re always on the lookout for amazing products that can help our pitchers become more successful! The more versatile, the better the product in our opinion. The purpose of these pitching sticks is to use mainly as a target for accuracy. However, after several months of using the pitching sticks in our training facility we’ve discovered SEVERAL valuable uses for the pitching sticks, and have seen multiple videos of various colleges using them in their bullpen as well!
What Are Pitching Sticks?
Pitching Sticks are a very simple, yet easily transportable set of two poles attached to a square base that have an elastic band that serves as a pitcher’s visual aid. The poles themselves come in two sizes – 48″ tall and 24″ tall. Each set of poles has multiple settings to adjust the height of the band being used. Depending on the purpose for which you’re using the pitching sticks, you may find having multiple bands is also useful. We frequently use two bands at different heights on our pitching sticks for hitting targets, as well as for helping with a pitcher’s mechanics.
Seven Incredible Uses for Pitching Sticks
Initially, we were using the pitching sticks as a target. However, we have our permanent rope set up that never comes down in our facility. These pitching sticks would be perfect for someone who cannot have a permanent rope set up, or who would like to be able to easily transport their target from one place to another. The pitching sticks are very lightweight, ranging from 12-13lbs depending on the model size.
Target Use #1 – Location of Pitch Height
The 48″ poles come with an elastic band that can be adjusted in height from 10″ to 50″. ( The 24″poles adjust from 10-26″.) You can set the elastic band at the desired height for your pitcher, and have her practice hitting the elastic band with the pitch. We find that multiple bands attached to the poles as varying heights is beneficial to teach the pitcher how to make adjustments and “climb the ladder” with her pitch.
Target Use #2 – Changeup
ALL changeups have a bit of an arc to them that can barely be seen in the pitch. No, I’m not suggesting that your pitcher learn to arc her changeup at all! It’s just a natural occurrence that happens in all pitches (even fastballs at 70 mph). The slower the pitch, the more the arc. Sometimes, a pitcher struggling with location of her changeup can benefit by moving the target closer (about half way). However, when she does this, the target raises to allow for the arc at the midway point of the pitch. We use our pitching sticks with 2 bands to help the pitcher visualize where her changeup should be at the midway point. When she can throw the pitch through the midway target, it almost always finishes in the perfect location over the plate. See the video below of one of our pitchers doing this drill.
Target Use #3 – Beginning Drops and Rises
A more advanced pitcher can work on vertical movement with her rise and drop balls. One idea is to place the pitching sticks five feet out in front of home place. Set the elastic bands to 26″ in height. The goal is to pitch a drop ball that starts at or slightly above the rope height, but then drops below the rope by the time it reaches the catcher.
For rise ball work, keep the same placement of the pitching sticks at 5 feet in front of home plate, but adjust the elastic band to 42″ high. The pitch should start at or just below the rope, and rise above the rope by the time it reaches the catcher.
Target Use #4 – Advanced Drop and Rise ball Pitchers
One aspect of pitching that is very challenging for pitchers it to get every pitch to start on the same plane, but move in different directions. A great way for pitchers to work on this is to use two elastic bands on the pitching sticks (similar to that of the change up) placed at the midway point (about 20-25 feet). The pitcher then practices both rise and drop balls getting both to travel through the ropes at the same height, but then break in different directions. Watch the pitcher in the clip below work on mastering this VERY advanced skill.
Mechanics Purpose #1 – Stride Height
We all want pitchers to get the best stride possible. To do this, we encourage pitchers to get their stride leg parallel to the ground. This can be challenging. To help with this, place the pitching sticks about one foot short of the pitcher’s optimal stride length. The elastic band should be placed at or slightly below knee height of the pitcher. To clear the elastic band, the pitcher must drive off the mound and lift her stride leg high off the ground, resulting in better posture and a more powerful stride off the mound.
Mechanics Purpose #2 – Stop Leaning a.k.a. Reverse Posture
One of the most common mistakes pitchers make is leaning forward. We teach our pitchers to have reverse posture (nose behind belly button). You can use the elastic band at a higher level and teach pitchers to keep their head behind the band to prevent leaning forward. In the video below, you will see 2 elastic bands in use. One for the stride leg height, and the other to keep head back during the pitch. If your sole focus is to get a pitcher to stop leaning forward, however, only one band is necessary.
Mechanics Purpose #3 – Improved Balance
Pitchers who have difficulties falling off balance at the end of the pitch can use the pitching sticks as a barrier to encourage better balance at the end of the pitch. Simply line up the pitching sticks on the edge of the pitching lane where the pitcher is falling of balance. Most pitchers fall to their pitching arm side. The pitcher in this video was falling right at the end of her pitch. A little help from the pitching sticks, and she has more body awareness and body control at the end of her pitch.
Benefit of Pitching Sticks
It’s rare for a pitching tool to aid in both accuracy and in mechanics. Pitching sticks do just that. We’ve fallen in love with this pitching tool and know you will too. As you can see, having a second (or even third) elastic band is extremely beneficial in getting the most out of the pitching sticks. Some people prefer to have weights sit on the base portion of the sticks for extra support. However, we have not found extra weight necessary, even when pitchers step on or run into the rope somehow.
For more information on options and pricing, please visit our online store. All pitching sticks come with a two year warranty from the manufacturer. If you’d like to see how to use the pitching sticks in person, please check out our contact page ! For more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and/or join our mailing list (green button below).