Grip It Incognito – Teach Your Players How to Grip the Ball without Tipping Off the Batter

There are several pitches used in softball, and they’re used across all teams. That means opposing batters likely have experience with pretty much anything your pitchers can throw at them. It also means that they’ve been exposed to pitchers during practice performing identical pitches to what your players will throw, and they may be able to anticipate what’s coming just by looking at how the pitcher grips the ball. This drill will help you teach your pitchers how to choose a pitch and prepare for it without telling the batter what’s coming.

What Does It Teach?

This drill is really about two things. First, it’s about being able to accurately grip the ball for the desired pitch. Second, it’s about doing that without giving it away to the opposing batter. You need every advantage available on the field, and that often boils down to what the opposing team doesn’t know. What’s more, by ensuring that your pitcher isn’t giving anything away before the pitch, you’re able to catch batters flat-footed, giving you the upper hand, even if your pitcher isn’t able to burn balls over the plate at record speeds.

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Setting Up the Drill

To set up the grip it drill, you’ll only need enough balls and gloves to suit the number of pitchers on the team. This drill is better for those ages nine and up – younger players should practice mastering the pitches themselves, rather than dividing their attention between subterfuge and pitch mastery.

Gather all of your pitchers together in a line on the field. Make sure each has her glove and a ball, as well. At a prearranged signal, have each pitcher grip the ball according to the pitch called. You can and should use any of the various pitches in softball, including:

  • Two and four-seam fastballs
  • Curveballs
  • Changeups
  • Drop and rise
  • In-shoot

On the signal, each pitcher should grip the ball according to the pitch called, but she should do it with her hand hidden behind the glove. You as the coach should walk the line in front and inspect each pitcher’s stance, eyes and hands to ensure that no indication of the pitch is present. Vary it up by also walking behind the group and inspecting the stance of each pitcher for clues.

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Vary the drill by having each pitcher perform the above, combined with tossing the ball to an actual catcher. The catcher should not only catch the ball, but should try to discern what pitch is coming (don’t call the pitch aloud – let the pitchers decide what each wants to throw).

The coach should use this opportunity to determine several things. Chief among this is determining which pitchers need more work on hiding the pitch type from the batter. However, this is also an ideal time to determine which pitchers have mastered the grip necessary for each pitch type. Based on the results of the drill, the coach can then order further practice for each pitcher specific to her needs. For instance, some may need more practice hiding telltale signs that would identify the pitch, while others might need to master a two-seam fastball grip.

Tips and Tricks

While this drill is designed for a group of pitchers on the softball field, it can be practiced off the field. However, it will require two people, and both of them must be familiar with softball pitching grips. Ideally, two pitchers can practice this together, with one acting as the pitcher and the other as the catcher. They can switch off every so often to give both a chance to learn and grow.

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