Proper grip is a developing skill
| 3 min read
Yes, there’s a right way to hold a baseball. But like so much of the game, it should be taught at the right time. A proper ball grip is something that will develop over several seasons – as players grow. Here’s the best way to establish good habits early and get kids working toward a proper grip.
This standard baseball grip is also known as a four seam ball position. The ball is held with two fingers on top, perpendicular to the horseshoe seam. The thumb is underneath the ball and the pinky and ring finger are tucked on the side. This grip gives players the most control and helps them throw straight, which also translates into more power and speed. Eventually, a baseball player finds this grip with every throw – instinctively.
While the proper ball position can always be taught, tee ball coaches do not need to be super concerned with the grip, says Dan Keller, a baseball coach of 23 years and creator of Dugout Captain. Young kids tend to hold the ball with their whole hand. That’s OK. Their hands are usually too small to only use two fingers on top. “Don’t overthink technique at this age,” says Keller. It’s more important to let kids get comfortable with throwing hard.
When kids have bigger hands and are throwing hard, teaching a good grip is key. It’s easy to show your players what it looks like. The tough part is getting them into the habit of finding it for every throw.
One good drill starts with the ball on the ground. As your players reach for the ball, have them rotate it to find the four seam grip position. Another drill is to have players practice tossing the ball to themselves while watching TV — and to see how quickly they can get into a four-seam grip after catching it. The next step is for players to hold the ball in their glove. There, they’ll practice finding the four-seam grip before each throw. It all comes together when playing games like catch.
For all ages, the best way to work on grip is playing catch. Older players should find the four-seam grip each time they transfer the ball from their glove to their throwing hand. Give them time to get it right with every pass.
Set younger kids up a little wider and farther apart so they have space for wild throws. Have them tuck their pinky under the ball and hook three fingers on top. Over the season, see if they can use two fingers on top of the ball, tucking the ring finger as well.
After warm-ups are over, though, let it go.
“When you get on the field, when accuracy matters more because kids are making throws to a base, let them hold the ball however they want,” says Keller. Eventually, the proper grip will stick.
At this age, the most important thing to learn is to throw — and throw hard. “If a kid grips the ball with their whole hand and they let it rip, the win is that they’re on the field and throwing aggressively,” says Keller.
Dan Keller is part of MOJO’s Partnerships & Strategy team.