My grandpa was a pitcher in the big leagues. He pitched for three years before he got hurt, but he taught me everything I know about throwing a curveball. And now that you’re learning to throw one too, I want to tell you how it all started.
Of course, you probably already know what a curveball is. The idea is that as the ball is thrown, it spins on its axis at the same time that it’s thrown forwards on an arc-like trajectory so that by the time it reaches home plate, it breaks downwards sharply on the batter. The first person who invented this pitch is disputed – some say it was Fred Goldsmith of Harvard University in 1867, while others claim it was Candy Cummings of the Excelsior Club in Brooklyn, New York. In any case, it’s been a staple of pitching ever since.
In order for an effective curveball to be thrown correctly, you have to follow certain key steps: the grip, the wind-up and release, and finally the follow through. Let’s go over them now…
Start with your fingers around where they should go when you grip the ball. When you start your wind-up, make sure you rotate your wrist at least 180 degrees around its axis (in other words, if someone was watching you from the side, their line of sight would run right through where your hand is gripping onto the ball). Once that’s done, drop down towards home plate with your arm just like you would for a regular fastball. As you’re doing that, make sure your wrist is rotating in the opposite direction to where it was before – just enough so that the back of your hand points more or less outwards. Finally, release the ball when your arm reaches about waist height, and follow through with your throwing arm. Because of the spin on the ball, this pitch will actually break more to the right if thrown by a right-handed pitcher, but left for a leftie. It takes practice to coordinate these different steps so they happen at exactly the same time, but once you get it down you can use all sorts of grips on it depending on how hard you want to throw it. Just make sure you have a good follow through.
One final thing before I end this article, though – throwing a curveball doesn’t come without its drawbacks. It’s harder to control than other pitches, so it can be easier to hit for the batter if they guess right. And because of the spin it puts on the ball, using your knuckles is one way to make sure you put more zip onto this pitch. The big things are that you have to keep it close enough to catch their sweet spot, but not too high or low where they can just knock it away. So practice hard and choose carefully when you want to use it in a game!