The Pitcher’s Magic Inch

We all know pitching can seem super complicated to understand and super frustrating to do. Read on to uncover how a simple inch can make all the difference for your pitcher!

1 inch sure doesn’t seem like much, especially when compared to the role that pitching plays in a softball game, so check out why an inch can really help your pitcher.

I work with pitchers every single day. I was a pitcher myself and I hold an annual Pitching Summit for college pitching coaches. I tell you all this because I know how unbelievably complicated we have made pitching. We, those of us watching a pitcher try to throw strikes, are packed full of phrases we’ve heard others say, or watched on some YouTube video, or even heard one of our own coaches tell us at some point in our past.

But words don’t make pitchers better. Adjustments, resilience and tenacity do. Making things more complicated by telling a pitcher to think about practically every possible body part doesn’t help at all. We all mean well when we repeat things we’ve heard others say but in the current climate of over-instructing, pitchers need less, not more. And they need to prioritize those few critical bits of information they do have.

Which brings me to the importance of 1 inch. Too often pitching instruction starts at the beginning of the motion – we drone on and on about how to stand on the rubber, how to start, how to get open, how to land, how to … you get the idea. That’s a LOT of info and we haven’t even gotten to the most important part of the pitch yet – the Release!

Sure, on a perfect day all that stuff might be important to a pitcher, but she can botch up the beginning and NAIL the release – and she nails the pitch. But, if she NAILS the beginning and botches up the release, well her days are numbered.

That’s why I love to start instruction at the release point and work backwards. The MOST IMPORTANT body part on any pitcher at any level is her Hand! Why – because it is the ONLY body part that ever touches the Ball. Her entire job is to pitch and dominate the ball! So by definition, if the Ball is Super important then the only body part touching it also becomes Super important!

Magic Inch Makes Difference Pitcher Fastpitch Softball

Now back to the 1 inch part. When we look at a hand, we can complicate that view by looking at all the fingers, or the different lines on the hand, or how big or small it is. But none of those things impact the ball the way the last 1 inch of a pitcher’s fingers do! This last 1 inch – sometimes referred to as the pads are pretty remarkable things.

The last 1 inch of your fingers, which is just past the last joint on each finger, packs a pretty amazing punch:

  • It’s the most sensitive part of your fingers
  • It’s where the strength of your hand turns into your “grip”
  • It’s what sets you apart from every other human on the planet by way of your fingerprint.
  • And, in the case of pitching – it’s where all of the speed and power and movement that your body generated up to that point – that’s all transmitted to the ball through the last 1 inch of your pitcher’s fingers.

Pretty incredible stuff when you think about it that way! If your pitcher can learn to dominate the amount of pressure she applies to the ball through the last 1 inch of each of her fingers then she stands a far greater chance of transferring her body’s energy onto the ball. If she wants the ball to change directions then she’ll need to apply directional force and pressure through this same 1 inch.


Am I over-simplifying things just a bit – I sure hope so!! I believe that the simpler things sound the more possible they seem, and the more likely they’ll be to remembered. There’s nothing wrong with being simple just as there’s nothing smart about being complicated. Use your words to transmit feelings to your players and to create understanding. Simplifying things helps players stay calm under pressure, remember things in a crisis and most of all – it helps their brain give better instructions to their body parts.

Help your pitchers dominate the last 1 inch of their fingers and watch your pitchers start to dominate the ball, and the game!

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6 comments on “The Pitcher’s Magic Inch

  1. Barb

    Cindy that is great stuff. I always knew we thought alike when we pitched on the same team but all your articles are exactly what I believe and teach. Thanks for sharing, when I start to think I am teaching the wrong thing, you come out with and article like this..

  2. Cindy Bristow

    Hey Barb! Great to know I’m on track with your thinking since you were one of the best – ever! We had too much fun back in the day, and it’s great we’re both at it! Always great hearing from you Barb!

  3. Michele Hawkins

    The bullpen catchers always seem to make fun of me for telling my pitchers to, “feel in their fingers.” How many times have we, as pitchers, corrected what we could feel our body doing incorrectly by adding just the right amount of finger pressure to compensate. You are brilliant! Thanks for the great article.

  4. Cindy Bristow

    Hey Hawk! Thanks for being out there teaching future greats to pitch like you did! Always great to hear from you, and thanks for reading!!

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