By STEVE KRAH
John Coddington believe he knows the proper way to throw a baseball and he’s been teaching it to players of all ages — youngsters to professionals — for 45 years.
Coddington, a South Bend, Ind., resident, is the lead instructor and founder of Michiana Sports Medicine and regularly shares his knowledge at 1st Source Bank Performance Center at Four Winds Field (home of the South Bend Cubs), Teddy Ballgames in South Bend and Bases Loaded in Valparaiso and has appeared at many other locations.
Employed by Ascendant Orthopedic Alliance, National Athletic Trainers’ Association board-certified athletic trainer Coddington is an Indiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Famer and a member of the Ball State Sports Medicine Society Ring of Honor. He graduated from Ball State University in 1976.
“Only 1 out of 100 coaches know what correct throwing mechanics should be,” says Coddington. “That’s why I stay busy. I see throwers everyday. It never stops.
“I’m out to save arms, shoulders and careers. I’m tired of 45 years of putting them back together.”
Coddington works with all positions — and not just pitchers.
“People have to understand that throwing mechanics is throwing mechanics,” says Coddington. “It does not matter if you’re a first baseman, second baseman, catcher etc. The hand break (from the glove) and the position is different, but the mechanic stay the same.
“Once the front foot hits the ground and the arm gets the high cocked and set position. You have to have correct mechanics in any of the nine positions (throughout the throwing motion) or you’re eventually going to get hurt and hurt seriously.”
Coddington points to two causes of arm, shoulder and elbow problems.
“Poor mechanics is the major culprit,” says Coddington. “Then you couple horrible mechanics with overuse and now you’ve got double indemnity. You’re just asking for a shoulder, elbow or both to blow apart.”
To throw correctly, Coddington says it is critical to break into drill work and segment the throwing motion.
Coddington notes that teaching hitters is a progression — from dry runs to tees to soft toss to long toss to live hitting.
“You don’t just get in the batter’s box and start swinging the bat — not how to hit correctly,” says Coddington. “And it’s the same way when you learn how to throw.”
“You don’t just put a ball in their hand and say, ‘Get the ball from Point A to Point B.’”
So many of the baseball and softball players Coddington has seen over the years have told them they know how to throw yet they have the tell-tale scars of Tommy John or some or surgery.
Coddington notes that about 80 percent of the Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgeries done in the U.S. are for players ages 14 to 18.
With Coddington’s way, throwers are instructed to stand with feet six inches apart with weight back and with the hands down near the belly button.
When the hands break, the glove hand goes up toward the target and the throwing hand goes back and up. Looking at both arms, it forms the letter “L.”
“You should have a straight line through both shoulders and both elbows,” says Coddington. “If you get to your set position and your back shoulder is down, the ball is going to be up. If your front shoulder is down and your back shoulder is up, the ball is going to be down. At release, the arm is going to be higher than the shoulder.”
Coddington says pitchers who throw across their stride line will throw everything low and outside to a right-handed hitter. If they fly open, the ball will come up and under the hitter’s chin.
“If you step across your body you block the hip. If fly open on the front side and the hip and trunk are gone, you’ve got to rely on (your arm) to create your power.
“If you look at the human body from the bottom of the foot to the ears and you think about it in relationship to throwing, it’s a kinetic chain,” says Coddington. “The weakest link is from your shoulder to your fingertips.
Yet, most players who Coddington sees for rehabilitation or throwing instruction want to use the arm rather than the hip and trunk (for velocity). That’s where they get in trouble.”
Coddington says good hitters will tell you that hips bring the hands to the ball and it’s the hips that should bring the ball to the release point when throwing.
“Hip, trunk and the arm goes along for the ride,” says Coddington. “Think of a train. Why is the engine in the front of the train? Because it’s much more efficient to pull than it is to push.
“Pulling from the front side is much more efficient than pushing from the back side. And it also keeps you healthy.”
Coddington, who grew up in LaPorte, Ind., looks back to his Ball State days to one of the biggest influences on his career. Baseball coach Bob Rickel was also the director of the sports science department.
Rickel said if Ball State athletic training student Coddington wanted to work with baseball and softball players to rehabilitate their injuries, he had to be able to teach them how to throw correctly afterwards or they were going to continue to get hurt.
“It used to be that we’d rehabilitate the injury and send them back to their pitching coach,” says Coddington. “But they didn’t know mechanics.
“Orthopedists and physical therapists taught me correct mechanics — not coaches. I learned it anatomically, biomechanically and physiologically.”
Coddington is currently conducting a clinic on overhand throwing for baseball and softball players 7 p.m. EST Mondays at Teddy Ballgames, 7:30 p.m. EST Thursdays at 1st Source Bank Perfornance Center and 9 a.m. CST Saturdays at Bases Loaded. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Coddington, a National Athletic Trainers’ Association board-certified athletic trainer and Indiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Famer, has been teaching proper throwing mechanics for 45 years. He is now holding overhand throwing clinics for baseball and softball players three days at week — two in South Bend and one in Valparaiso.