World renowned sports orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews
Other than having a bat in your hand to actually hit the ball a tee is probably the most important piece of equipment a hitter can have, at any level - youth, college, or pro. A proper swing is built and developed. A tee allows the ball to sit still so a player and his coach can focus on the actual mechanics of the swing, and concentrate on being able to repeat a proper swing. Any over excitement of a ball traveling at you and the need to time it is taken out of the equation when using a tee, so it allows for a great foundation to be BUILT. Every big league hitter uses a tee as part of their routine. Who's your favorite big league slugger? News flash - he uses/used a tee.....all-the-time.
If you take your kid to the cages or field and start by throwing him batting practice before any tee or soft toss, or he gets fed balls out of a machine, you're really hampering the development and enjoyment your kid could be having on the offensive side of the game by not allowing him to build and find his swing first.
Ask any baseball player that played in college or beyond what his batting average was when he was 8,10, 12, or 14 years old and you'd likely get an 'I don't remember' response.
We always find it slightly humorous when it's mentioned by folks that their kid hit .600 in their [enter age here] division. We often see a routine grounder that bounces off Jimmy's glove be scored as a hit. Also, many kids these ages just don't have the ability to properly field and throw a ball so these stats are misleading! Providing these stats can bring a false sense of success and they're not valuable indicators.
Here's what you should do instead: Use '+' and '-' (plus and minus) for good at-bats or good innings pitched or not good ABs/innings pitched. The idea is to have your kid to learn how to take good swings, recognized pitches, swing at good pitches, not swing at bad pitches, and later have the foundation to have a plan before he steps up to the plate when he gets to his/her teens.
A hard hit ball (line-drive) right at any infielder or outfielder that is caught for an out is an absolute + at-bat, and so is a walk (BB). That ball that your kid took a bad swing on early in the count (that barely made it to [enter position here]) but ended up in him getting on base does not count as a + even if it were scored a hit in the scorebook.
Pitching: if your kid threw strike one to every hitter he faced in an inning (or more than 70%), threw 4 pitches or less to each hitter, allowed no walks, or fielded his position well - those are things that he'd earn a + for. ERAs can easily be inflated by well executed pitches with infielders and outfielders that just don't have the ability to make plays on balls that should be outs.
Both of these approaches have your kids future development in the forefront.
Incorrect - world renowned orthopedic surgeons disagree. Bad mechanics and bad coaching on how to properly throw it, and a misunderstanding by players and coaches on when and how often to throw it is what hurts arms. See the attached photo with quotes by Dr. James Andrews and read the full article here
It takes substantial body control (neuromuscular control) to be able to throw a breaking pitch correctly. Majority of kids ages 6-15 years old don't have the body control or ability to repeat their arm action, and therefore they shouldn't be throwing it.
We always see kids that think they have a curveball but then they throw it and its more of an 'spin ball' because they don't have the correct ability or mechanics to throw it right.
Another issue is that kids and coaches fall in love with this new found glory and it's over thrown with improper or unrepeatable mechanics. Boom - there's your lack of development and risk for injury. We could get technical with terms like 'getting around or underneath the ball', 'not staying on top', 'casting', or 'leading/lowering the elbow' but those are necessary at this point.
Yes there are some (more on the rare side) 10-14 year olds that do have the body control to throw a good, proper curveball. You should consult an expert on this before adding it to your kid's repertoire, but beware because there are a lot of 'experts' out there.
• Get a tee. Use it early, use it often.
• Stop recording batting averages and ERAs - they're false key performance indicators.
• Focus on fastball command, learn a change up before ever introducing a breaking pitch.
If you suspect your kid has the ability to throw a proper curveball, consult someone who has high level playing experience, and someone who can actually throw it properly himself.