Sometimes things done with the best intentions turn out so wrong. This softball pitching advice "turn the doorknob" given to the young fastpitch softball pitcher is one of them. Intended to help the young softball pitcher understand what her hand should be doing at the release of the riseball pitch, 10 times out of 10 will teach her the wrong spin. What she will learn from this well intended fastpitch softball coaching tip is how to throw a "bullet pitch" or "spiral pitch" that has a very distinct spin or rotation, or what we like to call a "hitters dot." This pitch will not move because the seams are spinning incorrectly, which is why this is such bad advice.
Does your softball pitching coach teach this?
If they do I would like for you to ask them to read this article, because much like "squishing the bug" in softball hitting, this turn the doorknob softball instruction can teach a very bad habit. When Michelle Smith says "the release of this pitch is like turning a doorknob" on ESPN's Women's College World Series, every dad and entry level pitching coach in the country that has never thrown this pitch or seen this pitch thrown properly grabs onto it and like a fast spreading flu this information while well intended is being taught improperly. However, if Michelle Smith were to say to Jenny Finch; "get your fingers and wrist around this pitch like you're turning a doorknob" Finch would know exactly what she was meaning. You see, shared with an elite player this fastpitch softball pitching instruction is very logical to them, but when shared or taught to a young developing softball pitcher, no matter how well intended you are if it's not explained correctly you're guaranteed to develop bad muscle memory and false hope .
What does it mean?
Yes, the riseball spin is like turning a doorknob, but not as you normally do, which is exactly why it makes sense, but is destructive at the same time, let me explain. Imagine you are standing on the pitching rubber looking at home plate. From this position you start your windup with the goal of having your pitch cross home plate, with this simple goal in mind if I were to ask you or your pitching instructor where this doorknob would be the biggest majority of you would say between the pitching rubber and home plate! This is wrong and why your riseball pitch will never move. Here's the correct answer, if you're a right handed pitcher the doorknob you want your fingers spinning around is actually facing third base, if you're a left handed softball pitcher your doorknob is actually facing first base. You see when you tell a developing pitcher to spin the doorknob the only way they know how to do that is in front of them because that's how we go through a door. A better way of explaining this is to imagine you're walking down the hallway and while you keep walking you open up your brothers room as you walk by, you see the door is not in front of you it's at your side. So for a right handed pitcher we want all of your energy moving towards home plate, but the doorknob we want you to spin your fingers around for the rise ball will open the door towards 3rd as you move by. When you understand this and your pitching instructor understands this your ball will start spinning backwards as it approaches home plate and not spiral... when you learn to do this right the doorknob you turn will open the door to your pitching success.