The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 39

Pitching From 30 Feet

I direct this part to the pitchers who are considering moving up to 30 feet. Perhaps you’re 69 and will reach your 70th birthday in the pitching year? Or, an injury of some kind is forcing your decision? There are a number of issues that should be considered before you decide to register as an Elder for the pitching season. I would like to cover a few of these issues that might sway your decision. I will not spend any time writing about the issue of 40 foot pitchers against 30 foot pitchers. However, you need to know that there are some pitching venues that do not permit 30 foot pitchers, male or female.

The Approach

The NHPA allows a 30 foot pitcher to start his approach anywhere from the back of the 40 foot approach to the 30 foot foul line at 27 feet.

Turn versus Flip

If you are a traditional turn pitcher, more than likely, you will not be able to turn from the 30 foot platform. Most 30 foot turners stand just in front of the 40 foot foul line. It’s a matter of needing to speed up the rotation of a turning shoe due to the shorter distance. The closer to the 27 foot foul line the faster the rotation needs to be. 3/4 turners can manage the change, while 1-1/4 and 1-3/4 turners have a more difficult time dealing with the faster arm rotation. Most flippers have just the opposite problem, i.e., slowing down the flip rotation. I felt it was a distinct advantage to be able to move as close to the stake as I could. You can tell by my early parts that I experimented with a number of flips and turns. It was not until I reduced the number of bouncebacks by altering my grip or selection of horseshoes, that I settled on the single flip.

Point Scoring and Pit Material

Two things that should be considered. In general the turning shoe will generate more single points than the flipping shoe. The pit material should also be an important consideration. Not all, but most NHPA pits use clay as pit material. Non-NHPA sites use sand or combinations of sand and dirt. Flippers will lose more points when non-clay is used as the flipped shoe slides beyond the stake. This also applies if you don’t keep the clay soft and pliable. This factor can be reduced if you drop the shoe in from at least 30 degrees in clay or non-clay. During hot, sunny days, clay can dry out very quickly and should be tended to after each match. By tradition, each competitor is responsible for raking the sand or turning the clay in one pit, before each match. Try to keep the material around the stake as flat as possible.

Be Flexible

If you pitch primarily at NHPA sanctioned venues, you will have a stationary platform to pitch from, with a designated foul line and in some cases, a marker indicating the position of the 30 foot stake. However, if you pitch in leagues or tournaments held at American Legions, VFWs, Elks, Moose, et al, you will frequently have to pitch from grass, dirt, roots, holes, etc. Sometimes there will not be a foul line indicator of any kind. Simply make the best of it. However, it is important to learn how to pitch from either side or even standing at the foul line. If you use the flip or flip-turn, with a little practice, you will be able to compete by just standing at the foul line without a stride.

Below is typical of what you might find at a non-sanctioned event. The photo shows a board approximately 10 feet in front of the 40 foot pit, unfortunately, it only spans the width of the pit and does not include the perceived left or right approach. It will be up to you to find your setup position. As a general rule, three steps from the 40 foot foul line should get you somewhere close to your 30 foot position. Or, you can take your normal stance on the 40 foot platform and stride forward 3 normal steps and one long step, or, stand at the 30 foot foul line and take one long step into the 30 foot approach. If you find your normal stance puts you on a root, hole, mud, etc., consider moving to the other approach.

Remember — You can change your stance or approach at any time as long as you throw both shoes from the same approach. There are some occasions where I have to pitch from the left approach in one direction and the right approach in the other. Take the time to practice to find your best setup and approach.

30 foot foul line spanning the width of the pit. Does not extend in front of each approach.

The approach in the image above is actually to the left of the tape. Where the tape meets the board is the actual location of the right corner of the left approach. You might notice that the location of the board is a little short of 10 feet in front of the 40 foot foul line.

Be Considerate

If you happen to be pitching with 30 and 40 foot pitchers, be considerate. Do not step in front of someone to your left or right who is a 40 foot pitcher and is ready to pitch. Wait until both shoes are thrown before you step to the 30 foot approach. Your fellow competitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness. The same applies to throwing your shadow into their line of sight.

Shoe Change

One ramification of the move to 30 feet is the possibility of a shoe change. You may have to switch from a turn shoe to a flip shoe. If you decide to go to a flip from a turn, give yourself a bit of time to develop the confidence in your new style of pitching.

The Patriot is Coming

The Patriot is a member of my Tribute Series and is dedicated to the Vietnam Veteran. I have included on each shank POW or MIA. The Patriot below is a remake of one previously designed. However, I was not happy with it and needed to modify the design. I wanted to build in as many features as I could. Rather than use my 3D software to design and then print a 3D version for evaluation, I would create a working model from scratch from beechwood. This would allow me to get hands on before I produced the 3D version.

My goal was to design a shoe that had no location on the back of the shoe that would produce a bounceback. Further, I wanted to create the back end so that I had a place for all fingers. I was specifically targeting the flip pitcher, but, use the hook calks that would allow the turner to turn with thumb calk up or down with the Hilfling hooks, i.e., identical on both sides. I wanted to move the center of gravity closer to the hook calks for easier flip rotation. The thumb calk has been specifically designed to allow the flipper a flat thumb position even if the thumb is rotated slightly left or right of center. This was accomplished by shaping the thumb calk as an arc. Finally, the entire back end of the shoe will force the shoe to flop down towards the stake no matter where it hits the back end.

A mockup of the top portion of the shoe was created to verify that all required features would be accommodated.

Final mockup of Patriot in beechwood


Verifying finger positions on Patriot

Below is a series of images of the Patriot with all features described above. Ready for 3D printing.

Patriot topside with unique thumb calk and inner perimeter


Patriot with symmetrical hook calks


Patriot Top View Left


Patriot Top View Right


Patriot Bottom View

I had to find a 3D printing replacement for my SLA rendering. I was able to find a 3D printer commonly referred to as FDM printing in ABS M30 plastic. It is a much stronger material and will allow multiple castings from the foundry without worrying about breakage. It is a bit more expensive, but, may allow the foundry to create multiple casting on demand. A photo of the Patriot in ABS plastic is shown below. The ABS plastic version is now going through the ductile iron casting process for 1 pair for testing and a single to be sent to the NHPA for specification approval.

Patriot printed in ABS M30 plastic

Continue to Part 40 for a description of trials and tribulations of 2012 and the announcement of the production of the Patriot and Eagle.

E-mail me if you have questions.

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