The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 44

The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Final Thoughts

NHPA Pit Specifications —

Since one of the keys to precision is utilizing locations that are constant, a review of the NHPA Pit Specifications is in order. The NHPA permits the “Pit” area to vary. For clarification, when I indicate “Pit” I’m identifying the area containing the stake. The area to either side is the “Approach”. However, they also require that the pitching platform is an area that is 6 feet by 6 feet. That means that no matter how wide the pit is, the outer edges of the left and right approaches are 36″ to the left and right of the stake. This is important if you are confronted with a pit that is only 15-1/2″ from the imaginary stake to the edge of the left or right approach. You must be able to deal with pit width variations.

Alternative Setup Locations — Important

The geometry of the setup and delivery described in Parts 41-43 is precise relative to all lines and body relationships, however, they are actually independent of either approach. So, it is possible to move the geometry to any location on either approach. If you think of the distant stake as the radius of a larger 30 foot circle you would be able to rotate the entire geometry to either approach. So, it is possible to move the geometry to the left edge of the left approach or the right edge of the right approach. The 3 images below demonstrate how the geometry rests on the approaches when rotated from the distant stake. Even though the foot positions shown on each approach are different, they are still relative to the foot positions of Parts 41-43. Further, the shoulders rotate 13 degrees from the Setup position to the Delivery position in all cases.

Left Edge of Left Approach

Left Edge of Left Approach

Rotation to the Left Edge of the Left Approach (Above) — In this rotation you will note that the left foot on the left edge is almost parallel to the left edge. In addition, the Visual Alignment Point will have moved further to the right. This pitching position presents an angle to the stake as far to the left as possible.

Left Edge of Right Approach

Left Edge of Right Approach

Rotation to the Left Edge of the Right Approach (Above) — In this rotation you will note that the location of the left foot after the stride forward is very close to the left corner of the right approach. In addition, the VAP has moved closer to the stake. The distance to the stake may not always be 18″ from this setup.

Right Edge of Right Approach

Right Edge of Right Approach

Rotation to the Right Edge of the Right Approach (Above) — I consider this location to be the best for the 30 foot flipper for several reasons. First, it’s the most precise location for NHPA spec platforms on the right approach. Secondly, it presents the greatest angle to the stake from any position on the left or right approach. I consider this an advantage for flipping pitchers to reduce bounce back. In addition, the VAP moves very close to the stake. Finally, it is actually possible to look down the Line of Flight from this extreme rightward position. It does require a cocking of the head to the right until you are looking straight down the LOF. Below I’ll describe an aid that verifies that you are actually looking down the Line of Flight.

If you happen to be a pitcher who cannot stride due to leg problems, you can move your left foot to the right corner of the approach and look straight down the LOF. In this case your Visual Alignment Point and Line of Flight are the same. You also have the advantage of completely eliminating the stride, which is sometimes a cause for misses.

Valuable Practice Aids —

If you started with Part 41 you were introduced to the necessary cords and anchors for the Line of Flight and perhaps you added cords for the VAP and/or Visual Stride Direction. I would like to introduce the most important Helping Aid I’ve found….the TAMPER. I place it on various locations of the LOF for checking my on line delivery, my backswing stop point, my VAP, and checking to see that I’m moving directly at the stake. In this case, we’ll be using it to make sure our eyes are directly over the Line of Flight from the right side approach. You can purchase a tamper at most DIY stores for $20 to $30 dollars. I guarantee that it will become your favorite helping aid during practice sessions.

For this use we’ll need a second cord and the tamper. First, connect each end at the anchors now being used for your Line of Flight. You should now have two cords, one on top of the other. Next, position the tamper directly over the Line of Flight cord about 6 feet in front of the pit. Make sure the tamper is straight up and down. Now grab your newly placed cord and rest it on the top of the tamper handle. You should now have two cords one over the other. As you setup on the right approach tilt your head until the top cord is directly over the bottom cord. You are now looking straight down the Line of Flight. In this case your Line of Flight, Visual Stride Direction and Visual Alignment Point are the same. Keep the cords in line and throw the horseshoe directly over the top of the tamper. Nothing beats throwing directly at what you’re looking at. See image below. If you look carefully you’ll see the Line of Flight cord directly under the center of the tamper.

Second Cord on Tamper

Second Cord on Tamper

Continue to Part 45 for a description of new book “Horseshoe Pitching With Precision”

E-mail me if you have questions.

Table of Contents

The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 43

The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 3

Setup and Address — A Review

At this point you have previously established your setup (Phase 1) and determined your Visual Alignment Point (Phase 2). Phase 3 begins with the back swing from the address position using the VAP.

To review, we have started with the horseshoe resting on our right leg with the Center of Gravity directly over the Line of Flight, 3-1/2″ to the right of the right edge of the approach, and, the left shank directly above the right edge of the approach. From this position, we swing the horseshoe up the address position with the left shank aligned with our Visual Alignment Point. So far, you have only moved your fully extended arm and horseshoe to the VAP. Nothing else has moved. As you start the horseshoe downward with the fully extended arm, your goal will be to pass the horseshoe as close to your right leg as possible. This continues to maintain your marriage to the Line of Flight. To this point you have only moved your fully extended arm. In other words, you have not moved anything except your arm from your right leg to your VAP back as close as possible to your right leg to your back swing stop point. The forward delivery now begins.

The Delivery

The delivery, Phase 3, begins when your back swing reaches it’s stop point.

As a reminder — your left hand is firmly planted on your left leg above the knee and will remain there throughout the stride forward. Your left foot is pointing directly at the right corner of the approach. Your upper body is still rotated clockwise at 27 degrees. Your right foot is still planted at the right edge of the approach adjacent to the imaginary stake.

Phase 3 Delivery

Phase 3 Delivery

Your arm swing starts forward simultaneously as your left leg begins it’s stride forward towards the right corner of the approach, and your right leg slides forward about 12″, items #1. Your head moves in a direct line at the stake, indicated by the Magenta line on the image above, item #3. Do not dip your body downward. Your body will automatically begin to rotate under your head as your left leg moves forward controlled by your left hand on your leg and should finish at an angle of 40 degrees, items #2. This rotation will insure that your right shoulder remains on the Line of Flight. Your timing should allow your left foot to plant slightly before you release the horseshoe.

Below is an image that shows the termination points of each of the lines. The Black line (LOF) and Magenta line (Visual Stride Direction) terminate at the stake, while the Blue line (VAP) terminates at a point to the right of the stake shown with a pipe ~32″ to the right of the stake at the adjacent approach. NOTE: The termination point of the VAP is a personal one, based on the pitchers height, angle established by the weight shift rightward and/or angle of the head.

Termination points of lines

Termination points of lines

If all has been done correctly, your pendulum swing will continue on a direct line to the stake. CAUTION: If you allow your left hand to leave your left leg/thigh, your shoulders will not rotate around clockwise correctly, by the 13 degrees they need to, in order to keep your right shoulder over the Line of Flight. Typically, you will miss to the left of the stake. In addition, if your left foot does not reach the right corner of the approach, this same rotation may not take place. Again, you’ll miss to the left.

All aspects of this setup and delivery will provide the feedback necessary to determine why you miss. They are all easily monitored. You will miss left if —

  • Your left hand does not maintain contact with your left leg.
  • Your left foot does not stride properly to the right corner of the approach.
  • Your arm swing took your horseshoe off the Line of Flight.

    You will miss right if —

  • You have over rotated your shoulders.
  • Your right arm was not fully extended and straightened prior to release.

    Using the Plumb — As you practice this rotation of your body from the shoulders down, you might want to test your alignment with the plumb. Simply go through the same process of attaching the string and plumb as in Phase 2. As you stride forward and swing your arm up toward the stake, complete your stride and stop somewhere on your upswing and make sure the plumb is still directly over the Line of Flight. See image below.

    Maintaining the Line of Flight

    Maintaining the Line of Flight

    This completes the 3 phases of the setup, alignment and delivery. The geometry required to keep your shoulder moving down the Line of Flight, the geometry necessary to keep your head moving directly at the stake during the delivery and the geometry necessary to align your eyes to a fixed point over the Line of Flight is complete.

    The stride forward and delivery

    The stride forward and delivery

    In the image above the pitcher has reached the end of his forward stride and delivery. His left toe is at the right corner of the approach and his nose continues to move directly at the distant stake (magenta line) and the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe is still over the Line of Flight. The pitcher started his alignment with his shoulders rotated 27 degrees clockwise and finished with his should rotated 40 degrees clockwise. His shoulders have rotated under his head while his head continues a straight line at the stake. This 13 degree rotation accomplished by the stride insures that the right shoulder continues to follow the LOF. You will note that the Line of Flight and Visual Stride Direction are slightly different. They are not parallel. They do converge at the stake, but, the difference is due to the distance between the center of the head and the pitching shoulder.

    TROUBLESHOOTING — If you miss, why? Did you miss left or right? What did you do right? Assuming that your left hand remained on your left leg and you passed the shoe close to your right leg ticking the pant leg as it passed and your left foot is at the corner of the approach and your head moved directly at the stake — you swung off the Line of Flight somewhere during your backswing or forward swing. If your hand comes off of your thigh during your forward swing or your stride took you to the left, you’ll miss left. If your shoe goes to the right you’ve taken the shoe inside of the Line of Flight or you have swung your arm with a bend at the elbow which when straightened during the forward swing will cause the shoe to go right. It is important to keep your arm fully extended, without tension. However, if you allow it to get too soft, Centrifugal Force will straighten your arm and throw the shoe to the right.

    Good Luck to anyone trying this approach. The geometry described in the 3 Phases will define the LOF, VAP, and the Visual Stride forward. Any change in stance, alignment or delivery will defeat the angles relative to this method. You can move left on the left approach or pitch from the right approach as long as you adjust the angles relative to your stance on either side.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the email address below. Once you are confident in the delivery direction you can then concentrate on distance, an open shoe and drop angle.

    40 Foot Pitchers — All of the geometry that applies here to the 30 foot pitcher also applies to the 40 foot pitcher, with very slight differences. The angle away from the approach is slightly less.

    Continue to Part 44 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Final Thoughts

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

  • The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 42

    The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 2

    The Visual Alignment Point (VAP)

    The establishment of the Visual Alignment Point is an absolutely necessary part of this method. It insures that your arm swing follows the Line of Flight directly at the stake. The images below explain how to establish this VAP and why it’s so important. As important as it is, it’s established one time and used on every swing and release at the stake until you decide to change it.

    Approach Phase 2 -- VAP

    Approach Phase 2 — VAP

    The image above is a representation of Phase 2. Phase 2 begins with the assumption that you are using the pendulum swing indicated by #1 in the image above. This means that your pitching arm is fully extended, in a relaxed state throughout the entire setup and swing. There should be no break at the elbow at anytime. When the shoe is resting on your right leg in Phase 1, it should be fully extended and remains fully extended as it raises up to eye height.

    Attaching a Plumb — To establish your VAP you will need to temporarily attach a plumb to your horseshoe. The plumb is a string about 6 feet long with a weight attached to one end. This weight can be a sinker, clock weight, vise grip pliers, large washer, etc. The other end of the string needs to be attached to the center of the thumb calk area of the shoe.

    Address Position — From the extended arm against the right leg in Phase 1, the arm is swung up to eye height with the center of gravity, determined by the plumb, directly over the Line of Flight. The image below shows what this looks like.

    Determining the VAP — With the horseshoe raised to eye height and the plumb directly over the Line of Flight, use the left edge of the hook calk as a sight and find a target at the distant pit area. The #2 on the blue line in the image above represents sighting from your head through the left edge of the horseshoe (#2).

    The continuation of the blue line determines that my VAP is directly above the right corner of the backboard behind the distant pit. That is a point 18″ to the right of the distant stake. Your location may vary, but, it should be within the 15″ to 36″ right of the distant stake. Until you change your address, you will always swing up to eye height* as your address position and place the left corner of your horseshoe aligned to the VAP. This insures that at that very moment, your horseshoe is still centered over the Line of Flight (LOF) approximately 24″ downrange.

    From now on, you will use your VAP as the target for your eye height address position. *NOTE: You may decide to use a different address position, height wise, perhaps a little lower than eye height. Make sure you adjust your VAP for the lower address position. However, pick a height that provides a VAP that is common to every pit setup. We are not quite finished with the plumb and we’ll use it again in Phase 3.

    Approach Phase 2 -- 3D VAP

    Approach Phase 2 — 3D VAP

    Visual Stride Direction — The Magenta colored line #3 in the top image defines the Visual Stride Direction. This is the line that your head follows as you stride forward and will be more fully explained in Phase 3. Phase 3 also begins with the beginning of the back swing from the VAP.

    Establishing the Visual Alignment Point

    Establishing the Visual Alignment Point

    The image above represents the pitcher establishing the Visual Alignment Point (VAP). In this case it’s from the right eye as the right eye is dominant for this pitcher. Here the pitcher swings up to eye level with the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe directly over the Line of Flight cord (black line). He uses the left corner of the horseshoe to find a point in the distance to be used as his Visual Alignment Point (blue line). This VAP is established just one time from this stance. It will be used on every address position until he changes his stance or alignment. His head is aligned with the distant stake shown from the pitcher’s nose (magenta line). From this position, the pitcher is ready to begin his downswing. The pitchers stance does not change until the shoe passes as close as possible to he right leg and continues to his Backswing Stop Point (BSP). Passing the shoe as close to the leg as possible re-establishes the starting point from Phase 1 with the shoe against the leg. As soon as the BSP is reached the forward swing begins.

    Continue to Part 43 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 3 Delivery

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 41

    The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 1

    A Different Way — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from Class A and lower pitchers. “I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.” My question, “What are you doing right?” You simply cannot determine what to correct unless you can rule out what you’ve done correctly. Phase 1 will introduce a different way to reduce the confusion. By the time you are finished with all 3 Phases, you will know what caused your shoe to miss left or right. The Geometry described in all 3 phases will keep your horseshoe heading directly at the stake from beginning to end.

    The Importance of Precision

    If you are not precise in your setup and delivery, you will never be able to determine what is causing a directional problem. There are basically 4 aspects of horseshoe pitching; direction, distance, shoe orientation, and of equal importance, drop angle. We will be dealing specifically with direction in the 3 Phases, although your distance and drop angle will also be helped.

    If you were to throw your horseshoe left of the stake, would you know if the problem was your stride, arm swing, shoulder rotation, head movement, etc. Each aspect of the 3 phases will allow you to know precisely which one was the culprit.

    The best example of precise setup is the professional bowler. The bowler has the added challenge of changing conditions. Each bowler carefully establishes their stance, alignment, grip and target. Most professional bowlers will setup a bit differently on the left and right side approaches. We will be doing the same. However, for the sake of the first 3 Phases, we will deal with the left side approach first. Bowlers are aided by markers on the approach and foul line and further out on the lane. There are also markers available for the horseshoe pitcher, not as apparent, but, they are there. Phase 1 will describe where they are and how to use them. Below is an image of Phase 1 which we’ll cover in great detail.

    Phase 1 deals with the precise setup on the approach to include, location, stance, body alignment, weight shift and Line of Flight (LOF). In Phase 1, we will take advantage of the fixed locations of the stake or imaginary stake, the foul line and edges of the approach.

    NHPA Approach Specifications

    The NHPA has established maximum and minimum specifications for the Pitcher’s Box, Pit Size and Pitching Platforms. The pitcher’s box is fixed at 6 feet by 6 feet. Thus, the width of the pit and approach must equal 6 feet. However, the width of the pit varies between 31″ to 36″. Therefore, the width of the approach varies between 18″ to 20-1/2″. Most NHPA sanctioned tournament sites use pits that are 3′ x 6′ and approaches that are 18″. That is what I will use for each of the three Phases. NOTE: Refer to Part 44 (underway) to deal with setup and delivery if the pit is not 3′ wide or you prefer a different approach location. The stake is placed 3 feet behind the foul line. For 30 foot pitchers there is generally an imaginary stake marker on the approach. It will be located 3 feet behind the 27 foot foul line. 40 foot pitchers have the actual stake located 3 feet behind the 37 foot foul line.

    Phase Images

    Images for Phases 1, 2 & 3 are all scaled precisely to represent the actual foot positions and alignment, head locations, shoulder locations and alignment, including all lines leaving the pit. The dark area on each of the images represents the front 48″ of the approach, the top of which is the foul line. The imaginary 30 foot stake is shown 36″ behind the foul line and is represented by a horizontal line across the approach. The grid used represents 1 foot squares. There will be several lines leaving the approach area. Each will be fully explained in detail when describing each applicable Phase.


    The Three Steps of Phase 1

    Establishing the Line of Flight (LOF) — Item #3 This is done only once and becomes permanent. In the image above item #3 pertains to the establishment of the Line of Flight. We will also cover item #3 a bit more below. You will need a cord long enough (up to 50 feet) to reach from the stake to behind the approach. If you’re working on a 30 foot approach, you may need to carry the cord behind the 40 foot approach. You will also need two anchors, i.e., large nails, tent anchor, etc. to hold the cord in place.

    1. Place a mark next to the right edge of the approach 39″ from the foul line and 3-1/2″ to the right. In the image above it’s the location below the center of the horseshoe shown. Item #3 is also the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe.

    2. Place one end of the cord around the stake and pull it over the mark made below the horseshoe and terminate the other end at least 2 feet behind the approach.

    3. If you can, place an anchor in front of the pit where the cord on the stake passes in front of the pit. Move the cord from the stake to the anchor. Pull the cord taut behind the approach. If you can’t move the anchor front of the pit, move it just inside of the pit.

    You have now established the Line of Flight (LOF) from the stake to the right edge of the approach and below the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe. Note that the left edge of the horseshoe is on the right edge of the approach.

    Item #1 — Stance.

    Note the horizontal line (HZ) 36″ below the foul line. This line is directly opposite the stake or imaginary stake. Begin by taking a horseshoe in hand. Place your Right Foot on the approach rotated clockwise about 40 degrees with the front of your foot at the corner of the Horizontal Line and the right edge of the approach. Place your left foot comfortably to the left of the right foot with the heel slightly behind the horizontal line and pointed at the right corner of the approach.

    Item #2 — Alignment.

    Comment added on January 15th — The easiest way to align your shoulders properly is as follows — Take your stance on the approach. Next, raise both arms up to parallel and bring them together palms facing and lock your arms against your chest. Rotate your shoulders until your right arm is directly over the Line of Flight. Your shoulders are now aligned properly. Place your left hand over your left knee. This alignment will place your shoulders at a 27 degree angle to the right (Item #2). The diagonal line represents your shoulder alignment. The small circles indicate the location of your shoulders and the large circle the location of your head.

    Place the horseshoe against your right leg as shown in the image and shift the majority of your weight to the right foot. This will move the horseshoe 3″ to the right and should place the left shank directly above the edge of the right approach and your right shoulder over the LOF.

    Item #3 — Line of Flight (LOF).

    The Line of Flight is the most important aspect of this process. All references to setup and alignment feed off of the LOF. The Center of Gravity (#3) of the horseshoe should always be directly over the Line of Flight cord. In addition the delivered horseshoe should follow this LOF directly to the stake. Phases 2 and 3 will reinforce this concept.

    Phase 1 is complete. We have accomplished the following.

  • Taken a stance that is relative to the right edge and stake and is repeatable (constant)
  • Automatically rotated the shoulders clockwise by 27 degrees (constant)
  • Placed our left hand over our left knee and our right hand holding the shoe against our right leg and directly over the LOF (both constants)
  • The left foot is pointing directly at our stride forward location (constant).

    Utilizing the 3 Steps of Phase 1

    Utilizing the 3 Steps of Phase 1

    The image above shows how the pitcher uses the stance (#1), alignment (#2) and Line of Flight (#3) as the initial setup on the approach. The line shown as the Line of Flight begins at the right side of the approach and terminates in line with the distant stake.

    Part 42 to cover Phase 2 is underway. Below is an image of the consolidation of all 3 phases not labeled. Phase 2 will discuss the Visual Alignment Point and Phase 3 will discuss the stride forward.

    All 3 Phases Consolidated

    All 3 Phases Consolidated

    Continue to Part 42 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 2 VAP

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

  • The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 40

    2012 — A Tournament Review

    2012 had it’s share of ups and downs. The Pro Tour announced that their final tournament was to be held in York, Pennsylvania on November 2nd thru 4th. That would be my target for the year. I joined the HP Pro Tour for another year, ultimately paid my entry fee and cleared my calendar. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy had other plans, so, I had to pull out at the last minute to help out a friend in Delaware.

    Overall, I had a great year. First place in the Maryland State Doubles, second place in the Maryland State Singles and first place in the Maryland State Senior Olympics for my age group. A few tournament wins in Baltimore and Frederick and ended my weekly Post 7 doubles league with a second place and 66 point average. With the exception of the weekly league, I was able to pitch a prototype pair of Tridents with great success.

    2012 — A Production Review

    2012 was extremely frustrating for production and 3D printing. My 3D printing company had an equipment failure on their ZCorp printer and was unable to fix the problem. I sent out RFQs to a multitude of companies with a variety of printers, most of them printing in ABS plastic. I had been paying $85 for printing my singles and splits. I actually received quotes for over $1,000 for a single horseshoe printed in FDM ABS M30 plastic. I decided to test the output from a $2,000 desktop printer and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Unfortunately, the MakerBot printing platform forced me to cut the horseshoe into 4 pieces, so, I just requested 1/4th printed for a quality test for $25.00. See photos below. I had also had a single printed in FDM ABS M30 plastic from a California company for $165.00. So far, the layer thicknesses, i.e., the thickness of each slice from FDM plastic is too prominent. It requires too much filling and sanding to end up with a nice smooth finish for prototype casting. My original 3D printing company is now seeking to replace their ZCorp printer with another style printer. In the meantime, I will be taking a class at Catonsville Community College which will give me access to a UPrint 3D printer and ShopBot CNC.

    Double click any photo to see an enlarged view.

    Thumb Calk from MakerBot

    Frustration continued after the foundry notified me that they would not be casting ductile iron until February 2013. Although I had paid the NHPA licensing fee in June for the 2012 pitching season, I was the only one pitching the Trident, using an original pair of prototypes. I am hopeful that the foundry will gear up for ductile iron casting before then. I continue to submit RFQs for prototype casting of my singles and splits without much success. Unfortunately, there are very few small foundries left in the U.S., leaving only the larger firms not interested in casting 1 to 3 horseshoes.

    The Patriot is Coming

    If the foundry can handle it, I will be going into production for 2013 with the “Patriot.” I am dedicating the Patriot to the Vietnam Veteran. I had discussed the Patriot before, but, was finally able to get a 3D printed version from a small firm in California. I was also able to receive 4 copies from the foundry which I am presently testing. The thumb calk design works exactly as I had hoped. By creating the thumb calk as an arc, it now permits the pitcher to slide the thumb around to the left or right to alter the arrival of the horseshoe at the stake. The thumb placed on the left side of the thumb calk results in a shoe that arrives with the right shank first when flipped. Placing the thumb on the right side of the thumb calk causes the shoe to left shank to arrive first. Either way, it causes the shoe to arrive un-square and reducing the problem of bounceback. (see photo below)

    Arc shaped thumb calk

    Below is an image of the Patriot showing “POW” engraved on the left shank. “MIA” on the right shank. (see Patriot below)

    Patriot with POW and MIA on shank.

    Below is an image of one shank on the bottom of the horseshoe, opposite the thumb calk side with raised lettering in reverse so that the text will show “POW” and “MIA” in the clay when the shoe arrives thumb caulk down. (see photo below)

    POW raised and reversed

    NOTE: Added August 3rd, 2016 This rendition of the Patriot was rejected after prototype casting and testing. It was determined that the area of bend was too narrow and susceptible to breakage. The Eagle shown below ultimately became the Patriot.

    The Eagle is Coming

    The NHPA had previously approved the Eagle for production, but, I wasn’t sure about it, so, I went with the Trident. I’ve had so many requests for the Eagle, that I’ve decided to add a second shoe to the production schedule for 2013. Seems that everyone who has tried the Eagle wants to buy a pair. The Eagle is a flip or turn shoe. The ringer break is just enough to direct the shoe to the left or right when hitting the stake. My league night partner is a reverse flipper and loves this horseshoe. (see Eagle below)

    The Eagle (NHPA approved)

    Continue to Part 41 for a description of The Geometry of Perfect Setup and Delivery — Phase 1

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    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.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 38

    2012 Maryland State Doubles

    Last Saturday arrived as a beautiful day in Maryland, warm, a bit muggy and sunny. A perfect day for the Maryland State Doubles Championship in Essex, Maryland. I awoke early as usual before a tournament. Pitching was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. An easy ride to Essex and found the pits in excellent shape, grass cut and crew busy removing the overnight rain from each pit. Had great practice session, knees felt great and felt I was ready to go. At 10:00 a.m., a few moments of silence for our troops and pledge to the flag and we settled in to pitch.

    Just before we started, I checked all of the clipboards for emergency instructions, hoping of course, they would not be needed. My partner is the best 30 foot Elder pitcher in Maryland and we started our first match. I felt great, threw 22 ringers of 30 shoes for a 73.33% ringer average, for our first win. Second game, another win, threw 19 of 30 for a 63.3% average. It looked like a good day. Little did I know what was about to unfold.

    Emergency! Pit 11

    Shortly after beginning game 3, talk began to circulate about an Elder pitcher with a possible problem on Pit 11. The pitcher had been experiencing dry lips and mouth and was beginning to develop a stomach ache. I decided to monitor the situation and reviewed my emergency information and what I should do, since I’m the guy with CPR certification. By the end of the third game the pitcher was feeling nauseated and headed to the restroom. He made it just in time before losing his breakfast. He returned looking pale, but, insisted on continuing his match. A female pitcher gave him a cold compress and he continued pitching. One of the pitchers during the 5th match, said that he was looking pale and ought to sit down, which he did. He sat for a couple of minutes and returned. It was obvious that the guy was badly dehydrated, a potentially dangerous condition. He had tried to replace his fluid with a quart of Gatorade, a couple of Cokes to settle his stomach and bottles of water. Nothing seemed to work. Lips still dry and mouth full of cotton. This guy was not using his head, but, it was for the Maryland Doubles Championship. He couldn’t pull out on his partner. Each game a little worse than the previous one, but, he finished the tournament with a 50% ringer average and headed to his truck to cool off. He and his partner had won 1st Place, Elders Class. The tournament director gave him his trophy and he left.

    Well, the guy with all of these problems was me! What in the world had happened? A meal the night before had not agreed with me. I gulped down a little antacid and was good as new, so I thought. A fretful night, up and down several times. Nerves, I thought. Well, it caught up with me the next day and I’m still feeling the after effects 4 days later.

    What, if anything, did I learn from this experience? Tell someone you’re having a problem. Don’t make a big deal of it, just to make sure someone knows you may be having a concern. You might want to mention something to the tournament director. If you’re one of the league officers, you might want to make sure there are emergency instructions handy and someone knows the actual address of the facility. Don’t be foolish. If you drop on the court without anyone having a clue about a potential problem they won’t know what to tell the EMT’s when they arrive. At least I was smart about that. It was a rough ride home and kept my eyes for convenient pull off spot. Thankfully, not needed, but a rough night to come. I’m on the mend and looking forward to the Maryland State Singles and the Maryland Senior Olympics in September.

    Added June 19th, 2016. With the high temperatures being reported in the mid west, I thought it was the best time to add to Part 38 “Emergency Pit 11”. If you’ve read this part, you will know that the emergency was mine. What I have discovered recently is that my situation was a life threatening one. I should have called 911 immediately. Why? What I didn’t mention at the time was that I threw up what appeared to me as coffee grounds. They were not coffee grounds, but, “blood clots”, a sure sign of heat stroke. So, don’t make the same stupid mistake that I made. If you ever see coffee grounds, call 911 immediately. It may save your life. I was lucky.

    Continue to Part 39 for a discussion of what to expect when pitching from 30 feet.

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents