Seriously Though, What Is a Changeup and What Does It Do?

Seriously Though, What Is a Changeup and What Does It Do?

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Image credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I’m an elementary teacher in my day job, working with students in third, fourth, and fifth grades. In the days before winter break, I run a sports trivia contest with five questions each about baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and miscellaneous. You can check it out yourself if you want. One of the biggest stumpers in the baseball category is this one:

Which of these is NOT a type of pitch?

Sorry for the spoiler, but the answer is slowball. Every time I play this with the students, most of them pick changeup and get it wrong. Then they usually yell “CHEATER!” or “NO FAIR!” or just lie and say they got it right, but that’s neither here nor there.

How would you describe a changeup to a few dozen irate children? It’s like a fastball that isn’t fast, but it’s not a slowball because there’s no such thing, and anyway it’s often faster than a breaking pitch. It kind of moves backward, but not backward toward second base. It goes backward toward third base unless the pitcher is a lefty, in which case it moves backward toward first base. All this happens while it travels to home plate. To throw one, all you have to do is release the ball out of your hand with the wrong fingers. Got it? Next question.

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