The mental side of pitching
In late I had the good fortune to attend a sports psychology seminar conducted by Jeff Janssen, who, at the time, was the sports psychologist for The University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.
What Jeff presented that day had a profound effect on the amount of time I spent with this aspect of the game, from that day forward. Among his opening statements was the above listed question on the importance of baseball's mental game. A solid percent. Why so little time spent? In my case, I knew it was important while I was playing; but had no real idea how to go about working on it, or as a coach to teach my players the tools to get there. Go to any ballpark today and you can hear the same phrases said over and over that were being said when I was in Little League in the 50's.
Things such as hang in there, be ready, keep your eye on the ball, get "em" next time are delivered by coaches, players, parents and fans on a daily basis. For three years he had daydreamed of how he would be a scintillating high school baseball star and how he would hit a home run with the bases full.
And look at the way he had folded up in a pinch. Yes, after kidding himself about his destiny, and having the nerve to think that he would be a star like Ty Cobb or Eddie Collins, he was a miserable failure. Whenever he was in a tight situation, he was a bust, a flat tire. He didn't have what it takes. He was eighteen years old and he was no good. He lacked something - nerve, confidence. That was why he was better in football and basketball than he was in baseball.
In baseball when you batted, there were those few seconds and fractions of a second between pitches, when your mind undid you. In football and basketball, you didn't have the time to think as you did in baseball. The next pitch would come and go and I would be in a different world.
The first step towards improving your mental game is being aware of your mind. AJ is a utility infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization. He attended Minnetonka High School in Minnesota where he graduated in He played for 4 years at the University of Minnesota between and and was part of the Gophers Big 10 championship team in He was drafted in the 25th round in He has written for Baseball America and Twins Daily on the lifestyle of a professional player.
Other free baseball tips from Pro Baseball Insider: Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. Dorfman, author of The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance , once asked a pitcher after a bad outing:. The next time your pitcher throws, make sure he looks at the target. It will make a difference. By the way, if you don't already have a copy of The Mental Game of Baseball , you can get it here.
The mental part of pitching is where everything comes into play. If you have let downs, you have no future in this game. How do you go about your job? Are you committed to pitching? Taking at least one deep breath when nervous or in trouble helps to calm the mind and body.
The extra oxygen into the bloodstream chemically relaxes or slows down the built up tension. When a pitcher shows visible signs of negative facial and or body gestures his control factor normally suffers.
Even worse, the other team now has a huge edge in the game. His process is eliminating uncontrollable variables like consequences, negative thoughts, distractions and drama. Whenever I work with young pitchers, I always ask what their pre-pitch routine consists of—what they do before every pitch.
Most pitchers just look in, take the sign from the catcher, wind-up, throw the pitch—and then hope for good results.
It's important to understand that having a consistent pre-pitch routine has a great deal to do with pitching relaxed, staying focused on the present moment, and creating better results on the next pitch. This relaxation and positive mental focus by keeping thoughts in the present moment thinking one pitch at a time can have a big impact on performance. And a pitcher's pre-pitch routine is not just something to be used in games, but rather during every pitch he throws in the bullpen, flat-ground throwing, and between-inning warm-ups.
Having a pitching routine is all about getting more focused to do your job of hitting the glove more consistently. Why not write it down and put it on your mirror where you see it everyday—especially on game days. This is the type of stuff that gets you focused on what you are trying to do. It gets you pumped up. It helps keep you in the present and in control. By definition, consistency refers to the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary over time.
That being said, one way a pitcher can achieve consistency on the mound is if he develops and consistently executes the same pre-pitch routine before every pitch.
This will allow the pitcher to always be working toward achieving the flow state.