Pitching to me is an art form, a way of life. It takes a special person to want total control of the game, the spotlight and the responsibility that the pitcher undertakes each and every pitch. It takes GUTS. And guts is sometimes all you will need (or have)to get you through a tough inning, a tough outing or a tough season.
You may have a variety of talent on your staff. You’ll have guys that will hit 9s, you’ll have guys that thumb it, you’ll have guys that’ll change it and you’ll have guys that’ll make it wiggle. The two most important bookends that I want pitchers to remember are:
#A: Know which one you are.
#Z: Pitch with GUTS!
A-Z. I’ll teach you everything in the middle. But however much you learn, or not, or on you are, or off you are…the most important rules I have are: Pitch YOUR game…and throw with GUTS!
I can tell you as a former pro pitcher and college/HS pitching coach, that ALL OF US pitchers have a unique quality about us. It’s the nature of our craft. It’s what sets us apart from the position players…it’s a style. Our personalities and intimidations come out in our mechanics, our tempo and our demeanor. We all speak different languages, whether it be in our form, our personality or our character. It is my job as pitching coach to learn and speak every single one of your languages. I ask you to be yourselves, and be honest. I ask that you give me enough respect up front to offer me an open mind and willing ear. I know enough in this world to know that if something new is presented to you which you don’t fully understand, you WON’T buy into it. You can ask questions…there are reasons to my madness and you are entitled to know those reasons. Asking questions promotes learning. I must learn you as much you will learn me.
Baseball is a chess match. Adjustments, patterns, skill, power. A pitcher’s job is to understand this ONE pitch will help set up the next two; To take in all around him in a key situation and still be able to solely focus on ONE PITCH, ONE SPOT. You must be prepared for every possible situation. For every move, there’s a countermove. You can watch for it in the dugout by watching the batter’s hands, his head, his body and knowing what a pitcher’s capabilities are.
If LEARNING=KNOWLEDGE then EXECUTION=WINNING.
Execution. That’s all it takes. Whether you throw 90, 80 or 70, if you are successful at executing your strategy/game plan, you will succeed. How does Jaime Moyer last 21 years, the height of the steroid era, by flipping charlies and shoving wiggles up the most powerful group of hitters in baseball history? By executing his game plan. We are going to pitch to contact. We will learn to pitch efficiently. And we will learn to create and execute a game plan.
Pitching isn’t macho. It’s smart. Whether you’re a power pitcher or not, I will expect you to pitch both backwards and forwards. You must be able to throw your offspeed for strikes. And you must be able to develop one breaking pitch as your out pitch, and learn how to set up to it. The changeup is the most dominating pitch in baseball history. You must use it. Two-pitch pitchers without a changeup don’t last too long in this game.
Execution means taking the hours of preparation you give and applying it with confidence…with GUTS. If you do your job, you will get the results you want. But you must BELIEVE. You must buy in to the concept of pitching, the artistry of pitching.
If intelligence and guts make up our drive, then mechanics make up our engines. I believe that understanding mechanics and how energy is applied is critical to a pitcher’s makeup. Coaching pitching is “reverse engineering” at its core. You must learn and possess the ability to make adjustments each and every pitch, or learn how to maintain your groove. While we are all governed by the laws of physics, each one of us has similarities and each one of us has differences in our mechanics. Pitchers must all learn how mechanics and physics work hand in hand to get the most out of each and every one of their personal styles.
You will never be able to truly get the most out of your body, mind and soul without being properly conditioned. Pitching is a violent combination of ballistic movement and an endurance race. Your body’s fitness will determine your ability to perform your duties with strength and skill. Fitness extends down to the very ligaments in your elbows. Those who are responsible with their fitness programs, eating habits and lifestyle will show it in their performances. Learn how to get the most out of your body, improve your agility and last longer than your opponents.
Above all, after all is said and done, your job is to get on the bump, take the rock, and shove! Preparation is critical. Awareness is crucial. Aggressiveness is power. Control is gospel. Pitchers are artists and performers , and downright badasses! A team’s success will fall on the pitcher’s shoulders. No one has the power to solely dominate the game more than pitchers do. Its up to you.