We have all been around baseball players with unbelievable talent, great size,
great speed, and great power. For some reason the guys who move up the ladder are guys
who are workers, guys who do more on their own. I am a big believer in doing the
extras. Our players need to understand that what they do on the coach’s time is not
enough. If they want to get better than the next guy, they need to outwork them. How do
you outwork them? Training players to compete at practice is essential, they should want
to beat each other in sprints, they should want to beat each other to their position, and
they should want to hit their throwing partner in the chest more than him.
As a pitcher, having a feeling of wanting your fellow pitching teammates to fail at
practice is ok. It is human nature to feel this way, as we are all trying to get ahead.
Ultimately it’s going to be up to you on the amount of innings you get. Baseball is a
team game that is made up of lots of individuals having to do their job correctly for
success. I stress to my pitchers that everyone should be competing against each other
everyday. Whether it’s in catch play, pfp’s, bullpens, intrasquad games, or conditioning.
We as coaches get in a mode that everybody on the team needs to support each other in
everything they do. That is fine, but players need to feel that what they do as individuals
is what helps their team most.
I have been around so many players with so much talent that never make it. Not
because of bad luck, not because they weren’t mentally stable, but because they didn’t
give maximum effort to their game. These are the players that whine when its time for
conditioning, these are the players that cant wait for practice to end. Talent can only take
you so far before the workers start moving ahead. Sure there are those that are Godgifted
enough to get to the big leagues, but just imagine how good they could be if they
gave maximum effort everyday.
What is maximum effort? Maximum effort is doing everything game speed.
Making every stretch count, making every throw to a spot, making every swing
purposeful, and running every sprint hard. As a player, practice is sometimes thought of
as a time to go through the motions. It begins with stretching. Stretching is never done
correctly. Players are more concerned about their swing or their bullpens, but what
players need to know is that preventing injury is key to the team’s success. Then comes
catch play. If there is no throwing program set for your pitchers or postion players, then
they will just go through the motions to get somewhat loose. They need to understand
that every throw matters. They should always throw to a target; they should make every
throw count. From a pitcher’s standpoint, we take to heart that everything we do counts.
Why waste a throw? You are not getting better by not giving your maximum effort.
The old saying of quality is better than quantity is something I don’t agree with. How
about quality combined with quantity? Players need to know that each swing they
take, each ground ball they get, each pitch they throw, or each lap they run should be
important. I feel that the quality-over-quantity concept is just a way for the player to stop
their workout early. Why can’t we take 200 ground balls at game speed? Why can’t we
take 500 quality swings in the cages? Why can’t we play long toss to 330 feet and then
throw a bullpen? There’s only one answer to that. Because we don’t allow our bodies to
be in the kind of shape to make everything count. Coming from a boxing background,
boxers will feel physical pain if their bodies are not well conditioned. lfthey go into a
fight with the feeling that they have not worked as hard as they could have than they have
already lost half the battle. I feel that players who take every moment on the field with
energy and enthusiasm are better prepared mentally. When you have the feeling in your
body that you have worked too hard not to have a great day today, it strengthens your
focus, it strengthens your task at hand. The quality of everything you do on the field is
very important but the quantity of what you do is very important as well. If we can put
those two together, then what an effort we would have.
Work at night. Go for a jog, hit extra batting practice, lift more weights. Get the
edge over guys who are at home watching TV, or at parties, or who are sleeping. Use
your downtime to get better. If you are watching TV, do something that can make you
better. Do some abs, do some push-ups, do some wrist curls. Once you get yourself in
the mode of getting yourself better in downtime, that will make you a better player on the
field. Can you imagine a team filled with guys who take everything in practice gamelike?
That would be amazing. Unfortunately, it’s rare to see. But if coaches on an
everyday basis stress it, you will get players to start buying in, and then it will spread like
wildfire throughout the team. Practices will be filled with energy, practices will be
competitive, practices will get your players better and with that your team will improve
Can your body break down with this much effort? Mentally, no way. Having a
feeling of guilt when you go to bed at night because you haven’t given your all today is
not a great feeling to have. Not just in baseball, but also in your everyday life, school,
relationships, and how you carry yourself. It is in fact a great feeling when you go to bed
and feel like you became a better person and player today. Physically your body can be
fragile at times. There are times for rest. Its simple, your body gets rested through sleep;
it also gets rested through great self-talk. Train your body to feel great everyday. Selftalk
is important, its your mental drive to keep you focused, it doesn’t allow you to quit.
When you can train yourself to feel that I am going to push myself to my limit
today, it is not going to take a teacher or a coach to motivate me to get better. Be
mentally tough enough to get better on your own. Never have a coach or teacher have to
give you that extra push to get you to your limit. Great players don’t need motivation.
What they need is direction. Great players will be motivated to work hard everyday, they
won’t need to be told twice, they wont need to be yelled at for lack of effort. They will
need direction, a coach to have faith in his ability, a coach to be confident in what he is teaching,
a coach who wants to give maximum effort. Players should live by the saying
“Show me the light and 1 will take care of the rest.” This way of thinking will get you
individually motivated to gain success. It will also give you confidence to succeed.
One thing players sometimes lack is the confidence to succeed. When they are in
a game, they sometimes think, “I hope I don’t have a bad day”, “I hope I don’t strikeout”,
“I hope I don’t get ripped today.” Confidence to succeed is opposite thinking. Its more
the thinking of, “I have worked hard to get to this point”, “I have prepared myself for this
ball game”, “I am going to give it all 1 got just like I do in practice everyday.” We need
to understand that baseball is a game of failure, but we work hard everyday to eliminate
as much failure as possible. I am a big believer in that you learn from your successes
more than you do your failures. Why you ask? Well, why would you want to think about
that strikeout you had? Why would you want to think about that pitch you made up in the
zone that was hit 400ft? Why would you want to think about that bad jump you had that
got you thrown out at second base? We all know why those situations happened; we
move on and make adjustments. I want players to focus on their great at-bats. I want
players to focus on the great pitch they made to get out of a jam. I want players to focus
on the feeling of being in the zone when they were on their hitting streaks. That to me is
more important then thinking about their failures. We sometimes forget that feeling of
being good. Especially when we are going through a slump or not pitching as good as we
could. Players need to take advantage of success. They should want that feeling
everyday, they should want nothing to do with failure. They should be hungry to be the
best at what they do. Confidence to succeed goes a long way.
Work ethic brings it all together. Everybody’s talent is different; there are guys
who are faster, guys who are stronger, and guys who throw harder. But a great work
ethic is something that everyone can have. For the most part, great players aren’t lucky.
Great players have an unbelievable work ethic. Great players know what makes them
better and they do it daily. Great players understand that in order to be as consistent as
possible, they can’t afford to take a day off. Great players understand that in order to
make their team better, they individually have to make the commitment to have a great
work ethic. It is not easy, but the only way to have consistent success is to give maximum
effort everyday. The sky is the limit to a team full of these players.
One of the things new pitchers to our program seem to struggle with is our emphasis on daily catch play. I am a big believer that many bad habits form from bad catch play. I have heard many arguments over the years on long-toss and catch play, and what program is most beneficial. It is my belief that fastball command trumps everything, with that being said our catch play program emphasizes the ability to repeat.
Our basic philosophy on describing good mechanics.
- You can repeat it (throws quality strikes)
- Repeat it and it does not hurt (lead to injury)
- Repeat it and maximize your arm speed.(could be 82-could be 92, depending on the person)
On a day that a pitcher throws a bullpen, he puts most of his emphasis on his 30-40 pitch bullpen. However, if he makes 50 unfocused throws during catch play, no matter what he does in his bullpen, he got worse (in terms of repeating) on the day.
The two main points we emphasize is moving your feet and understanding what you are doing. Every throw you make gives you instant feedback of what your ball is doing. We try to understand why and how to make adjustments to control your ball and your body. This is done daily with the understanding that every throw you make counts!
Every coach is different on what they like. Many use distances in catch play progression others use time. I’m not the here to argue the validity of either. I do believe regardless of the program, more time needs to be spent on catch play and not just the bullpen. The truth of the matter is pitchers will make more throws in catch play than they ever will in a bullpen. So unless the same level of effort and concentration are applied in catch play as a bullpen, pitchers will continue to be inconsistent.
Grand Canyon University
Confusion sets in when its time to throw a bullpen.. The questions become, how many pitches? How many in the stretch and how many in the wind-up? How many fastballs, breaking balls and/or change-ups?
Regardless if your little leaguer only throws out of the wind-up, it is very important to get him used to the stretch. I will quickly discuss a structured 30 pitch bullpen that you can do with your player. This is a very basic structure without any mechanical emphasis. Simply a springboard to help answer the questions above.
After your normal catch play is complete, you would then have your player get loose on the mound, maybe 10 pitches with your catcher standing. Next, you would have the catcher get down and set-up right down the middle. First 10 pitches will be in the stretch, second 10 pitches in the wind-up and third 10 mix back and forth, wind-up and stretch.
- Lets start with 3 fastballs middle
- Next, 3 fastballs away to a right-handed hitter
- Next, 3 fastballs away to a left-handed hitter
- Next, 1 fastball up above a hitters hands
- Total-10 pitches
Remember, all these first 10 pitches in the stretch
- Next, 3 change-ups middle
- Next, 1 fastball away to a right-handed hitter
- Next, 3 change-ups to the arm side (meaning if pitcher is right-handed then its in to a right-handed hitter and away to a left-handed hitter)
- Next, 1 fastball away to a left-handed hitter
- Next, 2 breaking balls opposite arm side (any curve-balls or sliders). So, if your pitcher is right-handed then it would be away to a right-handed hitter and if your pitcher is left-handed then it would be away from a left-handed hitter.
- Total- 10 pitches
Remember, these 10 were done in the wind-up
- -Next, 2 fastballs (one away and one in)
- -Next, 1 breaking ball opposite arm side
- -Next, 1 change-up arm side
- -Next, 1 fastball away to a right-handed hitter
- -Next, 1 breaking ball opposite arm side
- -Next, 1 change-up arm side
- -Next, 2 fastballs (one away and one in)
- -Last pitch, 1 fastball up above hitters hands
Remember the last 10 pitches will be mixed pitch by pitch, wind-up and stretch
30 pitches total:
18 fastballs, 8 change-ups, and 4 breaking balls
There are many different ways to mix up and complete bullpens, this was just one that can help you structure it.