Welcome to the House of Pitching Newsletter.
I am never at a shortage for newsletter topics. Never. I think of them constantly on airplanes, in my car, watching TV, or doing almost anything. Sometimes I have the ability to write down my thought so I can remember it later and actually write on the subject. Other times, my ideas are subject to memory. Neither is a great option because even if I remember to write it down, I have to remember what the heck I did with the paper I put it on!
There are 1300 subscribers to this newsletter, give or take a few. After each issue, I always have to delete about 10 who’ve moved, changed email, or whatever and this gets returned. Sometimes, many of these emailers will write with a similar question that I can write about. So, if you think of one, don’t hesitate to drop me a note. I know that not ever newsletter actually ‘scratches where everyone is itching’ but, I guess that’s the beauty in knowing you can always get in touch with me with questions.
At a clinic I was doing for coaches, I got asked about umpires. Specifically, bad umpires who do not know the rules. We’ve all seen or heard of the debates that run rampant about umpires who will not call illegal pitches when a pitcher is doing something illegal. But, this coach asked “what if the pitcher isn’t doing something illegal and still gets called?” What a great question. What should a pitcher do if they are doing NOTHING wrong yet, because this umpire has a peculiar interpretation of the rules… she is called for illegal pitches.
My answer was not very profound and I don’t think I satisfied this coach with it but, I don’t know what else to say in this situation. Basically, the pitcher needs to make an adjustment to whatever that umpire is calling, pure and simple. If you’re at a tournament and an assistant coach can go get the Umpire in Chief, great. If not, then you have to make an adjustment. It’s that simple. If that umpire wants her to put both feet right on top of the rubber, instead of just having contact with both feet, then you’d better do it. Of course, this will take away everything that your pitcher may have been practicing up to that point but, what else can you do? Removing the pitcher from the game will just put another person in the same position! Now, some pitchers can make adjustments better than others, there’s no question of that. But either way, if an umpire is calling something that they shouldn’t, an adjustment has to be made. In reality, it’s no different than an umpire with a bad strikezone. You can place any of your pitches exactly where you practice it but, ultimately it comes down to umpire’s decision on strike/ball. Just as you need to make adjustments with your pitches and their locations based on an umpire, so will you have to with one who doesn’t know the rules.
Now, after the game in a calm, respectful manner you can discuss this with the umpire while looking at the rule book together. There is a right way and a wrong way to approach the man in blue. And part of this confusion can be because nearly every softball association on the planet has different rules from each other. Everything from having 2 feet in contact with the rubber to the list of bats approved for hitters can vary from tournament to tournament based on who’s sanctioning it. It’s very very possible this umpire confused his rules from one organization to another. Believe me, that’s been know to happen more than once!
This whole umpire thing also got me thinking about the secret weapon that many take for granted in pitching, it’s the secret weapon. Unfortunately, it’s something you cannot teach, train for, or know when to expect it. It affects nearly everything and can work for you or against you. It can also change sides from yours to the opponents in a heartbeat. What is this? One word: Luck.
Everything has a certain amount of luck to it. Think about it, everything under the sun must go right for a pitcher to throw a perfect game. Everything from having the umpire calling the correct pitches, to the play made by the diving shortstop to save the linedrive single, to having the right ball in play to throw a certain pitch to their best hitter, etc. This is not to say that everyone who’s had success has relied on luck. Far from it. Hard work and dedication are still the most important traits in a pitcher (or anyone!). But, you cannot discount the value of luck. In most cases, any team that wins a big time game or tournament involved a certain amount of luck. An umpires call went your way or a sure handed shortstop of the other team made a routine play into an error or whatever!
Just know that luck has a way of balancing out. Not many people stay lucky forever. They key is to capitalize when it’s going your way, in every aspect of the game.