Softball is a game, and it should be fun. I mean, we aren’t curing any deadly disease here so it’s not something to be arrogant about or take too seriously. But, there’s also a mentality that a pitcher has to take onto the field that can make or break the game for them. The idea is to make the other team feel that EVERYTHING being done is for a purpose. Regardless of what it is.. rolling the ball to homeplate or throwing it over the backstop, I never want the opposition to read my reaction.
Call it the Mr Spock syndrome of no emotion. If you must, force that young pitcher of yours to watch ESPN Poker night and learn how these guys keep their emotions in check as they bait their opponent. Sure, after the bets are done and they’re awaiting the extra cards.. they are excited, jumping around, etc. But during the “poker” portion, the players remain emotionless. They are trying to make the other person (people) believe that every bet they make is for a purpose and there’s intent behind it. It’s called “reading their tells”. And the other players react based off these tells. The truly professional poker players can read the amateurs like a book based off emotion, facial expressions and other things. Its from this ability, the professional knows which tactic to take in order to win the hand.
The same way people tell us that animals can sense fear in people, really good teams and exceptional hitters are going to read a pitcher and be able to tell what is going on in that pitcher’s mind. Showing emotion (good or bad) after a pitch is going to provoke a response from the best hitters. Showing “good emotion” (like, being happy after throwing a good pitch) is likely to inspire that hitter to be more motivate and concentrate even harder on the next pitch. THE NEXT PITCH. Are we getting that? Those 3 words… THE NEXT PITCH. What does that mean? It means, no matter how good or bad a certain pitch was… there’s always another one to follow. And no sooner then when the pitch has been thrown, it’s simply imperitive the pitcher begin thinking about the NEXT pitch. Good or bad, put it out of your mind. Remember, we’re trying to make the hitter believe that even if it was the WORST PITCH EVER, it was done for a reason. And, if we follow that worst pitch ever with the best pitch ever, along with showing NO emotion along the way, they are not going to be able to read our thoughts. Now, showing “bad emotion” is going to give the hitters the psychologicall edge that you’re not at your best. That, in turn can boost THEIR confidence.
It’s important to also remember, if a pitcher is continuously having a difficult time with a certain pitch and the frustration is showing, then the odds are the other team is going to use that to their advantage. For example, if my riseball is continuously missing out of the zone and I cannot keep it marginal, then 2 things are likely to happen. #1. The hitters will know to lay off the pitch immediately. And #2. When I do get it marginal, I’m probably not going to get the call from the umpire. Unless I’m able to demonstrate that I can throw it consistently at the same place whenever I want, then I’m not going to get the close call when it counts. But, going back to the #1. issue… the hitters are going to be able to train themselves to layoff anything high because they know it’s not going to be a strike. And if the pitcher’s emotion is showing that this is NOT intentional and is getting frustrated, then the entire opposition team will feed off this.
On top of all this… our own team will begin to sense, feel, and see the pitchers’ reaction. This can be equally bad. Teams take their emotional queue from the pitcher. While the team’s job is to stay active and talkative, they will see and feel the distress of the pitcher. Believe me, the team is going to lose focus if they think the pitcher has too!
Like many of the more difficult things in pitching, there isn’t an easy way to teach this self control. If there was, it wouldn’t be called “SELF” control. But, like everything… it begins and ends with what we practice. During the course of practices, there is going to be good days and bad. Same as in games. Its during these bad practices that we REALLY need to focus on keeping our control. Keep the balance. This self control will help with other avenues in the game also… along with life in general.
Who knows… maybe one day you’ll see me at the world series of Poker on ESPN.