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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baseball Pitching Mind Games

By Jack D. Elliott

Confidence in your Baseball Pitching can be a very fickle business. Some days you can feel like you are rolling along fine. Then, suddenly one bad thing happens. Then, another happens, and then another. Then, things really start to snowball. Other times you may feel that you can do no wrong. In this state, everything happens very easily for you and, you are able to do just about whatever you want. You are in what athletes call "the zone".

The challenge for every pitcher is to try to get most of his starts into this zone range. One reason pitchers have difficulty getting into or remaining in the zone is due to a lack of concentration. A pitcher can improve his concentration during a game by following this simple ritual:

Block out Background Noise: Before every batter, make a point to block out all the background noise and to focus your attention only on the catcher's mitt. You do not want to be thinking about the fans, the backstop, the umpire, the batter, or anything else. All your focus is on the catcher's mitt.
State, "Focus on the glove": You should let any thoughts that come into your head pass right through. Do not try to think about those thoughts, just let them pass. Your focus remains on the glove and it is a good idea to even state this mantra under your breath, "focus on glove" or some similar type expression.
If Difficulty Focusing, Re-Focus Again: If you are still having difficulty focusing, consider bringing down the bill of your baseball cap to make even more of a tunnel for your eyes to follow to the catcher's mitt. Also, feel free to restart this process again and again until you feel you have reached the desired state.
Begin Your Pitching: Once you feel you have blocked out the background news, you should begin your pitching.

If you would like to see an example of this exercise, go rent the movie, "For The Love Of The Game". In this movie, Kevin Costner's character goes through this type of ritual when he uses the phrase, "Clear the mechanism" before pitching to the batter. Ultimately, you would like to get to a point where you have this level of concentration.

A second challenge some pitchers have is confidence in their pitching when a mistake is made. A smart pitcher must recognize that mistakes will happen. He could throw a hanging curveball that gets hit for a double to the wall or maybe the second basemen boots an easy grounder. Regardless of how frustrating this might be, a good pitcher must have a short term memory for these errors. Much like a quarterback who just threw an interception, he must immediately forget that error and move onto the next pitch. This type of short-term amnesia ensures the error doesn't get you twice by dwelling on it with the next batter. Here is a basic thinking ritual that can be performed to help with these situations:

Breathe In and Exhale After the Error: Take one deep breath and then exhale deeply. This will help you address the situation constructively.
State, "Oh, well. Nobody's Perfect": After you exhale, state under your breath, "Oh, well. Nobody's perfect." This step will help you compartmentalize the error.
Perform Focusing Ritual: Finally, start going back into the focusing ritual mentioned above. This will allow you to shift your focus away from the error and direct it toward a ritual that you have practiced again and again.

This type of thinking ritual is good because it gives you a ready-made response for a stressful situation. It allows you to address the problem right away and compartmentalize it. Once you are able to do this, it is much easier to turn your attention to the next batter. As you advance in your baseball pitching career, you will begin to notice your success in baseball pitching tends to focus more on how you handle these situations more than any other aspect of your game.

Jack Elliott, is a former player and fan of the game. To read more tips and techniques like the ones in this article, please click here:

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick