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You Can Hit 90 on the Gun, Now What?

There are few better feelings in baseball than throwing a good hard fastball by a hitter.

Power and velocity videos fill baseball social media.  There is so much energy and excitement watching young pitchers achieving a velocity milestone - 80 or 90 mph. 

But is velocity a perfect measure of success?  If success is simply making a team, then yes it could be.  There are coaches who simply rely on arm strength as their only qualifier to making a squad. 

Anyone can pitch when they have their best stuff going.  Real pitching comes when you have the ability to keep your team in the game with subpar stuff and come out with a win.

Winning pitching requires so much more and the challenge for a coach is to keep sight on developing a complete pitcher who can manage himself in tough game situations.  It is a talent that can be taught and worked on.

The best pitchers have the best imagination.

It is very hard to get a pitcher's mind off of throwing as hard as possible.  But I have had many mound visits where I see the "deer in the headlights" look from a college kid.  Velocity is not helping him and he struggles to get out of a jam. 

Power pitching=Physical Training

Complete pitching=Mental Training

Pitchers of all ages must give equal amounts of practice time to the physical and mental aspects of pitching.  Here are a few thought about each:

Physical training is more about injury prevention than velocity.  Young players seem to be involved in more showcases and tournaments - which compress a lot of baseball in a few days.  This exerts strain on any arm. It takes a perfect mix of training and rest to enhance both command and power. Many pitchers think more is better and often that leads to a nagging injury or possibly worse (surgery).  There has to be a routine in place to safely realize physical gains (i.e. velocity).  Find someone who knows baseball rather than only strength training.  Baseball is a game that that takes unique movements.  Standard weight training will not enhance these movements as much as baseball specific (dynamic) work.  

Mental strength is CRITICAL to baseball success.  Every moment you train or play is a teaching moment.  We are always learning something in this game (even at my age!).  Players should be have a knowledge seeking mindset.  There is always something to learn, it happens that sometimes you are learning with a nice uniform on during a game, other times bundled up on a cold off-season evening.  Baseball is your classroom.  Observe, experiment, and ask questions! 

Use simulated time to put your mind under game pressure. Situational pitching (with or without a batter) is a good way to understand  your arsenal of pitches and figure out what you may want to try when you are thrown into game fire.  Practice using all of your pitches and find what combinations work for you. It is easy to be lazy and have a few light moments here but do your best to challenge yourself to perform, even if no one is watching but you and your catcher.  

Stay intense on the inside and do not let your opponent know that you are struggling.  Some pitchers are more emotional than others, needing that emotion to keep them motivated.  Others are quiet, almost seeming like they are not focused at all.  Some are a little of both.  Get to understand what works best for you and stay with it, even in your side work.  If you are throwing the worst bullpen of your life, keep your cool on the outside and do your best to figure things out.  If you walk away frustrated, that is forming a habit of giving up on yourself in a game scenario.  

Strength building is best taken care of in the winter months.  There are almost no restrictions in November, December and early January if you are trying to put on the additional pounds to help your fastball velocity.  Do not continue the intense reps in the weight room as spring draws near.  You will spend most of the spring trying to get loose rather than cutting loose your 90mph fastball.  It could cost you the chance to pitch in meaningful innings (I lived this scenario because I didn't know any better and thought more was better and I paid the price the following spring).

Do not hold your frustrations in. Talk to someone you trust!! As with everything else, 2020 has affected each of us and our situations differently.  Some players may find that they need to pitch more this winter as a way to get scouted virtually.  A number of college pitchers are considering the transfer option because of a logjam of returning pitchers.  There are many issues during this once in a lifetime baseball year. If you are feeling like there is no light at the end of your baseball tunnel, go find someone you trust and ask for help.  It may be the best thing you do for yourself in 2020.

I hope you keep in mind the importance of being a complete pitcher and give your mental approach the same effort you give in the weight room.  Both are very important If you take care of both there is success waiting for you sooner than you think.

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