"Clearing the mechanism"

You’ve probably all seen the Kevin Costner movie “For Love of the Game.” In it, Costner’s character, a pitcher, throws a no-hitter in one of the last games of his career.

How he did it, by “clearing the mechanism,” is what I liked about the movie. Call it clearing the mechanism, zoning-in, focusing, whatever…

What do you do to really bear down out there on the bump? You know: where you don’t see, hear or think anything but the glove. If you’re a parent or coach, what do you teach your pitchers?

I usually take a few deep breaths- that helps me focus. I also just try to ignore everything but the catcher.

We teach breathing techniques to both our pitchers and hitters. Having the maximum amount of oxygen improves physical and mental performance. Routine is also important, each pitchers’ between pitch routine is different but should stay constant. Lastly, and most importantly, once it is time to focus we ask our pitchers to clear their minds of everything but their target. No conscious thoughts, no affirmations, no strategic thought, just target. Let the target pull the ball in. :slight_smile:

I have the same routine I do, I dont talk to anyone when I enter the field for my start. It gets my focused and ready to go at the task at hand. I feel having the same routine every start is the key for me to “clear my mechanism”

Now, that is totally different from what I do. I talk to my teammates, and as long as we’re doing well, it seems to help me. Knowing that they are behind me seems to help. Also, which is also seemingly odd, I seem to do better if there is something funny going on. Like an inside joke that I just can’t get out of my head. I know it’s weird, but thats what works for me. Odd I suppose looking back on it.

That’s a lot of good ideas. I’m big on breathing (if I were coaching now I’d require one before each pitch – I just see it time and time again make a big difference) and big on routines. Pitchers ought to be out there to do their routines, not focused on winning. Of course, they need to do their routines with the intensity needed to win.

One often overlooked aspect of all this is practice. Make practice like a game so in a game you can make it “just like practice.” I like a 60-40 rule – that 60% of your time in practice is spent trusting – that is, do what you will do in a game. Too often pitchers spend all their practice time on mechanics and then are told to go out in a game and forget about mechanics. Pretty hard to do. Why not practice what you are actually going to do in a game?

Before each pitch I would try and visualize the pitch and where I wanted it to go. I’d also do it the night before as I was going to sleep. It helped me relax the day of the game and visualizing between each pitch helped me stay focused on the task at hand as well as giving me confidence in the pitch selection. If I visualized throwing a slider in a 2-2 count and then the HC calls a 1 from the dugout, I’d shake it off and hear about it after the inning :lol: .

Id also visualize myself going through my mechanics of the wind up and putting the pitch where i wanted it to go… It has worked for me quite well and keeping my mind focused. In the dugout i try not to go off and think about other things… I repeatedly think about the wind up over and over calmly…

Many if not most top players do this naturally. My best info comes from talking to great players. Ferguson Jenkins told me preparation was king and he visualized going through the line ups and between innings, the first 4 batters he’d face next.

Steve Trachsel is probably the best example that comes to mind for me, it’s the reason why he takes so long between pitches is that visualizes each pitch before he throws it.

The son pitched a great game in a tournament last weekend. A no hitter in 7 innings. Pitch count was a bit high but adrenaline kicked in and he wanted a no hitter. His mental approach was to not speak to anyone and focus on each batter. Parents say he is too serious but I think he mentally wants to dominate the opposition. It seemed to have worked for him but he did break out with a smile at the end of the game.

He also didn’t realize he had a no hitter going until the sixth inning. He was too focused on getting batters out. I think this is what seperates him from other kids in the area. He has the stuff but the mental aspect really sets him apart.

Sounds great. Each person has to find what works for him.

Here’s another instance where the cookie-cutter approach does not work. Each pitcher has his/her individual characteristics, from the arm angle to the repertoire to the approach in pitching to the hitters, and so s/he has to find the best way to set up before and during the game.
I pitched, many moons ago, and I started some games and relieved in others. In my relief appearances I used to do something like what Mariano Rivera does while warming up. He calls it “the eye of the tiger”—an intense concentration, . a focus not unlike a kind of tunnel vision where nothing exists except the catcher’s mitt and one aim only: to slam the door in the opponents’ collective face. I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of, so I relied on an extensive arsenal of breaking and offspeed pitches built up around my two best ones: a slider which I nicknamed “Filthy McNasty” because that was exactly what that pitch was, and a very good knuckle-curve. Not to mention that crossfire—yes, I was one of those exasperating, infuriating sidearmers!
My wise and wonderful pitching coach—an active major leaguer—was very interested in the mental and psychological aspects of pitching, and we had many long conversations about this. He talked about getting inside the batter’s head and the different ways in which one could confuse and discombooberate said hitter, mess up the timing and the thinking. From time to time—I had no idea how he did this—he would get inside my bean and explore how my mind worked when I was on the mound. He gave me more reassurance, support and reinforcement than I had ever thought possible, and on one occasion when as a result of a nightmare I could have run into actual trouble I found out about a side of him very few people knew—the troubleshooter. In effect, he gave me a powerful psychological shot in the arm at a time when I needed it.
In my role as a starter I had no particular method of focusing—it was just there, like the curve ball that had come attached to my sidearm delivery. I knew what I had to do with each individual batter, and I did it, and I got a gleeful satisfaction out of sending those guys back to their dugout grumbling and grousing and foaming at the mouth with only a futile AB to show for their efforts. I did have a mantra of sorts—three little words:
TRUST YOUR STUFF. :slight_smile: 8)

My son has a unique perspective on Clearing the Mechanism. He doesn’t think about it.

According to him, my son told me he sings Eminem to himself as he gets his signs, spots his catcher, and throws the pitch. Nothing else. According to him, he reasons that if he thinks too much he’ll force the pitch. In other words he trusts his mechanics, spots the target and executes. Period

Picture results…not the process.

Exactly. Picturing the process could screw up the mechanism instead of clearing it. :slight_smile: