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. 8)