I’m a 6"3 180 lb freshman in high school (15 years old). I’m a tall lanky kid, sneaky strong, squatting 225 consistently. My coaches say that this summer season will be the year for me to get offers from various schools. I top out at 83 mph with great downhill arm angle. However, my bullpens are great, I hit any spot I want my mechanics feel great and my coaches have nothing to say. Then I get out on the mound and can never find the strike zone. My mechanics change. Walk batters and hit batters kill me. I rarely give up any hits. I just need some tips I guess on throwing strikes. Seems weird and simple but truely need help. Thank you.
The mound - pitching surface, that you’re working off of when you take the field to actually pitch, can be challenging you in ways that you’re aware of.
Is the surface during your bullpen sessions different from the mound that you use during live fire? Do you feel off-balance and unsure of yourself because of the mound’s surface condition? Are you forced to remain upright a lot - before-during-after your pitches? Is your lower back, neck and shoulders sore after you complete an inning?
On the other hand, being a high school freshman can be a big change for the normal course of action that you’ve experienced. This uncharted waters - sort-a speak, can just be a case of jitters.
Does your game backstop do anything different from your bullpen backstop? Or perhaps your bullpen mate is just playing catch with you… standing up like any position player (fielder), catching the ball, then tossing the ball back.
Are your high school coaches… coaches? Does any one of them watch you, offer advice, help you in any way with this situation?
Ok, to answer your question more directly with respect to performance issues.
When you’re doing bullpen, do you concentrate on being deliberate to various locations? You should concentrate on hitting locations on the player who is catching. Upper right shoulder, upper left shoulder, right rib, left rib, and so on. Then take that same location drill and work on it once you take the mound - only this time your locations should be left shoulder, right shoulder, left knee cap, right knee cap. By the way, the accuracy rate at which you had the greatest success in you bullpen session, should translate the same results on the mound during game time. Use your warmups on the mound to give you a good indication on which location(s) your best at, and which ones you’re not so good at.
With respect to your catcher - if your catcher is moving his body all over the place, from start of finish, this kind of distraction can cause a pitcher all kinds of concern. Also, DON’T USE THE CATCHER’S MITT AS A TAGET for your fastballs. Use the catcher’s body - shoulders and knee protectors. These targets are more pronounced and easier to pitch at.
Now unless you have serious form issues, in general, these suggestions should give you some direction(s).
Thank you @Coach_Baker. the surface is pretty much similar. And my coaches all played minor or major league ball. One pitched for the nationals for a few years. And I’ll be pitching in the bullpen, he will be watching and I will hit all my spots my catcher gives. Almost exact and he has nothing to say, and I get out to the game, and it all just changes I’ll miss high and try to adjust and spike one. It’s just very very inconsistent. Not really sure what to do anymore because they keep giving me chances, because they see my bullpens and the velo. And I just keep blowing them. It’s either a strikeout or walk or hit batter. Just finished my championship game today and they asked me to try and squeak out of this jam with minimal damage (it was 7-1 us. The bases were loaded with no outs top of 6) and I warm up feeling great, I get on the game mound to throw to pre inning warmup. Feel great. And the first batter steps up and I drill him in the neck. Next batter is a 5 pitch walk. And they pull me. So I don’t know how many more opportunities I’m gonna get with a batter this summer. Kind of ranting and not really asking anything lol
Try having a bullpen with a guy standing in the batter box. This will help you feel comfortable with a batter there. I had the same problem back then and one of my coaches did that as he told me i was too used to aim for the "closest target " instead of keeping focus on my catcher. Turned out he was right, I was inconciously “playing catch” with the batter instead of pitching.
In all my years of coaching and bringing pitchers along, you’d be amazed at the number of mature athletes that have the same issues as you do. It’s not uncommon.
Here’s what’s happing:
For whatever reason(s), your attention span gravitates to the man in the box. Again, this is not all that unusual. In fact - are you ready for this, you’ll correct this problem, then, you’ll go right back to same-o same-o all over again. This happens.
Here’s what I’ve done. I take a cutout batter, put this cutout in the box, then pitch. You’d be amazed at how many times you’ll drill this guy… over and over again. Then, for whatever reason, you’ll start to hit your catcher. Now, in the beginning you’ll dump one pitch after another in the dirt, high and outside, back in the dirt and so on. But, gradually you’ll start to hit your locations.
Now here’s where you must concentrate. Once you get over nailing the cutout… and you will a lot, pick a location on your backstop and stick with it until you have a 95% “on target.”
These cutouts can be rather expensive. So, go to an appliance store that sells refrigerators, stove and stuff, and ask if you can have some cardboard that was used to ship a refrigerator in. Take the empty cardboard box home and cut yourself out a batter’s outline. You might have to put a piece of wood along it lengthwise just to stable it. Then prop it up with something and then pitch. After going through a few of these cutout guys, sooner or later you’re going to get tired of cutting these things out, over and over again. You’ll knuckle down and get real accurate - trust me on this. It works.
By the way, if you think that placing a batting tee or some other object in the batter’s box , will be just as effective as a cutout batter - IT WON’T. For whatever reason, you’re going to need a batter’s outline/figure to get this right.
Yesterday evening I got a call from a man who went from his first year of college ball, into the professional game. He seemed very depressed, even though I congratulated him repeatedly.
Now give a wild guess to his frustrations, his disappointments, and his anxiety? Now… he can’t throw strikes to save his life. . He’s a house of fire in the bullpen, with great expectations from his coaching staff. His bullpen duty sees everything right with his decision to leave college a go this route. He’s hit just about every batter on his professional club trying to find himself again, which in turn has won him no friends.
The only reason for sharing this with you Mhamm, is to let you know … this stuff happens. I’m confident that you’ll work things out, you’ll settle down and manage what has to be managed.
Oh, by the way, the other option for the man that called me was to … “get with it” … or… be released and go back home to his family’s dog grooming service. A decent way to make a living if you like a handful of wet dog in one hand and a garden hose in the other. So see, you’re not doing so bad.
Coach Baker, that is a great idea on the cut-outs. Thanks… Was looking at those and didn’t really want to spend 300 for one. My son is having the same issues and has had two really tough outings this year and like the OP he is worried he won’t get another chance. In practice or in live BP he throws great, hard, accurate, lower in the zone, During his two games he’s high with everything… I’m hoping the cutout will help with a bit more game type feel, since it’s hard to get real game action if you can’t throw strikes.
(now of course the mounds on a LL field are horrible and what he pitches from for practice are on either flat ground or perfect artificial mounds… We identified some mechanical issues and he’s worked them out. But it really to me is need for game situations/pressure. Outside of me, his friends don’t want to step in and be live dummies, they’ve been hit enough and he throws har
Ps. I know it does have some to do with the batter because when I offer myself up during practice as the hitter (target) his first pitch is usually right at me. Then the next few are outside or in the dirt until he calms down
It not only helps to have a cut-out in the batter’s box, but also a target for your son to throw to. These backstop targets can be rather expensive, so I suggest getting some cardboard, cutting out the figure of a catcher, spray paint it black, and then use that as a target for your son to toss to.
You’ll have to cut out a few because the cardboard will get smacked around pretty good once your boy finds his strike zone(s) with frequency. I would also suggest that your boy start out only 20 feet from the plate, then 25 feet, then 30 feet and so on. This way his confidence will be boosted and he can always get closer once he starts to start back tossing wild. By the way, I’ve used this method many years and it works like a charm. Just keep encouraging your boy that he’s doing great, and that this takes time and a lot of patience on his part.
Another suggestion is to get an old metal folding chair, open it up and turn it around so the back is facing your son, then drape a blanket or something similar over the chair so it hangs down. You may have to put something heavy on the seat of the chair so the blanket doesn’t fall down every time it’s hit.
With respect to the LL pitcher mounds, this can be a major drawback with his learning curve and his reinforcements. So I would suggest bringing an iron garden rake to his games and each time he takes the field, smooth out the pitching surface that your son is about to pitch off of. Just be advised to get permission from your son’s coach, and the plate umpire. Sometimes these ground keeping functions are the job of park and recreation employees. I’ve seen some very serious confrontations between park employees and dads, coaches, and others not employed by a city or town, when trying to fix the conditions on a ball field.
The good news is he has a little brother who is an exceptional catcher for a 9 yo, no fear, good hands. He has no problem handling his big brothers fastball while in his secondary stance (he’s only 4’3"). A thumb guard and padded glove under and he’s good.
As far as the mounds…everything here is done by volunteers, the town doesn’t maintain the fields, but the league is very particular about them,just not the mounds for some reason…
Other kids don’t seem to have issues with the big hole in front of rubber and landing point… but my son uses a real windup, he doesn’t just turn and throw with no leg lift Nor does he start in front of rubber in a stretch or modified windup (side step). He works from on top with a 45 degree back step, which forces him to often work from the extreme left side of rubber to avoid holes. he’ll move to the stretch if the hole in front of the rubber is really bad. Filling them in with dirt before hand doesn’t last long. There is no extra clay to mix in and form a bond.
The distance is a great suggestion, the more success he has, the more confidence he gains, the better he is.
Thanks for everything
As far as im concerned, i never understood the freakin hole in front of the rubber i used to literally throw with my foot half way on top of the rubber that gave me at least a 4 inch advantage on every one else and really helped learn to use my legs as i was deliberately rocking my foot over the corner and getting some momentum toward home plate. The mounts are so poorly maintained it’s aweful
4pie you’re absolutely right about those mounds.
What use to amaze me, was the money spent on private lessons, one-on-one coaching, and so forth, only to take the field and try and put all that instruction to use, pitching off of these pieces of junk.
On the flip side, I got pretty good at appraising a prospect by removing the mound from the equation. All other appraisal factors such as ERA and other statistics were really meaningless.
Here in Western Massachusetts there is a ball field called Mackenzie Stadium, in Holyoke, Massachusetts. This field hosted a Double-A baseball club in the early 80’s. I attended those games and the mound was a dismal attempt and providing a pitcher at that level any stability. However, there is were I found the eye for removing that element from the equation of judging pitchers.
In all fairness to that park, it takes real money to invest in the proper design, build and continued maintenance of a professional pitcher’s mound. Money that was never really there, and is still missing to do the job right.
Sooner or later, organized amateur baseball will put a condition criteria to any pitcher’s mound used in organized amateur baseball. To be totally honest about it, I really surprised this hasn’t come about a lot sooner.
I have pitched in a game recently, I actually did pretty good. 1 inning, 2 Ks, 1BB, 0R. A whole lot better than what I have been doing. Tomorrow I am pitching in front of dozens of scouts at the ball park of the palm beaches. I will be 1st in relief. Just wondering what I should do to prepare my self for the biggest outing of my career. @Coach_Baker @4pie
Thats a very hard question to answer as i don’t know you personally, what I would do myself would be to take it as lightly as possible and really make it feel like just an other outing but thats me. I know someone who only drank water the day before, no food no nothing else on a similar situation… haha but really you have to make sure you get out there COMFORTABLE whatever that means for YOU. Remember, you know your body is good enough, you just have to make sure your head is in sync.
Thank you @4pie, went out and threw the best I have this summer, 2 innings 5Ks, 0H, 0BB. Penn state, FAU, Oklahoma State, and Miami all spoke to me after my outting. Truely wouldn’t have happened without yours and @Coach_Baker help. Cannot thank you both enough. If u would like, I can keep u updated on how I am throwing this season? Again thank you!!
First and foremost, I appreciate your kind words more than you know. I’m retired from coaching because of eyesight and other health issues, my Mrs. is posting this, in addition to other responses and my suggestions. She too is deeply appreciative of your remarks.
Feedback, like what you just posted, is one of the many benefits to a coaching career. As such, I’d like to pass on to you and your family some observations - being that I scouted later in my career, and came to appreciate the environment that young men like yourself will experience. Please do not take this in a negative way. On the other hand, knowledge is key to success in this sport… a sport for a selected few, become a way to make a living.
Ok. Here’s what I’d like you and your family to consider.
- Good recruiting programs use their feedback systems of following and acquiring players, very sparingly with respect to money spent, who they get their information from, and potential agendas that are floating around out there beyond their knowledge of what’s what. In other words, good recruiting programs work very closely with known production coaches that have supplied said colleges and universities in the past. This is not to say that a quality player outside this network of usual sources is overlooked, but many college and university programs rely on alumni, former players, boaster clubs, and so forth to feed them information relative to talent.
I’ve seen young men like yourself approached by people saying they represent this college or that college, and if they have a claim that can be validated - Ok. But remember, the college game is not like the pro’s. The college game is dictated by strict rules and regulations of who can be approached, contacted, and so forth. If you’re only a freshman, and someone tells you that they’re interested in you - from a certain college or university, it’s now time to look into the regulations of the governing body that this college or university belongs to - The NCAA, NAIA, and so on. In my profession, it is prohibited to approach a young man under a certain age, much less even suggest a position of potential interest. I’m not familiar with the college recruiting protocols, but I’m sure there’s something similar to restrict abuse of approaching young men and doing such business.
Also, know who’s your competition - talent wise. Subscribe to respected high school baseball magazine that highlights talent, good talent that has certain accomplishments. I use to spend a lot of money every year on every high school, 4 year and junior college, independent senior youth leagues, and so on. Those subscriptions saved me time and money, directing my efforts more productively and on a tight time frame. So, know who your competition is.
As you progress, be honest about your ability. If you’re being told that your ERA is the best in the county… where you’re pitching fluff and your outfielders are doing all the work catching pop flies in an open field with no fences… maybe the ERA stat isn’t what it should be.
Keep your family in the loop. They’re your best friends. They only want to see you succeed and your parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents and so forth have lived through life… a road that you’re about to travel.
I sincerely wish you the best, and please keep us posted on your experiences.
I am playing with and against the best players of my class, and the above class. Perfect game etc… I will be a sophomore this upcoming school year, and to be honest I have no idea about the recruiting rules and regulations. Will probably look into that. I do know however there is many many kids that are committed at my class, I still have not received an official offer from any school. I hope to get some by the end of my summer season. I don’t know and doubt if you know how much this all means to me, I used to be the kid to ride pine through little league with a weak arm “unathletic” and would always be the kid that would get cut from the middle school teams, yadda yadda yadda. Long story short, over the past year I have truely committed myself to being great, my velo has jumped over 12 mph. And I’m the kid now that passes the so called “eye test”. Also seeing the kids that made teams because of pure talent fall off because they don’t know how to work just makes me want to work harder. Again I cannot thank you enough @Coach_Baker. I will hope and pray your medical issues get better soon. God bless.
Coach Baker, I have been following your posts. Love your enthusiasm and advice.
I couldn’t agree more on what you said. With my own 14-year-old son, he had many private lessons from former MLB and non-MLB pitchers. But the trick is that he needed to “absorb” those lessons. I made him practice what he learned from the lesson in the following two weeks. This way, he would have a better understanding and the chance to apply the pointers from the lesson. I believe learning is a “step ladder” process. Very few people (including myself) can learn instantly and gain the skills. It takes much repetition and consistency to master something. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outlier”, talked about “10,000 hours”. One can spend 10,000 hours on practice and still not able to master the skill. The key is “efficiency” and “consistency”.