How can I make practice feel more like a game?

In the past week or so, I truly feel as though I have turned a corner and have reached a sort of milestone. When I set out to build myself into a pitcher, I visualized being able to do the stuff I’m capable of doing now.

I’m very confident in my stuff, pretty confident in my mental abilities, fairly confident in my mechanics and OK with my physical condition. While I am fully aware that all of the above mentioned areas still need a lot of work and will never stop needing work, what I really want to focus on now is in-game experience.

The league I play in is just now getting underway and I haven’t put myself out there quite yet. I have some personal issues that need to stabilize themselves before that will be possible.

Having said all of this, I’ll get down to business: How can I best simulate the experience of being in a game with just my catcher and I? Ideally, I’d like to start practicing with a team that is serious about winning and playing as a cohesive unit but as I said, this may not be possible just yet. Also, in this particular league, I’ve found that the teams aren’t too interested in practice anyway. I understand, everybody’s got work and family to juggle and just going out there and having fun is one of the main priorities. However, I want to win. I want the team to do well and that will just be a part of playing this game for me, no matter what the level of skill or experience.

To boil it all down, I need to work on holding runners, pitch counts/managing the game, PFP etc. without the benefit of team practice.

I know the post got a little lengthy, but I felt that info was necessary for the context of the situation.

Thanks to all for the help.

To boil it all down, I need to work on holding runners, pitch counts/managing the game, PFP etc. without the benefit of team practice.

Wow, there’s a tall order. I’d bet even money that every single pitcher that has made it to the contract table, regardless of the affiliation, has asked that question!

Basically, I’d say stick to the basics - THROW STRIKES!. Practice your pick-off moves and learn what the rules say about your actions. Other than that, as a player - pitcher, you’re pretty much confined to the above.

As far as your other concerns:
Too bad the answer just isn’t there because you’re asking the wrong question(s).

-Control your own game and no one else.
-Work on your own craft not the craft of others.
-Manage yourself only.

If all that sounds empty and without reason(s), then as a player you have little if any purpose. As a coach, now you have the reason(s) for your asking and getting answers.

Does this address your concerns? Does my response put things into focus?

Coach B.

It’s all about creating motivation within yourself. Michael Jordan did this, and it’s well documented. He’d literally make up things in his mind that would motivate him to push harder, practice longer, and outwork everyone he played with and against. And he did it nearly everyday – it was something he had the ability to turn on and off. For your practices for baseball, see if you can mentally develop a grudge against your teammates, just like you’d do in a game against the other team, and then go to work! It starts in your mind, though.

As soon as I turned off the computer after typing this post, I realized that a lot of pitchers want their practices to be more like games and there is just no way to accurately simulate the speed and intensity of a game. It was kind of a “duh, why’d you propose such an obviously unsolvable problem?” moment.
Now that I’ve read the responses, however, I’m happy that I asked those questions as solid, inspirational responses were induced. Regardless, those in-game type things really need work in my world.

I could be wrong, but based on your response, Coach B. I’ve decided the best route to develop these issues would be to get on a team that needs a decent pitcher and get in some games. I have the tendency to want to perfect my game a little too much before ever getting in a game. This is a characteristic that transfers into everything I do. I have to make sure I have something completely down before displaying my skills. Whether it’s an exam, a musical instrument a tennis match whatever. I’ve just always been that way. It has its pros and its cons.

Also, right after I typed the original post, I video taped an abridged bullpen session. I found that I have pressing mechanical issues that will probably be a better use of my practice time one on one with my catcher. Fixing those problems will allow me to “just throw strikes” a little better :slight_smile: I like how you tend make things simple for a guy like me who over complicates things sometimes… “just throw strikes”…“that should solve your problems”

That Michael Jordan thing is awesome. Those are the type of tactics that set a guy like him above the rabble.

My sincere appreciation to you Coach B. and Mr. Ellis.

Simple goal setting can help. Each day, before practice, define one or two goals for that practice. This can create a little competetivenss within yourself. Remember to come up with goals that are reachable but which make you stretch to achieve them.

Good morning, CSamuel.
Yes, you have a tall order indeed. But there are things you can do, and I have a couple of things I’d like to share with you.
When I was a little snip, age twelve or thereabouts, I would get a catcher, and either he would mark off a home plate and a pitcher’s rubber with chalk at the requisite distance—or, if we could get to an unused playing field, I would take the mound and he would get behind the plate—and we would play a game we called “ball and strike”. The purpose was for me to work on control, on getting the ball into the pocket of the catcher’s mitt, and to this end he would position his mitt in various places, high, low, inside, outside, every which way but standing on his head :lol:. And what a good satisfying “thwack” when the ball hit its target! We would go at it for an hour at a time; it was a terrific workout and a lot of fun. And even after I got into playing the game—I had hooked up with a very good team which might have been called semipro if only we had gotten paid!—I would continue to do this particular workout on a regular basis, and it paid off handsomely.
Later on, my pitching coach—his name was Ed Lopat and he was one of the Yankees’ Big Three rotation—asked me how I was with holding runners on base. I had to admit I had a problem, first because I was righthanded, second because the only times I had to deal with baserunners was when I was pitching in relief (as a starter I was very good at keeping batters from even getting to first base). So one gloomy Sunday morning Steady Eddie showed up with a first baseman’s mitt—he had started out as a first baseman in the minors before converting to the mound—and we spent that whole morning working on holding runners on base, practicing with phantom runners. We started with something easy, like—as he put it—a bump on a log, a runner who wasn’t going anywhere, and worked our way to the runner who was a definite threat to steal. He had me practicing all sorts of throws to first, easy ones, snap throws, all kinds of pickoff moves, and he told me something very interesting—I could go to the full windup with a runner on third or the bases loaded, because where I was positioned on the mound I had a good look at that runner and he couldn’t get a good jump to try to steal home because I could get him with a snap throw (southpaws don’t have that advantage and are better off throwing from the stretch). And somewhat later on he showed up at this unused playing field near Yankee Stadiium with a bunch of guys—I thought they were kids he had assembled for this workout, but it turned out they were some of the Yanks’ second-line players—and we had a great time doing all this with real live baserunners for me to hold on or pick off! He directed this workout from behind the plate (and he wasn’t half bad as a catcher), and believe me, I got more out of this one afternoon of PFP than a lot of pitchers do in a month!
About working on different pitches—you can do this in the context of the “simulated game” a lot of major league pitchers do. Yes, it’s just you and a catcher, but you can get a lot out of it by simulating a game, whether it be six, seven or nine innings. Have your catcher call the pitches, whatever they are, in this context, and you can throw a fast ball, a changeup, whatever, visualizing a batter in the box in various situations and getting him out. I used to do this a lot, and in the process I got in my throwing between games. And because I was a snake-jazz pitcher, not much on speed but with a rapidly expanding arsenal of good breaking stuff, I had a wonderful time refining my slider, sharpening my knuckle-curve (those were my two best pitches) and adding to that repertoire.
And I think you would do well to get with a team that values workouts and practices as well as games; you obviously want to get better at what you do, and you aren’t likely to get very far with a “team” that screws around all the time. These are just a few ideas I"ve been presenting to you—you can start there. :slight_smile: 8)


Thanks for taking the time to put down all that and impart that great story.
The practice for holding runners is something I’m going to get on at first opportunity.

In the most recent game I started in, probably about a month and half ago or so, I got waxed pretty good because I had no pick off move to speak of. The few times I did check the runner, the first basemen let the throw get away and then when the play was over, threw the ball a good three feet over my head. I lost confidence after that and just tried to focus on throwing strikes. The point is, the experience showed me that I really need to work on PFP and I’m more often than not going to be without a team with which to practice.

So you can kind of see why I’d post a topic like this after a game like that.

Oh and I feel as though I should say that it’s not as though the players in the adult leagues around here screw around, they just have jobs and families and stuff and practice to them is a liability. Now that’s probably a good 60 %. The other 40 might screw around or not care about winning as much just because it’s not a real high level of play, it’s just an adult men’s rec league. In fact, the games themselves become practice for the guys that are on college teams. Unfortunately, the college I attend doesn’t have a baseball team so these leagues are the only place I have to play competitively.