What advice would you give a pitcher who needs help concentrating better?
The first thing I would do is talk to that pitcher and find out what’s interfering with his concentration—whether it’s a mechanical flaw, or perhaps something upstairs, between the ears. Then we can proceed with what needs to be done.
In order to improve focus, you have to identify the distractions. Then work to eliminate them based upon what they are. The solutions may wildly vary and can’t really be standardized in a one-size-fits-all approach.
Bingo! That’s exactly what I said—find out what’s going on and do something about it. I remember one Saturday morning when I was watching my pitching coach conduct a workshop for some high-school pitchers, and I saw how he dealt with a particularly nasty problem. The distraction had taken the form of a high-school—uh—“coach” who could best be described as a child’s garden of misinformation, to put it politely, and the young pitcher involved was about to come apart at the seams—but my coach, one Ed Lopat, had something up his sleeve besides that left arm, and he used it effectively to solve the problem and get the kid back on track. And then, later that season, at another workshop, there was one kid who had lost his curveball—actually, lost his feel for that pitch—and that same Ed Lopat went after the problem with a simple and effective exercise; the kid followed instructions and got his curveball back. Two different approaches. Yes, one size does not fit all; you have to determine what’s going on and then do something to fix the problem.
I would say that when I am struggling to concentrate it’s because I’m not thinking one pitch at a time. Sometimes I start to get a little ahead of myself and look forward to later innings, future at bats, etc. What works for me is trying to slow the game down and go one pitch at a time. It also helps to have fun!
I’d meet with that pitcher privately. I would then ask “Suppose you’re pitching your backside off, inning after inning, only to find your shortstop couldn’t field a ball to save his life. Making matters worse, when he’s up to the plate, he swings like a gate!”
So you approach him in the dugout and ask…" what’s with you? I’m out there busting my hump and you’re sucking wind?"
He looks you square in the eyes and tells you… " I have trouble concentrating."
Ok, now you take it from there.
Meanwhile, you see your pitching coach making two phone calls - one to the bullpen, and the other on his cell phone. Now you know what the bullpen call is for, but, can you guess who he’s talking to on his cell phone?
In competitive baseball, lack of concentration is an excuse, not a reason. If a pitcher can’t concentrate then he doesn’t belong on the roster - period. Sooner rather than later, a man’s teammates will give the cold shoulder along with some not so nice payback. On the other hand, with park-n-rec, fun ball and the like, I wouldn’t be too concerned.