Mound Presence and Confidence


#1

Hi everybody, I meant to write this yesterday, but I wasn’t able to find the time due to a crisis at work.

Anyways, we hear the phrase ‘mound presence’ a lot, and it’s kind of a vague term that may be confusing to some. Some people may see is as intimidation, some may see it as finesse at fielding the position, some may see it as being calm and collected and some may say it just means you’re the one on the mound.

Any of these work as a definition, depending on the context. The definition of ‘mound presence’ that I’d like to work with here is, appearing in control while on the mound. I think this covers most of the definitions above, and covers a lot of other ideas about what mound presence is, including, appearing prepared, looking like you’ve been there before and the opposite of seeming scared.

A little story about mound presence from my playing days:

When I was going from Babe Ruth baseball to American Legion baseball, I had only ever pitched one inning in an actual game in my life, I wasn’t a pitcher, I was an outfielder and a first baseman. During this time, I had been working on a knuckleball just to fool around with, since I was fascinated by the pitch. Our coach saw me throwing it in a post-practice bullpen with my friend and commented that we might use it at some point. Not long after, we went on a long road trip, a game in Rock Springs, WY then a double-header in Rawlins, WY and then a double header in Casper, WY. We were from a small town and didn’t quite have the pitching staff to keep up. So when our starter got into a crappy situation in Casper, our coach decided to go ahead and give it a go, the game was a lost cause anyways. The next week we played a game and a similar situation occurred and I pitched again. At this point I was getting more and more appearances, and after an all around crappy day at an invitational tournament our coach gave all the pitchers a big speech about how they need to have ‘mound presence’ and used me as an example, stating that “He doesn’t throw hard, he hasn’t done this much, but even so, he looks like he’s done this a million times, he looks like he knows what he’s doing, and you all need to follow that example.” I took that to heart and kept at it, and continued to always make a point of appearing in control at all times, because that’s where I found success. Throwing a scared knuckleball never works out.

Anyways, regarding mound presence itself, it takes many different forms. You may have someone who gets fired up and makes sure he’s heard (or acts like a madman), you may have someone who shuts his mouth and does his job without any kind of expression on his face or you may even have someone who’s a little goofy and likes to mess with people and keep the game light-hearted. It can look like a guy who’s on the rubber waiting for the batter to step in so he can throw his next pitch, it can be someone taking his time and dictating the pace of the game, or it may be a guy with a good pickoff move who doesn’t let the runner forget to watch the length of his lead. Sure, all of these things are solid strategies to appear in control or to appear like you know what you’re doing. But for any of these strategies or personality types to be effective, the pitcher doing so must be confident in what he is doing, heck you most likely don’t fit perfectly into one of these molds, because it’s the confidence that gives off the appearance of control.

Think about what it looks like when somebody isn’t in control, they get wild, they over-correct, they get jittery, they pace around between pitches with a defeated expression on their face, they’re constantly trying to adjust a minor problem with their shoelace, they may be complaining about every call that doesn’t go their way, etc. You know what it looks like, nervousness, anxiety, naivety and helplessness.

So the biggest factor here is confidence, pretty clearly, this relates to mound presence more than any other mental factor. So how can we build confidence, maintain confidence and regain confidence?

Strategies for building confidence:

  1. Practice! For the love of god practice whatever you’re uncomfortable with in a practice setting, nothing helps more than knowing you have the command of a certain pitch or the ability to make a pickoff throw without throwing it away. You wouldn’t take a final exam without studying would you? So study yourself through practice and become comfortable doing everything you plan on doing in a game at some point.

  2. Always ask for feedback and ask your coaches and teammates at some point what you’re doing well and what you need to work on, if you aren’t already receiving feedback. Knowing what is going well helps you play to your strengths and encourage continuation of that, and knowing what you need to work on gives you the practice you need to feel confident.

  3. Visualization techniques, remember when you were a little kid dreaming of striking out the last batter of game 7? Well do that type of thing specifically with regards to succeeding in throwing different pitches in different situations. Visualize yourself succeeding at popping that first strike in with your fastball. Visualize dotting the corner with your change, visualize throwing that perfect hook to catch a guy fishing. Visualize that perfect double play ball. Do what works best for you, and either visualize a detailed version of every pitch or just visualize that particular thing going well. Work on some negative visualizations as well, and then visualize how you are going to bounce back.

  4. Positive self-talk. Tell yourself every night things that you are doing well and things that you have improved on. I even recommend writing them down in some sort of journal or log. This is a strategy commonly used for self-esteem in the mental health world, and it works wonders. Eventually that positive self-talk can turn into genuine self-esteem and confidence, if you’re lacking in that department.

  5. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, after you’ve identified what went wrong, forget it until the end of your game, then revisit the situation and determine if there’s something you can do to fix it in practice, or if it was an isolated incident.

  6. Fake it, if you are having a tough time thinking positively about yourself as a pitcher, go ahead and fake that confidence, look at someone who seems confident and fake it, act it out and portray that body language. Our brains respond to what our body does, when there’s a dissonance between your emotions and your body language, one or the other will have to give, if you keep forcing your positive body language, you will begin to feel more confident. No joke, sometimes just holding a powerful pose can instantly shift your thinking, believe it or not.

Strategies for maintaining confidence:

  1. Don’t dwell on negative events, negative feedback or negative outcomes, brush them off and get back to work.

  2. Continue your building confidence strategies.

  3. Keep yourself in a good mood and in good physical health. Eating crappy food (habitually), cheating on conditioning and being sleep deprived can all tremendously damage your confidence and self esteem. Remember, your brain is part of your body and can be effected by the same things.

  4. Reward yourself for positive changes, performances, etc. Whether it be keeping a game ball from a good outing, eating your favorite food, spending time doing another preferred activity or even buying some new clothes for yourself goes a long way in conditioning yourself to remain positive. Heck, reward yourself for following through with your goals regarding confidence building and keep the good vibes going.

Strategies for regaining confidence:
No doubt, we all get our confidence shaken at times, it is inevitable, some people bounce back better than others.

  1. Identify what shook your confidence.

  2. Expose yourself to that same situation that shook your confidence as much as possible, if you must, visualize it. Eventually you’ll realize it isn’t such a big deal, and you’ll learn how to cope.

  3. Have a coping mechanism for when you’re feeling down about yourself, that can be going for a jog, reading a book, playing a video game or literally anything that helps you calm down and think clearly.

  4. Practice some more, I can’t stress working hard in practice enough, success begets confidence, and you can find success on goals within practice.

  5. Remind yourself what it felt like to be confident before, and go back to the building confidence strategies, there’s really no bad time to pick up self-esteem building again.

  6. Spend time with your friends and teammates and remind yourself to have fun, especially on the diamond, when you’re having fun, those anxious and self doubting feelings tend to go away, at least for a little while. Baseball is supposed to be fun, don’t treat it like a chore.

  7. If you’re self-esteem is bothering you in other areas of life and remains a problem for a substantial period of time, seek professional help.

Sorry if this post isn’t as clear or as good as my last one, not only is the topic of mound presence and confidence kind of vague and difficult to pin down, but I’m dealing with a lot at work right now, but I felt like I wanted to keep the mental game discussions going.

Anyways, are there any strategies you would like to add to this? What do you consider to be essential points of mound presence? How do you go about developing those? What would you consider to be the cause of bad mound presence or a lack of confidence?

How much do you think off the field self care plays into mound presence?

Let’s have a discussion!

Finally, let me know if you want me to continue making weekly mental game posts or not.


#2

Nice stuff man


#3

You’re right @Pustulio, a scared knuckleball never works out. If I get too riled up, or if I lose confidence, the knuckleball becomes a big meatball. I just try to stay as calm and optimistic as I can when I’m pitching, and it works. But, yes, there are different styles of play for different pitchers, and we each something different about us. This is why each pitcher is special.