Pitching Confidence


#1

I am the mom of an 11 year old left handed pitcher. This is his 3rd year to pitch for our rec league. He has pitched for regular season teams, first All Star teams and a travel team last fall. He has had over 50 games of pitching with 2 no hitters. His pitching is a thing of beauty- I know, I know… Im his mom.

He was ranked #6 out of 130 kids in the draft this year. A close friend of ours picked him for his team in the first round. We started his lessons a little late this year so for his first game, he was a little off. The second game was worse. The third game was not great but wasnt terrible. I can’t recall his stats. Meanwhile, at his lessons, his coach figured out what was happening with his form and corrected it and also figured out that my husband was throwing him too much for several weeks. So, two days before the fourth game, he was throwing the best we have ever seen him. The ball had tremendous movement.

Here are a few of the problems: His balls are coming in so fast and screwy, most of the rec league players wont swing. Also, if he’s throwing a little to the outside, the catchers wont move their target and he doesnt have the confidence to make them yet.

So, in the # 4 game, he didnt pitch at all. The starter was a kid that my husband calls a gimmick. He throws these slow rainbows. The kids will swing at his stuff. The coach has a “what have you done for me lately?” philosophy and has shown our son that he doesnt have confidence in what he can do. We think more like, “Get back up there and do your thing!” We, of course have seen him in every game and know that he can pull himself out of some tight situations and self correct.

I realize that this has no bearing on how good he is or what he will do in the future, but we dont want to let some rec league coach break him and screw with his head this year.
After the last game, we fear that he is going to get up on the mound knowing that if he throws one bad pitch, the coach is waiting for him to fail and he is out of there.

Sounds like you all have a lot of experience in many situations. What do you think?


#2

I’ve found that at the younger ages, the pitchers who throw the hardest almost always have higher pitch counts than pitchers who throw slower because, as you pointed out, the other kids are afraid to swing the bat. So, if those hard-throwing pitchers don’t throw strikes, they end up walking batters, throwing more pitches and doing poorly.

I think two things need to happen. First, the hard-throwing pitchers need proper instruction and practice to ensure they have good throwing mechanics and to make those mechanics repeatable. Good mechanics are imperative because the hard-throwers put more stress on their arms. Finding a good pitching instructor is not easy if you don’t know much yourself. Ask around. If you want an NPA-certified instructor, you can check the
http://www.nationalpitching.net/certified.asp?][u]NPA Website[/u
to see if there is an instructor near you.

Second, they need to be taught to throw to the bat instead of away from it. What that means is they need to develop the mentality of trying to get weak hits instead of strikeouts. The strikeout mentality usually leads to higher pitch counts and more walks. It also causes the hard throwers to rely too heavily on a strategy of just throwing the ball past batters. Unfortunately, as the batters get older and stronger, their bats catch up to the faster fastballs and this strategy becomes less and less effective. So, the pitchers need to develop an off-speed pitch (i.e. a change-up) that disrupts batters’ timing and, when thrown low in the strike zone, induces weak grounders. This will make them more effective against the better hitters and it will better position them for the future.


#3

Well, let’s start with the obvious. Entering his 3rd year of pitching and he’s already pitched in 50 games? Keep that up and he may not enter his fourth year. Slow down, he’s only 11.

If the hitter’s won’t swing at his fast, screwy pitches and your son is struggling, he must not be throwing strikes. Are you blaming the hitter’s for not swinging at balls? Seems like your son has control problems and you’re blaming the hitters for not swinging and your son’s coach for not putting him out there to throw balls? If I had a pitcher that was throwing more balls than strikes consistently, he wouldn’t be pitching either. All you can do is work on his consistency and he can show the coach his improvement in practices.

You can always try another coach and team but it won’t change any unless he becomes a more accurate pitcher. At each age level, hitter’s become more disciplined at the plate and you have to throw strikes to get outs. I know you’re partial to your son but you and your husband sound like you’d be “poison” on a team with your opinions and evaluations of “lucky” pitchers. Time to swallow the reality pill for now. Baseball is a team sport. You cheer for each player on the team, not bad mouth them. Meanwhile, how is your son contributing to the team’s success with his hitting and fielding?

Work at the pitching, slow down, take a deep breath and say to yourself three times, "He’s only 11 years old and I should be a supportive team parent.


#4

Redhawks,

Thank you for your input. Although it may not have sounded as such, we are very much team oriented and are crazy about all the boys on the team. My husband was the one that arranged for the other pitcher private pitching lessons and took him to his first two lessons. He saw that this kid might have some potential so he wanted to help.

As for our opinions of the other kids, my husband does the stats so he tends to know exactly how each kid is doing- individually and as a team and I am chasing a 4 year old around the park, so I hardly know enough to make an smart opinion about anybody. I do understand exactly what you are saying and we really arent those kind of people. I said more about my son in the earlier post than Ive ever said to anyone ever!

We dont worry about the number of games. That is 2 spring ball seasons- one fall ball-two allstar seasons- and several months of layedback travel ball for fun. We are very conscious of making sure he has time off and have always let him tell us what he wants to do. He is still a little boy that acts silly likes goofing off at the park. I think that he went so many months not throwing anything that when he started back, he had a few form problems that he has had to work out with his pitching coach.

His batting was lacking pre season and for the first two games but he is hitting pretty good now. He is number 2 on the team with hitting. That has never been his strong thing. He also plays first base. Hardly ever an error.

With his pitching… Last spring, allstars and travel ball, he had, amazingly enough, the same catcher. This kid worked very well with him. He made him look great, always. If his pitches were slightly to the outside, he moved over a bit. They made a great team. He knew how to frame the pitches and a lot of other stuff that I know nothing about. I never knew the importance of a good catcher until recently.

The reason for my original post was this…He has in the past week corrected the problems that were causing his balls to go outside. He’s back on track with his form. Looks great. Lots of movement. He is worried that if when he gets back up on the mound and makes one mistake, he’s out of there and thats it for him…the coach has said as much. Could it be tough love?


#5

Kind of a hard teach for such a young kid but he needs to start learning that there are lots of things outside of his control and that he shouldn’t worry about those things. Examples of things he can’t do anything about are: umpire calls, teammate errors, poor field conditions, bad weather, obnoxious fans, coaches that say the wrong thing, etc.


#6

Roger-

You are exactly right. Last night, my son pitched 4 innings and did a great job. The top of the order went down swinging and the bottom struck out watching. The balls that were hit. like you said, didnt go anywhere or they popped up. He got his confidence back a lot sooner than we expected! My husband spoke to the catcher before the game and he did a lot better too.

Apparently we worried about it more than our son. He was happy to start and told the coach after the third inning that he could pull him if he walked anyone. He didnt have to.

I didnt know this until last night, but my son has the ability to put the ball in different zones. Husband said he was literally messing with the batters. Is it common for boys at this age to be able to do that?


#7

If we revisit your first post, you state that the coach is a good friend. Have you discussed any of your concerns with him?

If this is Rec ball and your son is that good, no coach will be able to NOT throw him. At most levels, if you have a bad outing or it’s just not your day, you’ll get the hook. You’ll get your chance to try again another day. If you consistently have a bad day, you won’t pitch, period.

Your husband probably meant to say that your son was throwing high, low, inside and outside. What 11 year old doesn’t? What 18 year old doesn’t? I doubt the coach is calling location and the catcher is so game knowing to change the batter’s eye level at 11 years old. If your son is consistently throwing outside, he needs to make an adjustment, not the catcher. The pitcher’s job is to throw to the target.

I highly doubt that the coach will pull your son if he walks one batter. That’s ridiculous and I find it hard to believe he would say that. And for your son to say that to the coach was wrong too. Walks are a part of the game. You can’t have too many but 1 here and there is going to happen to the best pitchers. If a Pro walks batter’s, what makes the coach, you or your son think an 11 year old won’t.

When the kid is a junior in High School and is still mowing everyone down and getting DI offers, that’s the time to walk with a swagger. Tell Dad that.

I wish your son luck the rest of the season. Also, talk to your good friend, the coach and share any concerns with him. If you don’t like what he says or you can’t agree, move on next season.


#8

Doing it once in a while? Not so uncommon. Doing it consistently day in and day out? Yeah, that’s pretty uncommon. I saw my son do it once in a while when he was 11. But he had his struggles too.


#9

I only read the first post and here is what i have to say:
Your kid seems to have some good stuff going for him. maybe you guys are tring to make him to fine to early. it is an 11 year old rec league. Thats where almost any pitcher can be decent. He doesnt have to worry about so muhc control just throw it down the middle. with the movement and speed yoiur son is putting out it should not be a problem. As for the coach making your son lose confidence , Every baseball player is faced with this kind of thing at some point. You go through a slump and people question your ability and you even question yourself. Major leaguers still do the same thing. its all about how you deal with it.Everyone at one point as the learn to deal with confidence problems. Dont you think it is best that your son learns these kinds of lessons at an early age and in a cheap rec league rather then when he is 16 playing for his HS team where certain things are really on the line?
Maybe the coach is pushing him to be better. If your son can pitch himself out of this slump one pitch at a time he will be better for it. He will know what it feels like to lose confidence and he will regain his confidence. He will know how to deal with it. It’s all part of the learning process.