The mental side of pitching

Of the 5 top topics in the forum section it amazes me that the mental topic receives the least attention. Yogi Berra would be concerned.

Yea well sometimes it’s hard to talk about the mental as easy as it is the physical.

Pitchers will spend hours on mechanics, and virtually no time on mental preparation before a game. Ask yourself, how do you mentally prepare to pitch in a game? There is a mental preparation program for the mental side of pitching called Mind Mastery For Pitching. It includes a DVD titled Change Your Thinking, Change Your LIfe, and a 30 minute CD titled Becoming A Winning Pitcher. It’s available at amazon.com.

Whenever stress is present in a pitcher’s body, it will cause one or both hemispheres of his brain to weaken or switch off. It is when his brain is in this switched off state that he will throw a wild pitch with a 3-2 count. Since the brain controls all mental and physical activity in the body, it is important to see why you must have both hemispheres of your brain switched on in order to achieve peak performance on the mound.

How do you achieve peak performance on the mound? By remaining relaxed during your pitching motion. When you are relaxed, both hemispheres of your brain function at maximum capacity. There is a way you can practice being relaxed by using your imagination.

When you imagine yourself doing something, you will access the same information from your subconscious mind that you would if you were actually doing it. When you are pitching on the side, imagine yourself in stressful situation like bases loaded, no outs and a 3-2 count on the batter and see if you can throw the pitch you want. If you can’t do it in a make believe situation you are not going to do it in a real situation.

Keep throwing the pitch in your imaginary stressful situation until you can make the pitch. Then go to another stressful situation and repeat the process. This exercise is so effective because your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between something real or imagined. When you can imagine yourself in a stressful situation you are also exercising the right hemisphere of your brain. The right hemisphere of your brain provides you with creativity and intuition.

If you can throw the pitch you want in a make believe stressful situation, you will be able to do it on game day.

Talking about the mental side of anything let alone pitching was very difficult in the past because most athletes have a mental block about going to see a sports psychologist. I have worked with professional and amateur pitchers, golfers, football players, tennis players etc. doing a muscle testing technique called Hemispheric Kinesiology. It’s a different take on sports psychology.

HK is a muscle testing technology that allows me to access, isolate and clear subconscious blockages preventing pitchers from pitching their best. It works on the premise that if it stresses you to pitch, you are not going to do it well. When stress is present in a pitcher’s body it will cause one or both hemispheres of his brain to weaken or switch off.

When a pitcher’s body is in this switched off state, it will cause him to throw a wild pitch or make an uncharacteristic mental error during his stint at the mound. The key to achieving peak performance as a pitcher is to remain relaxed during your visits to the mound. When you are relaxed, your brain functions at maximum capacity, and the brain controls all mental and physical activity in a pitcher’s body.

There are also mechanical inconsistencies that will surface when stress is present in a pitcher’s body as well. I made an earlier post with suggestions on how to reduce stress in the pressure situation by using your imagination.

I hope everyone reads this post it’s very informative.

Nice post :!: :smiley:

I have seen topics on pitches for situations and I think that should go under mental, not physical. Then again, what do I know?

You are absolutely right. Yesterday I was watching the Mets and the Cubs game at Wrigley. Maine, the Mets ace pitcher, who up to this point in the season had won 11 games was pitching and the first two innings were perfect. However, in the third inning the wheels flew off and he allowed six runs and was eventually pulled.

Yet there was no mention of the fact that Maine had a mental breakdown on the mound because the play-by-play guys in the booth, the managers and the players themselves know so little about the mental aspect of baseball. I believed that experience traumatized Maine and it will be interesting to observe his performance for the rest of the season and see if he can put it behind him.

Thank you solivan for posting such an informative message on what I feel is desperately underated. Some pitchers are born with an ability to have it all under control and others are born with such a fantastic physical skill capacity that the two make teaching very difficult. I will never forget being at a national coaches convention where T. Williams spoke about his favorite topic. Y. Berra followed and said “I don’t know what the hell T. was talking about but all I know is the pitcher throws the ball towards me and if I like it, I hit it.” You have made my day!!

I think the reason most pitchers don’t want/like to talk about such issues is fear, fear they will get that on em. When you see pitchers like Mark Wohlers and Ankiel…I think the analogy is quite like when folks used to hear someone had the plague…run, don’t think about it don’t talk about it, just get away. We had a catcher who just couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher…messed him up extraordinarily, it took him the better part of a year just to get it back down.

On the coverse side, I just can’t talk enough about pitch sequence strategy, working on and fooling batters, mental game preparation (I’m also big on visualazation).

You guys are implying the mental side of baseball has the same stigma as going to see a shrink. I guess I don’t agree with that assessment. Instead, I think the reason people don’t talk about or practice the mental side of the game is because they don’t know enough about it nor how to practice it. Further, how does one practice dealing with adversity without being in a state of adversity?

I’d love to hear ideas for practicing the mental game. I’ve tried to incorporate it into my team’s practices by reminding players during BP to step out of the box and re-group when ever they find themselves struggling. I also had a pitching lesson where the dad pissed off the kid so I made the kid think about how he was feeling and then try to calm himself down and pitch.

I also think confidence is a big part of the mental game but I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet.

Roger has addressed some key issues. Stigma is too strong. To teach the mental part of baseball in particular is to give the impression that we as coaches must be taking it easy one day. We know how difficult teaching baseball is. There is adversity, fear, frustration, depression and all the other “head” related problems. Whats wrong with sitting a team down on the bleachers, under a tree, in a classroom, gym, in the dugout etc. and talk mental parts of baseball. Let anyone come and listen what the hard part of playing involves. We have all said or hear how much I/we/he loves baseball. Great, explain it without using the word love as the definition. This question is nearly impossible for the lover of the game to explain yet this might be a viable answer. It is easier described by our actions, our confidence, enthusiasm, attitude, gestures, reactions, choice of words after a bad play etc. The player who loves baseball loves to put the uniform on correctly, to be part of the team effort, understands how easy it is to get frustrated but knows this is what he wants to do more than anything else on this day, time and maybe till the feeling stops. Rain day is a great time to teach the mental game and lifes game. End of soapbox!!

Pfess and solivan I’ve thought about this for a couple of days now and have a small hypothesis struggleing for freedom out of my admittedly thick skull. I view baseball as well metaphorically like an onion, so many layers deep, from two kids simply playing catch, to the core where you have the Jeters and the Madduxs and the Leylands (This is the most intense…coincidentally the smallest portion play in this layer or level), I think the mental aspect of the game is for those deeper levels (Though admittedly some do use it in their pathway to the core), I know it makes me concentrate intensly on subtleties and nuance. So what you have is at the outer layers you have an ignorance of the depth and thusly not much conversation, while at the core the discussion is deep and technical and makes for some ponderous prose…but man I could still talk baseball like this for hours…

jdfromfla…I hear you, I read you and you are welcome to continue since I am open to learn something every day.

Would that I could produce everyday… :slight_smile:
I’m currently ruminating ove rpossible subjects of conversation…I may be setting the brain into overload…we’ll risk it :smiley:

Your first comment would be a good subject. i.e. Why do many fans expect the best players in the world to produce every game. I suggest that they are there because they do produce every day just as all of us do. They do it more consistently and it’s not because of the money. We/I do produce every day; some great, some good, some poor, some badly and some barely. But as some one once observed “THAT DOESN’T MAKE US A BAD PLAYER”

I have mentioned this before…somewhere…but I had this theory about the Sammy Sosa, “corked bat” incident, it was this…Sammy had just come off of the dl (ostensibly because of a toe…I think it was because of the 95 mph Torres fastball that exploded his helmet…I had that picture as a screen saver for a couple of years) and he went into a profound slump. Now as a Cubs fan I know that Sammy is/was one of the most beloved players who everyday gave it back…I don’t know of any other player who would sprint to his position and run the entire breadth of right field saluting the fans, he did it every home game…it was to me something great and few ever commented on it…anyway Sammy felt this fan adulation thing completely, and he was getting a “golden sombrero” a day it seemed (Incidently that pitch I think would have ended just about anyone elses career) and though I don’t know how I really feel (right/wrong/indifferent) about the actual using of the bat in an attempt to change his “luck” “make something happen”, I certainly feel like he was a human under unbelievable internal/external pressure to give to the fan and in answer he ventured into this realm. I think the evidence that this is the case is how quickly and quietly MLB slapped his hand, swept it under the rug and moved on without lingering prejudice towards him…as opposed to the way they approach the percieved cheating of Barry Bonds, who isn’t someone who is known for giving back, a very interesting contrast and I have had a pro or two agree (Well an ex-player and an umpire) with this assessment…but as a Cubs fan to me it seemed fairly apparent.

Great story about a player who demonstrated the love for playing that is important for kids to emulate. I agree with your assessment that he was cut some slack and for the reasons suggested. The dual homerun show was important for MLB whether enhancers were part of it or not. The Sammy heart thump and kiss blow started a trend that should replace the phoney sky pointing. How about the Ozzie roundoff back flip for a crowd pleaser. Where have all the dugout tricks gone…the hot foot , the shave cream in the hat and the nailed down spikes. I miss the Willie basket catch the Pearsal antics, the George Brett pine tar bat, the Billy Martin and Weaver antics and the on target throws from the outfield to the catcher for an out. Kevin Millar tried to loosen up Fenway. Manny being Manny isn’t a show of love for the game that appeals to me.

Can’t forget Pedro, he’s got the real joy of playing…
I have talked to Rick Wilkens (I am sure until he’s sick of it :lol: ) about what kind of person/player Greg Maddux is, his memorable quote to me was…“he’s a turd…he’s the guy putting the bubble on the rookies hat in the bullpen…always up to something…”. Which is another point I like to drag out…At 40 whatever Greg is still “immersed”, 100% totally addicted to competeing at the highest levels…like Rocket. I think he could have written his ticket (Like this guy has a worry) in Chicago…1 yr contracts til he got sick of it and then , pitching coach, mgr, really I think they’d have let him do anything as long as he hung em up in Chi-town. BUT NOOOOOOOO not him…got him to a contender last season (And I believe threw a game for the ages with Jason Schmidt last July, I started a thread on it…ya oughta seach it :wink: ) and where is he now…in the thick of it…well up to a couple weeks back when Arizona and L.A. went nuts. :shock: The only possible motivator to these incredable humans has to be the mental war played out daily. You ponder that a second, they have no worries (How “Big” is the house going to be…in South Beach or Malibu or the Penthouse in NY…as I like to say…How many genrations of Clemmons and Maddux’s are going to be wealthy?) it is a gruelling schedule and conditioning regime…for 28 yr olds…how bout 40+, (I know as an ump, there is no way I can move with the guys I’m umping for, so it’s angles and hope for me :oops:). It is those things we never even knew about until we studied hard about the game
My one personal ambition is to be able to develop the “eye” for “seeing” things a player does that show…weakness, strength, mechanical deficiency and strengths. I know Rick makes me crazy, he just glances and sees habits that have been un-noticed since the start of a kids “path” into the game.

I think the thing that most molded my mind about baseball as a kid was watching Ernie Banks. What an unreal spirit that man still is. I remember watching him run out to first base in the Astrodome and bouncing the ball on the astroturf (The first and only place you could do that in 1969) in such child like happy fascination, a guy who will go down in history remembered by the quote “Lets play two…”. I look for that in guys and know those are the ones that just won’t let it go…Like me.

Pedro had his fun when other guys were pitching. When a team mate was working Pedro was making motions to the opposing team, allowing himself to be taped to a dugout pole or wearing a mask. That being said I will never forget sitting behind home plate observing him mow down the NL ALL STARS; however he talked out of both sides of his mouth like the great Roger who left the Sox to go to Toronto and be closer to home!
Ernie was and is THE MAN. Greg makes it look so easy as does Glavine that it can’t be explained. Pete Rose and Boggs had the greatest ability to block out their personal problems as well as anyone.
I posed the mental part of the game not from a cerebral examination viewpoint but in term of the mental idiosyncrasy demonstrated by some of the great players. Maybe before free agency/draft the players who were discovered in the backroads of our country and developed a familial relationship with one scout, also demonstrated mental abilities that should be given consideration by modern scouting procedure.

What about Manny and his antics in LF?