13 Tips for Fastpitch Pitchers
We have to admit, we are a little partial to pitchers. Having several in the family – we are privileged to have an insiders view of just how frustrating, hard, painfully exhausting, and mentally challenging the act of pitching REALLY is.
The pitcher IS NOT the most important member of the team. Unless they are doing poorly of course, because then they most certainly are, but only because EVERYONE (and we mean EVERYONE) notices. Plus, a pitcher (and the catcher) touch the ball more than anyone else on the field, which makes them easy targets when things fall apart, and celebrated heroes when all goes well. Pitching is definitely a double edged sword.
Today, being Thursday, we are offering 13 Tips for Fastpitch Pitchers! So here we go. Hopefully some of these will help!
1. You gotta love it more than you hate it. My daughter once said after a relatively tough session in the yard with her dad, “I love and hate pitching. But for now, I still love it more than I hate it.” If you ever start to hate it more than you love it, its time to take a break.
2. A perfect inning is 3 pitches! Listen girls – you got defense behind you. If they cannot do their jobs, that is on THEM, not you. Its hard to stand in the circle and know you are pitching well and see your teammates playing a game of ‘hot potato’ with the softball. All you can do is take your place on the mound and keep on pitching. LET YOUR DEFENSE WORK. Seriously, why throw more pitches than you have to.
3. Strike-outs are B.O.R.I.N.G. So many of you girls want to be the queen of the K’s. Once you get into the 12U age group however – the hitters get better and no matter how good you are, they are going to HIT THE BALL. And that is okay. There is little stat about earned runs, and actual hits that tell a truer picture of how well you are pitching. And while you may dream of a perfect game and sitting down girl after girl with your nasty fast-ball, it won’t always happen like that. The reality is that strike outs are boring. And they root your defense.
4. No matter what you have been taught, no matter how good your cut fast or curve ball is, no matter how amazingly you can skirt the corners and paint the black – sometimes you will have no choice but to THROW IT DOWN THE MIDDLE. Yes, its frustrating to spend hours (and money) working on doing everything to throw a strike anywhere but down the middle – but there are umpires in this world that only like their strikes RIGHT down the middle. You always have to adjust to your umpire. Don’t get mad or lose your cool, adjust and remember your defense.
5. Harder is NEVER the answer. Whenever a pitcher isn’t doing well, they tend to throw harder. It nearly always backfires. If you just walked two, throwing harder and faster and getting out of your groove only hurts your control. Take a breath and avoid your impulse to try and whiz one in at 90mph, hitting the backstop and scoring the two you just walked. Damage control is mental, and does not involve throwing harder.
6. A deep fly ball to centerfield makes a PRETTY OUT! Outfield hits are going to happen. And they ‘should’ be caught, and most can be held to a single. An over the fence homerun? Good for the batter – but let it go. (Which brings us to #7)
7. Your only as good or as bad as your next pitch, and you have the choice. Stay in your zone, head held high – unaffected by everything going on around you. And step back on the rubber and throw another pitch. Pitchers have to be mentally strong. Find your ‘happy place’ and stay there while you pitch. No shoulders hung down low, no hanging your head, no crying, no looks of defeat. Just keep throwing. As a pitcher, abide by the 5 second rule. You can only dwell on any one thing for 5 seconds.
8. Being pulled doesn’t mean you aren’t good. Keilani Ricketts has been pulled. In fact, a good coach knows when to pull a pitcher and when to leave her in. And a good pitcher knows when to ask to be pulled and when to ride it out. Sometimes, a 1-2 inning break is all you need to come back the next game and be amazing.
9. Talk to the umpire. If you don’t know where you are missing, ask your catcher to ask – or better yet, call a time and ask yourself. Be respectful, and polite and professional and most umpires will be happy to help you.
10. Don’t rush! This is YOUR game. You are in control. Things can get sort of crazy when a pitcher gets in a hurry. Slow down a little, take a deep breath each and every time you step on the rubber and start over. You have the power to slow down the momentum of the game. If things are taking off in the wrong direction, slow it down a little!
11. Get ahead stay ahead. (Yes, easier said than done) Always try to make your first pitch your best. Most older batters are looking for a strike the first pitch. Do your best to start ahead – and then stay there if possible. Whatever you do, focus on making your first pitch to every batter YOUR best – before throwing balls you hope they will chase.
12. Communicate! With your coach and your catcher. If a certain pitch isn’t working, make sure they know it. Some coaches may not let you just shake a pitch off, but if they know its out of your comfort zone that day – you do yourself a disservice by not communicating this to people calling your game.
13. Last but certainly not least. Practice. Cannot stress this enough. You might think your drills are stupid. You might prefer to text your friends than to go out in the yard and pitch. Whatever. Pitching is NOT one of those things where you can just show up at the park and say, “HELLO, HERE I AM, I AM A PITCHER” and do well on a whim, and it’s not something that a coach is going to be able to work on solely during practice. Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. If you are a pitcher, then you have a team relying on you and you need to BE RESPONSIBLE and practice, practice, practice.