Preparing the pitcher for a start.
Every pitching coach has to devise a plan that will cover the period before, during, and after each and every game.
Athletes like to feel organized and an intelligent plan will do that - give the team and individual a distinct advantage over the opponents throughout the season.
As the saying goes: "If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail." It's the coach's job to equip the players with the tools and then show them how to use them to maximum effect.
It is not easy. Nolan Ryan said it best: "Pitching is fun. Preparing to pitch is hard work."
THE DAY BEFORE
The organization begins on the first day of preseason practice and peaks each day before a pitcher is scheduled to start.
On the day before a start, the pitching coach will sit down with the pitcher and catcher and review each hitter in the opposing line-up: what he does well and what he doesn't do well and how to pitch to him.
(We give the pitcher and catcher a copy of the opposing hitting chart to take home and review.)
After discussing the opposing hitters with the battery, we send the pitcher out on the field for a light warm-up consisting of:
1. A light jog.
2. Full-body stretching.
3. 3-lb. dumbbell exercises.
4. Elastic tubing exercises.
5. Light catch at short distances - done at half-speed and working on all pitches.
Before going to bed that night, the pitcher is expected to review the hitting chart once again to keep it all fresh in his mind. He visualizes how he's going to pitch to each hitter, going through the line-up at least once and making it as real as possible.
BEFORE THE GAME
Just before batting practice, the pitching coach meets with the pitcher and catcher and goes over the opposing batting order once more. During B.P., the pitcher relaxes in the dugout or shags some balls to stay loose.
About 40 minutes prior to the game, the pitcher heads out to a quiet part of the ball park to begin his routine:
1. Jog. Four or five light sprints to loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing.
2. Stretch the entire body, saving the shoulders and arms for last. Use the full range of motion and do not bounce.
3. 3-lb. dumbbell. Do one set of 10 internal and external rotations at 90% abductions slowly. Do bent-over circles with dumbbell both clockwise and counter-clockwise.
4. Elastic Tubing. Do one set of 10 reps of internal rotation at 90% abduction and one set of 10 reps of external rotation at 90% abduction. Do slowly.
5. Softball Gripping. Start by stretching out your fingers and squeezing a softball - using your fastball, curveball, and change-up grips. I started using this technique in high school and college and found that it made the baseball feel lighter and smaller.
6. Warm-Up Throwing. Start with five to seven softball throws, then switch to the baseball - starting at 45 ft., then increasing to 60 ft., 75 ft., and 90 ft. Then reverse it back to 75 ft., 60 ft., and 45 ft. Use a crow-hop at 75 and 90 ft. to take the stress off the arm. Always throw to a target and always go through the pitching motion when playing catch. The warm-up should take 10 to 12 minutes.
The pitcher is now ready to take the mound, which should be fitted to his style. If it isn't, you should fix it accordingly. Have the catcher move up in front of the plate and take seven to 10 throws. Then stand behind the plate for five to seven throws.
Then have the catcher get down in his stance and bring in someone from the bench to stand up at the plate (wearing a helmet and with a bat in his hands) as the pitcher goes through his warm-up.
1. Start with 10 fastballs at half-speed.
2. Throw five curveballs at half-speed.
3. Throw five change-ups at half-speed.
Next, have the pitcher mix up his pitches at three-quarters speed - as if facing the first three batters in the lineup.
Next, have the pitcher mix up his pitches but at full speed - as if facing the fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters.
Note: Make sure the pitcher is verbalizing and visualizing each pitch as well as throwing at least half of his pitches from the stretch position.
Limit the total number of pitches to 50-55. This includes 20 pitches before the catcher gets down in his stance, 15 pitches for the first three hitters, and 15 pitches for the next three hitters.
If the pitcher still doesn't feel loose, have him pretend he's facing the seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters.
Give the pitcher about an eight-minute break before the start of the game. Have him go back to the dugout for a drink of water and to relax. Make sure he puts on his jacket. And now let him give himself a pep talk:
1. "Pitch strikes."
2. "Stay ahead in the count."
3. "Change speeds frequently."
4."One pitch at a time, hitting spots."
5. "Stay in control; calm, cool, and confident."
6. "No one is going to beat me today - no one!"
Between innings: Have the pitcher put on his jacket, take a drink of water and relax. Have him talk to the pitching coach on the hitters coming up next inning. Stick to the plan, stay focused, take one pitch at a time, get ahead of the hitters, etc.
AFTER THE GAME
As the pitcher leaves the game, have him go down to the bullpen and throw 15 half-speed pitches for a cool down. Then let him ice his arm, if needed, for no longer than 20 minutes to reduce any swelling. Then let him take a nice hot shower and have his arm rubbed down for five minutes.
THE DAY AFTER
Start by meeting with the pitchers to discuss the game. Cover the positives as well as the negatives. The pitching coach should receive a lot of feedback during these meetings.
As practice begins, the pitcher should start his workout with:
1. Full-body stretching.
2. Rotator-cuff exercises with a 3-lb. dumbbell.
3. Elastic tube exercises.
4. Short and long tossing for five to seven minutes.
5. Conditioning: one-mile run, 10 to 50-yard sprints, crunches for abdomen, crunches with medicine ball, half and full twists with medicine ball, and light stretching (full body).
This concludes the routine. Every age-level pitcher should have some kind of plan for their upcoming start. As the pitcher reaches high school and college levels, his preparation and planning should increase. It will enable the pitcher to become a pitcher and not just a thrower.
Pitchers who want to achieve full potential have to become students of their art.
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|Title Annotation:||baseball pitching plans|
|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1998|
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