The New Pitch Clocks Will Help Pitchers Dominate.  One word – Rhythm.

Pitch clocks will be introduced this year in professional baseball at the Double A and Triple A levels.  The purpose of the clocks are obvious, to speed up the game.  How will this added feature impact the game other than getting it over with sooner?  I think that pitchers will likely benefit from the pitch clocks in place.  Here’s why…

As pitchers, one of the most important things to learn is how to establish rhythm. On days where pitchers are having success and in “the zone”, they are most likely following a consistent rhythm in a repeated pattern.  On days where they are struggling it is likely that they have no rhythm or consistency throughout their performance.  A good pitching rhythm helps both mechanically and mentally.  Let’s take a look at the mechanical benefits first.

When it comes to pitching, balance is key.  Balance at the start, balance throughout and balance at the end.  If a pitcher can maintain balance throughout his delivery, he is likely going to be able to repeat the delivery.  The pace at which the pitcher goes through his delivery is one half of having rhythm.  The pace between pitches is the second half of pitching rhythm.  If these two components stay consistent, the pitcher is likely to fall into a good tempo and stay “in the zone”  The consistent pace will help the pitcher stay balanced throughout his delivery, and again, balance is key.  Think about how important balance and rhythm are for someone walking a tightrope.  The rhythm of their steps help with their balance and it’s just a matter of repeating.    The new pitch clocks can help pitchers set that rhythm early and with a consistent time set between pitches, it will help them maintain rhythm.

Now let’s look at the mental benefits of the clock.  For pitchers to make it to the triple A and double A levels, they have to pitch with a bulldog attitude.  Sometimes that bulldog competitive spirit can get rattled when umpires aren’t calling strikes or if the game is not going their desired way.  Instead of meddling over a blown call or fuming over a mammoth yack they just gave up.  The pitch clock is going to force them to forget faster and move on.  Pitchers will be more focused on the next pitch rather than the last pitch.

One drill that I frequently do with my pitchers is similar to how the pitch clock can benefit.  I have them throw four fastballs from either the windup or the stretch.  As soon as they start their delivery on pitch number one I start my stopwatch.  I then stop the time when pitch number four hits the target.  I make note of whatever that time is, for now let’s say it’s :42 seconds.  I then have them throw four more fastballs from the same delivery and challenge them to do it in :35 seconds.  Please understand, the actual time is not the focus but what it does is set the tone for the next four pitches.  Pitchers immediately get the significance of rhythm and focusing on the next pitch.  Plus, they don’t have time nor do they care to stop and catastrophize a bad pitch.  In most cases, they shave down their time (NOT important) but more importantly they are much more consistent with mechanics and command.

It will be interesting to see how the pitch clocks impact the games in 2015.  I think that it will be a slight adjustment early in the season for everyone but most players at that level already have an internal clock that they rely on to maintain their rhythm.

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1. Lessons are not a babysitting session. There are much cheaper options. Tell your kid to stay focused and have fun.

2. Parents, be quietly involved and learn as much as the kid does. Check your pride at the door and pay attention. Your son and the instructor will appreciate it.

3. The lessons are NOT intended to reinforce “what you have been telling him for years”. If you think your son doesn’t listen to you now, this statement wont help. Let the instructor teach while you make an effort to learn.

4. You are not a translator between the instructor and your son. Look at the sessions like you would a college professor teaching a 4th grade math class. You wouldn’t interupt the professor and say, “listen kids, this is what the teacher is really trying to say.”

5. Don’t look for immediate results, quick fixes or someone to blame. Most instructors offer lessons with a big picture in mind. Instructors enjoy hearing about game success and struggles because we look at it all the same way – As a step in the right direction towards development.

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Every team in youth sports has a few standout athletes.  Usually those players are blessed with natural talent and playing ability but do they have what it takes to be a leader of the team?  Below are 6 characteristics of team leaders in sports.  Some of the best leaders are not always the most physically gifted but they are usually the most prepared.

1.  Not afraid to stand out.  Refuses to just blend in.

2.  Has a drive to be significant – Not just have successful results.

3.  Naturally turns challenges into opportunities

4.  Gives credit more than takes it.  Encourages teammates

5.  Loves to dream of situations where they are called to perform under pressure.

6.  Wants to win – accepts losing – but WANTS TO WIN!

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1. You have A Good Fastball
2. You Throw Strikes
3. You Have Laser Focus
4. You Have a Hunter Mentality
5. You’re Calm Under Pressure
6. You Take Calculated Risks
7. You Have A Really Short Memory
8. You Have A Good Fastball
9. You Throw Strikes
10. If You Haven’t Caught On Yet, You Might Be A Great Left-Handed Pitcher.

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5 things a pitcher should think about when a hitter reaches base (after kicking the dirt)

Thing #1 – Once he is on base you are NOT trying to get him out with a pick-off. You are just trying to
keep him close to that base and away from the next one. You already had a chance to get him out while
he was hitting, dont get any crazy ideas that allows him to get two more bases.

Thing #2 – By holding the runner on properly you minimize the chance of him getting a good jump on a
steal and increase the chances of your catcher throwing him out on an attempted steal. You are also
making it more difficult for him to advance to the next base on the hitters contact.

Thing #3 – Baserunners get anxious, especially if they are leading off in a tensed up position. Holding the
ball for longer periods of time will make them become anxious and they won’t get a good jump.

Thing #4 – Don’t sacrifice throwing a quality pitch for being quick to the plate. Your mechanics still need
to work and function properly even with an abbreviated delivery. It does no good to be super quick to
home plate and leave a fat pitch over the dish.

Thing #5 – During pick off moves and in every throw in baseball, always throw to the chest. Trying to put
the throw low for a tag makes it difficult for you and for your fielders. Ask yourself, is it easier to catch a
ball at your chest or at your ankles? Throw to the chest! Always!

Technique Time
3 Steps To Holding Runners on 1st base
1. Vary hold times/looks – Stay out of predictable patterns while pitching with runners on base. In the
stretch position, come set and hold for 1 second then pitch or pick, the next time come set and hold for a
different amount of time then pitch or pick. Mix it up! Example – If you fall into a pattern and you
consistently hold the ball for 3 seconds before every pitch, you can wave bye bye to the base stealer
after he counts 2 seconds. The more you mix up your holds, the harder it is to predict and get a good
jump on a steal.

2. Slide Step – Not quite what it sounds like. The purpose of a slide step is to quicken up the time it takes
for you to start your motion and get the pitch into the catcher’s hands. The quicker this process is, the
better chance your catcher has at shooting down the baserunner. Several pitchers take this term in a
literal sense and their front foot slides straight down the mound without any type of lift or abbreviated
lift. There are two mechanical things that are important in delivering a quality pitch. Thing one – Balance,
thing two – load. Even though you are quickening up your time to home, you still need those two
essential things to deliver a good pitch. So instead of just letting your front foot slide down the mound
with no lift. Allow yourself a small lift to get some balance and load. The time will still be quick and thepitch will be much more effective. You dont have to slide step on every pitch, especially if you are mixing
up your hold times.

3. Pick off moves – As stated above, you’re not trying to get the baserunner out, you already had that
chance. You are just trying to keep him close to that base and make him aware that he is really going to
have to steal the base and you’re not just giving it to him.

– Hold Step Off, Look over – This move is a set up move and just gives that baserunner a heads up
that you’re watching him. In the stretch position (starting with your hands apart and feet apart) come
into the set position, bringing your hands together and feet shoulder width apart (don’t come set with
your feet right next to each other – ever!). You are going to hold that position for at least 3 seconds.
Next you are going make 3 moves at the same time. Sounds like a lot but its pretty simple. First move,
step off (step behind the rubber with your back foot) don’t move your front foot during this move.
Second move, separate your hands (rapidly take the ball out of your glove with throwing hand) don’t
make any threatening throwing motions just simply separate your hands. Third, rapidly look at first base.
You will do all of those at the same time- step off, separate hands, look over. this move is intended to
get the runner moving back toward the base.

– Step off and Throw over – This move works well following the step off, look over. Once again,
not an attempt to get him out but it steps it up a notch by turning to make a throw. Start in the stretch
position, hands apart and feet apart. Come set, bring hands together and feet into shoulder width. Step
off rapidly, turn towards first and make the throw if necessary. You do not have to make this throw since
your motion was stepping off. Only make the throw if the baserunner is not committed to going back to
the base. Call this your safety move or your “B” move. Let’s get to your “A” move.

– Quick Move – Your “A” move. This move is for those pesky baserunners that get a little too far
off the base. Think of the two previous moves as your warning shots. This move lets the hitter know
that you’re serious about what you’re doing and you don’t like his intentions. Come set in the stretch
position, feet shoulder width apart. Mix up how long you hold the ball. When you’re ready, Spin your
feet from being lined up towards home plate to lined up with first base. Get your eyes on your first
baseman as quickly as you can. Your body will follow if you get your eyes on your target quickly. Throw a
chest high throw to your first baseman so he can apply the tag. You have to throw on this move or it is a
balk. You didn’t step off prior to making the move, so the throw is required.

Holding Runners on 2nd base
1. Vary your looks at the runner. – Always come set looking at the catcher. From there decide if when
you are going to look back and how many times you will look. You don’t always have to decide between
looking at home and looking at second. Sometimes you can look in the direction of 3rd base. This puts
the baserunner and the hitter in a guessing situation – will he turn and pitch or turn and pick? Take control
of the situation.

2. Pick off moves
Inside move – the most underrated run saving move in baseball! If you learn to do this correctly,
you will save yourself some runs and get out of some big jams. In the stretch position, come set looking
at your catcher. You can look back at the base runner as many times as you like or not at all. This move is
intended to look just like you are about to deliver a pitch. As your lift leg comes up and reaches the top
of the lift, let your leg start to go straight back down. Keep your head facing the catcher. As your foot
moves down towards where it started prior to the lift, you are going to start rotating inside towards
second base. Pitchers lose the effect of this move when they just swing their lift leg around towards
second base. It becomes obvious because it looks nothing like when they pitch. We are hoping that
when the base runner sees your leg start moving down that he will start to get his secondary lead. So by
the time you rotate inside towards second base, he will be a long ways from the bag. Just don’t get too
excited and launch it into centerfield. Remember, its the lift leg moving down that sells this move.

Quick move – This move is usually coordinated with a middle infielder on a predetermined pick
off play or if one of the middle infielders thinks the baserunner is too far off the base. Come set looking
at your catcher in your stretch position. Look back at the base runner and middle infielders. If there is a
small window of opportunity to get a good quick throw to second base, you will use this quick move.
From your set position, when you are cued to make a throw, Turn your head as quickly as possible
rotating towards your glove. Your feet will quickly switch spots, so you go from being lined up to make a
pitch home to be lined up to make a throw to second base. If you focus on getting your eyes around on
your target first, you body will react. Some pitchers try to be really quick with their bodies and their
eyes are the last thing to adjust, resulting in bad throws. You do not have to throw the ball from either
pick off move to second base. If the play is not there, don’t throw it.

Third base – don’t risk picking off to third base. Time to really focus on the hitter.

Conclusion – Pitching is more than just getting the hitter out at the plate. A true pitcher takes pride in all
of his responsibilities on the mound like holding runners on base and backing up bases. The better you
are at holding runners on base, the more your ERA reflects your efforts. Plus, your coaches, catchers,
and fielders will appreciate it!

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