The Art of the Pitch

I step onto the rubber, take one deep breath, get the proper footing, and focus in on the catcher. He gives me the sign as I nod and take a step back with my right foot to begin my windup. I lift my right leg and stride towards the catcher down the pitcher’s mound. After the pitch I get the ball back and repeat the same sequence. It is repetition, it is focus, it is pitching. Pitching requires repetition and focus, as well as training, endurance, and much more. It has been one of my favorites hobbies for a large part of my life. I have always loved throwing a baseball to a catcher spotted up behind home plate. Jogging out of the dugout, stepping onto the mound with the ball in hand, getting the proper footing, and getting ready to deliver the pitch is something that will never get old to me. Baseball, and more specifically pitching, is a significant part of my life. I began at the age of nine and have loved it ever since. My love for pitching has motivated me to get better and pursue the goal of playing in college.

 

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Photo by Robin Reifsnider

As the pitcher, I always remember one thing: I am in control of this game. Each play begins with me, and I have the ability to dictate how I handle it. When pitching, one message is going through my head: execute this pitch. I have found the most success when I am able to focus in on each and every single pitch. The first step to executing the pitch is to look for what pitch the catcher is calling for, and then pick up the target. The catcher can either set up on the outer, middle, or inner parts of the plate. Once I have my target picked up and know the pitch I am about to throw, I get ready to throw. The mindset before a pitch can differ, depending on the situation of the game. If there are no runners on base, then the pitcher can go from the full windup. If there are runners on base, the pitcher will have to pitch from the stretch. The stretch allows a pitcher to make a pick off move at a runner on base. I have an advantage picking off to first base because of being left-handed. I do not have to spin my entire body around, like a right-hander does.

One of my goals while pitching is to be better than the batter I am facing. This is a simple goal, but it requires a great deal of preparation. This preparation is found through mechanical and form development, strength, conditioning, and practice. David Angstadt, a pitch and infielder on Collegiate’s varsity baseball team said, “The best way to improve as a pitcher, in my opinion, is becoming mentally tougher. Yes, throwing 95 [mph] will make you a good pitcher, but up to a point. Someone can be much more effective being zoned in and being like a bulldog, even if he is throwing much softer than a soft ‘thrower’ who throws 95. Once the mental aspects have been taken up, that’s when you can really start to hone your craft and better yourself physically.”

The best way to achieve success as a pitcher is to throw strikes. Walking batters through constant balls will not even give the pitcher, as well as the rest of the team in the field, a chance to get any batters out. The best pitchers have a certain mindset and attitude on the mound. “Having success on the mound requires a lot of repetition,” Angstadt said, “The thing I find most challenging about pitching is the repetition and minuteness required. One half-a-pound of poor weight shift to be the difference in a couple inches, which usually means a base hit or a ball. Also slowing the game down and attacking it 100% every pitch is equally as challenging, because those both require intense mental focus and any lapse at all means you have lost the battle.”

A talented pitcher also needs to be able to repeat the same motions over and over again. The best way to accomplish this is practice. Ben Greer, a senior pitcher on Collegiate’s team said, “When I am on the mound, I search for a mental balance. I find it important to use the energy around me and to pitch with heart and emotion. But at the same time, you can’t be affected negatively by your surroundings. When you reach that point when you have the ability to feed off of the good energy while tuning out anything negative that happens, then you mentally have what it takes to be a successful pitcher. It is crucial to not overthink things, but rather feel it. Feeling the pitch you have the most confidence in and executing it.”

About the author

Evan Justice is a junior at the Collegiate School.