Craziness in Sports

Chapter 14: How to handle a loss, fan reactions, and bad calls in sports.
FAN REACTIONS (none game)
When you are practicing or warming up you will hear comments which are almost always positive. I think its OK to eavesdrop in this case. There is nothing more beneficial to you than to hear one of the other team’s players say “How we suppose to hit that” as they walk by. Be sure to have your warm up catcher use their LOUD glove. This is part of the real fun to pitching so enjoy it.
The bigger the game, the more fans. More fans mean louder cheering, not all of it for your side. What do you do? NOTHING!!! You will find that if you are concentrating when you are pitching, you can’t hear the fans, everything will be just muffled background noise. The bigger the game the more true this is. This is called “zoning in”. If someone does go out of their way to distract you in an offensive way, ask the plate umpire to deal with that spectator.If you were to respond to the fans and let them know that you heard or noticed what they did or said, it will get worse because obnoxious fans live for this! Don’t read any placards or look for friendly faces in the crowd. Just go about your business in the most professional manner possible with a smile.
BAD CALLS For you, this problem will be limited to balls and strikes or delivery errors. I have never seen any ump, at any level, change a ball/strike call because the pitcher complained. If you read “Working an Umpire”, you know that challenging a ball/strike call will get you in hot water. And you will know that when a bad call does occur you can help the umpire cover his mistake which will be to your long term advantage.
If the call is against your delivery (crow hopping, violating the pitching lane, leaping, balk etc) you will never win the argument. All pitchers that train hard and are competitive often get very close to the line of legality. Actually you and your pitching coach probably already know if you are illegal and should be working on correcting it. Nicely ask the ump to explain what he thinks you are doing wrong (even if you know) and how he would like you to correct it, tell him you will work on it and thank him. As you walk away, hope that was all you needed to do to satisfy his complaint. If not, your coach should pull you for the common good of the team.
BAD SELECTION You, your coach and your catcher must decide who will do the pitch selections and rather or not the pitcher can shake off. Once the ground rules are set you must live with them. If a selection is ordered that results in a negative way for you….OH WELL!!! In the Gold Medal game of the Atlanta Olympics, Dot Richardson was struck out in her first two at bats by a Chinese pitcher with an awesome change. The third time Dot came up, with two strikes, the pitcher threw another change which Dot promptly hit over the fence for the game winning run. Was this a bad selection? Probably, the home run was VERY CLOSE to the foul pole (in fact the hit was called foul by one of the field umps) and Dot probably was looking for it. Should the Chinese pitcher be ashamed of the pitch? NO, not unless she executed the pitch badly. Would I have made the same choice, NO. Why? Because I know the level of Dot’s play. She is a winner, and will not allow herself to make the same mistake over and over. You will say, “All Olympic players are winners” and I will agree with you BUT Dot is level above that. I think she is probably looking for a change up and if I throw it, I will show a consistency that is too predictable. I would have sent a change up sign (maybe the USA has picked up our signals) having already decided that if the sign is given in this situation with Dot, it is to be replaced with a high fast ball. Who knows what will have happened, all selections are just a guess.
BAD EXECUTION Lots of things must come together for a perfect game. You must have good selection, reorganization (strikes called by the ump), execution, great defense and a few breaks. It also helps if the other team has aggressive batters. Can you guess why? The only part of this the pitcher can control is execution. Change ups must not look like slow pitches, they must have the illusion of a fast ball. Rise balls that don’t, get hit to the outfield and beyond. Drop balls can become passed balls. You improve your execution through hard, complete, correct practice. There is no other way. If you can’t execute you won’t be pitching
HANDLING A LOSS I’ve seen pitchers get really upset from losing a one to nothing game. As far as I know there is no way to score runs from the mound. Since it is required that your team score at least one run to win, it can’t be your fault if you lose a 0-0 ball game EVEN if you walked home the winning run! It is actually possible to loss a game that finishes as a perfect game under ASA regulations. Can you guess how? I’ve also see pitchers get recruited because they did so well in a losing effort. Imagine this, in a game I can remember pretty well, I had 28 strikeouts and lost the game on catcher pass balls and we did not score…tough loss….
We are all human and suffer ups and downs, pains and ills, good and bad fortune. Some days will not be as good as others. In youth sports, NO ONE (including yourself) should expect perfection over the 100 or so pitches thrown in a game. Pitchers can and often do come back from terrible games. In college I pitched the WORSE game of my life against San Diego state (thought I had lost my mind) and then came back to BEAT University of ARIZONA…(they had not lost in 2 years and they were 43/0) and pitched the VERY best game of my entire life…even Mike Candrea asked me after the game…what I had put on that ball??
And finally, it’s only a game…

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Working the Umpire

Chapter 13: How to work an umpire in your favor

Umpires are supposed to be fair and impartial. But they are people just like us. If they like you, they may sometimes see a close call your way just because of that feeling. As a pitcher living on the strike zone’s corners and edges, every pitch can be a close call. If they don’t like you, the strike zone may shrink, they may rush you, cut down your warm up pitches, delay the call on the pitch or complain that your delivery is illegal. On any team, the pitcher is the only player who can influence and be influenced by their relationship with the home plate ump. Forcing a corner, taking too long between deliveries, complaining about strike calls, bad attitude and highly vocal negative parents can all turn the ump against you. Making him look incapable or stupid is certain death in your current game and every game he calls for the rest of your career. Umps often move from crew to crew and exchange stories after games. Any bad feeling will be shared with all his fellow umps and may influence how they view you in future games. So it is paramount that you do everything reasonable to stay on the ump’s good side. The better a pitcher you are, the easier it is to maintain good relations with umpires. Knowing that you won’t hit him (wild pitch) is an oblivious starter. If you consistently throw strikes his job is easier. He will not have to call a forth ball on the batter, walking home a winning run and tempting the wrath of the crowd. Your ideal game is a perfect game. You can’t have a perfect game unless there is a competent ump behind the plate and it helps if he likes you. The best ump is, one you don’t notice during the game. A good pitcher makes this likely. Some umps will try to find where and when the better pitchers are playing just so they can have the experience of calling that pitcher’s game. This means you will have an unusually good ump to throw to, which gives the advantage to the pitcher. Top umpires like to list the names of the great pitchers they have called, names of Olympic and professional athletes. If you have a reputation as a top thrower and as a good person you have a huge advantage that I believe is worth 2 strikeouts per game. During the game, always call them Blue, Ump or Sir (Name). Learn their name so after the game and any other time you see them, you can call them by their last name…(Mr Smith, Mrs Brown). Make a point (win or lose) to immediately thank them for working your game. If they offer advice, listen carefully and thank them for it no matter how wrong it may seem. Never bad mouth an ump to anyone else. Above all, always smile and make it seem that they are helping you learn how to become a better pitcher. They may be doing just that!
Good luck!!

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Strike ZONE

Chapter 12: How to move an umpires strike zone in your favor

Keep in mind…all of the below is based on our experience pitching…what we have included in this blog does not always work but will sometimes give you the upper hand…some umps have no system or no “ideal” spot or seem to change it every inning…be relaxed with these umps and always show respect.
In the beginning the Umpire is neither your ally nor enemy, but you can easily make him either. He will watch you warm up and may comment on your style: “You’re close to Illegal” which of course means you are legal. If this or any other remark comes up, call him aside and ask him (with a smile) for his recommendation. No matter what it may be thank him for the tip and tell him (still smiling) “thanks, I will work on it”. Go back and continue warming up until you hear “play ball”.
After you have seen a few batters you will know his strike zone. He may favor one of the four edges, when you know which it is, start to work on that edge. Keep throwing at it and with every third or so pitch place the ball just a little further out of the zone. If you do this slowly, by the end of the game he may have moved his strike zone for you to a location the batters can’t deal with. Be sure and tell your coach the zone you are working on because the ump may apply the same zone to the other pitcher. If your team’s batters know this you have an edge. When your team bats the first couple of innings have someone behind home plate to see if their pitcher is doing the same as you are. If they are working another corner or edge you might remember to switch to it if you are having trouble moving your edge. This of course, depends on your bag of pitches. For instance if you have an excellent drop or curve ball you may be working the outside and down edges or corner. If the other pitcher is working the zone’s top and you don’t have a rise ball stick to your first choice. If you do this carefully after a few innings the game will be under your control. BUT you can lose this control if you either:
1) FORCING A CORNER: If you throw any pitch that you expect he would call a strike (because he has before) and you get a “ball” call DO NOT THROW THE SAME PITCH INTO THE SAME AREA RIGHT AWAY. The ump will call a second duplicate pitch exactly as the first pitch. If it was called a ball, so will the second pitch, even if he knows the first call was wrong. You have to put a few different pitches in between before you come back to the area you are working. In other words “Don’t force a corner” The good news here is if you get an unexpected strike call on a pitch clearly out of the strike zone come back with exactly the same pitch to the same location immediately. Do not try to extend this pitch location selection beyond the batter you are facing. Do everything you can to keep the ump from looking foolish in the manner he is calling your strike zone.
2) DISPUTING A CALLED PITCH: If you throw a pitch that was clearly a strike and complain about it you will be in trouble. If it happens a few times in the game you may step out of the circle and with a smile, ask him if the pitch was too outside or ? Whatever he says nod your smiling head “YES” and go right back into the circle and continue the game but with a different pitch. The ump and you both know he made a mistake and so does the crowd. If you ask this question and seemingly agree with his answer he is off the hook with the crowd….thanks to you! Now he owes you one! And, as a side note, after you do this a few times in a season your fans will catch on to what you are up to and smile knowingly. Fun for all!!!! This really works and gets easier to use as you gain in age and ability, see ”WORKING THE UMP” in the next chapter to see what else can be done to give you an edge with the umps.

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Chapter 11: How to handle different types of weather when your pitching
HEAT: Heat is something all pitchers need to be prepared for as all will experience it to some degree. The heat problem is worsened by full length pants and protective helmets. Here are several things to do to help when heat is a problem in a game situation:
1) Warm up in the shade
2) Use a very wet cool towel on the forehead and back of the neck after every inning
3) Drink lots of water or a product like Gatorade
4) Stay in the shade between innings
5) Take your time between pitches
6) Use sunscreen and lip balm
7) The coach should have someone watch the pitcher very carefully. Look for anything unusual in their actions on the mound. Have them talk to the pitcher between innings. The pitcher must be alert and have clear focusing eyes. We had a pitcher win a tournament Most Valuable Trophy on a hot day and not remember any of the game at all two hours later.
8) Relax in the shade and continue to towel down and drink liquids after the game.
9) Some coaches mix water and ammonia with ice in a bucket filled with cotton towels. These towels are used on the forehead and neck for a very quick cooling. NOTE: The kids don’t like this because of the odor
10) Use a rosen bag to keep hands from getting to sweaty and wet.
1) Take a lot of time warming up in the sunshine
2) Once your arm is ready put a thick jacket on and leave it on until you pitch. Between innings and after the game put the coat back on
3) Wear mittens, not gloves, and a wool hat between innings
4) Drink warm liquids
5) Do not waste time between pitches
6) When you are done completely warm down
1) Keep a positive attitude in the rain, the ball will get wet and it is easy to loose focus. One must stay “in” the mind set and not let the slippery ball play with their mind. Keep a towel behind the mound to draw off the ball whenever necessary.
Sit in a safe place and stay dry until lighting has stopped.
1) Wear sunscreen and lip balm
2) Keep dust and or hair out of your eyes and face by wearing a hat if possible.
3) Watch for small dust devils. Time your pitches so they pass through any dust devils that cross between you and the batter.
4) You can actually use wind as an advantage with the movement of your pitches and your speed (assuming you are not going against the wind). Try to stay focus and work with it without getting frustrated.

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Why be a PITCHER?

Chapter 10: Why be a pitcher?

The incentive to pitch starts as a chance to lead a team, become well known, seek a scholarship, maybe turn professional and excel at a physical level others are not trained to do. Notice, these are all “It’s all about me” reasons? Are these kinds of rewards worth the many hours spent in training, set backs, injuries and missed social occasions? For some, yes. Are you one of these few that find the trouble is worth it? The only way to ever know is to try. But you must remember that few people are capable of becoming great pitchers and you may not be one of them. That is OK, we can’t all be stars and heroes. If pitching isn’t for you, there will be something else that is! Just keep checking your satisfaction level and accomplishments. If they aren’t still an incentive to keep going, stop and find something that is.
What we want to point out here is there are many other incentives that aren’t obvious to a beginning pitcher. Here are a few:
1) Life experiences
A) The best athletes don’t always get chosen
B) The best athletes don’t always win
C) Sometimes life isn’t fair
D) Your best effort may not be always good enough to win
E) Being very good at something can produce enemies as well as friends
F) You may be a special athlete but you are not better than those that aren’t
G) You can get along with anyone or argue with anyone, the choice is yours
H) Everyone is not “On your Team”
I) It does take a team to win
J) Umpires can be wrong but don’t expect them to admit it
K) It really is ONLY a game
L) Sometimes the less deserving get more of the credit than they should
M) Anger extinguishes the lamp of the mind and decrease your ability to perform
N) Relaxation is as important as training
O) Sometimes a coach can be wrong
P) Sometimes a coach can be right
Q) Decisions you don’t agree with may be right after all
You can say that, yes, this maybe is true BUT I don’t want my child to learn these too early in life. If your child is 8 years old they already have experienced most of these points through school, video games and TV. The extra dimension pitching gives them is that they can see the results of these truths play out on the field through a season. They will see that sometimes things can move in their favor rather than against them. Ultimately they will see that most things levels out in life.
2) Personal understandings
A) Practice really does pay off
B) You get out of something only what you put into it
C) A commitment to yourself should never be broken
D) Set backs can bring you and your family and friends closer
E) Knowing and enjoying when you have reached a milestone, goal or life accomplishment
F) You can be better than you ever expected
G) A commitment to pitching prepares you for the several life time commitments you will have to consider
3) A Part of a Bigger Picture Youth sports offer opportunities that are few and far between for many kids. I can think of MANY individuals that have used softball to turn their lives around. When you see a 16 year old pitcher that has a 8 month old baby in the dug out you are looking at what could be a hardship for this young athlete BUT it is also someone at a young age, trying to do the best they can rather than just giving up! There are, at least, two nationally known very good division one softball coaches who have boot strapped themselves out of dependency on drugs through softball. How many kids are not in gangs because of sports? How many inner city kids get in to college, how many can fit into the military because of sports training? And how many excel well enough to become role models to their younger neighbors? And then the cycle repeats itself. Pitchers are often stars. It is these stars that make the game attractive to the young athlete. It is these stars that lead the kids of today into a land of opportunity and away from negative influences.

Of all the parts of this blog this section is the most significant and has been my greatest pleasure to write. Thank you Brooke for showing me this through your career
Glenn Hofstetter

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SAFE Pitching

Chapter 9: How to be safe when pitching
The most dangerous part of pitching is a come backer. This is a line drive hit directly at the pitcher, waist high to head high. This is a very dangerous situation and can cause injury.
There are three ways to protect the pitcher from this:
1) ball placement within the strike zone
2) fielding drills for the pitcher
3) safety equipment
Ball placement: A ball hit up the middle without touching the ground until it has left the infield is the result of a perfect contract by the batter. They have hit the ball directly “ON THE NOSE”. To do this the ball had to be in a hitting zone perfect for the hitter’s location. If the batter was crowding the plate, that area may have been an outside corner. Batters find it easier to hit the ball on the nose if the ball’s path is straight. Fast balls with no movement, are what they want to see. If the pitcher throws more breaking stuff some batters, early in a count, may try to predict a pitch adjusting their stance and position accordingly. So the best defense against a come backer is the correct pitch selection and location. In youth sports I feel that pitch selection is the responsibility of the coach, pitcher and catcher in that order. A good youth coach, who has been around for a while, should have a “book” on the batters from the other team. As a teenager’s career unfolds it is possible to see the same batter over 100 times before college. If a record has been kept of the results of past meetings that include the pitch, if hit, and where it went, you can often duplicate good results by doing the same thing again. You can even warn the fielders in the area you may expect the ball to go just prior to the pitch. No catcher in youth sports can carry this info over the seasons in their head. For safety sake, if no other reason, pitch selection should be made by the coach. The pitcher should have the right to shake off any pitch almost all the time. Pitchouts and intentional walks are selections that should not be shaken. There will be times when a pitcher can’t get something to work correctly, or may have picked up an offensive signal or just doesn’t feel right about the selection. The coach should respect the pitcher’s shake off and discuss it later in the dug out. The catcher may have heard something also, perhaps a bunt sign has been picked up with a runner on. This is not the time to throw anything way off speed. If so, they should meet with the pitcher to exchange info. Selection is one thing but execution is the other. The pitcher must make the pitch work and place it where it is best. Practice makes this possible, lots of practice.
Fielding drills: Once in a while have someone stand directly behind the catcher with a ball. At the exact instant the catcher receives the ball the person behind the catcher should fake throwing their ball at the pitcher. This is done with every pitch. Sometimes the throw is made, fast and hard (for the pitchers level of development) and at the pitcher’s head. Do this about 10 times per practice, 2 or 3 practices a week. This builds an understanding for the pitcher that they can protect themselves and shows them the limits to the area they can effectively field. We have always said that unless a ball comes directly at the pitcher they should not attempt to field it. I also feel someone else should take high pop ups. If you can’t get someone to stand behind the catcher than try this; have the catcher put another ball in the back of their knee. Once in a while, the catcher should underhand toss it at the pitcher while their pitch is in flight to the catcher. Not as good a drill but much better than nothing
SAFETY EQUIPMENT: Pitchers helmets with clear face masks are sometimes used and are required by a fewl organizations. Be sure the helmet fits correctly, is well ventilated and completely dried between games. This visor MUST BE CLEAN and not scratched. If the visor does get scratched polish it out with toothpaste. In hot climates you might consider alternating helmets every other inning. You could poly bag one helmet and put it in ice, while the pitcher uses the other. Make a helmet change in between innings and repeat the process every inning. If the pitcher is tall, a stride leg pad could be a nice piece of armor If all of these recommendations are followed a quality pitcher getting a lot of mound time will have less that a dozen dangerous come backers in their career and will have the confidence to handle all of them.
RADAR GUNS Don’t use them. In youth sports they give you very little advantage. A good pitcher will cancel the advantage with their first pitch. There is still the cancer link to worry about and they cost money. Keep real good notes instead and you’ll get a much better result for the cash.

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Pitching Practice

Chapter 8: How to get the most out of your pitching practice

There will be days when you just don’t want to practice, how you handle them will depend on you and your goals, work ethic and commitments. These kind of days can’t be avoided but you can plan so they come up less often. Here is what you need to do:
1) find a catcher you can count on, actually a parent is best. The chemistry between you and your partner must be (and remain) very good. Whoever you get, they must have a consistent available time when you do. Their schedule has to match yours. Don’t work with another pitcher unless you have to.
2) pick a time that is most likely not to be interfered with. If possible, make it just before dinner or in the evening when it’s cooler. If you have to throw during the day try to find a location with shade. Bring suntan lotion
3) pick a location that is always available, SAFE, not too public, and well lighted. If possible, its surface should to be the same as you play on. Bring water and towels. Always have a cell phone available.
4) decide how often you will practice weekly. Better to start with 3 days and move up to 4 or 5 than to start at 5 and suffer burnout. Plan the same place, partner and time for EVERY PRACTICE.
5) look at the practice as a stepping stone to a fun career, not as a job. Use the hints under practice boredom to help you enjoy your time.
6) some folks like to have music when they practice, some don’t. Do what fits you best.
7) ware comfortable clothes fitting to your sport.
8) you will find the same people come to the area each day when you do. As you get better they will take notice and may even bring someone to watch you. GREAT !!!!! Don’t be embarrassed or shy. But don’t be cocky either…just friendly and confident!
9) be sure to warm down completely.
10) on the way home mentally review how things went so you can make adjustments if needed.

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