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.
FAN REACTIONS (game)
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

strikezone

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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