By: Everett Hancock
As a former pitcher, I understand the importance of this position to the team. The pitcher bears quite a bit of responsibility on the outcome of the game. The team relies heavily on their pitchers to bring a certain competitive mindset and intensity to the mound on game day. I chose to be a pitcher for just those reasons. I loved the pressure, the responsibility, and the fact that the “spotlight” so to speak was shining directly on me. I knew that I had to perform at a high level to help give my team a chance to be successful and I embraced those moments each time I took the mound! I enjoyed the competition between myself and the hitter. Each batter was a new “battle”.
In order to prepare accordingly to step on the mound, pitchers must develop a well-defined routine to get themselves both physically and mentally ready to pitch. I believe that there are many “layers” to developing a solid pre-game routine. First, a pitcher must be well rested. It takes a lot of energy to pitch. It is vital that the day before a scheduled start, a pitcher be properly hydrated and able to get 8-10 hours of sleep. Making sure your arm and body receive proper rest in between outings is essential to the success and health of a pitcher.
Second, it is important that the pre-game routine has a time associated with it. The timed routine should be specific and should work backwards off the scheduled first pitch game time. The plan should include some involvement from a pitching coach and should also be communicated to the pre-game catcher for that given day. Having a defined, specific routine will not only allow the pitcher to get physically “loose” but will also enable him to work more effectively to become more mentally prepared and focused as well.
Third, warming up the body is the next key ingredient to a sound pre-game routine for pitchers. Performing a routine of both static and dynamic stretching, arm band work, and some light cardio are all effective methods to help warm up the body.
Next, playing catch and long tossing are an integral piece to a pitcher’s pre-game routine. A common mistake made by young pitchers is being so anxious and/or excited to jump right on the mound without first properly playing catch and getting their arm warmed up. Pre-game throwing should include long toss, which stretches out further than the mound distance of course. Each pitcher is different regarding pre-game long toss distance, but I encourage pitchers to simply “listen” to their arm on game day and long toss according to how they feel. Flat ground work during pre-game is acceptable and encouraged. This allows time for an emphasis on mechanics before stepping into the bullpen to get ready to pitch.
Lastly, it is vital that pitchers have a plan once they step into the bullpen. It’s important that the pitcher prepares for a variety of situations that he may find himself over the course of a game. A simple pre-game plan should include throwing out of the wind up and the stretch, as both situations will likely arise during the game. Mixing locations is another important element of the pre-game bullpen routine, as pitchers should try and work their pitches to both sides of the plate and up/down. I prefer to begin working off my fastball and establishing that pitch, then begin to mix in my secondary pitches with mixed location as well. Finally, a pitcher may choose to pitch to a “simulated” hitter or two prior to finishing up his pre-game bullpen routine. At the conclusion of his bullpen routine, the pitcher should hopefully feel loose, confident, and ready to take the mound.