As Lefty gets older, I see the need for him to start thinking more about the mental side of the game. Last weekend we were playing in a tournament and I witnessed a few plays that caused some confusion. In baseball you have to be one pitch and one play ahead in your mind. What if the ball is hit to me? What if the runner steals? Questions like these need to be asked before every pitch.
The first play was a pitcher with and 0 – 2 count serving up a pitch right over the plate. The game was tied and approaching the last innings. The batter swung at the first two pitches offered. The pitcher thought he was doing what he was supposed to do by throwing a the ball over the heart of the plate for strike three. The 0-2 pitch was smacked to left field for a single. Go-ahead run on first base. Unless you have a pretty large lead, you want to put the pressure on the batter by throwing an 0-2 pitch off the plate. Learning to pitch is the mental side of the game.
The second involved an opposing team putting pressure on a pitcher to balk. With runners on third and first, the runner from first takes off before the pitch as the pitcher comes set. Everyone player, coach and fan yells at the pitcher…STEP OFF! RUNNER! HOLY COW!!! The young pitcher overcome by this shock wave of sound, twitches his shoulders resulting in a balk. Runner on third gets home, runner in first gets second. Knowing the situation and being ready for a runner to take off is the mental side of the game.
I don’t blame these young 10 year old pitchers in these plays. It is a maturity of thinking about the game in a way that needs to be learned and coached. I want to begin focusing on the mental side of the game with Lefty.
I read an interview with C.J. Wilson from 2011 describing his mental approach to the game. It is fascinating and abundant. You can read it here. He mentioned a book that he read when he was 12 years old that helped him start thinking about his mental approach to the game.
“When I was 12 years old I started having a routine for when I pitched. I’ve always had a mental process, but it was when I was 12 that I read “Heads-Up Baseball” by Ken Ravizza. For me, the mental game has always been a component of my stuff.”
I think Heads-Up Baseball will benefit young players like Lefty. Lefty is 10, so it makes sense that the mental side will soon become more and more important. I will be picking this book up for Lefty. Amazon $12.55, done!