Baseball Magazine

The Forbidden Conversation

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
Having pitched at the college and professional levels, I think I have a pretty good idea as to what makes a pitcher successful enough to pitch at those levels.  Although I did not make it to the major leagues, I played with and against many pitchers who did.  We have had many conversations with our pitchers about what they need to do to be effective in high school as well as at the higher levels.  There is a coaching dilemma, however, that arises when you speak to pitchers that are good enough to be watched by college coaches and professional scouts.  It involves the concept of “make up.”  I’ve written a number of posts related to this concept (THIS one and THIS one are examples) and even interviewed a scout friend of mine who spoke about it as well.  Click HERE to go back to that one if you like.   There is something related to “make-up” that every college coach and pro scout would love to see.  Here is the scenario.  The pitcher throws a hard fastball on the first pitch and the other team’s best hitter turns on it and absolutely crushes it deep into foul territory.  There is often an audible “Ooooooooo” from the crowd.  What comes next is what college coaches and pro scouts will pay very close attention to.  There are usually two choices a pitcher has.  Most pitchers will think, “He just killed a fastball so I’ll either throw an off-speed pitch now or maybe another fastball low and away and get him to try and pull it.”  Smart pitcher, right?  Other pitchers may take a different approach.  They may think, “You son of a -----.  That’s my plate and you will not take another swing like that on me ever again.  This next pitch is going to be an inch from your chin.  Your helmet, bat, and shoes are all going to go in opposite directions after this next pitch.”  The cartoon of Charlie Brown should provide a good visual of this.
The forbidden conversationOne of the challenges with scouting is finding out the heart, passion, and fight of a player.  This becomes even tougher for pitchers when their coaches demand that they keep their poise on the mound at all times.  It seems contradictory.  The coach wants the pitcher to always remain calm and cool but the scout wants to see passion and fight.  If a scout sees a fiery pitcher who storms around the mound, glares at hitters, and occasionally “let’s one fly,” his passion and fight is easily seen.  If the pitcher is trained to be calm, many scouts may interpret that as a kid with little or no passion.  So what is a coach to do?  This is the dilemma.   
Here’s what I think.  At my level, I can never tell a pitcher to “let one fly.”  If Roy Halliday wants to throw a pitch one inch from a batter’s chin, the pitch will end up one inch from the batter’s chin.  If I tell a high school pitcher to throw it one inch from the batter’s chin, he’ll likely be inaccurate and may hit the batter square in the face.  On the human side, I would have a tough time living with myself if this occurred.  On the professional side, I would not only lose my coaching job but might even lose my teaching job as well.  Some coaches have. 
A pitcher needs to know what it takes to play at the higher levels.  Many of our conversations are geared to passing that information on to them and lead to how we train them in practice.  Right or wrong, the conversation about throwing at or very close to batters on purpose is just not something I can do.  At least in my opinion.

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