Win The Mental Game Vs. The Hitter

Written By Bryan Ingalls

Win the Mental Game vs. the Hitter


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Some coaches prefer to call a game for the Catcher and some Coaches let their Catcher call the game. There is no right or wrong way, it all depends on personnel, intelligence and talent levels. As a Coach to the game, I have always believed that the Catcher has the best view to call it. My approach and goal has always been to educate the Pitcher and the Catcher enough so that they have the ability to think in a way to confuse, find a hole, and beat the hitter. There are many unwritten rules and old school ways and patterns that have been passed down over the years. The thought process is very important but the simplicity of this aspect of the game has been overlooked.

Reading a hitter, I believe is the upmost important skill that should be learned in the sport of Softball and Baseball! Why you ask? If you can read a hitters swing you can learn how to pitch to them, get a read on where they might hit, what they need to work on , what their strengths are. Reading a swing will help your plan of attack in the circle, it will help your ability to improve as a hitter and it will help your ability to properly position yourself in the field. This topic can be spread out over a course of about 100 articles. A book can be written about different things to watch for, to listen to, and how to use these things to your benefit in every aspect of the game. But as I have always done is try to use the complicated thought process from the catching and coaching perspective and simplify it so that over thinking does not affect you in a negative manner.

Rule #1 that I always go by: Always trust your gut! Do not over think, hesitation is a speed bump in the communication process with the pitcher and also gives a little confidence booster to the hitter. There is never one perfect pitch for a certain situation. It is much better to throw the wrong pitch with 100% conviction than the right pitch while second guessing or with hesitation. It is the Catcher's and ultimately the Pitcher's job to make sure that happens.

Be observant! Pay attention to the players practice swings. Every hitter has a hole in their swing. And by hole I do not mean a swing and miss, but I mean there are always certain pitches and locations that a hitter struggles with, just some are better than the other. But physical ability is not even half the battle when trying to get a hitter out. It's a mental battle first and foremost. Whatever state of mind the batter is in mentally will directly affect what they do physically, so when I say be observant, take everything in. Look at their eyes, their breathing, their hands, how hard they are gripping the bat, where their feet are in the box, and what their swing looks like if they take a practice swing. Any tell or tip you can gain is information you can use in either this at bat or the next one. But also you do have to take into consideration what situation the game is in and whether there are runners on base. Depending on that situation your fielders will be positioned for that. Getting a batter out does not mean striking them out necessarily.

Do not create pitch patterns. Have the ability to throw all of your pitches in any count! Some hitters just see and react and others think and guess what pitch is coming. When a hitter can narrow it down to what you may call or what you may pitch it makes it easier for them to succeed. If a hitter has to be prepared for everything that you have the more they are thinking about which ultimately gives you the edge of the mental battle. Do your best to not turn a Pitcher vs. Hitter battle into strictly a Physical battle. There is nothing wrong with throwing balls, they can be very strategic. There is also nothing wrong with throwing a ball very short or very high to the screen. From a hitter's perspective if a pitcher is constantly around the strike zone and in a groove hitting al the spots the batter has a sense of comfort in the box knowing that A they will not get hit and B. you are going to be around the plate. That sense of controlled wildness goes a long way in winning the mental battle with the hitter. That strategy is great for a control pitcher or for when you are in a groove and spotting the ball wherever you want to. It is also a great idea to have a shake off sign. As I said before, many hitters try and guess what pitch will be thrown and generally those assumptions come based on the pitch count and situation so a shake off by a pitcher will make the hitter second guess the pitch. Never let the hitter feel comfortable. That is all a mental game.

Remember to be smart but most importantly keep it simple as well. You do not necessarily have to “waste” a pitch if you are way ahead in the count, or “groove” a pitch if you are behind. Every pitch has a purpose and there is information to be gathered with every action a hitter makes. If the hitter is successful that at bat, use that information for the next one because remember this game is a war and each pitch is an individual battle, it must be thought of like that! 100% focus for 100% of the game and success will come your way when you are battling the hitter as a battery.

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Bryan Ingalls : Bryan began coaching Softball at 19 years old while still playing baseball and began coaching at the college level at 21. He has spent 5 years as an assistant for Herkimer County Community College an SUNY Cortland and one season as a Head Coach at SUNY Canton. Bryan has also played competitive Men's Fastpitch for the last 6 years through the USA and Canada as a Catcher. Currently he is completing his degree in Sport Science as well as constructing a multi sport indoor and outdoor facility in Central New York along with instructing youth in all phases of the game while trying to instill the passion and enthusiasm that is needed to succeed.

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