With Hillsdale, Michigan being in a constant state of frigidity, we had another week of indoor practices to take us into February. As we get closer to the season we start working on situational things that we will see during our games.
This week we worked on defensive bunt coverages. The Biermann facility allows us to have a full-size infield for us to work on plays with the right dimensions. To get a live situation, the position players were divided into two teams with pitchers rotating in every batter. Pitchers were throwing to catchers about fifty feet away and everything was played live off the bat. It was awesome to get some work in with a space big enough to portray an infield when you’re stuck inside.
In order to get pitcher’s arms ready to carry a large workload, we began throwing bullpens this week. Each guy threw two 20 pitch “innings” mixing in fastballs, change-ups and a few breakers. In the weeks coming up we will start throwing live to hitters during their hitting groups and increase the number of pitches thrown each week.
In addition to the physical work put in, we also have been doing things to improve ourselves mentally. Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” While his numbers may be off, he is exactly right about how important the mental side of baseball is. To work our minds we have been doing things like visualization and extending our mental thresholds. In the hitting groups, the coaches have been setting up the pitching machines to throw sliders, curveballs, and fastballs as fast as they can go. On defense, fielders are being challenged to make uncomfortable and awkward plays. Drills like these help change guys’ thresholds to allow them to handle more and be mentally prepared.
Visualization is a tool we use a lot to prepare as well. On the pitching staff we are encouraged to visualize pitching at all of the fields that we play on during the year. Veterans can use their memory to recreate the field setting for different places. Young guys or guys who have not been to certain places can look up photos of fields to get a feel for what they look like and create a backdrop. It may sound odd, but we have also practiced visualization in order to get better at it. Visualizing a baseball game is tough, you have to think about what things look like, what the weather is doing, and all of your surroundings. In order to get good at perfecting that, it helps to start small and practice. Our first visualization exercise involved things like picturing a lemon and tasting its juice, or taking a bite of a cotton ball. Weird things, but things you can feel or taste pretty easily just by thinking about them.
Knowing that we leave for our first game this month reminds us of all the preparation and practice we still need to do in order to be ready.