What’s in a Mound Visit?
When things start to unravel on a pitcher and an innings begins to get away, coaches will call time out and make their way out to the mound to speak with their pitcher. There may be a list of things not going as well as he would like, but a visit from the pitching coach seems to calm things down. Some coaches will move with a slower pace while other may be on and off the field before you know it. The art of the mound visit can make a pitching coach look really smart if it works out or perhaps the opposite if it doesn’t. In this edition of Balls and Strikes, we want to ask our panel of coaches what are a few things they fell necessary to communicate to their pitchers during those visits.
University of Virginia
Mound visits…..No one goes to the mound to say hello. There are a number of reasons we as coaches take a trip to the mound. There are in game mechanical adjustments ( although I try to stay away from this one during competition), Mid game situations ( how we should pitch a guy in a certain situation, or how we are going to defend the situation we are in), a Breather is another one that I use. When a pitcher got out of a long at bat or a tough situation that was very taxing on him either mentally or pitch count wise and the runner is still in scoring position. And then the last one that i can think of is just basically a time out. Changing momentum. For me the best that i have seen do this last one mentioned is Coach Martin of FSU truly a wizard.
Any of these and more are the reasons why we go to the mound. What i do when i am there is really try to keep it simple. I try to let the pitcher know that I am in it with him and i want the same thing that he does….. our team out of this mess. How do we get there. There is a thing called Primacy / Recency. Basically we will recall the things at the first part of the conversation and the last part of the conversation. Everything in the middle gets gargled up. So I try to have a Sober Plan, as best as i can, before i go out to the mound of exactly what i want to or need to say and then make sure that it is communicated in the right parts of my time out there. I also like to ask questions. It shows me that the pitcher is engaged in the fix and not the problem , the solution and not the situation. If i cannot get that quickly then i go to leading questions and or questions that end with YES answers as Yes AFFIRMS. The last thing i do before i leave the mound is give them an image or a thought that is completely successful. It could have been the same situation in the game we are in now that happened in an intrasquad. It could have been from a successful outing in the past, a big game where he made a great pitch to get out of something before or something that we know from a scouting report. My catcher knows that when i leave, most of the time I ask him if he as anything to add on the front end and then when i get done and leave that is it …as i want my pitcher to have that image as i leave the mound. Then it is time to close the inning and give our team a chance to win this inning.
Kennesaw State University
On most mound visits all of our infielders will come in for the meeting. My main goal is to ensure to all of them (P,C, and INF) that we will get out of the jam. I start by getting the pitcher to commit to a pitch by asking what pitch in his repertoire he feels most confident in locating at that moment. Next, I take whatever pitch he says and tell him what is going to happen when he executes that pitch. For example, if there are men on 1st and 2nd I tell him when he throws that pitch the batter is going to hit a ground ball to SS and he is going to flip it to 2B who is going to turn it over to 1B for a double play. I will use the INFs actual names on the visit so we can all get a good visual of the play. Once I feel like I have painted a good picture and make sure we are all in agreement I head back to the dugout.
University of Memphis
Mound visits for me are important for my younger pitchers more so than my more experience pitchers. The key for me on any mound visit is to find out about the “now”. Your pitcher has to understand that any given pitch, quality located or not, can produce an out. The key for that happening is confidence. Confidence cannot be found in the past or in the future. It can only be found in the present. Your pitcher has to be aware of the countless percentages that are in his favor. My job as a coach is to find out if I have to remind him of those things and get him back in the “now”. If so, I do. Another important factor for me is to allow for more time to creep into the game. More time for a reliever to get loose or for momentum against you to quiet down. The previous of getting back into the present and bowing our chest is more prevalent.
The mound visit for me usually consists of one of three things. First, I may be trying to just slow the game down. Baseball is a sport of momentum and when things get racing or the opposing team appears to be charging, its good to slow down the game and try and reset the situation. Second, I will look to discuss any possible defensive situation such as the safety squeeze or a special bunt coverage. If we feel they might safety we might want to talk about it to ensure we do not miss the opportunity to get an out. Finally, I will hold a mound visit so we can discuss how to work a hitter. In most cases I want my pitcher to attack the zone and get after hitters but their will be situations where you might want to face the next hitter as opposed to the current one so you need to ensure you pitcher understands that.