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Pitching 101: Mind in the Moment


Dan Cevette
President, New York





The column, Pitching 101, was inspired by Pitching and Catching classroom meetings throughout my professional career.  The content is based on my experiences and my journey and these are my opinions.

I tend to get asked a lot of questions about baseball, mainly pitching. I was a Professional Baseball Pitcher for 11 years for three different MLB Organizations where I was able to gain a great deal of knowledge on pitching from some pretty impressive instructors.  Some of those being; John Farrell, Scott Radinsky, Charles Nagy, and Steve Belcher just to name a few. I have also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Giants Gold Glove Catcher Kurt Manwaring (1992) a time or two. Now let's get started...

MIND IN THE MOMENT

I was 18-years old, it was my first professional season and I was making the fifth start of my career when in the blink of an eye, I was shocked at what was before me.  Three runs on the score board, bases loaded and my catcher and pitching coach making their way to the mound where I stood.  In this moment, it felt as though I had been punched directly in the face by the game.  The game I had typically dominated my entire amateur career, but in this moment the daunting feeling of failure was all I could feel. 

From that moment forward, my confidence was shattered and my thoughts continued to return to that night. I kept wondering and fearing it would happen again and I continued to question my abilities.  These feelings and fears plagued my entire first year and this is why I chose this topic to share with you all. After that start, I walked the first batter of the first inning every remaining start (10 more) that year and each walk resulted in a first inning score every single game. I was letting my negative thoughts win each outing, each pitch based on history.   Once that first run scored, my thoughts and composure spiraled out of control and I began to pitch on the defense.  I was walking on tight ropes each game and each game I fell deeper into a negative mindset. 

I know what you're thinking...that I was scared of the hitters.  However, that wasn't the case.  I wasn't scared of the hitters but I was giving them too much credit. I was thinking too much and trying to make perfect pitches instead of playing with conviction in my abilities that got me to where I was.  It wasn't until my 3rd full year of professional baseball that I was truly able to shake this mindset and it all started with a simple tee-shirt that read "Mind in the Moment".

The Indians had a strong belief in the psychology of the game and how it effected players.  Simply meaning, I wasn't alone in this. I'm sure you're all familiar with the saying "stuck in a slump"? Almost every good athlete, regardless of the sport, is faced with adversities that sometimes lead to slumps.  There comes a point where your confidence only gets you so far and a more powerful mechanism takes over; the brain.  However, confidence can be a sharp double edged sword. What I mean is that sometimes too much confidence can lead an athlete to under-think which often leads to errors. Either way, lack of confidence or too much confidence can all be directly related to the psychology components of the game. "Mind in the Moment" was a concept that was designed to help athletes focus on the now and not what just happened, or could happen.  "Mind in the Moment" was a simple concept, but its execution was challenging, especially for me.  

For me, it was about a lifestyle change and learning to truly live by "Mind in the Moment".  It was about understanding that constant worrying about my performance only brought unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.  It was about learning to let go of control in order to have control.  To balance the highs and the lows.  Living by "Mind in the Moment" is about letting go and simply playing the game without fear or wonder. 

Now, don't get me wrong, this concept is much easier said than done.  However, over the course of my playing career I utilized a few strategies that helped me focus on the moment and not what just happened.  I found that chewing gum, breathing techniques and an awareness of my body language were helpful.  Chewing gum and breathing offered a distraction while having an awareness of how I presented myself to the hitters really made a difference.  If you lose sight of the moment and let your fear show you are giving the hitters an added edge of confidence.  Simply said, this concept; "Mind in the Moment", is about balance, it's about having confidence in your ability to overcome failures while keeping your composure.  Talent and natural abilities can only get you so far in the game.  One should never underestimate the power of the mind. 

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