Pitch Calling Can Be Everything

She was one of the better pitchers I ever trained. Her speed was great and her movement was even more impressive. Her high school softball coach made it clear she would never reach her potential when he said, “All you need to do is throw fastballs to the right spot”. He felt that other pitches were a distraction. It did not go well.
Great pitch calling changes everything. I remember watching our older daughter in college. Her catcher was a best friend, roommate, and they began to communicate on the field in a special way. Kelsey was given the freedom to call the pitches for Angela and I have never seen two people more in sync. Kelsey read her very carefully, managed the game like a pro, knowing when to “go right at a hitter” and when to make her chase. Our daughter developed a lot of trust in Kelsey and that allowed her to relax and do her job.
The goal of a good pitch caller is to make the pitcher look better than she may actually be. I have seen average pitchers look fabulous because someone knew how to help her perform at peak. Read the pitcher, know the opposition, help the pitcher get into a rhythm, know when it is a good day to go right at the batter and when to make them chase. When do you try to strike out everyone or simply make them hit a pitch that will be easy for the defense to handle? A good pitch caller can make the pitcher look better than she is.
There are some glaring errors we see on every level. Here are a few:
-Calling too many different pitches. If a kid is “dialed in” with a couple of great pitches, and they are working, stay there. Keep returning to the well until you see signs the other team is adapting. Too many coaches want to use every pitch in the arsenal. Every kid has a good pitch or two, and a couple that are marginal. Throwing the marginal stuff often affects her confidence and rhythm, and gives the batter a much better chance of making good contact. If she has a couple of great pitches, if she can throw them to the right location, and if she can get them to work in exciting ways, you can win at any level. Watch the college playoffs this weekend and you will see that over and over.
-Trying to make the pitcher be something she is not. Sometimes the person calling the pitches was once a pitcher, or perhaps the pitch caller worked with a certain type of successful pitcher, and they try to make everyone pitch the same game. Now the pitcher is fighting two opponents; the one trying to bat against her, and the one calling pitches in ways she has little confidence.
-Failure to adjust the pitch calling. Recently I watched a college game and one team quickly recognized that the person calling the pitches liked to work the outside corner. They simply had the hitters squeeze the plate, just enough so that the outside pitch became “fat”, but not so much that the coach in the dugout would notice. Hitter adjusts, pitcher does not, hitter wins.
-Calling in predictable manner. Some pitch callers try to get ahead in the count every time. Nice idea. However, they begin to rely on a certain pitch to start every batter. Opponents notice and react. Other times they get nervous when falling behind in the count and to go a certain pitch. Good coaches on the other side pick that up quickly and tell the hitters to look for that pitch when they are ahead in the count.
-Failing to adjust to the human side. Each of us has days where one thing works better than others. Pitchers may be great with the curve one day and the changeup another. Be flexible and use the sharpest knife in the drawer on any given day.
The main point is that the person calling the pitches can make a mediocre pitcher look great, and an All-American look mediocre. If you are entrusted with that responsibility, it goes far beyond sitting on a bucket and throwing down random fingers.
**Note: It will be a busy summer and we hope to meet you. Denny will be heading to Winchester, Virginia in late May. In June he goes to Atlanta, UNCW Camp, Wisconsin, Chicago, and northern Virginia. July is scheduled for the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, New York, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and Roanoke, Virginia when the ASA 14U Nationals come to town.

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