Improving Command From the Living Room
As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of baseball. It seemed that from April to September I literally watched a game or two a day. I was lucky enough to grow up in the time that when I came home from school I could catch all of the afternoon games from Wrigley live on WGN and then as soon as that game was over we had the Braves on TBS every night at 7:05. I really miss that programming and feel that I was super lucky to have been able to watch guys like Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine when they were in their prime.
For a kid absolutely in love with the game of baseball, it was can’t miss television.
I always seemed to have a ball in my hand and loved when they would do specials that showed all of the grips that the pitchers used. I would immediately give the grip a try from the couch and make mental notes for the next time I could get outside and throw. The change up I used for my entire career was a self-taught knock off of Greg Maddux’s famous circle change up. I loved when they would do those specials so I was sure to always keep a ball close by.
When there is a ball sitting on the coffee table at all times the temptation is to pick it up and start tossing it around. I developed a game that I would play with myself that I truly feel helped my command as I got older. I would lay on the couch or the floor and toss the ball up toward the ceiling trying to get it as close to the ceiling was possible without actually touching. I do not advise playing this game with a hard baseball until you get really good at it because, trust me, moms do not like hearing a baseball hit the ceiling. I would drive my parents crazy by constantly tossing a ball up towards the ceiling but I really believe that this helped me garner an in depth feel of how the baseball is supposed to come off my fingers. I have been doing this since I was probably seven or eight years old and I promise you if I come to your house and there is a ball laying around I will probably pick it up and start tossing it towards the ceiling. My wife has taken on my mother’s role for hollering at me when I accidentally hit the ceiling but I just can’t resist.
Another game I would play was to emulate whatever pitcher that was pitching that day and match them pitch for pitch by throwing the baseball at our love seat (another thing my mother absolutely loved). We had a relatively big living room and I would stand over by the fireplace and launch balls across our living room toward that little + that is made when the two cushions come together on the seat. This gave instant feedback because if I threw a good pitch, the ball would disappear inside the love seat. If I missed my spot, it would bounce off the cushion and hit the floor. My goal was to have a perfect inning every single time.
I feel that this helped me learn to make one pitch adjustments because, for example, if I missed to the left on a pitch, my attention turned towards not missing to the left on the very next pitch. I tell my pitchers all the time, “It’s ok to make a bad pitch, just don’t make two bad pitches in a row.” The constant attention to detail of what is happening in a pitcher’s delivery and release point is what separates that great ones from the ones who cannot command the strike zone. It is almost impossible to exactly repeat the same exact delivery every single time but I truly believe that if it is worked on more than just the few minutes at practice you can come really close. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and I wouldn’t be surprised if I got most of my 10,000 hours in the living room watching baseball every single day.
Ps. Start with a tennis ball or some kind of squishy ball to keep all the Mommas out there happy. I learned the hard way.