3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers

The three most important things for a developing youth pitcher looking for a scholarship.

What are the most important things for a growing pitcher?  I’ll explain the 5 most important things to focus on perfecting before college.

While there is a conversation that needs to happen about youth pitches throwing too much, that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this post.  Expect that in a week or so…

Arianna pic pitching
Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

1. Arm Care & Strengthening

          CARE

The #1 most important thing for every pitcher is arm health.  There are plenty of pitchers who use Jaeger Bands before a start but that is NOT enough.

Even if you band for 20 minutes before a start, that doesn’t mean anything.  Banding before a start is your warm up, it helps your arm get acclimated to the throwing motion before you start actually throwing a ball.

You get real arm care when you take your pre-game arm care routine and combine it with a few light arm strengthening routines and do it every other day.  Regardless of whether you pitch or even play that day.  You should have about 30 minutes of work you can do every day.

And that is just to keep your health at 100%.

          STRENGTHENING

I’m not a pitcher and I’m not going to act like a baseball strength or pitching coach when I’m not one.  I am speaking from the point of view of a Division 1 baseball player and about what I’ve seen successful pitchers like recently called up pitcher Corbin Burnes do.

Talk to a strength coach about how to strengthen your arm and work on it every day.  Here are a few things I picked up when trying to strengthen my arm;

  • Your arm will only go as fast as your muscles can slow it down.  That is why a strong back is so important.
  • Arm strength is only one part of throwing hard.  With the right mechanics, velocity comes from the legs.
  • Many reps of small weight are much more effective than heavy weight.  Especially when dealing with small muscles in the arm.
  • When dealing with those smaller muscles, it shouldn’t hurt like when you squat or do curls, it should feel like a warm burn.
Arianna pic full field
Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

2. Be able to Throw AT LEAST 2 Pitches for Strikes Consistently

As a hitter, the biggest relief is when you realize a pitcher can only throw his fastball for a strike.  At the high school level, you can have an 81 mph fastball and be extremely efficient… but not if that’s the only pitch you can throw for a strike.

The key is to throw your off speed for strikes.  This summer for the Palm Springs Power, I played against pitchers of ALL different skill levels.  We went 28-7 powered mostly by our offense and the only thing that slowed us down was NOT pitchers with velocity.

It was pitchers who could locate more than one pitch for QUALITY strikes.

Few pitchers at the high school level can throw 3 pitches for strikes.  While you need to make sure your velocity is climbing, a lot of that will come with working out and growing.  Don’t try to force it too early.  Also you need to make sure your off speed pitches are effective.

I’m not saying that you can throw a bad slider down the middle.  You need to work on having good off speed pitches, and when I say ‘strike’ I mean something low in the zone.

pitching 2
Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

3. Velocity (unfortunately)

I hate the idea that you HAVE to throw hard to get a scholarship and it’s NOT I repeat NOT always true… but it does make it a whole lot easier.

I personally would rather hit against someone with velocity and little or no off speed command, but the way coaches see it, it’s a lot easier to teach off speed than it is to velo.

There are a lot of youth coaches out there who will see a guy who clearly is having trouble getting his velo up and will tell him, ‘ohhh you don’t really need velo to be successful.’  WHICH IS TRUE.  The problem is getting scout attention.  When your velo isn’t high you have to prove yourself every time you take the mound because your success can only be measured in the stat column.

Velo can be recorded and impress someone whether or not they give up any runs.

Even though I don’t want to, I am going to leave ‘getting your velo up’ as my last piece of advice.  That being said, I want to end my post with this:

When you’re working on your velocity, be aware that throwing too much or working your arm too hard will only cause poor or negative results.  If your goal is to get your velo up, slow and steady really wins the race and doing it the RIGHT way, through mechanics, total body strengthening, and deceleration exercises will benefit you in the long run.  You must be patient.

My last tip comes from something AMAZING I saw.  I was watching my buddy throw a bullpen one day at school.  He usually sat 87-90… I have no idea what mechanical changes the pitching coach told him to make, but he literally made a jump from 87-90 to 91-93 right in front of my eyes.

So what’s my point?  He wasn’t exerting extra energy.  Your mechanics are your most important part of your velocity which is why people say there is a difference between THROWING and PITCHING.

Not only that, your mechanics will keep your arm healthier.  Throw harder and get less sore… what more can you ask for?

pitching 3
Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

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Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

Does Your Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

Does Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

Does the position you play matter to scouts? What are scouts looking for when they watch defense?

When you go to tournaments and play in front of scouts, does it matter to them whether you’re at shortstop or right field?  I’ve got your answer…

Outfield

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the outfield.  The only problem will come when you prove yourself to be a bad outfielder or you show just how much you don’t want to be in the outfield.

big train fielding
©2017 Jacqui South Photography

Here are two tips from me about the outfield.

  1. Do everything you can to get that center field spot.  Sometimes coaches assume the smaller guy is the center fielder because they think he is faster.  If you think you’re faster than the center fielder, tell the coach that.  The center fielder is the leader and when you’re in center it is assumed you are fast and at least slightly more athletic than the other two outfielders.
    • Sometimes simply telling the coach you want to play center is enough to make him think about it more.  Often times coaches will assume a lot of things just by your appearance and won’t second guess their decisions.  Make him second guess his decision.
  2. If you’re in the outfield, don’t treat it like a walk in the park.  Obviously, on routine balls which will be 90% of your outfield experience, you won’t be showcasing much by catching a lazy fly ball or ground ball.  So here’s a few things to focus on when you’re out there…
    • Make every single routine play – messing up routine plays shows a lack of focus more than a lack of ability… which is probably worse.
    • Do ALL the little things.  Back up bags, throws and fielding infielders.  This shows strong focus, baseball IQ, and hustle.
    • Make smart plays… know the situation.  Every time you get a ball you should already know where it’s going without having to listen to anybody else.  Also never miss your cutoff, letting runners get an extra bag does not (or should never) happen at the college level.

Infield

By showing that you play the infield, you’re showing you have a skill that the outfielder’s might not have – fielding a ground ball.  That being said, by playing the infield you’re going to be presented with the opportunity to prove that you CAN’T field a ground ball.

My #1 piece of advice for an infielder is to just make the routine plays.  That doesn’t sound like much, but picking up the ball and getting it over to first on time constantly is the first thing coaches look for.

It’s great making outstanding plays, but don’t be the guy that makes incredible plays but just can’t figure out how to field the ball right at him.

Shortstop vs the Other Positions…

In high school I had a friend who transferred schools because he wasn’t playing short stop.  Do I think it’s that important to play short stop?  No.  At second or third base you showcase the same exact skills.

At my college, all the second basemen played short, and all the short stops played both second and third.  The only difference between third basemen is that they sometimes are bigger and have less range, but just because you play third doesn’t mean that’s true.

Whether you play second, third or short, my advice stays the same.  Show that you can consistently make routine plays and coaches will be able to trust you playing the field for their school.

Catchers

If you’re a catcher and you really commit yourself to becoming a great defensive player, you’ll have a huge leg up on many other catchers.  There are a lot of decent catchers and not too many great ones.

If you’re a great catcher, then how you hit doesn’t really matter.  That being said, if you’re a great catcher and a pretty good hitter then you’re a premium player.

Most players have to attract college scouts on the offensive side first.  Catchers can attract offers on both sides of the field.  You can grab yourself a scholarship hitting .200 if you’re a top tier catcher.  I had a friend at school who got drafted as a catcher… he was top 20 in division 1 strikeouts…..

Yes, he had a ton of power, but he didn’t prove much on the offensive side of the ball.  Yet, he was given a lot of money by the Chicago White Sox.

I’m not going to do a section on pitchers because you’re not technically a position player.  I will write about pitchers in the near future though.

 

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Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

My View on the Launch Angle Focused Swing

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

5 Things to do to Get a Baseball Scholarship

5 things you can do to become more appealing to college scouts

Getting a scholarship is one of the most life changing things that can happen to an athlete… so how do you make that happen?  As someone who has been through the process and seen other people go through it countless times, here are some things that help the most when trying to get a scholarship:

1. Play Well

Image result for bethesda big train picture matt greenThis one is obvious which is why I started with it.  In order for you to get even a look, the
first thing you need to do is show that you can compete at the next level.  Whether that means playing for a Division 1, 2, 3 or NAIA school.

The biggest reason I put this in the list was to say that this is only the first step.  While this is the most obvious way to get a scholarship, for most, it’s only one part of a larger process.

2. Get Good Grades

Once a college scout sees you perform well, the first thing he will ask your coach is, “What do his grades look like?”  Meaning, what is his GPA?

How high the GPA requirement is depends on the school.  It can be as low as 2.8 or as high as a 3.5 (don’t try to push it, you want as many options as you can have, a 3.3 is probably a safe bet anywhere you want to go).  Be safe and just do the absolute best you can in school.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went on an unofficial visit to UC Riverside.  I was walked around all the facilities just to be brought into the head coaches office to be told that my grades were too low.  I was sitting at a 2.7 at the time.  That was a huge wake up call for me and the very next semester got a 3.5.

If you have a bad GPA now, it’s not too late.  Bringing it up and keeping it up will show scouts that you are committing yourself to school, no matter how late you are doing it.  You can prove to them that you are capable.  They are human and will see your effort.

3. Show Your Maturity

Like I talked about in an earlier post about what college recruiters are looking for,  they’re recruiting a person, not just a player.  A huge part of a great college team is a great team culture.  If somehow the coach finds out you love to drink and party, or slightly less bad – love to sit on the couch and do nothing, they won’t want you as bad.

There are thousands of kids just as good as you who want it just a little more.  Give yourself a leg up on your competition by showing your maturity and desire to do well.

The coach is also considering putting HIS name behind YOURS.  When you get a scholarship, the coach is telling the world that he believes in you.  The coach has a reputation to keep and he will be a lot less willing to put his name behind someone who loves to get in trouble, or someone who doesn’t really care about doing well.

On the field, show everyone how bad you want it.

4. Play as Often as You Can

Get on one or more travel teams and play, play, play.  I know there is a lot of controversy about playing too much ball, but the more you play the more eyes you’ll get.  If you’re a pitcher, make sure you take care of yourself every single day especially before and after pitching.

Playing is the only way to be seen.  Fortunately, if you don’t want to play every weekend, you can go to big tournaments where scouts tend to gather.  Perfect Game tournaments come to mind the most.  I know that the most heavily scouted tournaments tend to be in Arizona and Florida at the minor league facilities.

Yes, that means you might have to make the drive or flight.  These tournaments can really run up your bill, but if you perform, the scholarship will pay for all of your expenses in the long haul.

 

5. Market Yourself

When I was in high school I hated kids that always talked about how hard they worked.  Especially the kids who always said they worked hard but clearly didn’t.

If you can work hard when nobody is watching you will become a much better athlete.  Nobody’s watching most of the time.  But when you’re trying to get scouted, you need to recognize when people are watching and work even harder.

I don’t care what anybody else says when they notice it.  When people are watching, you need to step your game way up.  That being said, the way to become great is by working as hard as you can 24/7.

Someone with a great work ethic has the best potential.  If you play with or against someone who is better than you but you clearly have the better work ethic, coaches might see more potential in you than him.

 

Hopefully this helps you, if you have any more questions for me, leave a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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Like what you see? Follow me for more!

Like my Facebook page, and follow my blog via email for updates when I make new posts!

Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

What College Coaches are Looking For

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

The Importance of Hitting Every Day