By: Alex Shapiro
On Sunday nights around 9 PM, I look forward to getting on Twitter. In fact, there are times where I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to do so. I probably sound like most teenagers in America as they are on social media quite frequently, as am I, but something in particular about getting on Twitter at this time allows me to become involved in an event that enhances my ability to do something I am very passionate about and love to do: coach baseball. What might I ever be talking about that involves coaching baseball, 9 o’clock on Sunday nights, and Twitter? The answer to that question is described by a hashtag: #PitchingChat.
Baseball minds in the Twittersphere come together at this time and dig into topics that are not only related to pitching, but all aspects of baseball that range from how coaches handle parents effectively to conditioning programs to arm care. There are times where I jump in and others where I observe, just blown away by what material is being thrown out there for us and I get caught up in typing away at my laptop, scrolling through my phone for updates. What I like most about #PitchingChat is that every voice is heard, considered and responded to, regardless of whether you have been playing for a short period of time or coaching for years on end. In fact, I consider it an honor when esteemed coaches with credentials that speak for themselves take time to respond to a thought I contributed or provide feedback to a question I had.
The benefits to #PitchingChat are countless to say the least. I always tell my players that Twitter can be informative if you seek out the right information. #PitchingChat provides that and more for both coaches and players. For me personally, I am a first year head coach aspiring to build a program based on a solid foundation of hard work, commitment and accountability. I was fortunate enough to partake in a #PitchingChat a few months ago that involved starting an off-season conditioning program, something that has NEVER been done at the school I coach at and NEVER been done by the players we have. Using the tips and advice I received that night, those qualities I mentioned before—hard work, commitment and accountability—are becoming every day, common expectations amongst our players as a result of the program I developed using help from the baseball minds I had the pleasure of conferring with that evening.
#PitchingChat provides me with several ideas to challenge my players, both from an individual and team standpoint. One drill I picked up on during #PitchingChat has contributed to improving the command and ability to locate pitches for the guys we have that will take the mound this spring. At first, the pitchers in our program did not have the slightest idea of what locating a pitch meant, let alone what it took to do it, considering a lot of them have never been asked to do it before. They simply see the one finger from the catcher and throw a fastball, hoping it goes in the direction of the plate. I wanted to find a way to expand on this and take their ability to a level that has not been reached. Luckily, a coach on #PitchingChat mentioned that he has his pitchers square off in a game of PIG, but not the common driveway basketball game we played as kids. Instead, during bullpens, one pitcher will throw a pitch, and if properly executed, the next pitcher has to do the same. If not, the second pitcher is served with a letter “P”. It is to the point now to where pitchers ask out of excitement if they get to play PIG during bullpens. This, in my mind, creates the element of competition amongst not only each other, but against potential hitters they will face. This game is helping build confidence within our pitchers to not only visualize executing their pitches, but to actually be able to do it!
The bits of advice, tips and drills I have learned that I did not know before as a result of #PitchingChat have without a doubt made me a better coach. Coaches, players, and all baseball minds that are on Twitter, my advice to you is to follow @PitchMechanics, set aside some time for Sundays at 9 PM (make sure your phone is fully charged! I learned that lesson early!), and be prepared to soak in the abundance of quality information you will receive.