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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

5/4/23 : This Day and Age

Updated: May 5, 2023

Many times I hear folks use the term “in this day and age” in particular when discussing things that they have reservations about as compared to prior times.  Changes in philosophy, rules, approach, techniques, etc. solicit the phrase it seems.  I’ve often said that in many ways Baseball mirrors life, it’s evolution over the years of existence hasn’t been a stagnant one, like life itself the stages and approaches of the game have changed with the times, to some that is even more prevalent in this day and age.

One of the most evident periodic changes in baseball has been the evolution of pitching.  In the present version of the game bullpen pitchers are vital keys to team success.  “High leverage” situations are identified throughout the course of each game, top level relievers aren’t necessarily tied to the last inning to close out games but rather to strategically impact outcomes whenever a potential turning point is at hand.  In minor league player development plans bullpen arms are conditioned to perform in those instances including roles as “bulk relievers” and/or one inning shutdowns.

With the importance of “high leverage” innings in mind I asked a few of the Phillies minor league relievers how they prepare to pitch in those situations and deal with the adrenaline rushes that certainly occur in order to control their emotions.  We got back some very thoughtful responses.

Trey Cobb - Lehigh Valley IronPigs - “That adrenaline rush is what makes it worth it!  Once you taste it it’s tough to pitch without it so you just crave those tight games and big spots because it’s a feeling like no other!”

Wesley Moore - Clearwater Threshers - “I could give you a long winded answer because there are a lot of factors but I’ll simplify it . Everyday I have to prep my body to throw and pitch at my best. I have a routine that helps me be ready at any time especially out of the bullpen . But pitching in those high leverage situations is definitely more of a mental challenge . There is for sure lots of adrenaline but each guy has to figure out what works for them pitch by pitch.  For me I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time and really zone in on what I’m trying to do with each pitch ,any outside factors shouldn’t effect me because no matter the situation the goal is to make pitches and get outs, that doesn’t change.”

Jason Ruffcorn - Jersey Shore BlueClaws - “There’s some adrenaline and the biggest thing is just not trying to do too much and trusting your work.”

Andrew Schultz - Reading Fightins - “I think you just have to treat every outing the same whether it’s high leverage or not. Focus on your next pitch and get outs no matter the situation.”

Tommy McCollum - Jersey Shore BlueClaws - “Prepare the same way, it’s the same game, ya know. There’s always a little more adrenaline in higher leverage but it’s more mental than physical so just making sure I breathe and relax.”

Tristan Garnett - Jersey Shore BlueClaws - “I remind myself there’s zero difference in the situations and try to put myself in the mindset that it’s simply just the catcher and me out there.  And when I need a moment to reset, I take a step off the mound and find something far away to focus on and I maintain that focus until I feel clear minded. I feel like the adrenaline your body creates (because it knows what’s going on) can almost serve as more energy to focus. Nerves will ALWAYS be there, but once you learn how to transform the energy it helps even more.“

Max Kuhns - Reading Fightins - “I try and go about my business the same everyday and stay consistent in my routines pregame and during the game so I’m prepared for whatever situation Al and Bergie chose to put me in. I love the high leverage situations and there is definitely an adrenaline rush, but for me I get that rush anytime I go into pitch because I’m just excited to be out there to try and help the team win. I was a closer in college, threw in high leverage situations in Sioux City (Independent League), and closed down in Mexico (Winter League) so it is a role I am familiar with and love to be in. I just try to go out there and compete with everything I have.”

Andrew Walling - Clearwater Threshers - “Usually starts with the national anthem as the first step. From there I watch the game and start to prepare for the situation that my name may be called in. The next “phase” would be the fifth inning and later. Usually when the stakes get higher and the pen will be called upon.  Outside of that it is keeping a consistent routine and understanding my preparation has gotten me 100% ready to pitch in these situations. Once my name is called it’s time to compete and go do my job. One pitch at a time. Understanding I’m not just pitching for myself. When I go do my job it helps the rest of our pitchers as well as position guys. When everyone is confident and focused on completing the task at hand it is easier to be loose and not let the gravity of the situation weigh you down. This Threshers team makes doing that job even easier because of the trust each guy has in the next.”

Alex Garbrick - Jersey Shore BlueClaws - “There is certainly an adrenaline rush and a different feeling and level of excitement when you come in high leverage vs non high leverage situations! I think that can be used to our advantage but definitely needs to be controlled. It can be hard but it is important that you don’t try to overthrow and just be yourself even in those big moments. I think it is extremely important to be able to control your breathing in those moments and relax yourself so you don’t try to do more than what makes each person great. So I think controlling your breathing and remembering your strengths and sticking to them is critical for those moments.”

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, to me keeping it real isn’t about being skeptical about changing times, terminology or adapting to perhaps new roles but rather it’s about highlighting strengths and working on weaknesses so that they don’t encumber your effort. The responses from the fellas certainly emphasize the importance of positive thinking and preparation in doing their job.  Thanks to them all for taking the time to answer my questions.

From my perspective the Phillies approach to player development is about a focus on having a standard of work, values and culture and then protecting it to enable it to be an ongoing success. That’s what I attempt to write about in my daily coverage of the Phillies Player Development system as they keep working towards the ultimate organizational goal of winning the World Series.  That’s my take in this day and age.  Just sayin 🤓

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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