Is it safe to say that most pitchers wouldn’t be thrilled to know that in an inning of work they gave up 2 runs, 2 hits, 2 hit batters, a wild pitch, and a strike out??
WELL… I’m not most pitchers!!! I am pleased to announce that I got to make my collegiate debut as a pitcher on March 23, 2011 vs. Columbus State! (Mark down that date, it is sure to be a trivia question once I win my 3rd Cy Young award)
With 1 out in the top of the 9th inning, with a score of 24-10 in the Argonauts favor (naturally) I was called on to “get loose”! Before Coach Jeffcoat was able to finish saying it, my clipboard was down, glove in my hand, and running down to the bullpen. Everybody on the team was very excited for me to get this opportunity, and it really helped my confidence knowing that everyone was behind me. When I got down to the bullpen I quickly stretched, focused, and warmed up. I’d say I was more nervous in the bullpen because I was trying to warm up quickly because there was 1 out with bases loaded and if there was a double play ball I may not have gotten to throw any warm up pitches.
The final out of the inning was recorded, and I took my first leap of faith over the white line that separates players from reserves. It was my time to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve been reading a book called, “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” by H.A. Dorfman, which goes over multiple mental scenarios that would help a pitcher be successful. My routine is to usually read 1 or 2 sections before every game, to keep something positive in my head in case I got to throw. This day, I read “Task at Hand” and “Tempo”. In the Task at Hand section, Dorfman relays the message of “taking it one pitch at a time” and focusing on the behavior that only the pitcher can control. In the Tempo section, Dorfman relays the message of having good rhythm on the mound, not specifically the pitching motion, but not rushing because of the situation the pitcher is in. Some pitchers tend to rush if they are thrown some adversity, and it usually compounds the problem. ANYWAYS…… Once I get to the mound, I am aware of the 27 other guys on the team going crazy in the dugout because I’m pitching, and it was an overwhelming experience to know that they all wholeheartedly wanted me to succeed.
The first batter stepped to the plate, I went threw my routine of brushing off the rubber with my hat (which I stole from Tino Award Finalist Hayden Simpson), took a deep breath, toed the rubber, and told myself “good low strikes”. It is a positive self-talk strategy that I picked up from the book. I got the sign, picked up my target, and BAM, ball one! Thinking about working quickly, I got back on the rubber, got the sign, and BAM, strike one! The dugout erupted, and on the next pitch I threw another fastball, and the batter flied out to left. It took me 3 pitches to get my first out!
The next batter came to the plate, I toed the rubber again, “good low strikes”, threw 2 balls. On the next pitch I hit the batter in the leg. Honestly, I wasn’t too concerned with hitting the guy… I told myself to get back and execute the next pitch, the previous one was history, and I couldn’t do anything about it now (also from the book). The next batter came the plate, and got ahead of him 0-2, wasted a pitch outside to get him to chase, and the count ran 1-2. The next pitch was a fastball that painted the black on the outside corner and the umpire rang him up! My first strike out! The dugout went nuts! 2 outs now, with a runner on 1st.
I got ahead of the next batter 1-2, but left the next pitch over the plate a little too much, and he hit a single that dropped in left field. Runners were now on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. All I needed was a good ground ball to end the game. Instead, I got behind the hitter 2-1, and left a fastball over the plate to the best hitter on their team and he smoked a double into the gap scoring 2 runs. Once again, I cleared my head before I got back on the rubber and told myself to execute the next pitch. I got ahead of the next batter 1-2, but failed to get my slider out front enough and it barely grazed the sleeve of his shirt. 2 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd, and the next thing I know, I throw a fastball in the dirt, and both runners advance. At this point, I told myself to calm down, focus on the target, and execute the pitch. I got the hitter to fly out to third to end the game! My first outing was complete! I finished the inning and was mobbed by my team with congratulatory high fives and hugs. I believe the reason they were so excited for me was because they all know the hard work that I’ve put in this year, along with all the trouble I had in the fall and it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders! I came in and did my job, I got 3 outs!
I was surprised at how comfortable I felt while I was pitching. I had played that situation over in my head a million times, and thought I’d be nervous, but this was better than anything I imagined. The season isn’t over yet… back to work this weekend in a huge GSC series against North Alabama, and who knows when I’ll get to throw again, but I can promise you this… I’ll be ready!
Thanks to all of my teammates, coaches, friends, and family who have encouraged me to stay positive and keep working hard!!
Philip Ebert #36