Life in the Bullpen
It’s the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 of the World Series. The score is tied and you are up to bat. The crowd is going crazy as you step into the box. The first pitch is that belt high fastball that you have been looking for the whole game, and you absolutely demolish it into the stands for a walk-off home run!! Now snap back to reality, you are 10 years old in your backyard and your mother is telling you to come inside for dinner…
All athletes dream of hitting that walk-off home run, making that game winning shot, or scoring that winning touchdown. Everyone wants to be the hero that gets all of the fame and glory. The problem is, not everybody gets to play that role in real life and thats ok! Now don’t get me wrong, always prepare for that moment and strive to be in that situation. But, if that is not your role right now, then embrace the role you are in.
I was fortunate enough to play baseball at the collegiate level for six years (two degrees, not a dummy) due to a redshirt (Freshman Year) and a medical redshirt (Junior Year). I was also fortunate enough to play for one of, if not the best, catching instructors around, Coach Tom Griffin. As a catcher, I spent a lot of time in the bullpen during those six years and learned a lot of valuable information in the process. I learned that one of my starters ate the same thing for breakfast every time he pitched. I learned that some pitchers can be clueless in a bullpen, and be lights out in a game (this is rare). I even learned one fellow catchers thoughts on several conspiracy theories, but that’s a completely different story. The point is that the bullpen not only develops skills, but it also develops relationships.
Fundamentally, treat the bullpen as a game like situation: stick every pitch in the strike zone, block balls in the dirt, work on footwork for throws. Mentally, treat bullpens as a time to learn your pitchers: how does their breaking ball move, what is their “out" pitch, how do they react to certain feedback. This is just a small portion of the information that you need to know about your pitchers, because it is the two of you together when you’re on the field. Now, I would be lying if I said that I was always pumped to catch bullpens. As a matter of fact, most days I wished I could make the pitchers put on the gear and experience life back there. However, I credit bullpens for being a major factor in what made me into the catcher that I am.
The bullpen is what you make of it. It can either be a growing experience or a groaning experience… Your choice.
Smoky Mountain Athletics
Former Carson Newman Eagle