Author: Ian Bala
Edited by: Jayson Eljawhary
What is your pre-pitch routine? Do you have one? Should you have one? Where should you start? Well, sit right back and let’s explore this!
I always started at the end. Where did I want to be before the game started? I wanted to be sitting in the dugout about 5 minutes before game time. This gave me time to sit and either clear my head or visualize how I was going to execute pitches. Once I knew this, I needed to know all the things I wanted to get done before that. To accomplish this, I created a checklist for myself to make note of how long everything took so I knew when to start my routine.
When I was younger, running poles was still very much a thing – to some extent, I think it still should be (more on that another time). It was during this warmup when I would start to get in the zone. I would check in with how I felt that day physically, sometimes needing to convince myself everything was good. I would start with 3 poles to get some blood flowing and build up a bit of sweat. For the last half pole, I would pick up the intensity, building to a sprint finish. Then I would catch my breath and drink some water or Gatorade.
Next up, I liked to roll out the soft tissue in my hamstrings, quads, and lower back – I preferred a rumble roller or softball to really get in there. I would then move into my upper back and shoulders – lats and mid back with the roller, and all the smaller muscles around the shoulder and pec with a lacrosse ball. I liked to get the biceps with the roller, and the triceps and forearms with the lacrosse ball.
It was then time to get into uniform and move into my dynamics and banded stretching. I went through full-body dynamics (lower followed by upper body) with rotational movements mixed in. Once this was complete, I moved on to some banded stretching with a medium thickness green band: some band distracted hip and hamstring stretches, then lats and shoulders. During these stretches, my focus was on increasing my range of motion.
After that, I was ready to get into the throwing part of my warmup, starting with plyo balls. I started with Reverse Throws and Pivot Picks (2 sets x 8 reps with a 32oz plyo and 1 set x 8 reps with a 16 oz plyo, respectively). I would then move on to Roll-Ins, Figure 8’s, and Walking Wind-Ups (1 set of 1-3 throws with 7oz, 5oz, 3.5oz). Once I wrapped up plyos, I was ready to throw. To save time, I always brought a drink and 2 baseballs with me so that I didn’t have to leave the field later or chase an errant throw. My catch partner would throw on the baseline so that I could control the distance on the stretch out. I’d stretch out my throws to wherever my max distance was for the day (for example, 120 feet) and then hold it there for a few throws before starting my pull-downs. During pull-downs, I’d move in 10-15 feet every 1-2 throws. Once I was at about 100-90 feet in, it was time to get a few changeups off to get a feel for it. I continued into about 70 feet and threw a few from the stretch before hitting the bullpen.
In the bullpen, I’d have my catcher down right away. Why stand him up when I’m ready to go? I started with a step behind to get a feel for the slope, and then we were on. As a strong believer that your most important pitches will be made from the stretch, I threw my entire bullpen from the stretch. I’d go through all my pitches, working on executing to both sides of the plate and up and down. My last few pitches were my quickest moves to the plate with varying hold times. I didn’t put a hard cap on bullpen pitches, as it was mostly just for feel. When I felt ready, I was ready. With that being said, I was for sure ready in less than 20 pitches. By this time, my routine should have taken me to my 5-minute breather before the game starts.
Coach Bala’s Pre-Game Routine Timing (approximate)
Running Poles – 6 minutes or less
Rest/Drink – 2-3 minutes
Soft Tissue Rollout – 8 minutes
Change into Uniform – 2 minutes
Dynamic/Mobility Stretching – 8 minutes
Plyo Balls – 4 minutes
Long Toss – 8 minutes
Bullpen – 5-6 minutes
Pre-Game Breather – 5 minutes
This is an example of a pre-pitch routine that I was very comfortable with. For a 7:30pm game, I knew I had to be out on the field by 6:45pm to get my 5 minutes of sit-down time. Most pitchers today don’t go for that longer run to start, so that would knock 10 minutes off right there. Does your pre-pitch routine look similar? Do you have one yet? A good place to start is to think of everything you like to do and start timing it. It’s worth noting that while you now have a routine, you may not always have the time to go through it (tournaments or weather may be a factor), so have an abbreviated one handy and/or be adaptable.
So, why have a pre-game routine? You want to have something that gives you a feeling of readiness before you toe the rubber. Once you develop your routine and its’ timing, you will get more comfortable with it and maybe tinker with it a bit as the season goes on. It will keep you accountable – the first thing you can look back on in a sub-optimal outing is your preparation. Think about establishing that level of comfort you get from your routine that gives you confidence going into your outings.
*** Please be advised that the plyo ball warmup in this specific routine is not recommended for athletes under 16 years of age. It is possible to modify this warmup series for athletes aged 13-15 – if you are interested in a modified version of this plyo routine, please consult a professional with credible experience in weighed ball training. We do not recommend the use of plyo ball training for any athlete under the age of 13 ***