Imagine if you knew every pitch that was going to get thrown to you before the pitcher released the ball. Would this make you more comfortable as a hitter? Picking pitches is slowly becoming a major part of the game of softball. Any advantage one team can gain over the other makes the path to victory a little simpler. As a player trying to stand out to college coaches or make a difference on their team, the ability to pick signs or pitches can separate you from the rest. So, how do we do this? Here are multiple ways to gain that edge.
Picking off the Coach
When signs are relayed from the dugout to the catcher, we have the first opportunity to figure out the opponent’s plan. Whether you decide to write down the numbers, you can begin to notice a pattern or common sequence. It may take a few innings to notice a pattern but it is important to pay attention to every single pitch. By having a player or two focused on the pitch calling makes your ability to pick the pitch that much more possible. It is important to be creative in this part of the game. You don’t know the pattern so you must keep your mind open to all possibilities. Some coaches can choose a sequence based off the inning or batter in the lineup. Never get set on what you think the pattern is until you are absolutely sure because you may miss the true sequence. When the coach is using touches off the face or body, the same rules apply. The first goal is to figure out the indicator – this can be a number or a feature on the face such as the nose or ear. Once you have the indicator, you can then work towards the actual pitch and location. For location, you can either look for odds or evens for inside and outside or potentially splitting the strike zone into five sections. Next is the pitch – you need to focus on location and speed to understand the pattern. It may go location then pitch or pitch then location. This may sound complicated to some but keep in mind you don’t need to decode the opposing team’s entire pitch sequence. Something as simple as finding out the sign for the changeup can be extremely valuable. Still, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, there is more than one way to pick pitches.
Reading the Pitcher and Catcher
As the softball community shifts towards the armbands for pitch calling, picking off the coach becomes incredibly difficult – as there is almost no pattern to the sequence. Therefore, we have to use what is given to us. Starting with the catcher, the catcher tends to move based off of location and might shift based on the speed or height of pitch. This tip can help us work through the other ways of picking pitches. From the pitcher, there are multiple ways. (1) Body language: Pitchers often have confidence in some pitches and fear of others. Once you notice a reaction to a certain pitch, you can start to associate the reaction to the pitch. (2) Grip: When pitchers grab a specific pitch they may shift their glove or place their hand in the glove a different way. When we notice this, we can gain an advantage in the picking process.
The only way to understand and get good at this process is to practice it. At first, it will feel overwhelming and difficult. However, as you practice, you begin to notice common tendencies and your confidence will increase.
Have fun picking,