Seriously, are you ready to pitch at the collegiate level?
If you’re a high school senior then you better be asking yourself this question.
Have you put in the work? Has your pitching improved? Are you confident?
I’m going to honest, pitching in college isn’t easy. Unless you’re an absolute stud who destined for the MLB, then I can guarantee you will face many challenges as a college pitcher.
The most important parts of these challenges is how you respond, and how you get better.
Before you enter college, you need to ask yourself some honest questions. Your answer to these questions will determine whether or not you’re ready for college baseball.
1. How fast are you throwing?
“Velocity isn’t everything.” I’m sure you have heard this popular quote before, and it is partially true.
It is totally true that a pitcher can get by without having superior velocity. However, velocity can certainly make a pitchers job a whole lot easier.
Low velocity pitchers simply do not have the leeway to make mistakes. They must have pin-point accuracy, and throw some pretty nasty junk pitches. High velocity pitchers on the other hand, can occasionally miss their spots and won’t be hurt too bad.
The point is, every high school pitcher should be actively trying to improve their velocity. In order to have real success as a starting pitcher in college, you will likely need to throw above 80 mph. Yes, there are some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, 80 + should be a goal for every high school pitcher.
So if you have not reached the 80 mph mark by your senior year, then you may need to reconsider your approach.
2. Can you throw your fastball accurately?
The fastball is the absolute best pitch in baseball. This is why it is so vitally important that every high school pitcher has great consistency and command with their fastball.
Unless you’re a knuckeball pitcher, you probably throw your fastball about 70 percent of the time.
But just having a great fastball is simply not enough at the college level. Even at the D3 level, hitters can still hit a 90 mph if it’s straight and not located correctly.
You must be able to locate on both sides of the plate. No longer can you be afraid to throw inside. Yes, you might be the king of the outside corner of the plate, but college hitters can easily make adjustments and will simply take your pitches to right field.
The ability to locate on both sides of the plate is incredibly important, but you must also be able to keep your fastball low.
Low pitches are typically always better. A high fastball is acceptable as a strikeout option, but for the most part, work on trying to keep your fastball down around the knees.
It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, if you can’t locate your fastball then you are going to get lit up in college. Perfecting your fastball should be your number one priority!
3. Do you have consistency with a changeup?
I certainly hope that every senior pitcher has been working on and actively throwing a changeup. Sorry to tell you… unless you throw mid-90 ched, then you will need a changeup to succeed at the college level.
An effective changeup can make your other pitches more effective, keep batters guessing, be used as a set-up pitch, and even be used as a strikeout option.
Like the fastball, you must be able to locate your changeup. These means being able to locate on both sides of the plate, but most importantly, low in the zone.
If you don’t have the confidence to throw your changeup 2-0, then you have some work to do!
And if your changeup isn’t 6-8 mph slower than your fastball, then you have work to do!
Having a good changeup is critical to your success at the collegiate level.
4. Can you throw a third pitch?
The fastball and changeup are undoubtedly the most important pitches you must develop before entering college. However, it’s hard to deny the level of dominance you may have if you develop a third off-speed pitch.
Most college pitchers typically throw about three pitches total. The third pitch may be a curveball, slider, cutter, or even a two-seam fastball.
First of all, if you don’t have consistency with your fastball and changeup don’t even think about adding a third pitch. But when you feel you have reached the necessary confidence level, you should definitely start working on a thrid pitch.
Having another off-speed pitch can really disrupt a hitters timing and approach. As we all know, a breaking pitch is one of the best options for striking batters out.
The same rule applies even with the third pitch in your arsenal: you must be able to throw it with consistency.
Success at the college level is all about consistency.
5. Do you have repeatable mechanics?
Developing consistency as a pitcher is a direct result of repeatable mechanics. Can you display the same exact throwing motion when you’re throwing a changeup or fastball? Or are you tipping off your pitches?
Consistency with your pitching mechanics will not only help you locate your pitches more effectively, it will also make it much more difficult for the hitters to pick up on what you’re throwing.
Like I said before, college hitters are good. It doesn’t take them long to notice if you’re tipping off your pitches in one way or another.
This is why you must focus on repeatable mechanics because it is the key to consistency.
6. How is your arm endurance?
At this stage, you should have at least enough arm endurance to pitch into the 5th inning and above. And just to be clear, throwing through pain isn’t endurance!
True endurance is what you see when Justin Verlander is able to throw 100 mph in the ninth inning.
If you’re a starter, then there is a very good chance that you might have to pitch on three days rest.
Being able to throw with such little rest is only possible through an effective recovery program. If your mechanics are solid and your recovery is effective, then you should be able to pitch on three days rest.
If your arm is sore frequently, then you need to take the necessary steps to fix it.
7. Do you have a strength training program?
Raw pitching talent can easily get you through high school, but it’s simply not enough for college baseball. Pitchers at the college level are strong and athletic.
This is why it’s essential that you start strength training at least during your senior year.
A proper strength training regime can help you increase velocity, decrease arm soreness, and allow you put on some extra pounds of muscle. Many pitchers don’t take their weight into account when thinking about velocity, but they should.
Eric Cressey has stated many times, that one of the primary reasons why pitchers lose velocity during the course of a season is the result of decreased muscle mass, strength, and weight.
Start good training habits your senior year, and carry those over into college.
8. How are your conditioning habits?
I’m assuming your coaches are telling you to run poles and long distance after you throw? I certainly hope not, but coaches unfortunately are still utilizing this illogical training practice.
Pitching is anaerobic, not aerobic.
Stop using distance running, and start using explosive conditioning techniques such as sprints, hill sprints, interval sprints, plyometrics, agility’s, and even bodyweight exercises.
By changeing your conditioning habits early on, you will be much more successful at the college level. And most importantly, you will avoid conditioning techniques that can actually be described as “anti-training” for a pitcher.
9. Are you actively training your rotator cuff?
It is crucial that you are actively trying to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles leading up to college. Strengthening these small muscles within the shoulder can help prevent possible injury, and could even potentially increase velocity.
These exercises can also help aid with all overall arm endurance, and allow you to throw more frequently.
10. Do you stretch?
I remember in high school when I would do a couple arm circles and just start throwing. Yeah, those were good times.
I can’t understand why high school pitchers are so ruthless with their arms!
You should treat your arm like it’s your most prized possession.
Make sure you are using an effective warm-up routine for not only your arm, but your entire body. You should be using dynamic stretching prior to throwing, and this will likely be the primary form you will use when going into college.
If your college program is using static stretching before throwing, then you might need to reconsider the program.
11. How’s your diet?
Eating In-N-Out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner might not be the best option for your diet going into college. Many pitchers neglect their eating habits, and really don’t think it can have any effect on their game. It can, and it will affect your performance.
You don’t need to transform your entire nutritional habits, but you need to be reasonable. Take care of your body now, and reap the benefits in college.
12. Have you had homeruns hit off you?
Seriously, have you? Maybe you have been completely dominate at the high school level and no hitter has successfully connected on one of your pitches. That’s awesome, but college baseball is a different animal.
The main difference is that a college team may have six out of nine hitters who can hit homeruns in a lineup. As opposed to a high school lineup, that may only have two or three guys who can hit homeruns consistently.
If you’re not giving up homeruns now, then that’s excellent. But don’t be surprised when the nine-hole hitter takes you deep.
That’s college baseball, and you will need to deal with many challenges! Like I mentioned earlier, the only thing that matters is how you respond to adversity. That means making that guy look like a fool every other time he bats off you.
13. Are you overly-confident?
This directly relates to the homerun question. If you have been a successful high school pitcher, then there is a tendency to enter college with a highly-confident attitude.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with confidence and I think it’s essential to success.
But being overly-confident can be detrimental.
Here’s an example:
You’re pitching in your first game. Things are going great and you have made it through your first two college innings. But then things start to deteriorate: you walk the first batter, the next batter sac bunts and you don’t field it cleanly, you end up hitting the next guy, and then the flood gates open. All of sudden your team is down 5-0 after a couple doubles and a homerun.
If you’re overly-confident, failure and loss may have a much more serious affect on your physique.
Take each loss with a grain of salt, but learn from it.
Be confident with your abilities, but don’t let yourself get down when things didn’t go according to plan. Use it as motivation, and come out on a mission in your next start.
14. Are you a team player?
To me, this is the most important element to being a successful college baseball pitcher. If your teammates don’t have your back, then who does?
If you’re the guy that brags about his success in high school, but isn’t performing in college then you need a reality check. Stop caring so much about your individual performance, and start being a team player.
When you perform poorly, don’t sit on the bench and try make people feel bad for you. Get up on the fence, and cheer your teammates on.
THE GAME ISN’T JUST ABOUT YOU.
Baseball is a team sport, and many pitchers seem to lose sight of this important aspect. Yes, pitchers are in the spotlight, but if your teammates dislike you because of your selfishness, cockiness, or whatever is, you will not be successful in college.
Start being a team player in high school, and I guarantee your college baseball experience will be amazing. One of the best parts about college ball is the cohesiveness that a team acquires throughout a season.
Remember, it’s not just you out on the hill, it’s you and eight other guys that form a solid team.
15. What do you need to change?
Are you already amazing at all of these aspects? GREAT! Then you are officially ready for college baseball, and I wish you the best of luck. But if some of these questions were difficult for you, then you have some work to do.
Keep working hard, and don’t ever give your dreams of playing college baseball because it may be one an unforgettable experience.
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Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.