Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Have you had “The Talk” with your new Ace yet?

February 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Coaching, Pitching

All across the country, pitchers who were their team’s 2nd or 3rd starter in 2014 will be jumping up to the role of team “Ace” in just a few weeks.  Usually this is due to the previous year’s 1st and/or 2nd

Have you had "the Talk"?

Have you had “The Talk”?

starters’ graduations.  

When this occurred on my high school teams, I, along with the pitching coach, would usually sit the pitcher down and explain a few things to make sure he knew what was expected and what changes were likely to happen.  

Here are some of the things we would pass along …

* As the Ace of the team, you are the leader of the pitchers whether you like it or not.  You set the tone for how hard pitchers work during PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice), what time pitchers show up, how they prepare for practices and games, how they interact with other players, coaches, and umpires, and so forth.  You are the role model so you must take that responsibility seriously.  You don’t need a rah-rah leadership style either.  If that’s your natural style than go for it. If you are the silent type that leads by example, that’s fine too.  Be yourself but be a great model for other pitchers to emulate.  In previous years, you just followed the leaders above you.  Now it’s your turn to lead.

* Don’t be shocked if your numbers are not as great as they used to be.  When you were the 3rd starter (maybe as a 9th or 10th grader) we picked games and opponents for you so that you had a good chance of success.  We maybe even strategically pulled you from games so that you would only be credited with a win or a no decision.  We did this to help your confidence.  That all changes as the #1 starter.  You will routinely face the best teams where the chance of losing is much greater.  You will not be pulled as quickly so you will need to battle your way out of trouble.  Teams also know that you are our #1 guy and will try just a little harder to beat you.  Understand this and accept the fact that your win-loss record and/or strikeout numbers may not be what you expected.  You cannot let your ego bring you down.  It is a natural part of the transition to #1 starter.  If it doesn’t happen then great!  If it does, don’t get down on yourself.  Keep working hard and DO NOT compare your stats to previous years.  It’s apples and oranges.

* Put all this together and you might have a much tougher year.  To counter, you will have to up your game as well both physically and mentally.  Your success as a 2nd or 3rd starter on the mound was a result of having confidence in your abilities, not thinking too much, getting ahead, moving the ball around, and changing speeds.  Do that no matter what pitcher you are and you will be successful.  Continue to do that with all the added pressure of being the team’s top pitcher and you will earn the name “Ace.”

I guess some might argue that some pitchers might be better off not being told these things.  I get it.  Ignorance can be bliss.  However, in my opinion, I just felt the more information I gave them the better prepared they were going to be and the less shocked they would be if times got tough.  I also thought it would prevent the pitcher from feeling that he was letting us down after a loss since we were the ones who told him of that possibility.  In short, he knew we had his back.

The transition into a team’s Ace is quite an accomplishment and an honor that most pitchers never get to experience.  It does, on the other hand, come with a lot of responsibility that some have to be reminded to take seriously.

When and if they do, a lot more players besides themselves will benefit.

Comments

One Response to “Have you had “The Talk” with your new Ace yet?”
  1. jack says:

    Enjoyed the article, but don’t agree with anointing an “ace” prior to the season. I see more mental downside than upside. For instance, let’s say that 1/3 of the way through the season a new ace is emerging. Because of the pre-season “talk”, the anointed ace will be more likely to be get down on himself. Etc.

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