Mental Strategies to Become a Successful Closer
When the game is on the line, are you still able to make pitches or do you become overwhelmed by negative thoughts?
When closing a game, are you focused on what you need to do or on the possibility of losing the game?
Think of the difficulty of being a closer… You enter the game with your team leading by one run in the ninth inning with a runner on second base and one out…
You start thinking that a base hit could possibly tie the game… You sense a growing level of anxiety and find it difficult to stay calm on the mound…
You take several looks at the batter and realize he is a clutch hitter… You attempt to make the perfect pitch with a little more velocity and throw the ball up in the zone…
The batter drives the ball deep for a two-run home-run and your team loses the game.
Many closers sense a great deal of pressure when entering the game with runners on the base and the opposing team within striking distance.
A closer has to be mentally tough.
A little bit of pressure is normal.
The key is to harness your emotions, block out distractions/ potential negative out comes and focus on making pitches.
The mindset of a closer requires developing some mental skills to manage pressure situations and put you in position to get the job done…
Former New York Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera is considered by many as the greatest closer of all time. Rivera amassed 652 saves in his 19 year career and an additional 42 saves in playoff games.
Rivera’s mental skills helped him become the all-time saves leader in MLB baseball.
Try these tips to develop the mindset of a successful closer:
Tip #1: Manage your emotions on the mound. Determine what emotions allow you to pitch optimally and practice focusing on that mindset.
On handling the pressure of being a closer
RIVERA: “It was not easy; you have to know who you are and your abilities and how to block all these things that are thrown at you… You don’t pay attention to that. You have to be able to block out all this stuff and pay attention to what you have to do.”
Tip #2: Narrow your focus to what’s relevant to overcome distractions.
On focusing on the mound
RIVERA: “I feel like it’s just me and the catcher- I don’t even see the hitter. I feel like everything is gone- the noise, the fans. I’m in kind of like a tube, and it’s the catcher and me”
Tip #3: You must learn from losses. A loss is not necessarily an indication of your lack of ability but an opportunity to further your skills and strategies as a closer.
On blowing a save
RIVERA: “I learned early in my life that sometimes I’m going to lose. I don’t like it, but I accept it, meaning that I understand it’s going to happen. But I don’t see it like defeat; I see it like a learning process. Then if there’s nothing to learn, I move on.”
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