We all know that the team that scores the most runs in a baseball game will win. That’s the goal. But achieving that goal often comes down to getting the most baserunners and taking advantage of the most opportunities. To do this, we often forget baseball’s most selfless act: The hit by pitch.
Getting hit by a pitch takes no skill, right? It just requires the pitcher to make a very wild pitch. But it also requires something very important from the hitter: Courage.
Getting hit by the baseball hurts. It’s natural instinct to jump out of the way. But players and teams that ignore that instinct have a distinct advantage.
While getting hit by a pitch may hurt, it’s only temporary — if done right. It will leave no more than a bruise, and the reward for that temporary discomfort is worth it.
During the 2018 season, Spiders batters were hit by 70 pitches compared to 43 by our opponents. While many factors contribute to this, a big one is that wearing a pitch is part of our culture.
We encourage it. We reward it. When a batter gets hit by a pitch, he’s cheered on by his teammates and he wears it as a badge of honor.
Here’s a closer look at how you can use the hit by pitch to your advantage…
Know the Count
One of the biggest frustrations as a coach is seeing a kid in a two-strike count jump out of the way of a pitch. After that, he strikes out — or gets out some other way.
What a huge missed opportunity.
The sad thing is that most young hitters will head back to the dugout completely oblivious to what happened. They only think of the result and not the path to that result. They don’t realize how jumping away hurt themselves — and their team.
Hitters need to understand when they’re at a disadvantage. They need to see that inside pitch as their best chance to get on base and help their team.
Know the Situation
I have no problem with a batter wearing a pitch in any situation. Bases empty, bases loaded, no outs, or two outs. All that said, there are times when hitters absolutely need to be conscious of this opportunity.
If the bases are loaded, a hit by pitch is an easy run. Don’t jump away. In particular, wearing that pitch with two outs and the bases loaded is critical given the likelihood of scoring when the ball is put in play drops.
Hitters at the bottom of the lineup need to be fearless. If they struggle to hit, they need to find other ways on base. That could be via the walk, but you also don’t want players looking for walks. But if that pitch comes in close? Wear it!
There are times when you could argue that wearing a pitch may not be in your team’s best interest. For example, if your best hitter is up with runners at second and third and you need multiple runs, you may prefer he jumps out of the way.
That said, this situation is similar to a walk. While I prefer my best hitter swings the bat there, I also want them to take what the pitchers give them. They want to put you on base? Let them.
Know the Pitch
Getting hit by a fastball can hurt. I get it. Telling a kid to stand in there and take it is easier said than done.
But offspeed? Come on, man.
There is no excuse for ducking out of the way of an inside offspeed pitch. As long as you wear it properly (see the next section), it’s not going to hurt. It’s a free base, and you’ll smile down the line.
Wear it the Right Way
There’s a certain art to wearing a pitch. You always want to turn your head and body away from the pitch that is going to hit you. You do NOT want to get hit on the front of your body (more on that in a minute).
The best places to get hit are on the butt, back of the leg, and even the back — though that can absolutely sting for a while!
Let’s make something very clear: I do not want any player risking injury to get hit by a pitch. It’s not worth it.
The baseball is hard. Some pitchers throw with a lot of velocity. If it hits you in the wrong place, you’re going to get more than a base — you’re getting an injury.
In particular, we don’t want anyone getting hit on the head or face. Even on the helmet, where you’re typically protected well, leaves too little room for error. We don’t want to mess with concussions or head injuries.
Not far away in terms of severity are pitches to the hand, wrist, or elbow. So many little bones, so little cushion, and significant chance for a break and serious injury.
Getting hit by a pitch is selfless, but you’re not helping your team if doing so puts you out of action.
Make a big deal of a player who gets hit by a pitch. Appreciate that it takes courage to do so. Don’t take it for granted.
Acknowledge it when it happens and recognize that player after a game. Feel free to even give special awards to players who get hit by pitches.
Something the Spiders did this past season was give coupons for free Slurpees when they got hit. It’s a little thing, but the kids wanted them!
Have Fun With It
Whenever there’s a pitch inside that a player backs away from, our players will yell, “Wear it!” They do it playfully, and it’s all a fun game between the batter and his teammates.
The bottom line is if everyone is on board, it becomes something that players actually want to do. They look forward to it. They wear the pitch with a smile, and they get a big ovation from their teammates as they head towards first.
Finally, don’t assume that players understand this. Make sure that they know how wearing a pitch is baseball’s most selfless act. Help them understand how it helps your team. And make sure that they know how to wear a pitch to avoid injury.
Don’t just expect that they’ll do it. Most kids don’t. Teach it!
How do you incentivize your players to wear a pitch?
Let me know in the comments below!