3 Reason Why You Shouldn’t Call Pitches at the High School Level

A discussion on how letting your pitchers and catchers call their own games, in high school, can dramatically improve their on field production. Improve your coaching with Baseball IQ.

Featuring: Tiger’s MiLB Catching Coach, Tony Cappuccilli

  1. Value Development over Winning 
    • Understand that your job as a high school level coach is not to win every game, but to develop players
    • So many coaches don’t believe their pitchers and catchers aren’t smart enough or experienced enough to call their own games, so they never let them try 
      • How can they learn if you don’t let them try?
    • Sheltering players from failure only delays their growth
      • A loss in high school means absolutely nothing, allowing a pitcher and catcher to work and navigate a lineup together, means everything. 
    • Developing pitchers & catchers that can think on their feet, read swings, and call their own game makes them a much more desirable college prospect
      • The catchers that often get the most playing time in college are the best “game managers” not the best hitters.
      • A catcher who the coaches can trust will always be the first name on the lineup card.
      • Who can call the best game and talk to the pitching staff most effectively will start.  
  2. Foster Ownership & Identity Building 
    • One of the great joys of pitching is being able to be tactical, read swings, and design your own pitch sequences 
      • Calling pitches takes away that joy and creates robots.
      • We want to make the game fun, not mindless. 
    • Most coaches call every game the same, regardless of who is pitching 
      • Allowing your pitcher to throw what he wants will help him learn what works and what doesn’t.
      • Only through personal trial and error can a pitcher form his identity on the mound.
      • Having 10 pitchers that all throw with a different style can be more beneficial to a team’s success than having 10 guys that all throw the same way. 
    • Calling pitches from the dugout leads to excuses 
      • If a pitcher lets up a homerun on a 2-2 changeup that you called, he will most likely blame the pitch selection, not the execution. 
      • If the pitcher lets up a homerun on a 2-2 changeup that he called, he will defend the pitch selection, but blame himself for the lack of execution. (ownership)
      • One of the most important lessons a pitcher can learn is to take ownership over his career, by calling pitches you are opening the door for excuses and finger pointing. 
  3. Try Teaching Vs. Telling 
    • Failure of the player offers you, the coach, a unique teaching moment 
      • If a pitcher calls a bad pitch and lets up a homerun, don’t yell at him, pull him aside and ask him why he liked that pitch there?
      • In this moment of vulnerability you will gain access to the mind of the athlete and see the game from his eyes. 
    • Explain why the athlete should have thrown pitch A versus pitch B
      • Simply saying that the pitch he chose was wrong is not good enough.
      • Frame the conversation in terms like: “He was late on your fastball all at-bat, so throwing a changeup 1-2 allowed him to be more on time.” 
      • Dissect the situation and teach your pitchers what to look for so they don’t make the same mistake twice 
    • You probably know more than your pitchers, so teach them the game 
      • Taking the time to value instruction and critical thinking is far more valuable than winning games. 
      • Teach them what to look for in swings, don’t just tell them what pitch can get a certain guy out. 

Conclusion: Baseball is a thinking man’s game. Baseball is 80% mental and it is not invested in that is why Baseball IQ was created. Far too often coaches let their desire to win get in the way of their first priority, player development. Leaving your ego at the door and fostering a culture of independence and experimentation will make your staff much more diverse. Finally, being a robot is boring, giving your players a voice and an identity on the field will make for a happier locker room and prospects way more prepared for the college level.