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By Brita Meng Outzen
By MICHAEL McCARTHY, Contributing columnist
Baseball is filled with complex details that are often so subtle we don't see them, yet know they are there.
The leadoff hitter gets on to start an inning. The goal for the No. 2 hitter is to have a quality at-bat and try to advance the runner from first base to second base. Seems simple enough, but how are you going to move him over? Base hit? Hit and run? Bunt? Walk? Passed ball? Wild pitch? Home run? They all get the job done but are such difficult things to do! Round ball traveling 90 mph, round bat ... and you are trying to place it in a certain spot on the field? Wow!
Another example: A relief pitcher comes in with a runner on first and second in a tie ball game with no outs, late in the game. The hitter 99.9 percent of the time will bunt the runners over. The pitcher must throw a strike, sprint to the third base line to cover the bunt toward third. If he fields the ball his job is to then spin 270 degrees and throw the ball to third base before the runner from second reaches third base.
The game is complicated and each play can have a lot of decisions made in a short period of time. So it must be the player, coach and team that is able to take in the most information and process it the fastest that will win, right?
The guy who looks at all of the scouting reports, analyzes each situation and evaluates the hitter's approach will undoubtedly have the most success, right?
There are many times this is true but sometimes it is the decision to simplify that reaps the most success. Just as a scouting report can be a wonderful tool, sometimes it injects doubt or fear and creates the opposite effect. "Too much of a good thing can be bad for you" comes to mind.
Oftentimes in baseball the best thing a pitcher or hitter can do is trust his instincts. If you believe a certain pitch is best in a situation then you have to throw it with 100 percent belief in yourself, even if that means going against the scouting report. I've thrown plenty of fastballs down the middle of the plate that beat guys because I believed in that pitch whole heartedly. I didn't mean to throw the pitch there but because my conviction in that pitch was wholehearted, it worked.
Last week one of our starting pitchers (and one of the best pitchers I've played with) struggled in an outing, giving up five runs in five innings. It was a rarity to see because he has been dominant all year. For a pitcher in the bullpen to see another team hit well, against one of the best pitchers you've played with, can be an intimidating feeling.
As I began preparing to enter the game I realized at that moment the most important thing to think about was, well, nothing. I needed to clear my mind of any distractions and just pitch. Go execute each pitch the best I can and don't worry about anything else.
While warming up I had a flashback to a conversation with a coach from spring training. He said, "Just do your job! No matter what goes on around you, don't worry about anyone else but you."
The words couldn't have been more true, on or off the field. All too often we think about what others are doing instead of focusing on what our job is. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that what is best for the team, business or family is for each of us to eliminate the distractions of those around us and simply do our part the best we can.
In that game I threw four scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk. We won 13-5 and took the four-game series 3-1.
Michael McCarthy is a former Cal State Bakersfield player who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and is playing for the Class AA Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs. E-mail: email@example.com