In a previous post called Off-season Hitting: An overlooked Drill I talked about the advantages of standing in when pitchers are throwing indoors or in the bullpen. One tip I recommended while doing it was to follow the ball all the way back to the catcher’s mitt. This allows the hitter the ability to see any late movement on pitches that would have been missed if the batter continued to look straight ahead after the pitch came in.
There is another good reason to follow the ball to the mitt and it has to do with your relations with the umpire. Umpires do not appreciate being “shown up” in front of everyone. Keeping your eyes looking forward on the pitch creates the potential for a batter unintentionally showing up an umpire. Here’s how.
Hunter Pence tracks the ball all the way to the
mitt and now faces the umpire.
(Photo by SaikoSakura)
A batter thinks the pitch is a ball and takes the pitch with his eyes looking straight ahead. The umpire calls the pitch a strike. What does every batter in that situation do? He whips his eyes back to face the umpire because he is shocked the call was a strike. The batter has just let the entire ballpark know that he did not agree with the call. No matter what the batter says, the umpire will not be happy because the batter just made him look bad in front of everyone.
When a batter follows every pitch they take all the way back to the catcher’s mitt, his eyes are already looking back to where the umpire is. If the call is a strike and the batter disagrees (and has something to say about it), the only people who know what’s going on are the batter, the catcher, and the umpire. That's because he never whipped his head back. Umpires usually will give a batter a little more latitude with their comments in this situation because it has been kept between the three of them. Snapping your head back after the call virtually guarantees the umpire will not take too kindly to anything that is said. On TV, this is when the ump commonly whips off his mask and gives the batter an earful.
So follow the ball back to the mitt when you take pitches. It has some practical advantages for hitters and it also helps get some experience in diplomacy.