MissChatter: Bullpen Rituals

MissChatter: Bullpen Rituals
September 28, 2010, 9:19 pm
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010 5:16 pm

By MissChatter

Since I'm waiting for a bit of (extremely cool and voluntary) editorial process on my next post, I thought it'd be fun to share a couple of neat tidbits I picked up while talking to Drew Storen and Collin Balester for the upcoming story. I guess this is my version of "Didn't Make The Paper" (long form story, whatever). We were talking about unwritten rules, superstitions and rituals. For example, I've noticed that the pitcher always walks off the mound to the dugout after an inning, but the fielders all runjog off. What's up with that? Apparently some unwritten rules are so ingrained in ritual that players aren't even aware of why they're there or where they originated.

Storen: "Oh yeah, I don't know. Some guys run, like Cliff Lee - it doesn't really matter. I think it's more a fatigue thing for starting pitchers. I ran off the mound in college but not here. I'd feel weird running off the mound here, I think." Ever the logical and thoughtful one! In fact, since Storen is missing the first couple weeks of classes back at Stanford, he's already multitasking and doing homework during the final weeks of the baseball season.

Balester: "Yeah, they always say that you're supposed to run off the field. That is weird, that is true. There's a couple pitchers that run off like Cliff Lee and a couple other guys, but yeah, for the most part pitchers walk off. I don't know. I've always - I think that's my biggest pet peeve when I see pitcher run off the mound. It looks weird because it's almost like they're trying to get off the field fast so no one can say anything to them or something." And the still mustache-less Balester (who says he's got to go with the hot hand since his pitching improved after cutting it off) is still pitching quite well, despite losing his grip on a rainy ball last night that brought back scary memories and caused the ump to over react a wee bit.

In reading this post about watching Storen prepare in the bullpen to come in and close out against the Braves (and what a stellar inning that was), I remembered something else new I learned from him. Not only does preparing oneself in the bullpen (for, as Storen said, hopefully a quick 15 minutes of work) involve stretching with those weird apparatus and warm-up throwing, but other non-physical rituals. "We all do the same thing every day. Like everybody drinks a Red Bull or a coffee at a certain inning." Really? Really! "When you're in the bullpen, you have a lot of time to create routines to get yourself ready to pitch." I never really thought much about what they do out there besides sit, but for some reason found the thought of drinking a Red Bull at a certain inning fascinating.