The Mental Side of Pitching a No-Hitter

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in his first MLB play-off game last night was directly attributable to his preparation and routine. When I say preparation and routine I am referring to both the physical and mental aspects of his game. Clearly when you throw a no-hitter you have to physically be coming at batters with your best pitches, but what allows you to keep coming at each successive batter with your best stuff, pitch after pitch and inning after inning, is an entrenched routine that allows you stay out of your head.

Consistency equals excellence and it becomes difficult to remain consistent when those around you realize you have a chance to throw a no-hitter and start to act differently than they normally do during a game. This is why it is vitally important to have a routine that keeps things normal for you on the inside. The greatest players do the greatest things when they are serene on the inside in the midst of turmoil all around them.

Usually once a pitcher has pitched about five or six innings of hitless baseball that is when those around him start to let the pressure get into their heads and they begin act differently around him. When this happens it’s the pitchers job to stick to his routine and not let outside events affect him.

When Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in the history of the Colorado Rockies earlier this year, the last person to talk to him was his pitching coach when he came to the bench in the fifth inning. “They didn’t want to jinx anything, but I kept talking to them,” Jimenez said. “I kept saying things. I wanted everything to be normal.’’

Not surprisingly, Halladay faced a similar situation last night when the dugout got silent in the sixth inning. Halladay, said he didn’t notice. “I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on in the dugout at that point,” he said. “He sits in the tunnel, watching the game on the monitor,” said Phillies Game 2 starter Roy Oswalt. “It’s part of his routine every game.”

Routines are a big part of mental preparation and are often a key difference maker in being a good or great player. Without them it is much easier to fall into the trap of playing it safe and playing it safe is playing with fear. When you play it safe you almost always underperform and your fears come true.

As Roy Halladay said after the game, “If you’re not putting too much emphasis on trying to throw a no-hitter — you’re going out and staying aggressive — it makes it a lot easier (to pitch),” he said. “It’s surreal, it really is,” Halladay said. “I just wanted to pitch here, to pitch in the postseason. To go out and have a game like that, it’s a dream come true.” With his work ethic and attention to detail I suspect this will not be his last dream to come true.

Preparation, both mental and physical, along with a good routine are what makes people’s dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, ask Roy Halladay today.

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