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The Mind of a Master Closer in Baseball

It's difficult to think of a more pressure-packed position in sports than that of a baseball closer. The job of this ace relief pitcher, at least in theory, is to come in at a pivotal point in the game, with the opposition threatening, and save the game.

Back in the 1970s, guys like Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, and Rich "Goose" Gossage would enter games in the seventh or eighth innings, usually with runners on base, and work their way out of jams. They'd pitch the remainder of games, as much as three innings in total.

These days, being a closer is an easier gig. Closers usually enter the game to start the ninth inning, with nobody on base, with only three outs needed to "earn" a save.

That's why many baseball fans were happy to see Goose finally get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Goose was the epitome of the late '70s closer, twice pitching more than 130 innings a season. (Today's closers rarely pitch 80.)

Long before the four pillars of the Core Performance system were developed, closers in the '70s like Gossage lived the Mindset-Nutrition-Movement-Recovery program. The closer needed the right mindset to perform under pressure. He needed to master his movement patterns to throw a ball in the high '90s. And though he might not have followed the greatest nutrition program, he knew he had to adhere to a recovery plan to pitch an average of every other game.

Gossage, asked recently if today's closer has it easier than relievers of his era did, was mostly diplomatic.

"I've always said what they do is easy compared to what we used to do," he said. "Certainly the numbers that these guys are putting up I think is one reason why it took a while to figure out where they were going to put relievers and they're so dominant in that one-inning role that they kind of forgot what we used to do.

"As far as my statistics are concerned, it's hard to say what my numbers would have been had I been used as they are today...If I pitched one inning it just seemed like a piece of cake. When I would come into possibly the seventh inning with no one out, I said there were situations that God couldn't get out of."

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Baseball, Pressure, Focus