When top-ranked prospect (and Tim Lincecum look-alike) Trevor Bauer showed up to his first big league camp with the Arizona Diamondbacks this spring, he brought with him his own way of doing things. Notably, a training routine that includes long-tossing the baseball from foul pole to foul pole and polishing his pitches in side sessions, all while cranking heavy metal in his headphones.
“I can just throw and listen to my music and not have to hear all the fans yelling at me or telling me I am going to get lit up,” he says.
That all changed when old-school skipper Kirk Gibson asked him to stop the music. Did that strike him as odd, when the club was cool with his other antics? “No, it came as no surprise,” the 21-year-old right-hander says. “I was expecting it. I’m definitely different -- no one else really does it. Maybe, at some point, baseball will embrace new stuff like that. But not right now.”
Bauer, now pitching at Triple-A Reno, still rocks out with his iPod, but only in the clubhouse or his car -- certainly not on the field or when anyone else is watching. We let him sound off on the matter.
How did all this get started?
When I was 14, I went down to Texas Baseball Ranch [to a camp for elite pitchers] for the first time and had a lot of mechanical changes to make and was kind of struggling. I talked to [coach] Ron Wolforth about it, and he asked if I had an iPod. I did, so he told me to put on my favorite song and throw, just to help me find my own personal rhythm. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it worked.
And the habit just took hold?
In high school, I didn’t really have a throwing partner, so I’d go out to the park at night on my own, throw my headphones on, take a bucket of balls and throw my long-toss against a fence. When I ran out of balls, I’d pick them up and continue on. I did that all through high school.
What was the benefit?
Now my mechanics are so finely tuned that if one little piece gets out of whack, it kind of throws me all off. If I’m able to listen to my music, I can get in sync and stay in sync better than when I’m not able to. It also helps me focus; it helps me be singular with my mindset. Because for me, being able to focus in on one thing and separate what’s happening on the field from what’s going on off the field is huge. If I have personal issues, such as a fight with a girlfriend, family issues, someone’s sick, something like that, music is a way for me to focus and forget about that until after the game. And that’s important because during the game I can’t have those distractions in my head when I’m trying to think, "OK, how am I going to attack this hitter?" or "What does the game call for right now? What pitch should I throw?"
Sounds like you’d almost prefer to be doing this during games.
Maybe if there weren’t so much other communication that goes on: You’ve got to talk to your shortstop about who’s turning the double play, talk to your catcher, visitors to the mound and calling a fly ball and whatnot. But I definitely like to during my long-toss in my pregame warm-ups. That was part of my routine in high school and at UCLA.
How has that routine changed in your first full pro season?
Well, the Diamondbacks asked me not to wear headphones on the field, so I can’t do that anymore. It was kind of a bummer, and in my first couple starts I was having focus problems; I’d lose focus after the second inning and couldn’t really get back in. There was a lot of stuff going on in my head -- day-to-day life type of things, conversations I had had with friends -- because I wasn’t listening to my pregame playlist. So I started to listen to the same playlist an hour before the game. It’s better than nothing.
What is your pregame ritual now?
I usually go out for a game about an hour and 20 minutes beforehand to do all my warm-ups. So about two hours and 20 minutes before a game, I’ll put on my pregame playlist, get dressed and just kind of hang out in my locker. I watch a video of myself striking people out from earlier this year, put myself in a positive mindset, watch myself be successful over and over, watch some video of mechanics and go over my keys for the game, such as, "OK, I’ve got to use my backside" or "I’ve got to use glove-side."
And how is it working?
It’s been all right. Obviously, it’s not exactly what I want it, but every relationship has give and take, and the Diamondbacks have been very good with allowing me to do a lot of the stuff that makes me successful, so I’m willing to accommodate their wishes as well. I still find myself having trouble focusing sometimes, but that might not just be a music issue. There are a lot of factors.
Do you plan to keep this up once you reach the majors?
Yeah, I can’t ever see it not being important for me. When I wasn’t able to listen to my headphones during pregame warm-ups, I really realized how drastic the effect on me was. So after that experience, I’ll probably keep the music going for as long as I can.