Author’s note: Twenty-nine-year-old Jon Lester from Washington State was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2002 at only age 18, spent four years in the minor leagues and then went to the big leagues in 2006. Lester is currently one of the best left-handed pitchers in the sport of baseball, is starting for the Boston Red Sox and has the best record in baseball for 2013. Lester also is a hunter, a cancer survivor, and a family man.
The routine I go through to make the perfect pitch is almost identical to the routine I go through when I’m trying to take the perfect bow shot. There are certain check points that I use to make sure that my body is lined-up, I am aiming at the catcher’s glove, and I have the perfect follow through. I use a similar technique when I’m taking a shot with my PSE Dream Season bow. Let me explain.
As a pitcher, I have certain check points that I use to make the ball go where I want I’m aiming with the type of delivery I want it to have. When I wind up to make my pitch, I look at my leg to make sure I don’t overturn when I kick out and start to throw. I want to make a good turn with my lower body, so that my shoulders and lower body stay square. If I’m struggling with my pitches, I tell myself, “Get a good turn over the rubber.” If I feel like I’m underneath the ball and pushing it up in the strike zone, I tell myself, “Make sure you tilt your shoulders right so you can aim the pitch with your elbow.” I want to make sure that when I make the turn, just before I deliver the pitch, my elbow is my front sight to help aim, just like the pin sight gives the bowhunter a reference point to aim the shot. Since I’m a left-handed pitcher, my right elbow needs to be aimed straight toward the catcher’s mitt. So, when I wind up and pitch, I should be able to see the tip of my elbow aimed at the catcher’s mitt.
I use these same types of mental reminders when I’m shooting my bow. I want to make sure my body is in correct position to make the prefect shot. As I begin my draw, I want to be certain that my thumb is touching my ear, and my lips are touching the kisser button on the string as my anchor point. I need to be sure every check point is right, before I release the arrow. If you put a fletching in the corner of your mouth, this lets you know you are anchored correctly. For me, this check point makes sure you have a solid anchor, your bow positioned correctly, and you are ready to make the shot.
I get nervous just like all pitchers do when they’re pitching, and just like hunters do when they see the buck they want to take is coming toward them. I feel like my experience as a starting pitcher has helped me control my emotions, my nerves, and my environment when I’m bowhunting. I want to go through the same type check point reinforcements that I use when I’m pitching to execute the best shot that I can shoot when I hunt. Having said this, let me say that I have missed quite a few deer, just like most hunters. Just because you have the right shot sequence when you release the arrow doesn’t guarantee that you’ll take the deer. If I go through my checkpoints and I know that I have done everything right when I release the ball, I still can’t guarantee that I will throw a strike, or make the batter to swing and miss, or have a pop-up. But I do know that I’ve done everything in my control to throw the best pitch possible or shoot the best arrow I possibly can shoot. So, I always try and put myself in the best position to succeed when I’m pitching or bowhunting.
The same was true when I rifle hunted. I always took a deep breath before I took the shot so that I was mentally certain as I squeezed the trigger and didn’t jerk it. When the ball leaves my hand, or the arrow leaves my bow, whatever happens, happens. I have no control over the final outcome. But, whether I’m practicing with my bow or throwing the baseball, I try to complete both those tasks to very best of my ability. So, on game day, or when I have a big buck in front of me, I have the confidence that my body will replicated what I have done in practice.
For more information on Jon Lester, visit http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=452657.
Image courtesy John E. Philips