Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bob Tewksbury: Former Hurler Now Pitching Benefits of Sports Psychology

During his career pitcher Bob Tewksbury was one of the best control artists in the game with the simple act of drawing a walk being about as impressive as hitting a home run off him. 20 years after his playing career ended, the right-hander is still deeply involved in the game, working with a different kind of control—that of players harnessing their mental skills to get the most out of their time in the game.

A native of New Hampshire, Tewksbury was an impressive enough prospect to draw the attention of the New York Yankees (having just finished their third season in the previous four years with at least 100 victories), who drafted him in the 19th round of the 1981 draft. Of the 10 players from that Yankees’ draft that ultimately played in the majors, only ninth-round selection Fred McGriff (52.6) had a higher career WAR than Tewksbury’s ultimate mark of 20.9.

Although he won 15 games with a 1.88 ERA in Single-A in 1982, he wouldn’t reach the big leagues with New York until mid-way through the 1986 season. However, he went on to have a strong rookie campaign that year, going 9-5 with a 3.31 ERA in 23 games (20 starts).

Plagued by injuries, it wasn’t until 1990 (with the St. Louis Cardinals) that Tewksbury resumed his career as a full-time starter in the majors. He relied extensively on his control (his 1.45 walks allowed per nine innings in his career is 22nd all-time). His best season came in 1992 with the Cardinals when he was 16-5 with a 2.16 ERA in 33 games (32 starts), made the All Star team and finished third in Cy Young Award voting.

Following the 1998 season with the Minnesota Twins, Tewksbury called it a career—as a player. He boasts a career record of 110-102 with a 3.92 ERA over 13 major league seasons with six teams.

Since putting down his glove, he has picked up books, earning an advanced degree in sports psychology and becoming well known for his work in advancing the importance of mental skills, especially as it pertains to baseball.  This has kept him working at the major league level and continuing to make his mark in the game two decades after last officially throwing a pitch.

Bob Tewksbury Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Reggie Smith. I loved his batting stance and he had a good throwing arm.
Can you describe your draft experience with the New York Yankees in 1981- How did you find out you had been selected?: A dream come true for sure-  It didn't have to be the Yankees-  I just wanted to play pro baseball. And I was lucky it was them. They had the best farm system in baseball. I really can't remember how I found out (which you think I would.).

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: About everything! But walking off the field to a standing ovation and having a 3-foot bottle of champagne in my locker after the win, which I still have at home-unopened.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?:  Wow...nice easy question. I played with many Hall of Fame players; Gwynn, Winfield, Henderson, Sandberg, Maddux, Ozzie, Pudge, Hoffman, Molitor. How do I pick one of them? Against- as a pitcher....probably (Barry) Bonds

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My first major league win. 

Who was the best hitter you ever faced?: They were all tough. Seriously.  But I would say Bonds. 

You played for some great managers; Lou Pinella, Bruce Bochy, Joe Torre, Tom Kelly, etc... Please pick your favorite to play for and explain your choice.: Yes, I did...I was lucky.  Add Johnny Oates, also.  I would say Torre - you should buy my book to find the answer why  :) 
What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I think you know, but I finished my Master’s Degree and raised kids, Since 2004 I have worked for Red Sox and now San Francisco providing mental skills coaching to players.

How have you seen sports psychology evolve and how receptive are players and teams to it?: It's a growing field and the players receptivity is also growing.  Teams in Major League Baseball are now required to provide a mental skills resource for their players. 27 of the 30 teams have at least one person in this position.  

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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