Parents, grandparents, friends, girlfriend, crowd, reporters, scouts … the World is watching you and observing your every move … the sun is warming you up, your heart is pounding wildly, and the sweat is pouring down your face … you have 60,5 feet to beat and you must not miss your target – an imaginary box with the size of about 2 times 2 feet … Not to mention that there is a raging bull standing next to the home plate with a bat and with a killer look …
Given the above description of a typical situation in baseball, one can easily imagine why Yogi Berra once said:
Baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical.
Although the majority of sports involve some psychology, it is particularly apparent and important in baseball. The difference between baseball and other sports is that in baseball players actually have plenty of time to think about each action in advance – it is in that regard somewhat similar to chess. Because of all this spare time to think, it’s important for ball players to keep not only body, but also your brains fit for the job at hand. Below is a list of eight simple mind tricks that can help you become a stronger player mentally and thus get ready for the new baseball season ahead.
- Train hard and be aware of it
Make sure you train hard. Not only that – also make sure you convince yourself that you have done everything you could from the physical perspective. If you have not done everything you could, then start doing everything you can from the next time you will be doing it onwards. Once you can be sure of yourself and of all the effort you have put into your practice, your self-confidence will increase dramatically. It’s that simple.
- Know your stuff (variety of pitches, etc. – communicate clearly with your catcher)
Be sure you know your “repertoire” and that you are confident in all of your different pitches. It’s usually not about the quantity but rather about the quality. Make sure you train all those pitches extensively in advance and do not under no circumstances experiment with different grips or techniques in the game situation. Spare practice for the practice. That’s why it is called so in the first place. Additionally, communicate your “stuff” with your catcher clearly, so that he knows your repertoire exactly. This is necessary due to the fact that in certain game situations, especially with a runner on third, the catcher knowing exactly what you will throw can make a difference between winning or losing.
- Know your opponent
People often say pitchers are the most intelligent players on the baseball field (same often goes for catchers). It is not strange to hear this once you realise how much statistics pitcher and catcher (the battery) should be able to store and process in their heads before, during and after the game. As a pitcher, know every single player on the opponent’s lineup, study their swinging patterns beforehand, look at their batting videos, remember what they’re going after and which pitches you’ve been successful with against them. Go pitch by pitch, case by case, until you create a profile for every single player from the opposing team in your head.
- Visualise your success
There is a whole line of literature that deals with sports psychology and the mental preparation of the athletes. Elite athletes such as Tom Brady, Serena Williams, and Kobe Bryant use visualisation or imagery. Imagery is a skill you can develop just like any other and means using all your senses to create or re-create an experience in your mind. You can think of it as “focused daydreaming”. Research shows that imagery increases motivation, improves focus, reduces anxiety, and increases self-confidence. You may not have realized it, but you’ve probably already used imagery – both in your athletic training and in your everyday life. Do you ever think about a game or competition the night before and picture how you’ll perform? Do you see yourself making that final out to end an inning or even the game? Can you hear and feel the ball hitting the glove as the batter swings and misses it? If so, you’re using imagery.
- Get in the “zone”
Sports are like battles and baseball is no different. You can’t simply walk on the field and play a game, which is especially true for pitchers. You have to get in that special state, where you leave all your personal problems on the bench and walk on the field with a focused mind and in aggressive mood. Some people also call this state a “rhytm”. Many ball players like to follow certain personal rituals to get in their “zone”. Listen to a powerful song (rock usually does the trick) that charges you with energy, yell, pray or do your “haka”. Whatever gets you to that special place of yours where you are unbeatable.
- Imagine a tunnel
Roger Clemens, a former MLB pitcher, once commented that when he was focused, all he saw was the catcher, but when he lost his focus, he was “seeing the crowd, not just the catcher.” If you imagine a tunnel starting from the mound and narrowing down all the way to the strike zone and if you try to keep the ball inside that cone, then there’s no way your pitch will miss the strike zone. You can even get one of those tunnels or simply imagine one.
- Don’t forget about the looks
Psychology also involves how other people perceive you and what your appearance does to their mental processes. So, you might as well want to look sharp when you take command of that mound and try to intimidate your opponent as much as possible.
- Never ever ever give up
One game is only one game. The road is long, however. It is not so much about one single step as it is about the road and you keep moving on this road. Failure will come sooner or later, one way or the other. Just make sure you never give up and keep moving those feet of yours.