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Mental Training, Part I - Confidence, Toughness and a Plan of Attack

Success on the diamond begins between the ears. If a hitter believes they will fail, they’re correct. If they think they will succeed, then they have a chance. Do you think Ronald Acuna Jr. lacks confidence when he steps up to the plate? Did Ty Cobb get nervous that the pitcher was better than him and he might strike out? I don’t think so.

Without a doubt, the mental game is just as important as the physical aspects of it. While physical abilities are gained through hard work, repetition and fundamental development, the mental game requires a different approach - it takes confidence, toughness and having a plan of attack.

In Mental Training, Part I - Confidence and Toughness, we will discuss how a hitter can gain a psychological advantage over their opponent. By being mentally tough and confident at the plate, a player is able to get the most out of the fundamentals they’ve worked tirelessly to develop.

Through physical training and repetition an athlete gains muscle memory, therefore they don’t have to worry about their hand location, the length of their stride or where they are “measured up” in relation to the plate. This allows the athlete to apply their fundamentals without over thinking. At this point, a player can invest their full attention on the task at hand - hitting the ball.

The idea here is that once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, it’s all about reacting, with little to no thinking involved. Where a hitter really gets into trouble is when they get inside their own head and start overthinking things, that is a recipe for disaster. This relaxed, confident and reactionary approach is instrumental for success on the diamond, and MaxBP’s Reaction Training is the perfect compliment to this concept. It’s the “gift that keeps on giving” - 120 mini-wiffle balls at a time.

The best students of the game begin their at-bat before they ever set foot on the diamond. While many prep and collegiate players may not have the technological opportunities like Major League players, there are plenty of other ways to study a pitcher.

A hitter can begin timing a pitcher while they are still in the dugout. They can continue this observation process in the on-deck circle, where they can simulate taking and swinging at pitches as if they’re taking an at-bat. By the time that player steps into the batter’s box, it feels like they have already seen multiple pitches.

A coach once told me, “you’ll get your pitch once, maybe twice, but never three times in an at-bat.” My interpretation of that advice was that I needed to exercise a high degree of pitch selection during my at-bats to pick out “my pitch,” versus offering at a pitch that I could put the bat on, but wouldn’t necessarily produce the best result. This is where the mind prevails in the brain vs. brawn debate - have a plan and execute.

A hitter might offer at a pitch that results in a routine ground ball or a lazy fly ball for an out; however, if they were a little more patient and got a pitch to drive, perhaps it would lead to a frozen rope into the gap or a majestic blast into the cheap seats.

With that being said, whether it's the first pitch of an at-bat or a 3-2 pitch, a hitter should always be ready to swing. This statement is obviously affected by situational hitting, but the context is, don’t lose focus and never take a pitch off. That may be your one and only opportunity to do some damage.

While hitting can be an extremely nerve racking activity, particularly for younger, less experienced players, remember that it’s only a game and life goes on. So pull up the old stir-ups and conquer that fear in the batter’s box. Be mentally tough and approach every at-bat with a confident game-plan.

Check out tomorrow’s blog, Mental Training - Part II, as we discuss video study, analytics and the 10,000 hour rule.

 

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