“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” -Yogi Berra
Yes, we all know this quote.. if you are a baseball guy then you have come across this quote at least once in your life. And yes, maybe you know exactly what this quote means.. and if you are a baseball player then i’m almost positive you know what this quote means.
Today’s blog isn’t going to be about the mental grind of being a baseball player. Today’s blog is going to be about how to set yourself up to succeed by using your mind. If you are a young ball player you probably haven’t gotten to that point where you are actually practicing mindset. Heck, I sure didn’t have to when I was younger. When we are in our youth we just think the game is the game and your either good or your not, physically that is. It isn’t really until you get older that you realize just how many baseball players there are in the world and just how “average” you may be compared to all the rest.
I’m not writing this to make it seem like becoming great at the game of baseball is a really far stretch. My goal in writing this is to try and get you to realize that it takes far more than being physically gifted to succeed at a high level in this game. For me to fully shed light on this topic i’m going to talk briefly about my journey and maybe you can relate a bit to it.
As far back as I can remember I was physically dominant over all the other boys in my class. Even through high school I was just head and shoulders above everyone physically. When it came time to pitch I didn’t really have any doubt because I knew that I was just physically over powering towards these other kids. I would go out, dominate, and that was all there was to it. Don’t get me wrong I worked my butt off but my god-given talent was just taking over. Lets fast forward to my first couple years of pro ball where everyone around me is equally as physical. I was no longer able to go out and dominate on pure god-given talent. I had never dealt with this type of failure before in my life. For the first time in my life I wasn’t the best player on the field and at that time I wasn’t sure how to deal with it.
It became time to take a deeper look into myself as an athlete and try to figure out what really was going wrong. I landed on my mindset.. what was I thinking out there? Why did it seem so easy to fail? What prompted me to think so negatively? All these thoughts just exploding into my head all at once while trying to compete against the guy at the dish.. as you probably know.. isn’t a great thing to do. I would ask myself a lot what was the difference now compared to when I was in high school? Why did I see so much success then and absolutely none now? (A bit of an exaggeration, I had some good games my first couple years lol). The obvious answer to that question was pure physical right? Well I dominated because I was just flat out better than every kid that stepped in the box. Didn’t take a super intelligent individual to scout that out. But then I looked deeper into that. I realized how I just answered that simple question actually turned out to be the most important part. I “KNEW” I was better than anyone who stepped in the box. Well, what changed? My stuff was the exact same (good enough to go in the 3rd round). It was clear that from the second I stepped onto a professional mound that my mindset towards pitching had completely changed all because the names and the faces had changed. I was surrounded by other guys that probably came from the same situation I was in. All of the sudden I didn’t know if I was better than the guy at the dish. I went from such an aggressive/confident mindset to a passive/unsure mindset.
It starts with your mindset. This is a goofy game we play.. You can have a 5’9 Marcus Stroman strike out a 6’7 Aaron Judge.. some things in this game just don’t make sense. I’ve seen guys that have a typical 88-90 fastball have dominant years compared to another guy with a 95-98 fastball. Things just don’t add up sometimes. So you take it a little further and try to understand what that difference is. Yeah sure it can be maybe some deception or movement but the majority of the time it is the difference in the individuals mindset that sets him apart from the rest.
You have to be able to see it happen first. I get asked all the time by kids what’s the most important thing to know or how do I get where you are. My answer is always the same. You have to believe it first and foremost. You can’t just say your mom thinks you can be really good at this game. No, you have to see it in your mind. You want to know what separates the good from the great in this game? Ones mindset. The great believe that no matter what they will execute every pitch, dominate every hitter, and win every game. They see it in their mind before it even happens. You have to believe that it is all achievable! That there isn’t some secret training formula you have to follow to become great.. yeah you will have to train your tail off but you CAN do it. My biggest fault when I was younger was not fully believing that I could have that same success I had in high school in the pros. My mindset changed and once that changed my stuff started to change as well.
Things I would encourage you to do from here on out. Practice visualizing yourself in big league stadiums.. on the bump or at the dish. Visualize yourself executing pitches, hitting doubles in the gap, making plays. Whatever it is visualize it, get comfortable with it, and believe that it can happen. Throw mental bullpens where you see each pitch going exactly where you want it. I know these things sound funny and may definitely look a little odd if someone is watching but it matters. Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t amount to what you see yourself becoming. Use that for fuel to work harder than you ever have before. Understand that I’m not telling you that you don’t have to train anymore because that all goes with it. For the longest time I just thought I would train harder and I will start seeing success. And while I don’t want to say that it’s a terrible way to think I will say that it’s not always the answer.
It starts with a mindset. Believe in yourself even if no one else does. Don’t lose your confidence because you advanced a level. Trust in yourself. I know I make it sound easy, trust me it’s not. I’ve been there. I’ve learned from being there then I went through it again.. it happens. Understand it’s all part of it. Enjoy it. Work hard. Visualize success. Love the game.