Mental & Visualization Training


#1

Trust, clarity, detachment, simultaneously being calm while hating that ****ing hitter are all qualities great pitchers have perfected. It’s very difficult to not let the game speed up on you when you’re not hitting spots, and guys are squaring you up. Staying calm, breathing, forgetting what just happened and only focusing on what’s in front of you at that second, is much easier said than done.

I watched a video by Fred Corral about visualization, and pitchers that simply visualized their mechanics to the plate and visualized themselves hitting the spot they’re about to throw to, had an increase of 25% versus pitchers who just get their spot and throw.

Any tips, or really anything on the mental/visualization side of the game, I would love to hear it.


#2

Great topic.
The mental side of the game, in my humble opinion, is an undervalued thing by most players. Alan Jaeger has a great piece on You Tube as well talking and leading a group of minor leaguers through a quick session. There are many good books about intro to meditation that could be useful as well.
First thing is a kid has to learn to control their breath. Breathing into the gut instead of the shoulders/chest is first. Learning to breath and relax must come first before jumping into visualization. A pitcher needs a process. This should start in his warm up. Being able to focus and stay relaxed is a skill that takes a lot of practice. A process between each pitch is important too… Having that mental “reset” button that becomes automatic, regardless of result, is the goal and must start with simple breathing/relaxation exercises.
Our society is so task specific, so ADD, so results oriented you will be swimming up stream with some of this, but, I think it is worth the effort. Good for sport and for quality of life in general.


#3

In order to keep the game from speeding up on you and keep yourself under mental control, you have to have self-awareness. You need to be able to spot the red flags that indicate you’re starting to lose control before you lose control. There is a book called “Heads Up Baseball: Playing The Game One Pitch At A Time” that offers a strategy for dealing with this.


#4

I had a pitcher that was as emotional as watching paint dry. He had a good sense of humor, joked with the best of them, was pretty good at the clubhouse antics - but, when it came time to work that day/night, he had absolutely no personality, zippo…

He got shelled pretty good one inning, and early too. He came out of the inning same way he went in. The next few innings he did well, held his own, made it to the seventh anyway. We went under by two runs, game over, done.

We really didn’t mingle all that well, but after a few days, while eating lunch, I asked how he was doing.

“Fine,” was his answer along with, " what’s the problem?"

Now he knew why I asked and why I was sitting across from him. So he kind of nodded his head back and forth about the game he just pitched.

His attitude was this…
…Pitching in a game for him were like the jobs he had when he was a kid. He never took on a job that he couldn’t handle. When it came time to work, he worked. When it came time to punch out and go home, he punched out and went home. He never took his work home with him and he never took home to work. Time and place for everything.

Now before you pass judgment on those words too quickly, stop and thing about the mental discipline that it takes to command such a mindset. Think of the purpose of mind, the deliberate organization to one’s self, the why-n-what-for that a person has to enlist that kind of soberness to a station in life.


#5

This nails it.

@kingbrady I always look forward to your contributions to the forum. You’ve got excellent perspective and knowledge, and your younger brother is extremely fortunate.

I read an article in Golf Magazine in which they asked several current and former major league players about how golf and baseball relate to each other.

One quote that stuck out to me as applicable to baseball pitching was from John Smoltz, who by the way is a pretty darn good golfer. Here’s what he said:

When you’re pitching, you can’t think, ‘I can’t hang the slider,’ just like, on the course you can’t think, ‘Don’t hit it left.’ Why? Because the brain recognizes only the last command. It hears, ‘left.’ It doesn’t hear ‘don’t.’ They are both risk-reward sports, and you have to think only about thereward. Under the gun I don’t feel any different trying to make a great golf shot than I do a great pitch.


#6

The mental side comes easier to some. My son struggles with it. We even have a recording of positive pre-pitch thoughts centered around controlling what he can control and tuning out everything else. Meeting with marginal success so far. Hoping it will just click eventually.


#7

My son had problems with a course at school when he was in 8th grade. It wasn’t the subject matter, but something else.
I went the gambit of this-n-that, well… how about all kinds of scenarios… nothing.

Then I suggested … " Son, suppose you had difficulties with your girlfriend, you’d figure out a way to get around that now wouldn’t you?"

He said, " Dad, I don’t have a girl friend."

For a moment there I had these deer-in-the-headlights freeze frame.

My only response was… " Well there ya go… see."

We both stood there looking at each other until he gave a glancing look off to the side, did a “hmmmm” look, then walked away.

The next marking period his grades went up, just marginally, but he passed.

That evening at supper I remarked… " now son, aren’t you glad we had that little talk."

He looks at me, pauses, then tells me he’s getting married Tuesday! The look I got from his mother is a look only a wife can give a man - I nearly chocked on my chicken ala king.

Sometimes a guy just has to work things out, stumble a bit, and stuff like that. I found that answers for a lot of life just isn’t ready for the “talk.” Sometimes life throws lemons at ya, and the best thing to do is to make that squinting face, shake your head, pucker up and try something else.


#8

I have no idea where the idea came from for that last post. I didn’t make much sense on that one - but I tried.
Sorry about that.


#9

Sure, it made sense.
Control what you can control, let go of the rest and try your best. It’s all in there.
Plenty of ways to skin a verbal chicken.


#10

Thanks for the kind words @steven_ellis. It’s the truth; you can have all the physical attributes in the world, but if you can’t control your emotions when things aren’t going your way, it’s a wash. That’s why I value pitchers that pitch consistently deep into games. They have the mental toughness to get through rocky innings and keep their teams in games. Those in my opinion, are the best pitchers.

Alan Jaeger’s self-talk process is as good as it gets. His process is eliminating uncontrollable variables like consequences, negative thoughts, distractions and drama. Focus on the moment. Lock into what you can control with clarity.

The process is this:

  1. Breathe
  2. Find your focal point/intention (where you intend to throw the ball)
  3. Visualize yourself executing the pitch (positivity)
  4. Commit & attack

Everything else is bullshit.


#11

I love Alan Jaeger.
His mental stuff is as good or better than his throwing stuff. The great thing about his breathing/visualization/meditation approach is it can be used in and out of sports. I have used it as part of a weight loss plan with good results.
Plus, if you ever get a chance to talk to the guy he is a super open, cool guy who will answer any questions you might have.


#12

Think Mariano Rivera—and what he used to do, every time before warming up to come into the game. He would take a couple of minutes to gt himself into what he called “the eye of the tiger”—a quiet but very intense focus in which the only thing that existed for him was how to get the batters out. (I always thought it might be a form of self-hypnosis.) He would then warm up, and when he went out to take the mound he took that focus with him, along with that murderous cut fastball. And the usual result was good morning, good afternoon and good night, three up and three down, a strikeout or two—or three—and a couple of broken bats, and another save. I remember how Ed Lopat taught me how to achieve that same focus, and anyone faced with a tough situation in relief can benefit from learning how to use that. :smile:


#13

Great example, Zita. Mo did it better than just about anyone.


#14

It really is a form of self hypnosis.


#15

Trusting your eyes is a HUGE factor in locating each pitch. A relaxed focus is the biggest thing. Seeing yourself execute the next pitch before your physically do so is a huge asset. When a pitcher lets his eyes drift or rushes his delivery and his head moves away from his his sight target, that’s usually where the pitch will miss.