The Mental Game of Baseball

As we all know, the higher up you go in the game of baseball the more that the skills seem to level out. Everyone can hit, throw and run so what is it that distinguishes one player from the next? It’s all about mental toughness and how they adapt, adjust and overcome any situation that there put in on the baseball field. Many people fear going to the plate in the ninth inning when the games on the line because they don’t have that mental toughness. In this game you have to learn to take the pressure and use it as a motivational tool to your success. Dont ever doubt your abilities and when you believe in yourself it will make it that much more likely to happen. This game can literally sink you to the lowest points youve ever been in your life. But the glorious thing about it is that tomorrow brings another game, another at bat and another chance to field that ground ball. You can’t let this game get to you and you must remain mentally tough no matter what the situation is if you wish to succeed…

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Back in the day I had a wise and wonderful pitching coach who was an active major-league pitcher. He was very interested in the mental and psychological aspects of the game, and we had many long conversations (I used to call them “curbstone consultations”) about this. When he would talk to me about strategic pitching he often spoke of getting inside the batter’s head, confusing and discombooberating him, throwing him off the track: absolutely essential because I was one of those finesse pitchers who didn’t have a fast ball to speak of and had to rely on good breaking stuff, control and command. He gave me a lot of reassurance, support and reinforcement at the same time he was instructing me about what pitches to use in dealing with this hitter and that one.
He had a number of techniques at his disposal, a few of which surprised me—I’d had no idea that he knew anything about such things as the use of hypnosis as an adjunct to his work as a pitching coach. But at one time when I was up against a problem—a nightmarish situation that threatened to become very real—he used one of those techniques to go right after the problem and knock it out of commission, restore my confidence and demolish any anxieties I might have had about pitching in tight spots with less than my best stuff.
We worked together for almost four years, and after all these decades I still remember everything he told me. His name was Ed Lopat, and he was a lefthanded control pitcher whose specialty was beating the Cleveland Indians (a very good team at the time) to an unrecognizable pulp. What I learned from him was nothing short of priceless; I became a better pitcher than I had been before. They don’t make pitching coaches like that any more. :slight_smile: 8)

Some MLB teams have even hired a sports psychologist.
Clint Barmes and Chris Dickerson have both been helped
by sports psychologists while playing in MLB.

Yes, some teams have done that, and at times it has been very helpful. But there have been times when the whole thing has fizzled. Back in 1950 the St. Louis Browns, who as a team stank on hot ice, hired a psychologist who worked with hypnosis to try and pull them out of a prolonged hitting slump. This guy—his name was David Tracy—was, as Ed Lopat described him, a “one-trick pony”; he had one technique that he ran into the ground, and he was of that particular school of thought that held that one technique, one way of doing this, should work for everybody. It did not. When he started in with the Browns, after several sessions he announced that the team was suffering from “loser’s syndrome”. Ed Lopat and I were talking about this, and I exclaimed “Oh, for Pete’s sake! One doesn’t have to have an advanced degree to figure out that the Browns just plain stank!” You’d think that they would do something constructive, like get a few guys who knew how to play the game—maybe even a couple of good coaches might help. But no. They HAD to go ahead and get someone to try and hypnotize the team out of the cellar!
And Lopat told me that the Browns had started out the season in last place, and by the end of May they were still in last place. So that psychologist was fired. Lopat, who it turned out knew a lot about the subject, said that where this psychologist (who had probably been a very good psychologist in other areas but when it came to working with hypnosis just plain stank on hot ice) had fallen short was his failure to realize that when you’re working with something like that you have to take each individual on his or her own terms. What’s sauce for the goose, as the saying goes, is not necessarily sauce for the gander, and one technique is not going to work for everybody.
And sometimes, especially when it comes to pitchers, a guy who’s having a problem on the mound might get more help from a fellow moundsman, someone who can see right away what the problem is—often the psychological problem is connected to a mechanical flaw, and another pitcher can be the very one to help. It’s really a fascinating subject. :slight_smile: 8)

My coach says its strange how people make this game so hard. He says its just a game with a ball.

I think it was Bob Lemon who once said that baseball is a kids’ game and it’s the adults who screw it up. And he was right. What it is with adults is that they take it too seriously—or maybe they take themselves too seriously. Ken Griffey Jr. never lost his youthful enthusiasm for the game. Neither did Willie Mays. Even as they were belting home runs out of the park they had oh, so much fun doing it. I think that’s the key—take the game seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously that you lose that all-important ability to have fun playing the game. :slight_smile:

Great book to read is “Mind Gym” it is a great book for coaches and kids

Where is it available from?
I wonder if I could get it through the local library.

I bought mine at Barns and Nobles. It was like 12 bucks
I am sure you can get it online also