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Developing the winning baseball mind
Photo of Brian Halligan

Let's put the ball on the mound here and figure out what it takes to play baseball. If you can't run, hit or pitch, perhaps it's time to rethink your goals.

Case in point. The greatest basketball player in the world, Michael Jordan, decided that he wanted to play baseball while at the height of his basketball career. So, he went to a minor league team, put on a baseball cap, picked up a bat, and for two years, he tried to hit the ball. The problem was that ... he couldn't. His highest batting average, in the minors, was .202. And because he couldn't hit, he wasn't going to make it as a baseball player.

 

PHYSICAL ABILITY

Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player that ever lived, had unmatched hand to eye coordination and uncannily fast reflexes, among other physical attributes that were far getter than the average human. This was not something learned, he was born with this ability and he honed it to perfection in the batters box. (He was also one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but that fact always gets pushed under the rug because of his superior hitting capabilities.) What I'm getting at here is that, The Babe's physical ability alone would have made him a great baseball player no matter what.

 

THE MENTAL ASPECT

Well, no one out there is another Babe Ruth, and there probably will never be another one either. Which means that granted, you will need some decent physical ability, whether you are at the plate or on the mound, but the real key to being successful in baseball, is in your mind.

The Athletic Motivation Inventory, AMI for short, is what many teams use to determine a persons baseball personality. There are 10 specific desirable traits, but considered as some of the more valuable types are, self-confidence, mental toughness, aggression and emotional stability. Let's take those subject by subject, shall we?

  • Self Confidence -- You know what it feels like when you are going out on a date, you are showered, perfumed, you look like a million bucks and you are stylin' and profilin'? That's how you've got to feel every time you go up to the plate. No pity party because you struck out last time, no "Oh woe is me" because you are in a slump. Nope. Every time you go up to the plate it's a new chance, a new day, a new time to shine, regardless of anything else that came before. That's self confidence.
  • Mental Toughness -- If you get lost into a situation other than the one at hand, like you just broke up with your girlfriend, your car got totaled or your jock strap is too tight, you aren't going to be a capable ball player. Everyone has these issues, but its those that can stay focused on the game that are going to be mentally tough
  • Aggression -- There is a fine line between aggression and being overly aggressive. You always want to attack the ball, never be afraid to swing away, and as a pitcher, keep going for the inside corner. Too aggressive and you'll hack at anything. Not aggressive enough and you'll get struck out every time.
  • Emotional Stability -- And no, we aren't talking about shedding tears when one of your pitches gets tagged for a dinger, either. Emotional stability means remaining in control. If you strike out? Don't throw your bat into the dug out and don't start jaw-jacking with a heckling fan. Even something like arguing with an umpire after a call you don't agree with, is foolish. All you'll do is cheese everybody off, the call will never get changed anyway, and you may even get ejected from the game. Keep your emotions in check and channel any frustration you may have at the next fastball.

 

BASEBALL IS A MIND GAME

It is safe to say that even if you do not have overwhelming physical skills, you could still find a place on a baseball team. Pinch hitters, pinch runners or even coming from the bullpen for an inning or two. There are certain niches in baseball that you might just fit into, even if you are not the most gifted physical player.

But if your mental attitude isn't right, you are never going to be a success. Why? Because the mental part of the game is the biggest part of playing the game, and it all begins with you.

As the old saying goes, "Get your head in the game," because that's where the winning baseball mind starts, and it begins and ends at home plate, whether you are a pitcher or a hitter, every time you take the field.

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