Hitting “The Mental Side”
If You’re not training, You’re falling behind
The higher the level you play at, the less talent separates the player and the more the MINDSET is the difference. Everyone practices, the first place team and the last place team. Practice is NOT what makes you different or better. How you practice does. What you practice does. Your mindset/mentality DOES! When you know you have your next practice, your next workout. What you need to ask yourself and know is “what is your intent”?
Do you know what your “intent“, is as a hitter? Clearly some swing with the INTENT to hit it hard, and clearly others swing with the INTENT to look good. Some swing as if they were in a bubble and they don’t want to break it. Others swing as if it’s the last swing they will ever take. Knowing your INTENT is where we start. Your INTENT is your mindset.
Let me start with a few quotes from some notable hitters and then we can start with how to change your mentality to what is called ATTACK MENTALITY.
My life time batting average has been increased 50 points by qualities I would call purely Mental -Ty Cobb
I am trying to stay out of my way and think as little as possible. Josh Hamilton on his crazy Home run pace May 2012
Hitters think way too much – Miguel Cabrera
When Tony Gwynn stopped by to see his son play for the Dodgers last year at Dodger stadium he sat down to talk with Don Mattingly. When Don was asked by a reporter about the conversation Mattingly responded with “we talked about hitting approach and mentality,””Obviously, with men in scoring position, you have to make sure the mentality is right. You need to keep a simple approach. Sometimes you complicate things and put pressure on yourself”
Look middle away, about 72% of the time in real life at every level, the pitch is middle-away. It helps the hitter hit the pitch where it most likely to be – Carl Yastrzemski
These are Great hitters, who clearly believe that the mental part of the game is what separates them from the rest of the world.
In understanding the Mental side of hitting it starts with the hitter to be honest with them self. To understand who they are and what they are capable of. It starts with Confidence. What helps build Confidence? It starts when each hitter start to train. The repetitious act of hitting balls off the tee, taking batting practice, strength and conditioning sessions all start working together to develop a hitters mindset and the work they put in helps build Confidence. For some players, the harder they work the more confident they are. Either way, Confidence is ingredient number one in the hitters Mentality. It lacks fear or intimidation. It erases doubt or the threat of failure. It allows the player to do one thing, Focus on hitting the ball hard. Focus is the next ingredient. Focus allows the player to understand any given situation throughout the game enabling them to react properly.
Focus allows a player to simplify the game. “See ball, hit ball” If you can see it you can hit it. Being able to do that means you are also relaxed. Relaxation is one of the final ingredients. It is amazing how hard it can be to just relax, focus, and be a confident hitter. A player though who has worked hard and understands the game, can relax come game time. The player knows what to do and all the work they have put in allows them to do that.
The ability to successfully hit the ball with consistency and power is a special talent with special emotional demands. It takes effort for a young athlete to develop emotional control. It starts with the hitter understanding that even the best of the best fail far more than they succeed. A player who is overly emotional at the plate will frequently fail, creating serious confidence problems and, inevitably, more hitting difficulty. Mental control is a prerequisite to give a batter the potential to dominate pitchers. For a hitter to dominate, they must develop an ATTACK MENTALITY. (AM)
(1) The AM batter knows when to use AM. The AM batter must be able to turn it on when they approach the plate and not carry a bad trip to the plate around like a scar. A good AM hitter cannot give into rage, cannot allow themselves to pout or sulk, and cannot have a temper tantrum. AM is short lived and task specific. All consistent top hitters have AM at the plate, but they don’t take it home to the dinner table. An AM hitter enjoys winning, but cannot agonize over losing.
(2) Good AM hitters want to hit. They thrive on the challenge at the plate. For the AM hitter, there should never be a circumstance they don’t want to be the HITTER on who’s shoulders the game depends. Pressure situations should simply help them concentrate. There is a fire of competition that burns brighter the greater the challenge they face. They never say “I Can’t” and if they can’t , they merely say they are not ready “yet”.
(3) AM hitters are good contact hitters. They need to be able to find a reachable ball with the bat wherever it is pitched. AM hitters foul frequently to protect against a third strike wjile awaiting a decent pitch to hit. The AM hitter stalks the pitcher’s best offering, relishes pitching mistakes, and pounces on every opportunity.
(4) They can focus. AM hitters concentrate less on game situations and more on the proper execution that hitting demands. They have a task to perform and they must be able to singularly direct their attention to the task. An AM hitter will see the opportunity to bat as a contest between them and the pitcher, and they can tune out any and all extraneous concerns. They focus their AM they know that at that moment the pitch arrives, hitting the ball has to be the most important thing in the world.
(5) They are always aggressive. They must charge the ball with authority. AM hitter must always be consistently aggressive at the plate – not foolish – aggressive. They cannot be frustrated by the intentional walk, and must create an atmosphere where any pitch close to them they
can reach is in danger of being pounded. They must believe that if it is hittable, they can handle it. AM lets the batter take control of the plate fiercely and aggressively, instead of merely waiting out the pitcher to make a mistake.
(6) To be an AM hitter you must be a swinger. AM hitters usually strike out rather than walk. You don’t want to be stupid about chasing bad balls, but you can’t be afraid to strike out, and you must not want to get even one called strike.
(7) Must be willing to protect the plate. You must know the strike zone. The AM hitter must be willing to defend the strike zone and not let the pitcher sneak a pitch in for a strike. When you encounter an ump with a moving strike zone, or calling knittable strikes, you must not give into frustration and must focus on the hittable pitch. The AM hitter must be able to focus their intensity on the instant of contact – the attack.
(8) Must be willing to practice. An AM hitter must enjoy practicing with and without a ball, with live pitching, and with a machine, to refine the mechanics of the swing.
(9) Must be able to take instruction. AM hitters require good hitting technique. One must be willing to correct swing errors without complaint. Conversely, they should be willing to advise the coach of legitimate concerns regarding swing comfort or loss of control or vision by swing changes. Some aspects of the swing are intimate and only the hitter knows exactly how it feels to their swing. A proper swing can have many variations without being a bad swing. They should not be fearful of telling the coach what will make their swing more comfortable.
(10) Must care. A good hitter is a team player. They are not gladiators, contesting alone. A Good hitter will use the team as a support base to help them focus better- a mutual goal is incentive to accomplish the individual task.
The task of teaching and learning as young hitters to use controlled aggression to focus as a hitter is such a challenge. If your INTENT is to learn and be the reliable hitter the challenge becomes a learning lesson and success a reality.