Baseball is a unique sport, huh?
At first glance, the concept of hitting a ball and running bases seems very straight forward – almost easy. In reality, the complexities that come along with the mental side of baseball make the sport one of the most difficult to excel in.
The game of baseball is primarily composed of failure. Even the best players bat well under .500 every season. With this, it’s easy for players to become too tied up in their own heads, questioning not only their long-term outlook in the sport, but their abilities in each and every game, practice, and at-bat too.
Today, there are countless professionals dedicated to the psychology of baseball specifically. They are trained and motivated to help baseball players sharpen their mental acumen. And while more emphasis is being placed on this aspect of baseball, there is still a way to go.
How Do Baseball Players Keep Their Mental Skills Sharp?
MLB teams are employing sports psychologists at an unprecedented rate. Preparing athletes for the focus and resilience that playing in the MLB requires of them prepares them for the stress and rigors of professional baseball. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
“There are so many things that happen during the course of a game or season that have an adverse component to them,” said sports psychologist, Dr. Jeffrey Fishbein. “You play the game to the best of your ability, but at some point, you have to choose how you’re going to react to a variety of situations.”
It’s at this point where athletes need to consciously choose how to react – like Fishbein said. A fork in the road has been presented, and an athlete can either let surrounding circumstances derail their play, or they can block out the noise – external and internal. It’s imperative in any baseball players’ success that they are able to regularly do this, on the mound, at the plate, or in the outfield.
Fishbein offers examples of how some of his players keep their minds sharp during a game. Often, they will step away from the plate and take a moment to compose themselves. Many also readjust their gloves or their footing at the plate.
Fishbein encourages baseball players to think or look at something that will always be there to keep them grounded. Foul poles, the pitcher’s mound, the scoreboard. These are all things that are regular and have that ability to bring a potentially spiraling player back down to earth.
“I try to pick something that’s going to be there all the time,” said San Diego Padre, Adam Engel. “I like to look at my first foot and where I’m going to put it in the box. I try to dig in and make that the same.”
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to keep sharp, and many more that we can’t get to. But how can these seemingly mundane mental tasks and choices make a baseball player more successful?
How Can Improving Your Mental Skills Improve Your Game?
“You have to control your emotions and control yourself,” he said. “You just breathe and calm down.”
One clear benefit, noted by Candelario, is the understanding that his teammates aren’t putting that pressure on him every time he steps up to the plate. His teammates understand that he has put the work in on and off the field. When the time comes for him to perform, they can rest assured knowing that he will be doing so at a high level.
Another component of having a positive mental game is being able to break out of the daunted “hitting slump.” Because of how data-driven baseball is, teams, fans, and just about everybody are quick to point out when a player is in a hitting slump. If they aren’t performing to their standards, and it’s starting to hurt the team, the internal and external noise can be overwhelming.
This is when the small, regular practices are key. Being at the plate should be your own world. Nothing else matters but your bat and that ball. The athletes with exceptional mental prowess are accustomed to getting into this state. Think of it as a flow state where things come naturally and the incessant need to “stop the noise” is not your motivating factor. Because there is no noise to them.
Hopefully, baseball players who use Signing Day Sports can take this information to heart and put it into practice. We hope to help our users in any way possible. Practicing your mental game and implementing it can take you far in the sport and it will be visible to coaches and recruiters. Make sure to give it some thought and find things that work for you. Let us know in the comments below what strategies you use!