The Lending Coach

Coaching and teaching - many through the mortgage process and others on the field

Category: Baseball (page 1 of 4)

Stop Revisiting Negatives From Past Games

As you probably know by now, one of my favorite mental coaches is Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports Performance. Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist out of Orlando Florida.

He’s always preaching about mental toughness – as well as the techniques athletes can use to grasp it.

He sent out an e-mail blast recently that I’ve posted below regarding eliminating negative thoughts regarding past performance – and how to best get past it.

For instance, you whiffed the last two at-bats swinging at balls in the dirt and now you are facing the same pitcher with a runner in scoring position, “Here we go AGAIN!”

Or you walked the bases loaded and are having difficulty with your control and are now facing a hitter that has torched you in the past, “Here we go AGAIN!”

Or your team has blown the lead in the ninth inning the last two games and now you are clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom on the ninth, “Here we go AGAIN!”

This is a common problem among baseball players, but this mindset is based on a misconception. This misconception implies “what happened in the past will continue to happen in the present.”

It is an over generalization to believe the past will repeat itself but many baseball players, in the moment, buy into the “here we go again…” mindset.

When you allow past outcomes to influence your mindset in the present, the pressure heightens, which creates anxiety and tension.

Playing anxious and tight ball is a recipe for athletic disaster and under-performance.

In Action

The San Francisco Giants could have easily defaulted to the “here we go again” mentality after a breakdown against the Texas Rangers.

The Giants started out the first game of a three-game series against the Rangers with a tough game, blowing a six-run lead to lose in extra-innings at home.

To add to the potential pressure, the Giants had lost 10 of the previous 13 at their ballpark.

The San Francisco Giants had to quickly re-focus in Game 2 of their series.

The Giants quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead but gave up three runs in the eighth inning.

Despite similar circumstances, the Giants fought forward and San Francisco relief pitcher Mark Melancon closed out the game with the bases loaded to secure a 5-3 win over Rangers.

Hunter Pence, who had a pinch-hit home run in the seventh, talked about their “keep attacking” mindset rather than succumbing to the “here we go again” mindset.

PENCE: “It’s very important to continue to send that message of relentless attack. Even where we are and as clouded as it may seem, you still never know. When there’s still a chance in this game of baseball, things can get hot in an instant.”

Knowing there is a chance is a great strategy to keep your head in the game and avoid the pitfall of “here we go again.”

Keeping Your Head in the Game

Knowing you have a chance comes in many forms:

*Knowing there is a chance to still win.

*Knowing there is still a chance to bounce back the next game.

*Knowing there is still a chance to hone your skills and improve your game.

*Knowing you can learn from the past and adjust.

If you can adopt the “there’s still a chance” mindset, you can focus on making things happen in the moment.

Let go of what’s already happened, look for signs to build momentum, and get things moving in a positive direction. Instead, take a trip down memory lane to when you did drive in that run!

 

If I Could Go Back, This is What I’d Do….

Oxy team

I’ve shamelessly stolen this from a recent online post – and, would you believe it, I can’t even source it.

Now that I’ve turned 50, the document below rings completely true.  I bet a number of my teammates (and coaches today) would absolutely agree.Tommy batboy

If you are a  high school or college play (or aspire to be), read through this list and learn.  Apply it to what you are doing today…..

Tom Title Bar

Summer Baseball and Scouting: A Primer for Players and Parents

If you don’t follow The Arizona Diamond Report and Ron Benham, you really should. Ron is one of the “go-to” guys on the prep baseball scene here in Arizona and beyond.

His site exists to give college coaches a reliable source of player information. The majority of the area’s MLB scouting personnel also frequent The Diamond Report.

His site is one that I visit regularly, and I recommend that you do, too.

His recent blog post is called Here Comes the Summer: A Primer for Parents and Players”. It’s a must read – please do click on the link and read the entire piece.

With that said, here area a number of key items that stand out to me – and I really hope players and parents follow this advice:

Players

First off, if you expect to get much bang for your buck at these tournaments, you will hopefully have been communicating with colleges beforehand. If not, you won’t be on a follow list, and you generally become background noise.

This is so cliché, yet at the same time so true: You never know who’s watching.

Even at an event that has few to no college coaches, there may be someone in attendance who can have an impact on your future. The baseball world is a small place, with relationships that stretch across the country. Don’t make the fatal mistake of taking pitches off.

Catchers: I say this every year, and yet this remains one of my biggest pet peeves. Please show me your arm in between innings. You may not have a live game opportunity to flash that hose, but in between innings we are paying attention. Chuck that rock like your life depends on it.

This also goes for infielders. We don’t see you in pre game like in high school, so in between innings show off that cannon.

Please run out ground balls. It’s amazing to me that in an event that is supposed to be a “showcase” , I continually see players half-assing their way down the line as I stand there stop watch in hand. Running times are a vital piece of the evaluation process, don’t ignore this.

Body language is another incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Remember, baseball is a game of failure. Players that fail in MLB 70% of the time are called All Stars. The key is how you respond to failure. Throwing your helmet, tossing your bat in disgust etc, are sure ways to get your name crossed off by coaches.

Pitchers: it’s inevitable that you will encounter an umpire with a postage stamp sized strike zone. It happens in college too. However, the worst thing you can do is to react negatively to a questionable strike zone. Treat it like it is a part of the game and show that you are in control of the situation. 

Act like you are serious about the game. College coaches have a job to do. Their job is to win baseball games. They are looking for players who can help them do that. If you look like you are not a serious player, coaches can’t treat you seriously. Don’t goof off in the dugout. Many of you look like you are only out there to hang out with your buddies and have a good time. Play the game and conduct yourself like you mean business.

Parents

It’s amazing to me how things have changed in regard to ballpark decorum. I watch the way parents interact with their players during games and I just shake my head.

If I were to design a baseball field, it would have dark shades from dugout to dugout to prevent parents from placing their chairs right next to the on-deck circle. Unfortunately, virtually all the fields in the summer are wide open, and mom and dad have been sitting there for tournaments for the better part of a decade.

If you insist on being that close to the action, please try not to interact with your son during the game. He doesn’t need coaching. He doesn’t need you to break down the pitcher for him.

Your player should be mature enough to ensure that he has proper hydration for the game, so you shouldn’t have to hand drinks and snacks to junior in the dugout. It’s just a really bad look.

Don’t be that parent who constantly complains about balls and strikes and questions every call on the field. We will find out who you are and who belongs to you.

Finally, acting like a fool during a game puts unneeded stress on your young player. Baseball is a very difficult game to play. It becomes almost impossible when a player is nervous or stressed out. Don’t contribute to this.

A Great Hitting Lesson – An Analysis

Two of my favorite and “go-to” mental guys in the baseball world are Dr. Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson. I’ve mentioned them before – and I’d highly recommend that you read their book, Heads-Up Baseball 2.0.

I’ve worked with Ken for 30 years…he’s made me a better teacher of the mental game and helped me help players become better at being what I call ‘present moment guys’ – Joe Maddon

You can also go here to learn more about them and their other content.

Their latest article has to do with a great hitting lesson that they were a part of – and here’s the link to the complete post. I’d invite you to check it out in full.

The Anatomy of a Great Hitting Lesson

Here are a few key highlights:

Yesterday I, witnessed what I considered to be an outstanding hitting lesson.  I’ll take a few moments now to explain what made it so powerful.  The bottom line:  The player came in feeling frustrated, a bit lost, and out of sync with himself.  He left feeling excited, renewed, re-connected with what makes him good, and highly confident.

Before the first swing was taken, the coach took the time to connect and listen to the player. “What’s been going on?”  “How have you been feeling?” “WHAT have you been feeling?”  Questions like that… and then he took the time to hear the player’s responses, and ask follow up questions.

This put the player at ease, made him feel respected, and gave the coach essential information. The dialogue made it less likely that the coach would pile additional thoughts on top of what the player was already thinking.

Here’s the secret sauce to the whole thing: The player likes, respects, and trusts the coach. Contributors to this are all of the elements listed above that address how the coach relates to the player, plus the coach is a “learner” who is open-minded and always looking to get better (as opposed to a “knower” who has all the answers.

“It’s the relationship, stupid” is a worthy mantra for coaching.  Not a buddy, like “lets catch a movie after the lesson,” but a respectful, adult-to-adult relationship.  As Joe Maddon said: “With a great relationships, anything is possible.  With poor relationships, almost nothing is.”

Managing and Handling Pressure as an Athlete

I’ve mentioned this previously, one of my favorite mental coaches is Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports Performance. Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist out of Orlando Florida. He’s always preaching on how to handle pressure and mental toughness – as well as the techniques athletes can use to grasp it.

He sent out an e-mail blast recently that I’ve posted below regarding pressure – and how to best handle it.

I love his interview with new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton and how he focuses on the things he can control. He doesn’t worry about the things outside of his scope.

I highly recommend that all players and parents read through this –as it doesn’t matter if you are a position player or a pitcher. The same techniques apply for both!

Here’s the entirety of Dr. Cohn’s piece:

Pressure is to baseball as gas is to a car. Without gas, a car won’t go.

Pressure is necessary for peak performance. That’s right, pressure is needed to be at your best on the field.

Problems arise when pressure becomes uncomfortable and overwhelming. Too much pressure causes you feel anxious and tight.

Conversely, not enough pressure makes you feel sluggish and not “up for the game.”  When you have just the right amount of pressure, you feel excited and ready to go.

For example, Tony G. is a Division I collegiate outfielder…

Tony was having trouble at the plate during the middle of the season and was hitting well-below his average. H was anxious as he stepped to the plate thinking, “I gotta get a hit and have to break out of this slump.”

Tony started pressing at the plate, so his coach decided to have a talk with him and he admitted he felt a lot of pressure to up his production.

The coach talked about pressure in positive terms.

The coach told Tony that there is an optimal range of pressure that is helpful for performance and it is a matter of just finding that personal optimal range. The coach helped him settle down at the plate and, soon enough, Tony found his swing again.

There is an optimal range that helps you perform at your peak and all players can learn how to move into that optimal range of pressure.

I’m sure you have heard someone say, “He puts too much pressure on himself.”

Well, pressure is something we do to ourselves. If you can put too much pressure on yourself, then you also have the ability to lessen the pressure you put on yourself.  Managing pressure is similar to a thermostat that regulates temperature. Each person has a range where the temperature of a room feels comfortable.

If a room is too cold or too hot, you can adjust the thermostat accordingly.  Similarly, you have the ability to increase or decrease the amount of pressure in competitive situations.

Preparing your mind to cope with pressure is the act of you taking back the reins and controlling the amount of pressure you experience in competitive situations.

There may be no greater pressure for some players than playing for the New York Yankees….

Yankees outfielder and newcomer, Giancarlo Stanton, may be experiencing above average levels of pressure early this season. Stanton, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, was the centerpiece in a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins during the off-season.

In 21 games, Stanton has a .224 batting average, well below his .281 average last season. In his first 66 at-bats with the Yankees, Stanton struck out 29 times.

It is not easy playing at Yankee Stadium and to add to the pressure, Stanton has received a steady dose of boos and has a strategy to minimize the pressure by focusing on the positive aspects of his game and the things he can control.

STANTON: “Very simple. [Focus on] the positive things, even if it’s not very many things. That’s all you can do. Worry about [the booing], you’re going to keep twirling down.”

Stanton stays focused on his performance, such as:

–Good contact

–Working the count

–Feeling comfortable in the batter’s box

–Trusting his swing

–His play in the field

How much added pressure helps you focus and perform well? And when you do you feel overwhelmed by pressure to the point you can’t perform freely.

A Tip for Staying on Top of Pressure Rather than Under Pressure

In order to manage pressure, you want to note a few things:

  1. Too much pressure is common for many baseball players.
  2. Pressure is something you do to yourself.
  3. Some pressure is needed to play your best.
  4. You have the ability to manage pressure.
  5. Preparing your mind to deal with added pressure helps you.

Dr. Cohn has put together a free online e-book that can be found here: http://www.peaksports.com/baseball-softball-confidence-report/

If you are a player, or parent of a player, I’d recommend that you download it and get to know the contents!

 

A Baseball Must for Pitchers: Command and Establish The Fastball

When a pitcher has control that means he pitches in the strike zone.

But when a pitcher has command, that means he can hit spots within that strike zone.  And it’s the fastball that he must command, first and foremost.

Following his third spring training start, David Price said,

“It’s part of the process, continuing to go out there, command my fastball the way that I did today. If I can do that, it just opens up everything that I want to do with all my secondary stuff.”

“That’s always a big emphasis on me, just making sure I’m hitting spots with that fastball—two-seam, four-seam, both sides of the plate, moving it in, up, down.”

As a pitcher that throws a lot of fastballs, Price understands how difficult it is to hit.  He understands that fastballs in different locations thrown with a two-seam and four-seam variations can make life difficult for hitters.

The key is location.

For a great read on fastball command, read Doug Bernier’s article here….

Why The Fastball?

All great pitchers usually have something in common: a good fastball. Having command of your fastball should be the main focus of every pitcher at every level of the game, yet that’s too often not the case.  Too many pitchers (of all ages) tend to spend far too much time on learning how to throw secondary pitches, such as breaking balls.

The fastball is the singularly most important pitch.  If a pitcher has plus command of it, they can cause all sorts of havoc with a hitters mind with the location of that pitch.

Everything works well if you can establish the fastball and put it where you want it.

Having a great fastball means you can get out of most situations, (sometimes) even with a lack of feel for the pitch.  Those who understand this fact know what it’s like when you can’t get a good feel for your breaking ball on a particular day.  The curve ball is a “feel” pitch and can be difficult to throw for a strike at times, especially for younger players.

Having a great fastball also means you can then develop and utilize a secondary pitch with much more effectiveness – like a changeup to simply throw the hitter’s timing off.  This can be killer combination, as many times the hitter can’t recognize the difference out of the pitcher’s hand.

Deception & Perception

If you ever take the time to watch batting practice, you will see how many times hitters don’t square up the baseball.  The hitters know every pitch that is coming and the coach is trying to throw it where they can hit it hard, but still many hitters don’t hit the ball on the barrel of the bat.

Imagine how much harder it gets when they DON’T know what pitch is coming.

  • Inside/outside – After two inside fastballs, a 4-seamer on the outside corner tends to look further outside than normal… even though it is a strike.
  • Speed – The speed differs by 2-3 mph but that is just enough for my contact to be off the barrel if I am timed up for the two-seamer velocity.
  • Up / Down – Moving the ball up and down changes the eye level of the hitter and can produce swing and misses especially with two strikes.

A well located fastball is the most difficult pitch to hit consistently.  The hitter has less time to react, and the further the ball is away from the middle of the plate the more difficult it is for the hitter.

Learning from David Price

Pitchers and coaches might want to take a page out of David Price’s book and throw more fastballs.

As a pitcher, you know the hitter is thinking “once I have to compete against fastballs located for strikes on both sides of the plate and changing eye levels, the secondary stuff becomes much, much nastier to hit.”

As a hitter, when a pitcher establishes the location of his fastball and is not afraid to come after them, it makes hitting that much more difficult.

Adding Another Pitch to the Mix?

For those looking to “add another pitch”, you might want to reconsider, until you’re comfortable with fastball location.

Instead, evaluate what you’re currently throwing, and ask yourself these questions: “do I truly command these pitches?  Can I spot a fastball where I want, anytime I want, with movement?  Can I throw a four-seamer for a strike with my eyes closed?”

Only after you’ve honestly answered “yes” to all three, then consider adding another pitch to your repertoire.

Pitching to Contact

Many pitchers are afraid of “getting hit”, or they try to make the perfect pitch every time.  As a result, they end up throwing balls out of the strike zone,  walking hitters, or pitching from behind in counts.

Unless they throw 100+ miles per hour, they really, they’re trying to control the inevitable – that the batter is going to make contact. Interestingly, pitchers with great command like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine want them to hit the baseball.  And they don’t worry if a hitter ends up reaching base.  Their attitude is, “That’s fine. I’ll get the next guy.”

In Conclusion

Let’s be clear, if you don’t have good command of your fastball, you are not a good pitcher.  That’s the reality. If you want to improve your game, improve your velocity or command, not add a new pitch to your arsenal.

Work on it.

Pinch Hitting – A Different Mindset for Hitters

Everyday players can trust that they will see a good number of pitches over multiple at bats during a ballgame. They have standard routines and approach the game for the longer haul.

Pinch hitters, on the other hand, are often called on infrequently and need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Getting ready for a pinch at-bat is a complicated thing that can involve stretching, swinging, studying and reading a variety of cues about game situation – all in order to generate peak performance within a tiny window.

Source: Andrew Simon’s “The Post Game” article “How MLB’s Best Pinch-Hitters Prepare To Thrive In their Limited Opportunities”

The job is not an easy one. Pinch-hitters must ready themselves physically and mentally for an at-bat that could come at any moment — or never.  Not all hitters are capable of this – nor are many fully willing to embrace the role.

It takes a different mindset and approach all together. Pinch hitters are generally more aggressive at the plate, as they don’t have the time to see pitches and get behind in the count.

Many anticipate a particular pitch early in the at-bat…and when they get it, they swing with authority.

The key is to not get cheated as a pinch hitter!

However, before a pinch-hitter can worry about when to swing, he must get his body ready for the task. This means getting loose and limber, sometimes more than once during the course of the game. The player might stretch, run, ride a stationary bike, and take a good number of practice swings.

Some take time before and even during games to utilize the batting cages situated near the dugouts in many ballparks. They take cuts off a tee or tosses from a coach or teammate.  They spend time during this session visualizing the upcoming at-bat – “seeing” their success with the pitches that they expect.

The big takeaway here is that these MLB hitters know and embrace their roles – and take an aggressive mind set to each pinch-hit at-bat.

Younger players should do the same!

2018 Hitting Resolutions

One of my all-time favorite hitting instructors, Paul Petricca, has come up with a fantastic blog post for 2018.  It’s his “Hitting Resolutions” and I highly recommend that players read through them.

Notice that a fair amount of these “resolutions” are mental, yet they require concentration and practice, just like the physical skills of hitting.

Paul’s 2018 Resolutions – Make Them Yours

From controlling the batters box, to pitch recognition and selection, and becoming a “student of the game” are all things that are controlled between the ears, not with the hands or bat.

For the entire list, the link is here….2018 Hitting Resolutions – and Paul’s book, Hitting with Torque can be purchased here.

I’d highly recommend that you pick up a copy if you don’t already have one!

Off-Season Workouts – What Young Players Can Learn

Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber had a down year in 2017 – he even spent some time in the minors after having struggled during the summer.

After the season, Schwarber decided that he would do whatever he could during the off-season to prepare for the 2018 season – and it began by getting his body in the best shape possible.

His mornings begin in the gym and end with him swinging a bat. In between, his diet has morphed into the most healthy of his career.

I’d highly recommend you check out each video on the ESPN site here…..

The video/article gives perfect examples of specific drills that Schwarber does to get himself ready for the 2018 season.

Of course, Kyle is a professional athlete and has the time and resources to make this happen (and I completely understand that most youth and high-school players do not) – but don’t miss the point here.

Schwarber has a detailed plan and sticks to it months prior to the season.  He’s set goals for himself and will not be denied.

It’s this mindset and willingness to plan ahead that will put him in the best position to succeed next season.

Do you have a plan to get ready for 2018?  Strengthening, conditioning, flexibility, as well as skill related work?

There are plenty of options online to help you get started – you can click here for my Lending Coach site under the “Baseball” category to find more training related articles and blog posts.

 

Mental Toughness For Pitchers

“The pitcher with a winning mental approach will appear to rise to the occasion in big games, when in reality he is the one who successfully keeps his head while others around him are distracted by the moment.”

“Mental toughness allows the pitcher to remain focused on these things regardless of all the chaos going on around him.”

“The mentally tough pitcher can focus on the things he can control and not let the things out of his control distract him.”

So says legendary college baseball coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland. McFarland coached 38 years at the college level – 18 at James Madison University. Equally impressive, he coached 55 players on their way to the big leagues (including Kevin Brown of the Los Angeles Dodgers).

His book, Coaching Pitchers, is a great read – and I’d encourage you to purchase it here.

The following is an excerpt from that book…

Many say that mental toughness is an ability that is born into a pitcher, but with some work and effort all pitchers can create a winning mental approach. In this chapter we will look at identifying problems and then offer advice, drills, and practice ideas to help pitchers create a winning mental approach.

Factors the Pitcher Can’t Control

The first step to becoming mentally tough is to figure out the factors you can control as a pitcher and those things that are out of your control. The list of things out of your control is much longer than the list of things within your control. First you determine those factors out of your control and then you learn to deal with them.

  • Weather conditions – these include wind, rain, sun, cold, and heat. You can dress appropriately, but you cannot do anything to control the weather.
  • Field conditions – these include wet field, dry field, poor field, dimensions of the field, poor lighting, and the height and condition of the mound.
  • Teammates – a pitcher cannot control his teammates and their play. They may score 0 runs when you pitch; they may score 10 runs. This is true of errors too. Your team may field great when you pitch or they may make several errors. You can’t do anything about errors or run support.
  • Umpires – as umpires determine their own strike zone,  the pitcher will need to adjust to that zone for the day. A pitcher can’t control whether or not the umpire makes all the correct calls during a ball game.
  • Unruly fans and bench talk – fans or opponents will try to disrupt a pitcher by verbally abusing him. You can’t control fans; when you acknowledge their remarks, it gets even worse. Sometimes opposing teams will try to get a pitcher out of his game by bench talk.
  • The batter – once the baseball leaves a pitcher’s hand, the batter has the control. The batter decides to swing or take. The batter will determine whether to hit the ball hard by his swing.

The pitcher may affect some of the factors with his performance, but he cannot control them. So he should not worry about them. A pitcher cannot focus on or spend time and energy on things out of his control.

Factors the Pitcher Can Control

A pitcher with a winning mental approach knows that there is only one thing a pitcher has complete control over, and that is himself. Mental toughness starts with the realization of this concept.

Be concerned with those things and only those things that a pitcher can control: himself and his actions. A pitcher must first learn to be responsible for himself and his actions.

  • A pitcher cannot control the weather, but he can pitch accordingly and give himself a better opportunity to be successful.
  • A pitcher cannot control the condition of the field, but he can pitch accordingly and give himself a better opportunity to be successful.
  • A pitcher cannot control the play of his teammates, but he can help himself by playing good defense and being positive in the dugout; he can pitch accordingly to ensure his own success.
  • A pitcher cannot control umpire decisions; but he can make adjustments to different strike zones, affect umpiring decisions by his actions, and pitch accordingly to ensure his own success.
  • A pitcher cannot control what is being said about him or to him from opposing teams or fans, but he can choose whether to let them affect his game.
  • A pitcher cannot dictate what the batter will do with a certain pitch; but by studying hitters and learning weaknesses, he can pitch accordingly and ensure his own success.

Instead of focusing on things out of his control, a pitcher must take each set of circumstances and pitch or act accordingly to make himself succeed.

Each pitch and each situation involve a new set of circumstances. How he reacts to each new set of circumstances or situations is within his control, and this is where he can start to make a difference.

Assess the situation, make the appropriate decisions, make the appropriate pitch or play accordingly, and then accept responsibility for the result. Understand that the pitcher starts and affects the action of the game with each pitch more than any other single event in the game; this is crucial for a winning mental approach.

The pitcher is the only player on the field who has the power to act. All other players on both teams only have the power to react. Use this power and act accordingly to each new set of circumstances and each new situation to help ensure your own success.

The key to a winning mental approach is not to focus on the things a pitcher cannot control but to be consumed by the things a pitcher can control.

Telling a pitcher not to worry about the fan in the fourth row who is riding him hard or not to worry about the umpire whose strike zone appears to be on wheels and is moving around is as effective as telling someone not to think about an elephant that’s standing in the room.

Instead, create a pitcher who is consumed with the next pitch and is focused on what he can do in the next set of circumstances, no matter the current situation.

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