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Category: Baseball (Page 1 of 12)

9 Mental Keys for Young Pitchers

A big part of playing consistently and confidently is training not only the body, but also the mind. This is especially true for young pitchers.

Staying calm, breathing, forgetting what just happened and only focusing on what’s in front of you at that second—this is all much easier said than done.

Trust, clarity, detachment, simultaneously being calm while channeling peak intensity—these are all qualities confident, mentally tough pitchers have perfected.

I’d like to reference an article from Steven Ellis at YouthPitching.com where he elaborates on 9 key mental training “secrets” for young players.  It’s a great read and you can find it here…

Some key highlights from Ellis’ article:

Visualize Success

One coach postulates that the pitchers who simply visualized their mechanics to the plate and visualized themselves hitting the spot they’re throwing to, had an increase of 25% accuracy versus pitchers who just get their spot and throw.

Eliminate Fear

Once a pitcher accepts that fact that risk is present, he might as well start focusing on the reward and opportunities that exist:

  • The opportunity to be the hero
  • The opportunity to get the big W
  • The opportunity to take over and control a game
  • The opportunity to help the team win 

Only once a pitcher realizes this, can he throw with 100% authority……and without reservation.

Maintain a positive attitude

There will be times in your pitching career where you will have ups and downs. 

Your success over the long haul, however, will come down to attitude.

Taking at least one deep breath when nervous or in trouble helps to calm the mind and body. The extra oxygen into the bloodstream chemically relaxes or slows down the built up tension.

There’s much more in Ellis’ article, so please do visit his site and read the entire piece!

Mental Toughness Wins Ballgames

It’s true – mental toughness really does win baseball games. As you probably know, one of the baseball related subjects that’s continually in focus here at The Lending Coach is that of the mental side of baseball. 

Without a strong mental game, a player’s physical performance will always be limited.

Sports Psychologist Bill Cole

Today I’m linking to Bill Cole’s article “Mental Toughness Wins Ballgames” and I invite you to click on the link and read the entire piece.

Bill Cole is one of the most successful performance psychology consultants working today. He truly is a pioneer in the field of sports psychology, as he was the first person in the world to be awarded a Bachelor of Science (with honors) in Sport Psychology. 

He has been mental game coach or consultant to thousands of high school, college, professional, world champion and world record-holding athletes. 

His website can be found here – and he offers a valuable 65-question assessment tool at no charge to assist you in determining what is getting in the way of your performing to your full potential.

The Article

In his article, he writes about the 5 key things he focused on with the Stanford baseball team during their heyday:

1. Learn To Control Your Focus: The most important part of the mental game is “attentional control”. Where you place your focus, in what way, and for how long is key.


2. Keep Your Mind In The Here And Now: Good baseball is played one pitch at a time. Do that and your mind stays in the moment, the now.

3. Stay Poised And Patient: You want to play aggressive baseball, but you also need to remain self-aware, and tuned in to what is happening around you. This is vital to being a plugged in player who makes things happen


4. Develop Confidence And Self-Belief: If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Everyone around you can tell you how good you are, but if you discount this encouragement, it will never enter your head and heart.


5. Use Mental Rehearsal: Get a competitive advantage with your mind by playing the game in advance, using visualization. Go to the movies in your mind and mentally rehearse what you will be doing in competition.

Again, here’s the link to the entire article…and I’d invite you to check it out!

Hitting with Torque for Power and Bat Control

There’s a ton of emphasis at the major league level on hitting for power today.  Interestingly, we have seen a fair amount of that moving into the high school and youth levels, as well.  One college coach that I’m following argues that the “little things” are getting overlooked. 

Many high school coaches (including myself) will argue that it’s costing their teams runs and wins. 

When you think about it, there aren’t that many 16 year-old players that can consistently hit the ball out of the ballpark!

Paul Petricca is a great collegiate hitting coach in the Midwest and is a good friend of mine.  He is an astute observer of all things hitting – both baseball and softball….and you can find out more about him here at his blog-site, Torque-Hitting.  He really understands where power comes from and how to convert the power source into bat speed.

His book, Hitting with Torque, would be a great stocking stuffer and you can find it here…

Paul argues that one of the most effective offensive strategies throughout the history of baseball has been all but lost—choking up on the bat!

Greater Bat Control

An excerpt: “Choking up on the bat makes the bat shorter, which enables hitters to control it better. It is also easier for hitters to find the sweet spot of the bat. This improved bat control is especially effective with two strikes or in pressure situations. In 2016, Anthony Rizzo almost always choked up on his bat when he found himself in a two strike count”.

“By choking up, he increased his chances of putting the ball in play, instead of striking out. His sole objective was to force the defense to make a play or to find a hole in-between the fielders.” 

Source: Paul Petricca’s Hitting with Torque

As a high school coach, more often than not, all we are looking for is solid contact from our hitter.

Think about this situation that is all-too common in our game at the lower level: less than two outs and a runner on 3rd base.  There are essentially two things that won’t allow us to score the run if the infielders are at normal depth – the strike out and the pop-up.

By gaining better bat control and choking-up a bit on the bat, the hitter really does have a better chance to hit that ground ball up the middle that enables the run to score.

Increased Bat Speed and Power

Petricca argues that swinging a shorter and lighter bat increases bat speed, which translates directly into more power. He states that “Barry Bonds was able to hit with consistent power, even though he choked up on the bat, because he was able to generate enough home run bat speed with a shorter bat. I believe if Anthony Rizzo continues his two strike strategy, he will begin to hit more home runs with his hands choked up on the bat.”

Paul is often asked by his hitters whether they should swing a slightly larger or smaller bat.  His answer:

“If baseball and softball hitters can swing a larger bat without sacrificing bat speed, then the change would be appropriate” 

More importantly, he states that:

“If hitters begin using a slightly smaller bat, then their bat speed should naturally increase to allow them to hit with the same power as using a larger bat. Choking up on the bat to make it smaller and lighter has the same positive effect.”

Defense Against Getting Jammed

In addition to more bat speed and bat control, hitters can choke up on the bat as a way to get a bigger part of the bat on the ball to eliminate getting jammed inside. Instead of hitting the ball near the handle, the hitter can now hit inside pitchers on a bigger part of the bat.  Even if you don’t find the “sweet spot” of the bat, that extra inch or two can often be the difference between an infield pop-up and a soft line drive to the outfield.

Petricca finishes his piece by stating “hitters should welcome any technique or strategy to gain more bat control without sacrificing power, especially in pressure situations. It is time for choking up on the bat a few inches to make a comeback in baseball and softball.”

I say “Amen”.

Stay Positive On The Field – Don’t Re-Visit Negatives

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 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.

AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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!

Baseball Dynamic Warm-Up | Flexibility and Stretching

One of the major performance enhancers for baseball players is muscular flexibility – and I bet that’s the last thing that players work on.  Players take loads of batting practice, fielding practice, do long toss – and spend a great amount of time on strengthening on the field and in the weight room.

But what about flexibility to both improve performance and prevent injury?

Well, I’m linking to a KBands Training article that outlines a great warm-up stretching protocol that all baseball players should check out here – Baseball Dynamic Warm Up – Flexibility and Stretch

I’d invite you to check out the video, as well!

Here’s an excerpt:

“All baseball players need to warm up properly before performing high impact activities or speed and agility training. Static stretching was considered the norm in the past, but in recent years static stretching has become an addition to the everyday dynamic stretch routine.”

“Baseball players must stretch their hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, trunk, glutes, IT bands, groin, and upper body. Each and every muscle throughout the body is used to maximize a baseball player’s performing potential”

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