The Mental Game that is Baseball
When it comes to sports that require the most mental toughness baseball is always at the top or near the top. It’s one thing to be blessed with natural talent, but your mind is not prepared for the sport, talent simply won’t matter. One challenging aspect of the game is the amount of different approaches one can take in becoming a better ball player. Young players will be told many different things when learning the game. One key element is when to take certain advice and when to trust your gut. Don’t be stuck on one position. You may have always played first base but you should also learn how to play outfield correctly. For example, taking reps in the outfield can help your play at first base better by learning how to get in position for relay throws. Every player should learn how to play third base. Time at the hot corner will improve your reflexes and test your arm strength. Knowing the game inside and out is a major key to success in the game of baseball. “What am I going to do if the ball is hit to me?” is a question that every position player must ask on every pitch. Mental preparedness is what separates the good players from the great. No matter the age group, the game of baseball is one of the few sports where a good “ball player” is more valuable than a good athlete.
Similar to the old saying, “there's more than one way to skin a cat,” baseball can be seen the same way. If you were blessed with natural ability and size, then you have an advantage on other players. Young baseball players who haven’t hit their growth spurt will have to work a little harder on putting the ball in play, throwing runners out, etc. Smaller players should recognize strengths and weaknesses and try to hit for average and not power. You might be more comfortable in one stance, but produce better results in another. Comfort and the easy way out do not equal greatness. Do your own research on the sport, watch a lot of baseball and learn from the pros. Don’t necessarily copy them, but try to take in as much as you can and apply it to your training. Baseball is not easy by any means, but doing the little things that matter will make the game much more fun.
Confidence (especially in young athletes) can be a significant advantage in baseball. You may not be the kind of player who gets on base every game, but if you tell yourself you can, your game will follow. This is especially important at the high school and junior high age group in baseball where the talent level can be majorly disproportioned. One team might have a couple of Division 1 caliber players while their opposition has mainly underclassmen in the starting lineup. Lesser talented baseball teams can hang with better teams if they’re more mentally prepared. If a young baseball player can conquer the mental side of the game, then he’s already won half the battle. If they can’t, then they’re doomed. The reason why baseball is our national pastime and one of the greatest sports to play is because the real game takes place inside your mind, not the field. I like to quote the late, great Yogi Berra whenever discussing with this subject, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half physical.”