How Elite Ballplayers Stay Focused in Closing Out a Game
When you are leading late in a game, do you have the same focus as you did in the first inning?
Closing out a game may seem easy, but that is the time when mental mistakes can happen quickly.
Let’s see if you can identify with the following scenario. You are leading by four runs in the bottom of the ninth. You feel you have the game in the bag. The first batter hits a double. You think, “No big deal, we are up four runs.” The following two hitters strike out. The pitcher walks two batters with two outs, and the bases are loaded.
A routine fly ball to left field is dropped, scoring a run with bases remaining loaded. An infield error scores a second run, and the score is 4-2. You start tightening up, slightly fearful of losing the game, but you convince yourself there is no way you will blow the lead. The next hitter drives the ball over the fence, and your team loses 6-4.
Sometimes, you may feel the game is a foregone conclusion, so you let up a bit. A brief lapse in focus can open up the flood gates for the opposing team.
Closing out a game requires that a player or team keep putting in max focus and effort until the last pitch. When you have the lead late in a game, you should have the same focus as the very first pitch.
It is important to remind yourself of the count, the runners on base, and the game situation. When you stay laser-focused on each pitch, you will feel mentally alert and will be able to react quickly until the final out.
Early in the 2022 MLB season, the Philadelphia Phillies imploded after having a commanding lead. With a seven-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the Phillies gave up eight hits and seven runs to lose the game, 8-7
Phillies manager Joe Girardi commented on the Phillies’ inability to close out the game.
GIRARDI: “That was about as hard as I’ve been through. Probably one of the toughest since I’ve been here. We played a really good eight innings, and in the top of the ninth, they beat us.”
It is not enough to focus on 26 outs when playing a game. If the opposing team stays focused for 27 outs and you become lax in your focus, you can easily lose, even with a significant lead late in the game.
Tip for Maintaining your Focus and Closing Out Games:
Chances are if you lose focus in practice, you will lose focus in games. Focusing is a mental skill that you can improve through training. To maintain your focus for each pitch and at-bat, remind yourself of the current situation prior to the pitch. It takes less than ten seconds to set your focus for each pitch.
This strategy will help you focus throughout a game, whether you are winning or losing, early in the game or late, and in the field or in the batter’s box.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- Developing The Hustle Mindset for Baseball
- When Emotion and Intelligence Work Hand in Hand
- Perform Confidently Late in the Game
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