How to Stay Mentally Prepared on The Bench
How can a baseball player stay mentally sharp when not starting a game?
For a starter, that player can go through their normal routine of batting practice, fielding practice, warm-up, stretching, getting equipment ready and dressing in his uniform.
All this pregame preparation is the build-up to being ready for the first pitch of the game in the first inning.
A starter has minimal uncertainty.
That player knows he is in the lineup, what position he will be playing and where he is hitting in batting order.
Being on the bench has much more uncertainty than a starter:
- “Will I get into the game?”
- “What position will I play?”
- “What will be the game situation?”
- “What pitcher will I face?”
- “What inning will I enter the game if at all?”
All this uncertainty can bring with it a higher degree of nerves and frustration in some cases.
When a player comes off the bench, he is usually thrust into a pressure situation with his team needing an important out, a big hit, a move of a teammate into scoring position or a strong defensive play in the field.
It is important to stay mentally sharp while staying relatively relaxed and ready to play.
Being ready to play at any moment is key to your success..
Prepare in practice… Go through your same pregame warm-up… Stay engaged during the game… Know the game situation… Identify what you would do if you were inserted in the game in those game situations.
All these proactive steps will help you stay mentally sharp even if you are on the bench.
Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez prides himself on his ablity to stay focused whether he is the starter or coming off the bench.
Nunez played in 127 games during the 2018 MLB season and was a major reason for Boston’s World Series run.
In Game 1 of the World Series, Nunez came off the bench as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and delivered with a game-sealing three-run home run and helped Boston to take the first game of the championship series.
After the game, Nunez talked about the types of things he undertook to prepare prior and during the game that helped him stay mentally sharp and helped him capitalize on his opportunity when called upon in the game.
NUNEZ: “Watch the video, watch the game, watch the situation, watch what’s going on watch the match-up, hitting the tee, hitting machine, so we were prepared.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora pointed to the importance of being mentally ready for any opportunity to impact the game.
CORA: “[Nunez] was prepared. He wasn’t upset, actually, that he wasn’t playing. I told him, ‘Be ready, man. You might have a big at-bat tonight and do your thing.’ And he did.”
Just because you start a game on the bench doesn’t mean you won’t get your number called and contribute to the team’s success.
If you want to make the most of your opportunity, you must stay mentally sharp throughout the entire game.
How to Stay Mentally Sharp on the Bench:
Stay mentally engaged with every pitch throughout the game.
Just like a manager is thinking one step ahead, run through what you would do in certain game situations as if you were playing.
Be mentally prepared to go in at the start of every inning. That means you’re thinking about how to get ready to go in before your number is called.
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