The Power of Your Mental Game in Baseball
There is no doubt that baseball is a mental game.
You can have a string of great games where you are playing at a high level, then “BOOM,” out of nowhere, the bottom drops out.
This inexplicable drop in performance can be extremely frustrating…
You try desperately to find the answer… taking extra batting practice, fielding more ground balls, working more with a pitching coach, switching bats and even changing what sock you put on first.
The solution may not be found in mechanics, technique or superstitions.
Perhaps the biggest issue is your mental game.
To illustrate the power of the mental game, let’s examine the plight of the highly touted pitching prospect Lucas Giolito…
Giolito pitches for the Class AAA Charlotte Knights, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Giolito, 22, was a first-round pick in 2012 and the centerpiece of a trade with the Washington Nationals.
Giolito is considered a ‘can’t miss’ prospect who throws around 100 MPH and has been likened to star pitcher Stephen Strasburg… Talk about high expectations and pressure!
Giolito has handled the pressure in the past and there is absolutely no reason that he cannot continue to dominate hitters.
Unfortunately, since last year’s trade, Giolito has not been producing the way he has in the past.
Giolito is off to a dismal start with an 0-5 record and a 7.31 ERA in six starts.
Giolito is not only having control problems but a drop in velocity.
GIOLITO: “The numbers are atrocious. It frustrated me, definitely a lot… It’s like, why aren’t I figuring it out?”
The problem started when Giolito was a late season call-up last year by the Nationals.
Giolito had difficulty adjusting to the major league level, giving up seven earned runs in 21 innings. Giolito’s pitching woes continued this year in spring training.
Giolito’s pitching coach Steve McCatty pointed to Giolito’s mental game as the source for his drop in performance.
MCCATTY: “When you’re not ready to go to the big leagues and you go there and success isn’t easy for you, it can weigh on you mentally, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself.”
So what’s the answer for Giolito?
Is it more pitching sessions? Is it tweaking his mechanics? Is it strengthening his arm?
All those things may play a part in finding an answer but the most effective solution lies in his mental game.
Whether it’s trusting his pitches, being patient, improving his confidence, focusing in the present or relaxing on the mound… These mental aspects will fast-track Giolito back on the road to consistent dominance during his starts.
What can you do to improve your mental game?
Try this tip for improving your mental game and performing at your peak:
First, instead of labeling your performance as “atrocious,” identify the problem. For example, “I haven’t been able to locate my fastball.”
Next, ask yourself, “What mental factors might be contributing to my problem?”
The answer may be too much anxiety, low confidence, or lack of trust on the mound.
Now, ask yourself, “What strategies can I utilize to manage my anxiety or trust my pitching?”
One options is to work on improving your prepitch routine. Staying in the moment, using self-talk, or taking two deep breaths before getting the signal from the catcher can help some ball players.
You mental game is often the key to unlocking your potential. Get started today with improving your mental game for baseball or softball:
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“Ty has started nine games this season, and he is 6-0, with a 2.6 ERA. Two weeks ago he pitched a 9-inning shutout, breaking his school’s record with 17 strikeouts. For his efforts he was named NJCAA Division I National Pitcher of the Week. He’s in a real good place mentally. The mental game skills you taught him about mental preparation, eliminating expectation, and staying in the moment have been the keys to his success. The thing I have noticed most is his improved consistency. I have been amazed at the change in his mental game. I should have called you earlier to thank you personally.”
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