Failing at the plate is inevitable. If you consider that the average success rate is one in four, three appearances out of every four ends in an out. Even with solid contact, "oh-for-too-many" can weigh on the spirit. Batters easily fall into a funk and trudge to the box rather than taking their bat into battle.
Short streaks of sub-par performance are bad enough. More extended slumps with scattered weak contact and bloopers that rarely fall in can lead to a player feeling desperation. The player tells themselves they are doing something wrong, and their approach gets shaken. The player plagued by watching their batting average plummet worries about what they are doing wrong rather than what to do right.
It does not matter how well they played in the past. As confidence reaches its low and desperation increases, a player
8 | INTRODUCTION
may toss out years of training and success to look for a quick fix in the short term. Like sinking in quicksand, the greater the struggle, the quicker the player will sink. In an urgent effort to show they can still perform, the player might throw out common sense and adopt the wrong mindset. Resorting to drastic changes in mechanics will not be as effective as repairing attitude.
Losing your approach in the batters' box and not playing out a game plan weighs heavily on the outcome. Even if a prolonged slump leads to bench time, it is not the time to panic and lose confidence. That mental downtime is when a player needs to look at what is really wrong and how it spiraled out of control. It isn't time to look at the slump as statistics. It is time to look at the mental slump.
Another side of the coin is where a player is doing well enough to want to leave well enough alone. They may be afraid to try anything to raise the level of their game. Maintaining the status of being an above-average player could make them lukewarm to thinking their game could be even better. Risking everything by making a change of underwear might lead to a dismal streak of bad at-bats. An inevitable loss of confidence follows, especially when reverting the change doesn't bring back the success they had before. Then the downward spiral starts from a new source. They knew they did it before, and now they lost their game because they tried to improve. Adopting mediocre as the norm is just as bad as not trying to improve.
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Even overconfidence can break a player. If they let routine get out of focus because they feel they can just grab a bat and say, "I got this," eventually, that attitude will show up on the scorecard. No one is above failures at the plate if they don't consistently keep their approach in mind.
In the end, it isn't just the scorecard that is the issue. The one constant in the scenarios here is the mental attitude of the players. Controlling the mental side of the game is as much part of the art of being an effective hitter as staying in shape physically and having good mechanics. Once the mental discipline gets mangled, that is the point where the inevitable happens. The result of swinging the bat does not end with the barrel on the ball.
The psychology of the game is not just on the field. Life goes on outside the ballpark, and troubles don't necessarily stay at home. Keeping external factors on an emotional leash can tug at concentration and be as distracting as obnoxious cat-calling from fans. It is a challenge to maintain the proper focus and play your game. But keeping that focus is the batsman's core responsibility.
Keeping to a game plan and consistently improving can raise the level of play for any player in the game. An approach does not have to be a complicated ritual with magic potions. In fact, simplifying keeps the mind clearer and more in tune to play. Concentrating on the essentials not only gives a batter the best chance of success, but it also defines what they need to
10 | INTRODUCTION
concentrate on to block out distractions. The mantra of the meditation on plate appearances becomes "here is what I am here to do" rather than "why am I here?"
Key elements create the foundation of good hitting. Knowing those key elements establishes the roadmap to getting your bat back and reviving success at the plate. This book makes you focus on those key elements, so you get re-oriented to a healthy hitting approach. These seven chapters are your elixir of confidence that put you back in control. They lead you on a journey not only to become the player you once were, but they give you the tools to reach levels beyond where you were, even if you were happy with your play.
TheBestHittersinHistory.Whileshunnedbybaseball officially, no one can deny that Pete Rose was one of baseball's most impressive players with a bat. There really couldn't be a more straightforward approach than the philosophy Rose adopted: "See the ball. Hit the ball." The player with the most hits in major league history has advice for players in a slump that comes down to "change where you stand in the batter's box, but don't change your swing." Seeing how several of the best players in history dealt with their struggles is inspirational and calming for those facing a nagging downturn.
GettingOutofaSlump.Whenyourmindsaysyou will fail before you step into the batter's box, it is a self-
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fulfilling prophecy. You can't hit the ball when skidding down the slippery slope of mental failure. Getting out of a slump requires getting yourself out of the mindset that got you into the problems in the first place. It is like beating an addiction to failure. Visualizing success rather than failure will be what helps you drive the ball instead of waving at it and whiffing.
AHitter'sMentality.Onceyougetfailureoffyourlist of possibilities, the next step is to mend your approach. It is best to prepare for each at-bat like you are masterminding a plan that can only succeed. Taking control of your time in the batter's box means training yourself mentally and creating advantages. You have to be the one with confidence that creates an opportunity to barrel the ball. It doesn't have to be complicated.
ThinkLikethePitcher.Thebattershouldneverbe totally at the mercy of what a pitcher chooses to throw. Observing how the pitcher approaches the game can shift the advantage in at-bats. Knowing a pitcher's history, watching his arsenal in warmups, and paying attention to how he approaches other players in the lineup are all things that tell you what's coming. When you know what's coming, it turns good pitches into mistakes. Take the ball out of the pitcher's hand by knowing what they will throw, keeping your head in the count, and touting your best game.
12 | INTRODUCTION
UnderstandingtheStrikeZone.Thezoneisnotjust the one described in the rule book. It has different incarnations in the rules, the umpire's eye, and the batter's green zone. You know where you want the ball to have the best chance of doing damage (green zone). In more advanced play, the other team knows where you want it to. A complicating factor is the human element of umpiring. You can't tell the umpire what to do, but you can be aware of their behavior and adjust to their style. Don't blame the call. Take responsibility for being observant.
PerfectingtheSwing.Youain'tgotnothingifyouain't got that swing. Not only should you evaluate your swing to get out of a slump, but there may also be minor mechanics that are turning would-be homeruns into flyouts. Comfort is a thing, but so is maximizing your performance. Tweaking your swing in practice may be something you don't want to carry into games immediately. But every swing has elements that you can tweak. Examining the elements and deciding what to work on can help you isolate the part of your mechanics that you will do the most in helping you improve. Finding out what your swing looks like against optimal mechanics may convince you to make a change. This chapter covers the options, and it may not take a lot to turn a flaw into a feature.
INTRODUCTION | 13
because everything happens in a split second. You can't wait till the ball is halfway to you to start your swing. Part of your stay in the batter's box will be timing the pitcher and following his lead by having your swing already in motion before the ball is released. The tenth of a second you have to pull the trigger is easier to handle with precision if you picture where you have to let the bat go or hold up. Hand-eye coordination needs to be at peak performance to make the most of that perfect swing. Coordination is not just something you got from the gene pool. There are exercises you can do to improve muscle memory and results. The key to success is identifying where your game has room for improvement, building your skillset, taking your confidence in your skills into the game, and attacking the opposition.
Once you see all the opportunities to improve, you will stop sulking about a sinking batting average and put the motor in gear to make improvements happen. Improving is a journey, and there is no way to do it all at once. Your offense will improve just by knowing how they affect your game. Coaches might help you with suggestions, but ultimately it is up to you to commandeer the ship. The tools in this book put you at the helm.
No one knows better about the difficulties of stepping up to the plate and facing your batting demons like the author. Having
14 | INTRODUCTION
struggled at the plate in his own playing time is what prompted Roy Lingster to write this book. Twenty-five years in the game as a player and coach included a trip to the Little League World Series in 2007. It also included a season where he experienced his worst year at the plate ending with a .180 batting average. Haunted by that performance going into a new season, he knew he needed to make some kind of adjustment not to repeat that. He was unwilling to accept the idea that his talents suddenly disappeared. He set about breaking down the elements of how to achieve success at the dish. The effort to get his mind back on his game let him beat the setback and excel.
The students of the game are the teachers for the talent of tomorrow. Roy learned to put that miserable .180 season behind with determination to take responsibility for his turn at the plate. He is here to teach you about hitting and to help you learn through the valuable lessons he fought to find. You have to look no further than this book to improve your performance. You'll hear about all the possibilities you have to improve your approach with specific calls to action that let you know what steps to take and how to apply what you learn. When you are done, you will recognize how to help people around you and become the teacher yourself.
While the batter may be alone while he stands at the dish, he isn't alone in his pursuit of becoming an excellent batsman. Now it is your turn to step up, improve your performance, and become a true student of the game.