My List of What Mentally Tough Baseball Players Do

If you have been a consistent reader of the blog so far, you are well aware of my interest in mental toughness.  We've talked about what mental toughness is to me, what mental toughness is in the general world of sport psychology, my thoughts on what mental toughness should be to your program, and an activity to help yourself, your team or your program create a plan to improve toughness.

Because I know many do not have the time to work through the activity, I decided to create a list for you of what I think mentally tough baseball players are able to do.  I'm going to roll them out in a series of mini-blog posts so I can talk about them in a little bit of detail.  The behaviors are not in any kind of ranking at all, but I will number them just for numbering sake.   Remember:  This list is just my opinion!  It's not any more valuable than yours, but I am excited about the list.

This is a great opportunity for us to interact.  Do you have a specific example of yourself, a player you know, or a player you have coached embodying the characteristic or behavior?  I want to know!  Tweet them to me, and I will retweet examples I like.  Hopefully this is something you all will enjoy as much as I have enjoyed working through the list.

#1: Mentally tough baseball players play every pitch independently.

Many of us have heard the saying, "Play one pitch at a time."  I feel like playing every pitch independently really drives home the message behind the saying.  If you are independent, it means you are on your own.  Independent baseball teams are not affiliated with any Major League organizations.  Politicians who are said to be independent do not belong to a political party.  The idea behind this is that the politician will not be influenced by a larger group of people above himself/herself.

The same holds true with playing each pitch independently.  Mentally tough baseball players do not allow the influence of past or future pitches to take away from the focus of THIS PITCH.  These players are able to shake off a terrible swing at a curveball in the dirt and understand they still have two strikes to work with.  They're able to refocus and trust their plan.  A mentally tough pitcher makes every pitch with a specific purpose regardless of score.  How many times have you seen this happen in baseball?  A starting pitcher gets off to a great start.  He is shoving and pitching with extreme focus.  The pitcher is throwing every pitch with conviction and forcing the other team to be reactive to his plan.  Then, his team puts up a big number or two and builds an 8-0 lead.  Maybe the pitcher starts joking around in the dugout, or the pitching coach says, "Alright now, we have a big lead, so we're just going to go out there, throw strikes, and let them hit it."  The pitcher then suddenly goes out and appears to nibble.  Maybe he walks the first hitter on four pitches, leaves a few out over the plate, and then before you know it the score is 8-4 or 8-5.  Rather than stick with the same approach that led to 0's on the scoreboard and pitching independently, the pitcher and coach allowed the score to dictate the approach.  Something that should be completely powerless took total control of the pitcher and coach.  A mentally tough pitcher approaches every pitch with a purpose regardless of the score.

In closing, playing every pitch independently is not something that is easy to do.  The ability to do so is earned through preparation and trust in both one's ability and plan.  To be as mentally tough as you can be, however, challenge yourself to play every pitch independently.  Start in practice.  When you take a "bad" swing, move on to the next swing instead of letting one swing turn into a bad round.  If you boot a ground ball, process what happened, see yourself doing what you want, and move on to the next rep.  Some recommend a clearing mechanism of some kind.  Wipe dirt with your cleats, unstrap and restrap your batting gloves, or simply take a nice, deep breath.  Like any other concept, working purposely on playing every pitch independently will result in improvement over time and will make you a mentally tougher player (at least in my eyes!).


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