What Mentally Tough Baseball Players Do #5

#5 Mentally tough baseball players are in the right spot.

Mentally tough players are the guys who are always in the right spot.  This is something I can honestly say goes a long way with baseball coaches and our opinions about players.  We love to see an outfielder backing up a throw or a first baseman hustling to the area in front of the mound as a pitcher covers home on a wild pitch.  Even tougher is the pitcher who is getting banged around the yard but is putting on a clinic at backing up third base and home.

I'm reminded of a day last fall when I went to watch a few innings of a College of Charleston intrasquad.  I'm not sure the exact specifics, but CofC has some sort of point system to help motivate players with competition in the fall.  Players get points for the usual baseball metrics like hits, RBI's, stolen bases, etc., but they also get points for other things like making a great defensive play or reading a dirt ball.  There was some kind of wild rundown play where the left fielder ended up being an emergency guy in the play at second base.  After the play, the left fielder yelled up to the assistant coach who was in charge of the point system that he should get a point for being there.  The coach agreed, and the left fielder was as jacked up as most would be after hitting a bomb.  Rewarding players for being in the right spot like this is HUGE!  Other players see the outfielder getting praised, and the behavior becomes contagious.  This is how you increase mental toughness in your program.  You define a behavior that is mentally tough.  You reward it with praise or points or whatever else you want to reward it with.  You see the behavior spread and occur more often.  By your own standard, your team and players become mentally tougher.  Regardless of research, their confidence increases as they believe they are getting tougher.  Then you make it to a Super Regional right?  If only it were that simple!

Cal Ripken Jr. is someone who comes to mind for me as a player who was phenomenal at being in the right spot.  He studied hitters, knew his team's pitchers, and used his intel to work to position himself at shortstop.  Ripken was basically working with advanced metrics twenty-five years before they existed.  Thus, his perceived range far exceeded his physical abilities.

On the flip side, here is the Rockies giving up 3 runs on a wild pitch!  The pitch is wild because of the mental mistake of throwing the wrong pitch.  The second run can just be chalked up to a physical mistake on the poor throw.  The third run scores solely because of everyone falling asleep and the pitcher pouting mid-play.

So how do you make sure you're in the right spot as a player?  #1: Pay attention in practice.  Hopefully you're being put in as many game-like situations as possible.  Learn from those situations.  #2: Think ahead.  I can still remember my Dad telling me to think about where I'm going with the ball before it's hit to me when I was 9 or 10 years old.  This is an adage that doesn't change.  Mentally tough players do this, but they also think about where they're going to be when it isn't hit to them.  That is how you end up in the right spot.  #3: Watch baseball.  Watching baseball can be as much of a learning opportunity as you'd like it to be.  Really watching any level of play at all can provide the opportunity.  Watch the guy playing your position and see what he does on different plays.

Have a time where a player being in the right spot made the difference between winning and losing a big game?  I'd love to hear about it.  Hopefully you are enjoying the list!


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