Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” to explain how valuable the mental side of the game is. What makes baseball the “mental game?”
There’s a nice amount of time in between each pitch whether you are hitting or fielding. When you are fielding, you can think about what you’ll do with the ball if it’s hit at you. Then, when the ball is hit, the reaction has to be within a split second. If you make an error in those few seconds– everyone knows you’re the one who screwed up. Baseball isolates you when you fail. With all the time in between pitches, negative thoughts start creeping into your mind. “How did I miss that? What did I do wrong? Was it my mechanics? Did I misjudge it?” Then, another ball is hit in your direction and you airmail it over first base. “Jeez, 2 errors in the same inning. What is wrong with me!?!! What am I doing?” An inning can feel like an eternity as you stand at your position, internalize the error and start to second guess everything. The fact that baseball gives you time to think and analyze before every pitch should be a positive attribute of the game. Unfortunately, for some, it can also be its most negative and self defeating attribute.
A sort of fear can build up inside of you, and you begin to hope that you don’t get the ball so you don’t mess up again. You have already lost, if you have the fear of opportunity and fear of failure. This dead time can kill you mentally. As you start to second guess everything, you start to lose focus and perform even worse. Everything becomes very forced. Yogi Berra also said, “A full mind is an empty bat,” which exemplifies exactly what I’m trying to say. The more you think, the worse the outcome. It is fine to think about the situations in the game, but never to think about personal failure. There’s even a medical term for this, “paralysis by analysis.” By over analyzing yourself, it will paralyze your results. Clear your mind and visualize yourself succeeding, the results can be amazing by simply not overthinking.
Instead of fear of another failure, a great player wants another opportunity to show they can get the job done. If they make an error, or strike out, they look forward to the next time. Self-confidence, is the common trait in all great players. They know and believe in their abilities. If you don’t believe in yourself, how are you supposed to ever succeed in anything? The greats know they can hit and field-they’ve been training their whole lives. During a slump, they just have to work through it. You have to have the mental toughness to understand failure and how to over come it. When I make an error at third base, I always think to myself that my favorite player, David Wright, who is a fantastic defender even makes errors. He knows how to recover and make the next play. Self-confidence, not cockiness is key. You have to trust yourself.
What makes baseball the “mental game” is the time it gives you to think. Those who succeed have the self-confidence to overcome any obstacle. It’s an amazing thought that a game can be won or lost in your head. The most athletically gifted person in the world may lose to an average athlete because of a lack of mental toughness. So, get out there, play ball, and don’t think too much!
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