For years, the knock on perhaps the greatest player ever to suit up in a Major League uniform was that Alex Rodriguez never performed to his capabilities in the playoffs.
In the autum of 2009, however, that has changed, as A-Rod hit .365 with 6 homeruns in 50 postseason at-bats, a .500 OBP, and a 1.308 OPS in leading the New York Yankees to a World Series Championship.
So what’s changed?
He’s the same player … from the neck down. But above the neck is where Alex Rodriguez has improved — he’s now relaxed and focused, using many of the techniques learned while working with mental coach Jim Fannin.
In the last post you had the chance to hear me speak with Jim Fannin about some of those techniques, and the challenges of mental preparation for baseball.
Here are some of the tips or “takeaways” from the interview:
– No matter what the situation, the essence of your craft does not change. In other words, you use the same physical technique and concentration in “regular” and “pressure” situations
– Big games: sometimes you need to “spill” some energy — maybe jump up and down a few times to expel your energy if you feel a little too jacked up
– Batters: lock in to the release, forget about the pitcher
– Batters: Pick up the baseball within 6 feet after release, and then be sure to track it within the last two feet
– Batters: start learning to pick up the ball and the pitcher’s release in the on-deck circle
– Batters: EXPECT to hit the ball solidly – confidence is key
– Pitchers: prepare to retire the leadoff batter by getting the heart rate up and throwing the last few warmup pitches as if they were “game” pitches
– Pitchers: mentality should be to retire the leadoff guy every inning
– Pitchers: if tense, stressed, or nervous, slow down your heart rate by walking off the mound, taking a breath, unhinging your jaw, and focus on throwing through the target (see the target not the batter)
– The ultimate for all players is to have the same mindset in all situations
– Every great player uses the tools of visualization
– Visualization is applicable to every level down to little league
– Every human being spends 56 hours — 50% of their waking hours — daydreaming. Daydreaming is a form of visualization, but it is generally random and chaotic.
– Controlled visualization is proactive and specific – you are daydreaming about what you want.
– Most people visualize about what they don’t want — so you want to visualize what you want
– Coaches: the great coaches and teachers — no matter what the sport — are painting a picture of total positivity in the student’s mind.
– Coaches: using “don’t” in your instruction is completely ineffective – so eliminate it from your speech! Replace the “don’t” with a positive image
– All players who struggle with their mental mindset can improve — but they have to want to do it
If you want to listen to the podcast, you can find it here:
Jim Fannin On Baseball podcast
You can also subscribe to the OnBaseball.com podcast through iTunes.