Hello boys and girls. Knock. Knock. Anybody home? Did we all forget that the hitter is an offensive player?
Hmmm! Okay, let’s all look this one up together to make sure.
Is he/she called … a what? What is the hitting position called? Is it called “home plate protector”? No. It’s not called a home plate protector.
Um, is he/she maybe called a “home plate defender”? No, it’s not called that either.
I know, how about “home plate guard” or (here’s a fancy name) a “guardian.” Is the position called the guardian of home plate? Boy that sounds really important, doesn’t it. No, its not called that either.
Wait. Wait. I’ve got it. He’s called a … hitter!!! A HITTER!!!
So his/her job is not to protect or defend. The job is to HIT!!!
STOP!!! Stop saying the words; “Protect!!! Defend”!!!
If you are a player, stop saying these words to yourself.
ESPECIALLY if you are a coach stop saying these words to your players.
STOP USING THESE WORDS! They are DEFENSIVE words. They are NEGATIVE words; contradictory words … at least how they relate to the task at hand – which is to hit the baseball.
I believe that hitting boils down to just two things: the batter’s swing and the pitch.
So if the hitter really has PREPARED his swing to the point that he or she can TRUST it; trust his/her balance, trust that he/she will see the ball and trust the hands … and is confident in his/her ability to make hard contact … then it becomes all about the pitch. Right? The only way the pitcher can beat you is with the pitch. So think … use your head … use what you know about him; his/her patterns.
Small interruption. Hitters, PLEASE don’t tell me you haven’t been watching the pitcher. Because if you haven’t been watching the pitcher, we need to talk.
We pause here for a trick question: How many “at bats” does a player get in a game.
Nope nope nope!!!
Three or four is the wrong answer.
In Little League each player gets at least eighteen at bats. In the higher leagues each player gets between twenty one and twenty seven at bats.
Watch the pitcher, boys and girls. What’s he/she throwing? What are his/her “patterns”?
But let’s assume that you HAVE been watching the pitcher — then just look for what he/she’s going to throw you. Confused? Too complicated?
Nope. It’s simple. It’s called offense, baby.
Are there ADJUSTMENTS and STRATEGIES available to make with two strikes?
Players can, for example, inch toward the plate a bit in order to take away the outside pitch (which is where a lot of pitchers go … and the umpires seem to expand … with two strikes on a hitter) or up or back in the box if the hitter … or coach … thinks a breaking ball or changeup is coming and depending on how and where it breaks.
All good. Good tactics. Intelligent. Smart.
But do we throw our confidence out the window and become defensive?
No. We … HIT!!!
Particularly at the youth level, almost every umpire on the planet will expand the strike zone with two strikes, especially outside. Okay, so ADJUST. Move up on the plate a tiny bit and take away that outside pitch. You’re not going to turn the pitch that’s four inches outside into a strike (even though the guy in the funny blue suit is going to call it) but now that you are up on the plate a couple of inches, your body, your eyes and hands, will REACT to the pitch as if it were a strike … if you trust them.
So trust them.
Simplify. Tiny adjustments. Slow down. Shorten or eliminate your stride if you think it will make your swing easier to control. Choke up on the handle and gain a little more balance on the bat and control of the barrel. Quiet your hands and set them a bit closer so the path to the ball is shorter; quicker. Above all else, make sure you gain control of your head and your eyes. Be quiet. Be still. SEE THE BALL with BOTH EYES, aim the knob at the inside half of the ball …
What’s the goal? Hard contact.
Always. Always. Always. NOT base hits. NOBODY can guarantee a base hit. You CAN produce a good swing. You can even GUARANTEE a good swing; your best swing. You CAN look to make hard contact. If you foul it off, you get another pitch. With any kind of contact, you make the defense work and have a chance for success and a chance to help your team win.
Worst case? Even if you lose the at-bat, ALWAYS walk away with the positives. You were confident. You were aggressive. You saw pitches. Your teammates saw pitches. You have all gathered information. You’re BETTER PREPARED for your next at-bat.
Again … over and over … be aggressive. Believe in yourself. Be offensive, NOT defensive.
You went to the plate to do what? Hit the baseball, right? Make hard contact, right? So how has that plan changed with two strikes?
It hasn’t. Stay confident. Do what you went up there to do. Do your job.
KNOW that you can do your job.
The process works when we work the process
GOT A QUESTION?
I work to address a broad range of issues in the articles and give you all the best information possible. If you have a question or feel you would benefit by advice or counseling, give me a call.
I realize that sometimes it is difficult to ask for help; especially with mental skills. However, all of us can improve something with our game or field of endeavor.
Believe me … at the highest levels of performance which you all aspire to … mental skills are the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR GAME. Mental skills are oftentimes stigmatized. Athletes and their families think that you are "broken" if you ask for help. Nothing could be further from the truth. ALL 30 major league clubs have mental skills coaches. Mental skills will MINIMALLY elevate your game 5 - 10% and get you to perform at your best CONSISTENTLY. Fixing mechanical skills or getting bigger stronger faster without being tough mentally simply DOES NOT WORK!!!
Sometimes we need help but don’t know who to ask … or how. Contact me and I can explain all our programs including sports mental toughness programs which can easily improve your own mental game or that of your son/daughter or the players you coach.
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Karl Avdek, Founder, GC-GP-GH