Mental Hitting Preparation (Ancaster Baseball)

PrintMental Hitting Preparation

Hitting begins in the dugout (Phase 1), continues into the on-deck circle (Phase 2) and into the box (Phase 3). Almost every hitting coach feels the same about one point: Thinking and planning occur during Phase 1 and Phase 2, but never during Phase 3. The batters box should be a non-thinking zone, you clear your head of all thoughts, except "see the ball - hit the ball".

On the Bench - In the Hole

You should study the pitcher in the dugout, learn her routine, her strikeout pitch, and especially how often she throws the off speed. Look for any tips that might tell you when a specific pitch is coming. Most pitchers tip their pitches. Be observant.

In the On-Deck Circle—Final Preparation

Then develop a routine for the on deck circle. Make it a consistent routine that allows you to relax and prepare both mentally and physically to face the pitcher. Visualization could be part of your preparation both in the dugout and in the on deck circle.

A) The hitter should know the scoreboard (score, outs, runners on base).

B) The hitter should watch the pitcher’s release point. Does it change on different pitches?

C) The hitter should know the pitcher’s second best pitch—her most consistent pitch besides her fastball.

D) The hitter should become a coach at home plate if necessary.

Two of the USA’s top Olympic hitters have specific routines they go through in the on deck circle. Kim Maher, a former All-American at Fresno State is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game today. Maher holds the Women’s Nationals home run record as well as numerous other national hitting records. Maher served as the cleanup hitter for the USA Team in the 1996 Olympics. Her best advice to a hitter is to not think yourself out of your at bat. She says she is definitely a "see the ball - hit the ball" hitter. Her on deck routine consists of a break down of her mechanics into four parts: the step, pivot, contact point, and follow through. She does this drill 4-5 times, then does a 3 tap drill, where she triggers and steps onto the front foot lightly, three times. She does this to reinforce her short stride. Then she closes her eyes and visualizes herself hitting the ball hard. She is then ready to step into the box.

Sheila Douty, a former UCLA All-American, is unquestionably the best clutch hitter in the USA offensive arsenal. Douty has won many games for team USA including the semi-final game against China in he Olympics when she hit a 6th inning two run homer to win the game. She hit fifth for the 1996 Gold Medal Team and led the team in RBI’s. 

Douty has a set routine in the on-deck circle. She runs through her situation checklist first, then she re-checks the pitchers release point. She reminds herself to keep her weight back and will even use the tap drill to work on her stride with weight back. She also uses the fence drill to keep her hands in. If time allows, she will take 2-3 swings adjacent to the fence to keep her swing compact. Douty focuses only on the pitchers release point when she enters the box and tells herself to "see the ball - drive the ball." She stresses that it is important to keep your mind clear in the batters box.

In the Batter’s Box—Time for Battle

When you step in the box, you should be relaxed, free of thought and ready to react. You want to be totally focused on one thing - seeing the ball and executing.

At this time the hitter needs to control his emotions and mentally take control of the situation, whatever the circumstance, and not allow the situation to take control of him.

RELAX - the hitter should know within himself he has perpared well for this time. The hitter may use deep breathing for added relaxation.

Be aggressive, but smart

Stay positive, be ready mentally and physically.

Now is the time to see and react.

Ingredients of a Positive At-Bat Routine:

(1) Regroup and Get Control: Outside of the box, release the last pitch, it’s over, let it go. Take a slow, deep breath as you prepare to step into the batter’s box. When you step into the box, this says your mind is clear and you are focused on the next pitch.
(2) Have a Plan: Get signal from coach. Make sure you have a plan and commit to it before your step in such as “see the ball and react.” Do not proceed unless you are committed to a plan.
(3) See Your Plan: Rehearse your plan. You have a few options here. See it, “feel” it, hear the ball contacting the bat, or use a combination of all! Positive image here is necessary to feel confident and commit to plan.
(4) Focus on the Ball: Narrow your focus on the release point of pitcher as you settle into the box. Here, you are setting the stage to see it and react.
(5) React, Just do it: React to the ball freely. What’s important is to be free, natural, and loose. Don’t “guide” the swing - trust your mechanics. You may choose a cue word or phrase to help you “let it go,” such as “hit it hard.”

If your mind wanders for any reason (including negative results) stop and refocus. For example, if your mind wanders to the last pitch or worry about not getting a hit, stop, step out of the box, and restart your routine. 

TWO STRIKE HITTING - Think contact, contact, contact!

    1. Increase the strke zone to its entire size
    2. Think up the middle and the other way
    3. Look fastball, anticipating off-speed pitch and adjusting down.
    4. Hitter does not deserve to look middle in for his pitch to turn on.
    5. Hitter must battle pitcher’s pitches.
    6. Don’t give up, put the ball in play.
    7. Make the defense work by putting ball in play; anything can happen.

Pitch Adjustments:

        - quicker or slower, foul balls which direction?
        - up or back in the box
        - in or back from the plate
        - what has pitcher been throwing in different counts


(1) Stay Present Focused: To play your best, you must keep your mind in the present moment on the requirements of the task. This is easier said than done. It is easy to think about the last strike out you had or think ahead about the results of striking out. Know the task-specific cues you should focus on and be aware when you are not on task. Stop and refocus your mind on the task or on what you should think about to execute well.
(2) Only One At-Bat at a Time: To help you stay focused on execution, think about only the one pitch at a time. Separate each pitch from the rest and don’t think about the consequences of getting a hit. You don't want to be thinking about the last inning when you are at the plate in the middle of the game.
(3) Don’t Think Results: If you want to tighten up and make a controlled swing, then think about what you don’t want to do. Thinking about results, only creates tension and indecision. If you want to get good results, focus on execution. In an earlier article, I discussed how your at-bat routine should help you focus on specific cues to follow as you prepare for each at-bat. If you don't have a routine, the mind is free to wander aimlessly as you prepare for each pitch.
(4) Cue Yourself to Concentrate: Sometimes it’s hard to refocus when the last at-bat was 30 minutes ago. Lock in your concentration once it is your turn to at the plate. To help you click in, try using a physical trigger to focus your mind, such as tightening the Velcro on your glove before start. At this point you want to turn your attention to preparation and execution for the first pitch, and if anything else enters your mind, let it pass through your mind.
(5) Relax Your Focus While You Wait: Not to many people can focus continuously three hours. It is important to be ready to play when you are up, but you don't want to grind and overanalyze the entire game. After each at-bat, relax your focus and save your concentration for the next time at-bat. This will help you be “fresher” for the end of the round.
(6) Rehearse While You Wait: If you have trouble focusing your mind after a long delay, rehearse your at-bat before your up to play. For example, while on deck, imagine that you are at the plate taking pitches. You should be timing your swing with the pitcher and “seeing” yourself make solid contact. When it's your turn, you will be prepared to click in the focus because your have already rehearsed your routine.

Types of Negative Hitting

(1) “Hope & Pray” Hitting: The moment the pitcher releases the ball, you just pray you can make contact with the ball. A hope hitter stands at the plate and strikes out in his or her mind even before the ball crosses the plate for the first pitch. Even worse than that, you hope that you won’t have to hit again in the same inning! If you hope and pray to get a hit, you have trouble trusting your swing because you are so unsure of the outcome.
(2) “Do or Die” Hitting: A do or die hitter focuses too much about not getting a hit. If this is how you think, you worry too much about results. You always know what your batting percentage is during a game: 0-1, 1-1, 02, etc. You say to yourself “I need to get a hit.” As you focus on trying to avoid getting thrown out or popping out, this causes you to forget about execution and lose sight of what it takes to actually get a hit. 
(3) “Wishy-Washy” Hitting: If you engage in wishy-washy hitting, you have trouble making decisions. You change you mind often about your plan when at the plate. You may decide on a strategy, but then at the last minute change your mind as you settle into the batter’s box. You have two plans in your mind, which causes doubt. Indecision kills a smooth swing. Indecision and doubt are a hitter’s worst enemy.
(4) “Panicked” Hitting: If you engage in panicked hitting, you are too scared to start your swing. You panic because hitting is the weakest part of your game and you know it. You know that if you are going to play well, you need to get a hit. Visions of poor hitting days and strikeouts have you bewildered. Even if you gather yourself enough to take a cut at it, your muscles are too tense to make a smooth swing. 
(5) “Pessimistic” Hitting: If you are a pessimistic hitter, you are streaky. You rely on momentum. If you get a hit in your first at bat, you’re OK and you can play well that day. You might “run the table” if you get hot early. But if you strike out or pop out early, your game is shot. You become pessimistic and say to yourself: “I’m going to play poor today.” You generalize based on the first at bat that you just can’t play well today and become more pessimistic.
(6) “Synthetic” Hitting: If you are a synthetic hitter, you think too much about mechanics while you play. Your left brain, the analytical side of your mind, has you under its spell. Your hitting does not feel natural or smooth because you think too much about HOW TO swing the bat. You try to make adjustments during your swing but this only makes matters worse. You are so consumed with making perfect swings that you loose feel and forget about making contact with the ball.

The great hitters are confident as well as disciplined. They have developed a consistent routine that allows them to study, rehearse, focus and release. They trust their preparation, training, and skill. They step into the box believing they are better than the pitcher and knowing they are going to have a great at bat.
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Printed from on Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 6:13 PM