The Long Road
When it comes to the number of games, no sport compares to baseball. From the early days of select baseball all the way to the pros, a baseball player becomes acquainted with the daily grind of baseball games. It seems as if those hot streaks never last long enough and those slumps go on for an eternity. While mental edge is required in every sport, baseball seems to have an added importance for it considering how often you play, and how often periods of inactivity between pitches and innings can eat away in your inner dialogue.
So what can you do to keep a sharp mental edge?
Dealing with Failure
To start with, the mental edge of baseball deals extensively with failure. As the old adage goes, hall-of-famers fail 70% of the time. Hitters consider a .300 batting average highly successful, yet it means you make an out 7 out of 10 times! Even the best players in professional sports fail at critical moments. Robinson Cano has struck out to end the game with the winning run on second. He will do so again.
Mentally, it’s important to remember the team aspect of the game. You’ll never have to win the game alone, even if you’re up to bat at the critical moment. You have relied on your teammates to get this point just as your teammates have relied on you. Your teammates will strike out, kick a ground ball, or give up a home run just like you will. But mental edge means being there for your teammates in their time of failure and them being there for you.
Power of Positivity
Considering the amount of failure that surrounds baseball, keeping positive is incredibly important. Positive self-talk and visualizing success are key components to high performance. When you’re in the batter’s circle, taking warm-up swings, tell yourself you’re going to hit a double into the gap; imagine the contact between bat and ball and your first steps out of the batter’s box.
At the same time, realize you’re not perfect and you shouldn’t beat yourself up when you fail, or when you reflect on that failure. It’s just another opportunity of turning something bad into something good. Learn from the mistake; make adjustments; improve.
Positivity also encourages you to think about the things you can control. There’s no use in worrying about the umpire, the particular dimensions of the ballpark, or the pitch that’s about to be thrown. You can’t control it, so why let it bring you down?
Instead, channel your positive mental edge into what you can control — swing or pitching mechanics, fielding technique, or your timing.
Prevent Burn Out
Perhaps most importantly, mental edge in baseball means you need to keep the game housed within the context of your entire life. You are more than a baseball player. You have family, friends, and school. When you get days off, take advantage of them. Put down the bat and glove for the day. Spend time with the ones you love and enjoy some rest and relaxation. Baseball will be around the corner. But your off days should be sacred.
Author Joshua Ferris has said of baseball, “The game will threaten never to end, until suddenly it forces you to marvel at how it came to be where it is and to wonder at how far it might go.” The game feels unending, and yet there’s a draw to come back to it day-in and day-out, to the point of Major Leaguers playing 162+ games a season. When you play that often, the mental edge component of your game becomes critical for success!