Baseball Magazine

Hitting: Five Stages of Focus

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
In a couple posts this week titled “Don’t think, you’ll hurt the ballclub!” (Part 1 and Part 2) I wrote about the fact that many players think about the wrong things at the wrong time for the wrong amount of time.  I then offered some tips or strategies to allow players to improve in these areas. Hitting a baseball is said to be the hardest things to do in sports largely because of the timing involved.  Any excess movement or thoughts on the part of the batter usually ends up decreasing performance.  This post will concentrate on the “thoughts” portion.  So how can a batter take the concepts written about in the previous posts and apply it specifically to hitting?  One way is to break up hitting into five stages and show players what type of thinking goes in each stage.  The five stages and their main points are as follows:
Pre-game to Double-Deck.  Focus should be broad
  • Physically preparing to hit.  Batting practice, soft-toss, proper warm-up, proper mechanics, etc.
  • Thoughts on hitting involve gathering information about the pitcher, staying positive, and noticing how the game is evolving
    • How does he pitch righties vs lefties?
    • Majority of pitches in or away?  Up or down?
    • What seems to be his “out” pitch or “go-to” pitch when in trouble?

On-Deck. Focus begins to narrow.

Hitting: Five stages of focus

The thoughts and focus of an
on-deck batter and one in the box
should not be the same.

  • Recognizing the situation you will be batting in.  Runners on?, outs?, score?, inning?, bunting situation?, etc.
  • Much less focus on overall mechanics and more on a batter’s “keys” – hands back, stay on top, be aggressive, etc.  NOTE: Each batter should create a short list of “keys” that are specific to their individual success.    Ask a coach if you are not sure what they might be.  Keep your thoughts to these keys only.  Stick with short positive phrases like “Stay on top” or “aggressive through the ball.”  Avoid negative commands like “Don’t loop the bat” or “Don’t swing at bad pitches.”  Tell your body what you want it to do as opposed to what you don’t want it to do.
  • Keep breathing deeply and slowly to relax the body and mind to control nervousness and/or anxiety.

In the box.  Focus is very narrow.
  • Focus on the pitcher.  See the “whole pitcher” on the mound and gradually shrink your vision to his release point when he lets go of the pitch.
  • All thoughts about mechanics are erased.  After a pitch or swing, a batter can step out and give a positive reminder about one of his keys but that's all.
  • See the pitch and just react.  Trust your preparation.

Post at-bat.  Keep it simple, keep it positive.

Hitting: Five stages of focus

Lighten up.  Never forget
that hitting is hard.

  • Quickly process what went right and what went wrong.
  • Shift to “defense thinking” as you run to your position.  Hitting is over.  Leave all hitting thoughts in the dugout.
  • Give yourself a break.  Hitting is hard.  Find a positive no matter how small it may be.  A first pitch swing at a pitch over your head resulting in an easy pop-up becomes “Good job being ready to swing at the first pitch!” in your head.  You can just add “get a good pitch to hit” to your keys the next time you are on deck.
  • Circle back to “Pre-game to Double-deck” focus when you return to the bench.

Post-game.  Return to a broader focus.
  • Honestly evaluate your at-bats.  Three or four hard hit balls is a successful day at the plate regardless of how many turned into hits.  Four hits off the end of the bat may have improved your average but it should be a sign of concern and a need for possible adjustments as well.
  • Replace thoughts of “I’m awesome!” or “I stink!” with “what do I need to work on before the next game to get better?
  • Once again … Give yourself a break.  Hitting is hard.  Find the positives no matter how small they may be.

With the use of these stages and creating their own routine, players hopefully will get a greater sense of control over their body and mind as a hitter.  Great hitters have many of the same thoughts as others.  Great hitters just do a better job of knowing what to focus on, when to focus on them, and for how long.

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