From career to coaching, I've had talks with countless hitters of all different skillsets. I have seen success unfold for these players in many different mays and have seen different paths to that success. I have seen enough different mindsets to come to the conclusion that there is no "end all be all" solution to hitting. Usually those who claim to have all the answers create more problems than they solve.
While hitters have many different approaches, there are certain solutions that work more often and certain solutions that work less often. One of those rarely effective solutions is the "empty mind".
A hitter who clears his mind hits with no thought. There is no plan of attack, no goal, and no direction - only talent. Sometimes, a hitter who isn't clouded with thoughts can produce big numbers. Most of the time, however, an empty mind just leads to frustration and anger.
Hitters can be separated into two larger categories: those with natural talent and those who have to work to get to where they want to be. The harsh reality is that most of us fall into the latter category. If you're part of the 1% who can show up on game day without putting in the work and ball out, then props to you. Us mortals have to work hard for our success.
Hard workers have to work on specific movements, feels, and rhythms in the cage. Their hyper-focused work is what leads to their fine-tuned movements you see when they put on a uniform. Something that doesn't get said enough, however, is that working on these things does not automatically mean it will translate into the game. What dictates that translation is your mental cue.
Alex Bregman said that he wants to go up to the plate with one mechanical thought at all times. Alex Rodriguez was one of the best home run hitters of all times, but thought about swinging down on the ball. Steve Springer, one of the psychological gurus of modern day baseball, wrote 3 mental cues in his helmet before games.
These athlete's successes haven't come by accident.
A mental cue can be anything from thinking about hitting the ball the other way to trying to take your hands to the top fo the baseball. Simply put, it is one thought to direct you to repeating what you worked on in the cage, assuming you worked with a purpose.
The Young Ball Player
The most common answer I hear from young baseball players when I ask what is going through their mind at the plate is "nothing". They're raised to "clear their mind" and to "stop thinking so much". Going dumb at the plate is not the answer. In fact, it's impossible. How many times have you been able to think of nothing? When you clear your mind, something is bound to pop into your mind. We all think. It's human nature.
The answer to is to control those thoughts. Have it planned before you step up to the box. There is a reason young hitters get frustrated when they get out. They don't have the tools to fix the problem. If we don't control our mind, we have no answer when we inevitably get out, as we have no frame of reference. If we have our mental cue and fail, we can go back to the drawing board and figure out why that mental cue didn't work.
The reality is that the big leaguers we all aspire to be think in the box. They have just figured out the right stuff to think about. Thinking isn't inherently a bad thing. In fact, it's essential to the process of getting better. So don't be a brainless hitter. Be the hitter that wins in their mind.
Thanks for reading! Headcase has some big news coming soon! Make sure to subscribe below to stay updated.