Like most guys my age and younger, I grew up playing baseball in the age of new information. With countless different baseball instructors, Instagram hitting and pitching pages, and self-proclaimed "gurus" imposing outlandish techniques on the baseball community, it's hard to decipher between what really matters and what is just a bunch of nonsense.
As if these modern styles of coaching weren't enough, there has been constant blowback from the old-school ways of the game. Nowadays, this is commonly referred to as the "feel versus real" debate. What should a coach teach? Should he teach a feeling to get a certain desired result, or should he teach the desired result and let the player find his own feeling?
As much as I would like to think I have always played the game intelligently, I must admit I was basically bread to be a baseball headcase.
In other words, it often felt like all of these different guys were telling me a bunch of different things all at the same time.
Having multiple people in your face claiming to have all the answers can be overwhelming for a kid of any age. With a world filled with so much information, how are we supposed to know what to pay attention to and what to ignore?
What Really Matters
Information in its own right is not inherently bad. Even bad information can be useful when you try it out and it doesn't seem to click. The trick is knowing WHEN to use this information. Using our brains is good. It makes for deep thinking and creates a more thorough understanding of different subjects.
But it takes time.
Therefore, we must know when this information can work to our benefit. Situations such as:
- cage time
- at home
- before and after games
are all appropriate times to reflect on our previous actions and focus on how we can better them in the future.
The biggest problem among ball players, however, is taking this rational way of thought into the game with us. We want to think through hitting a fastball where we only have about 3/10 of a second to react to begin with. We want to rob ourselves of power and presence on the mound by being consumed by mechanical thoughts in our own heads. When baseball is a game of rhythm and timing, we cannot afford to disrupt those key ingredients. Even having one thought out of place can shave off one of those few tenths of a second that we so desperately need. If you catch yourself thinking while trying to perform in a game, you're done.
For the longest time, I thought at the plate for so long that I didn't know there was an alternative way to hit. However, I happened upon the answer to my problems (the place I got this answer from is a story for a later article).
Presence. In other words, being present in the moment. Presence is something that is extremely difficult to achieve in all facets of life given the world we live in today. Face it, we live in a distracted world. We might as well all get diagnosed with ADD, as a simple act such as looking up a video on Youtube can lead to a two-hour binge watch of randomness. The modern world is a living, breathing ad, clamoring for your attention. You go on social media and see the perfect fronts people put up to make their lives look amazing, forcing you to compare a partial story to your thorough but flawed one. You go online and immediately get thrust into a site with ten different popup ads, some of which are alarmingly connected to the conversation you just had with your friend a few hours ago. You walk down the street or drive on a highway and see countless billboards plastering different logos and slogans all with the same message: "You aren't perfect. You NEED our product." With all of this senseless noise, how can we stay focused?
Which brings us back to baseball.
Where is your attention? Is it on your mind? Or is it on the task at hand?
If your goal is to hit the baseball, then any thought not surrounding the baseball seems completely counterproductive. Even when you are sitting in your stance waiting for the pitch, the ability to keep your presence centered around the baseball makes all the difference.
So can you do that? Is it possible to put your awareness on the baseball, even when it is currently in the hands of the pitcher?
It's a difficult task, but not an impossible one...
In a way, practicing what I've described here can actually be a form of meditation.
When most people think meditation, they think of the enlightened bald man, sitting crisscross on the floor, arms resting on his knees, achieving some sort of divine experience. In reality, however, meditation is merely about awareness. One doesn't meditate to send their mind to some alternative state. In fact, they work toward bringing their mind BACK to the most natural state: the present.
And we come full circle. Yes, back to the distractions of the past and the future. Imagine staying present in a world where you're constantly being told to be someone you're not - someone you used to be, someone you should be, or even someone you thought you never wanted to be, but feel like you may have to reconsider after being told otherwise. We are force fed so many different subliminally anxious messages that we forget the most important part: we are here. Right now. In this present moment. Now imagine if we could tune out those distractions, refrain from letting pieces of our present mind get taken away from us and remain glued to the very moment we are engulfed in.
This is meditation.
Granted, thinking is human nature. We are programmed to want to listen to all these outside messages. The purpose is not to reprogram. It is simply about being aware of this programming. Rather than eliminating thought altogether, we just catch ourselves in thought before it manifest into something bigger, accept the path our mind just led us to, and gently bring ourselves back to the present.
Now imagine if we applied this idea to baseball. Imagine having the ability to not let the outside noise take over our minds and distract us from the task at hand. Imagine being able to have 100% of our energy directed toward the baseball rather than in the stands, or in the dugouts, or in our minds.
So next time you play a game or step into the cage for some batting practice, just... be there. Feel your swing. Don't force your hitting session, let it happen. Enjoy that feeling - the feeling of being completely alert in the present moment and, once that moment ends, experience the feeling of the next present moment. And so on. When you find yourself thinking, calmly bring yourself back into the now.
Be completely aware, and see what you can truly accomplish.
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