Updated: Apr 12, 2022
Yes, this is a REAL makeshift journal I made for myself when I was about 13 years old...
It started out as a short notepad with several reminders that I could go back to whenever I felt like I was struggling. I kept adding aspects to it over time and ended up filling the entire page. I added so much, to the point where just looking at this overwhelms me. Now imagine trying to play baseball with all of this disorganized information circulating through your mind. Trying to hit with nine different ideas in my mind would be nothing short of impossible.
When I study this list, I see a lot of good information. It's a solid start. Staying inside the ball at the plate, watching the pitcher's back foot while base running, and using my legs while pitching are some examples of vital tips to developing a baseball skillset.
My heart breaks, however, when I look at all of the misinformation that was fed to me from an early age. Common misconceptions like "Get your foot down early," and "Swing at the pitch low and away only when you have two strikes," clouded my mind and distracted me from the hitting concepts that truly matter. I mean, c'mon, I wrote, "Thrust hips forward as hard as possible." While other kids were getting taught to have an opposite-field approach and let the ball get deep in the zone - high-level mentality techniques - I was busy worrying about doing hip thrusts at the plate.
Misinformation can be so detrimental to a player's development. A lot of it, however, is unavoidable. After all, everyone has different opinions on how success is attained in arguably the most difficult game in the world. There is no one way to hit a round ball coming at you at ridiculous speeds with a round bat. Many players have found different methods for success. The real challenge is finding what method works for you.
The main flaw I see in my list is a lack of organization. It looks like I attempted to take all of the methods I had been taught and morph them into one. I had no rhyme or reason to what I was doing. I just had a lot of information that I didn't know what to do with.
Physical vs. Mental
When practicing our skills, one of the most important aspects to remember is how we are separating our information. I personally like to separate my information into two sections: the physical and the mental. An important part of separating the physical and mental is knowing when to work on both. For 13-year-old Zane, there was no separation.
If I could go back in time and sit down with young Zane, the one thing I would say is to understand when the appropriate time to overthink is. I won't lie: I don't think that being a headcase is all bad. I think that a player can benefit by thinking about baseball so much, that when they come to a conclusion, that answer is more solid in their head than it would be for someone who just tells themselves to "hit the ball."
To me, "Headcase" is just another term for perfectionist. Having the passion for perfecting your craft is a skill that requires patience - something that most people do not possess.
The perfectionist mindset, however, can only take someone so far. Once the game starts, all bets are off. There is no such thing as perfection. Overthinking will only hurt a player. Younger me understood the importance of working to perfect one's craft, but he failed to recognize where cage time ends and the game starts.
However counterintuitive it may be, dumbing yourself down at the plate is the only way to make your mind as quick as a 90-plus mph fastball. We cannot possibly think and hit at the same time. However, instead of requesting an empty mind out of my younger self, I would tell myself to have ONE thought in my mind - the one main focus that will give me the best chance for success.
If we have no form of mental organization, the information we learn is useless. The difference between a headcase and a mature hitter is a plan. A headcase thinks about everything always, while a true hitter knows when to narrow the information down to the basic necessary principles.
When learning from different coaches and mentors, use your filter. Understand what works in a game and what works in a cage setting. You can perfect your craft all you want until game time. Once the first pitch is thrown, trust your preparation, have a plan, and good things will happen.
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