The following is a guest post from Mark Brooks. Mark played two years at Alabama Southern Jr. College prior to playing at Bethune-Cookman University. He is the founder of Art of Baseball Productions and wants to share the little knowledge he has gained from the years he has played. Mark is mostly interested in the challenges the sport provides, and how the lessons learned on the field can be applied off it. You can learn more about Mark at www.artofbaseball.net.
Repeat after me, “Playing baseball is hard.” Allow that phrase to sit in your head for a second, and let it sink in. You and I both know this is true, but there is one thing that I can assure you of. In every single thing that we do in life, we will always get what we deserve. In the end, what you put in, you will receive in equal measure. For a lot of players, I see that either because of their natural talent, or willingness to work hard, they feel entitled to a successful career. The truth is, there are a handful of guys who are more talented than them, and another hand full of guys who work just as hard.
So what sets these players apart? Specifically, what gives one player an edge over another?
Is whatever it is “God given?” Or, is it within their control to develop and cultivate potential, to get the most out of what their capabilities are as baseball players?
I was guilty of this.
I felt entitled to receive playing time. To hit .400 and steal 40 bases. Hell, I worked hard. Why shouldn’t I deserve these accomplishments? But what I was giving in hard work, I was lacking in self-knowledge.
What if being talented or being an extraordinarily hard worker is simply not enough. Sure talent is essential, and sure hard work can make an average player better than the talent around him. But what if all the hard work and all the promising potential was simply a distraction? You might be wondering what I’m talking about, and before I tell you I ask that you keep a completely open mind.
What I’m talking about is knowing.
Knowing that you will succeed. Knowing that you are talented. Not believing. Not having faith. But knowing.
If I told you that you were breathing air, you would agree, right? But not because you have faith that you are breathing air, but because you can feel the air filling your lungs and you have been probably doing it for some years.
This knowing is what allows you to summon the courage to face terrifying pitchers with ungodly secondary pitches. This knowing is what gets the beat up and tired minor leaguer through a season after 150 plus games. He’s chasing his dream, and he either knows he’s going to make it one day, or die trying.
When Ted Williams hit .400, he knew no one could stop him. When Hank Aaron hit a home-run, he knew he could square up the pitch and drop the hammer. He was noted as saying that visualization was the most important part of his approach to hitting. He knew he could hit because he saw it in his head before every at-bat for over 20 years. Derek Jeter knew he was destined to play for the Yankees, and now he’s Captain.
5 Essential Tips
So how do we get to the point as baseball players where we know? Where no matter what happens, between the lines, or outside it, we know we can and will create a successful career.
- Shed the belief of our entitlement to the sport. The fact is, baseball owes you nothing, and everything that you will ever achieve out of the sport, you will have to learn through understanding what your basic responsibilities are as an athlete.
- Understand the concept of working smart as opposed to working hard. A lot of players expect good results simply from spending an extra few hours in the cage. The truth is, your probably better off spending less time actually practicing and more time understanding the importance of quality practice. Rod Carew would spend no less than 15 minutes in the cage, but he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in those 15 minutes.
- Remember what it was like playing baseball as a kid. Except for the very “unfortunate” minority of you, you probably had very little pressure put on you by yourself and others to perform well. You just woke up everyday to play the game for the sake of playing. You had no attachments to results, and that was probably why you were so successful.
- Play with a purpose. A lot of times a player’s main motivation is to be successful. I’m not saying that isn’t an effective medium for achievement, but it’s also important that players get specific with why they want to be successful as a baseball player. Is it to please someone else? Make their family proud? Or is it to make a positive difference in the world? Does the world become a better place by you becoming an MLB player?
- Forget everything you learned and simply play. To make it to the next level, it’s a given that you will have to be an expert at the basic fundamentals of the sport. But we have to come to understand these movements at the level of instinct. The more we are able to correctly react, the quicker and more efficient we will be. And if you don’t know by now, baseball is all about consistency.
I feel that the sooner a player is able to implement these 5 principles, the better off a player will be in facing the enviable challenges that baseball brings. This is something that no baseball drill, coach, university, instructor, or teammate could ever give you. You have to give it yourself.