It’s every mother and fathers’ wish to see their son or daughter have success as a hitter in baseball/softball. One of the more exciting happenings is when our kids show some power when they’re hitting.
To most players, their experience feels random because as they search their knowledge base, everything they know about hitting sets them up to be on the defense. Fortunately, there’s a better way and you can be on offense.
Hitting is NOT random, it’s timing. Timing a pitch perfectly doesn’t have to be lucky, you simply need to learn how to relate what you know in other disciplines and apply it to timing the pitch. Let me put it to you this way – do you have trouble timing the beat of your favorite song?
The obvious answer is NO! Timing is easy when it’s music because you can feel the beat doing a simple movement like clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, and even the weak attempt at dancing, rocking back and forth – as long as your moves are in sync with the beat and you can feel it.
Nevertheless, hitting is difficult because you have to navigate through a mine field of myths and incomplete explanations. Having said that I’d like to tell you a personal story.
My dad recently passed and of course, I think of him often. One thing that’s burned into my memory is how in the world was he able to be at all of my games. Personally, with life being as busy as it is, I don’t see how he made it to so many games, but somehow he made it work.
Like all ball players, I found myself in a slump my senior year of high school. The slump got so bad I told my dad I wanted to quit baseball. Now try to imagine being a dad or parent watching your son who’s been playing baseball every day, swinging a bat every waking moment his entire life, like I did. Also, consider how invested he was going to all those ball games.
So one day out of the blue I blurt out, “Dad – I don’t want to play baseball anymore”!
You can imagine what was going through his mind – there were so many reasons this was a passing phase.
My dad, being aware of the ups and downs of competition, knowing I must have been going through a trial by fire, he remained calm, cool and collected. I’m sure I was looking for a reaction but not from dad. He practically agreed with me.
It would have been easy for him to kick into parent mode, lecturing about commitment, and finishing what you started, there would have been any number of directions the conversation could have gone.
But not dad, he just smiled and said: “If that’s what you want”.
The crazy part was how convincing he acted and sounded. No doubt he knew it was just a cry out for help!
The way he responded shaped how I responded to adversity in baseball from that day forward.
“If that’s what you want I support you all the way son”. He must have been dying inside knowing I had some talent and that inside of 2 months I was likely to get drafted by the San Francisco Giants.
Dad stayed calm! It was like I just said, “Dad I finished my homework” – “Ok son you can go out tonight”. That’s how casual he was. You couldn’t tell by the way he was acting.
Two days later I said, “I change my mind, I’m gonna play”! I’m sure I got a hit in a game or something and broke out of my slump. As players and parents, we have to remember with hitting in baseball, you can do everything right and still fail. It’s not a failure, it’s an experiment. It’s not a slump, it’s just a trial and error lesson when you keep it simple and focus on hitting your pitch and your pitch alone.
The unwavering, unconditional support from my dad, and his daily encouragement to work hard at whatever I chose to do, shaped how I dealt with adversity.
Hitting for power is about learning to replicate your swing often enough till you get betting at directing your energy into a fine point, like accurately hitting the head of a nail with a hammer.I would later learn it didn’t matter if I sucked at everything else – as long as I could hit my pitch, I had a chance to lead every team, in every league, at every level. It’s all about hitting your pitch. Hitters fail because they miss their pitch and celebrate coming close when they foul a ball straight back.
On my journey, I failed a lot, but the lessons I learned from my dad allowed me to take the adversity in stride. 3-4 times in the minor leagues I can remember striking out 5 consecutive times. I distinctly remember people coming up to me and asking if I was ok? My answer was always the same: “This is just going to make me a better hitter”!
My answer was always met with some sort of surprise and the desire for me to explain. “I knew that I was going to fail a lot, so I figured no matter how bad it got, eventually I’d figure it out.
I figured when the time came and I learned what ever it was that was holding me back, I would be a better hitter after I solved the puzzle”. Needless to say, it surprised some people, especially my competition but it worked for me and it empowered me.