A College Players’ View Of The Mental Game Of Baseball

Nov 07, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  Youth Baseball Advice

 

“BASEBALL IS 90% MENTAL AND THE REST IS PHYSICAL!” – Yogi Berra

 

These wise words from the great Yogi Berra are trying to explain that the game we all know and love is mainly mental. Yes, you play the game with your body as in swinging the bat and throwing the ball. Meanwhile, the mental aspect is that you have to make the right decisions each and every play.

Baseball is a game of unconsciousness, this is the reason so much effort is accounted for within the little things. If you focus on the little things, you will find that making the unconscious decision is much easier.

In Baseball, being confident is very important. Confidence stretches further than being competitive, you have to believe that you are the best player on the field day in and day out.

As a pitcher or hitter, you must have self-confidence in order to fail less, and succeed more.

Another key part to the mental game of baseball is Imagery.

This usually means visualization, but if you use Sensory Imagery, your visualization skills will become more
powerful.



A good simple equation for this is

I x V = R (Imagery times Visualization equals reality).

This equation is basically saying that if you take a memory or vivid image and relive it, you will get real results.

For example hitting your first home run or throwing a no hitter, if you relive these memories and apply that feeling to what you are doing, you will become more successful.

Another good mental note to take and use in baseball is being aggressive.

Coaches may sometimes say “close the door”, “bury them”, this means go out there and don’t actually bury them 6 feet underground, but end the game pitch and hit with aggression so there is no chance of them coming back and winning the game.




Youth Baseball Advice — How To Run A Great Practice

Apr 15, 2019

How To Run A Great Practice

On our trek across the country with American Baseball Camps we have learned that many kids aren’t getting any better at their practices. Smart baseball parents are seeking out teams that run legitimate practices where their kid can actually get better, and I don’t blame them.

One of the worst practice stories we heard was in Tahlequah Oklahoma. A dad told me that at his kid’s practices the coach would put everyone in a group in the outfield and hit fly-balls and whoever catches it, catches it. This is similar to a game we used to play as kids called “500” but it certainly isn’t an entire practice!

This how-to guide on running a great practice is based on 20 years of good baseball experience, extensive research, and being a veteran player at one of the top D1 Baseball Programs in the country.

The Warmup

About ten years ago sports scientists realized that there is a more efficient way to warm-up than to just static stretch and count to ten. It is recommended to run kids through a “dynamic warmup” before practice and that “static stretch,” that you may be familiar with, after practice.



Here’s a quick example of a good dynamic warmup, it works best in two lines starting on the outfield foul line:

  • jog 45 feet, jog back
  • shuffle 45 feet, shuffle back
  • karaoke 45 feet, karaoke back
  • high knees 45 feet, high knees back
  • butt kicks 45 feet, butt kicks back
  • walking quad stretch 45 feet, walking quad stretch back
  • leg swings 45 feet, leg swings back
  • skipping leg swings 45 feet, skipping leg swings back
  • lunges, side lunges 45 feet, jog back
  • sprint 45 feet, sprint back

Upper Body Stretch:

  • small arm circles forward, big arm circles forward
  • small arm circles backwards, big arm circles backwards
  • shoulder stretch across
  • tricep stretch
  • arm swings high to behind you (bicep stretch)
  • rotator cuff stretch on the ground (lay on your throwing arm side put arm at 90 degree angle and push hand down towards the ground).

Play Catch

When they play catch remind them to take it seriously. You cannot win in baseball if you can’t play catch. Teach them the catch game to keep them locked in. If you hit them in the chest 3 points, hit them in the face 2 points, hit them in the arms or legs 1 point. Front elbow should be up and pointing towards where you want to throw it when you are playing catch.

*Water break*

On Field BP with the Rest of The Teams Taking Live Reps

BP on the field is a great way to see the results of your batting practice. It also gives the fielders a chance to take live reps off the bat if you do it right. Split your team into 4 groups of 3 (lets say you have 12 for the example). When 1 group hits, the other 9 players are in the field taking live reps off their teammates hitting, or fungos from a coach. Coaches stand adjacent to home plate. The coach on the 3rd base side hits fungos to the first baseman and the shortstop. The coach on the 1st base side hits fungos to the 3rd baseman and 2nd baseman. You need to wait and hit them in between pitches so that kids don’t have to field the fungo and the live grounder at the same time. Mix in some fly balls for the outfielders if they aren’t getting much action live off the bat.



*Water break*

Drill Circuit

Don’t have the whole team running one drill at one time, try to have coaches running simultaneous drills and just have the players rotate. It’s important to be efficient with your practice time. Below we have listed some drills to choose from that we like that we think could make young players a lot better:

  • Rundown drill with a baserunner
  • Pitcher fielding practice
  • Double plays
  • Short hops drill for infielders
  • Quarterback drill (over the shoulder catches)
  • 4 corners drill
  • Around the bucket drill (for infielders to take the right path to the ball)
  • Blocking drill
  • Bare handed ground balls
  • Bare handed receiving practice (catchers)
  • Pickoffs
  • Up the middle drill
  • Soft toss
  • Bunt defense
  • Throwing to second (catcher and middle infielders)
  • ESPN top ten drill
  • Double cuts drill
  • Robbing home runs drill

A good practice is all about getting the player a lot of good reps in a short amount of time. Players will get burnt out if they are out there all day so try to keep a practice around an hour and a half to two hours.

Make everything a game – I was doing a hitting lesson with a kid and was telling him to try to hit the back net of the cage and drive the ball up the middle. He kept pulling everything, he didn’t hit the back net once. Then when I created a game where hitting the L-Screen was 1 point and the back net was 2 points – he took off. Next thing I knew he was saying “I’m gonna get to 20”. Kids respond well to games and challenges, so try to use those to your advantage. If anything they just promote focus and induce competition.

Treat them like studs and they’ll start acting like it – My career took off when I found a coach that treated me like I was better than I really was. You’d be surprised, treat a player like he’s better than he’s playing and he’ll rise to the occasion

Encourage & support – This generation can’t be coached the same way that you were coached growing up. The drill sergeant makes them run till they puke stuff just isn’t needed. These kids are smart and if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with it in return. Every player isn’t created equal — you have to coach to your team. Know your players and coach them accordingly.

– Blog was written by a group of older D1 Baseball Players that have chosen to remain anonymous for NCAA reasons.




American Baseball Camps — 10 Tips for Little League Coaches

Apr 15, 2019

10 Tips For Little League Coaches

In our journey in baseball we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly with coaches. The one that breaks everything, the one that’s all about himself, we’ve seem them all! Together we have collaborated with 10 helpful tips for Little League Coaches. Most of these are things that we’ve seen coaches do in our life that all the players really loved and responded well to!

#1 Be Consistent

Ever wonder why managers in the MLB never ever show emotion in the dugout. It is because they realize the power of staying even keel in baseball. Your players will play better if they can learn to be consistent. So you, as their little league coach, have to set the standard of consistency.

#2 Be Fun

The best coaches I’ve ever had were just as fun to be around as my friends on the team. Good coaches are friendly, and they make being at the ballfield more fun than it already is. Don’t be afraid to joke with players and make fun a bit. Boys and young men like that kind of stuff. Run fun practices, with fun games and drills. Keep the dugout lively, and show your kids by example how to have fun at the yard.



#3 Teach How to Handle Pressure

This Forbes Article on Success and Pressure reveals that top athletes are the ones that are the most comfortable under pressure! Put pressure on your players in practice and challenge them. The same old sissy BP and stand around isn’t making anyone better. Try running high intensity drills while teaching your players how to stay calm and focused in those situations. This one pays dividends for your players in baseball and in life, according to Forbes.

#4 Teach How to Handle Adversity

“Baseball is a game of failure” – Baseball Cliche of the Century

You’ve heard the quote a thousand times but don’t forget its implications for your players. Good coaches teach players how to handle adversity when it comes. Take terrible moments in baseball as coaching moments that your players can learn from. Be approachable, and offer advice in the right moments. Teach a kid how to handle striking out 4 times in a row, and he’ll be able to handle anything else life throws his way.

#5 Be Approachable

My D1 Baseball Coach is the best coach I have ever had, and it is because he is easy to talk to. The days of screaming and yelling and demoralizing young players are over. The best coaches are smart, consistent, strong, and approachable. Let your kids know that they can talk to you directly if they have any concerns at all (especially about playing time). This will remove all of the doubt that mom and dad are putting on a kid about his playing time, because before a problem even surfaces the player resolves it with the coach directly.

#6 Know the Game

Both D1 programs I have been at have preached this loud and clear to their players, be a student of the game. This applies to coaches as well. Being the most knowledgeable baseball mind on the field will not only give you an edge against other teams, it will develop a pattern of trust and respect among your players. Don’t be that coach that brags about his high school days and hasn’t learned a single baseball thing since. Be a student of the game, as you continue to become a better teacher of it!

#7 Teach your Players to Compete

One of the best drills for this is the errors game. Put the whole team at SS in a single file line. If you make an error you are out, and keep playing until one is standing. This will teach players to compete and it will develop their will to win. Two very important factors in the game of baseball.

#8 Teach Them who they’re really Playing Against

“In baseball there are really only two thing you are competing against every day — yourself and the game!” – Brian Cain

When you just compete against yourself and the game you take lots of factors out of the equation that can only hurt the ballclub.



For example, at the D1 level we have extensive scouting reports given to us on every pitcher we face the entire season. We have his pitches, pitch speeds, hold times, pick off tenancies, pitch tenancies, arm slot, and anything else you could possibly need to prepare for a guy. Here’s the kicker – we throw it out the window at game-time. Why? players play the best when they play against themselves and the game.

#9 Teach Them to Control what they can Control

“Be where your feet are” – Nick Saban

There are things in baseball that your players don’t need to worry about. The weather, the umpires, the kid on the other team that’s supposed to be 12 but looks 32; all of these things are out of a players control. So they aren’t worth thinking about in a game where focus on what you are doing is so crucial. Things that a player can control are: approach, plan, focus, work-ethic, dedication. These are the things that an athlete should be judged on. Physical errors are often out of a players control, mental errors are usually controllable. Teach a kid to just focus on the things that are within his control and he is much more likely to “be where his feet are” as Nick Saban is suggesting.

#10 Teach Them to Think about One Thing at the Plate

“The closest thing to thinking about nothing at the plate is thinking about one thing at the plate” – The Mental Game of Baseball by Harvey Dorfman

Eliminate distractions in your players’ minds as they are up to the plate. Figure out what their plan/approach should be at the plate and come up with a short phrase or word that they can focus on while in the batters box. “Weight back” for example, or “throw the hands.” While this tip seems trivial, it can make a world of difference for a hitter at the plate. Don’t believe us? Just ask Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn — This guy is huge on only one thought in the batters box!

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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How To Steal 2nd Base In Baseball

How To Steal 2nd Base in Baseball – A 10 Step Guide!

Nov 21, 2019

The Major League game is moving toward home runs, but the youth, high school, and the college game is still centered around small ball. This how-to guide is to help you as a player steal bases, and its to help parents teach their kids the proper way to steal bases. Hint: It’s more mental than you think!

 

#1 Have Confidence in Stealing Bases

Your chance of stealing bases goes way up if you have confidence in what you are doing. There is nothing worse (I’ve been there), than second-guessing yourself when trying to steal bases.

So, if you are a player wanting to steal more bases, or a parent wanting to help their kid, start with having confidence as soon as you reach 1st or 2nd base and think about taking the next bag!

 

#2 Get a Base-Stealing Lead

You should never tip that you are trying to steal a base by getting a larger than normal lead, so, if you want to get a good lead to steal – you need to do it every time you take a lead.

Length – Your base stealing lead should be 10-12 feet at first base, and 14-16 feet at second base for HS and College. (Youth Coaches, please adjust accordingly, I’m a Minor Leaguer so I teach what I know).

Again, if you want to steal bases, there should be no difference between your normal lead and your base-stealing lead, so take a big league all the time if you want to steal bases.



 

#3 Think The Right Thoughts

So, you’ve got a big lead, now what? When you aren’t planning on stealing you should be staring at the pitcher and thinking – back. 

You don’t want your weight to be shifted heavily, that should be centered – just think back. When you are planning on stealing, your thoughts should be different for a righty vs. a lefty pitcher.

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Righty

If the pitcher is right-handed you need to have a soft focus at his feet. If his right foot moves, you have to dive back into the base because he’s picking off. 

If his left foot moves – you go – I know, simple!

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Lefty

Go first move. If the pitcher is a lefty you need to go first move. It’s a debate, I know, but I’ve played for 22 years now and I’ve never met a base stealer that didn’t go 1st move most of the time (first move means you go as soon as he lifts his right leg).

You need to have a soft focus at his entire lower half. If his left foot steps back, dive back into the base. When you aren’t stealing and he lifts his right foot you take a hard step back. I’m going to call this a jab step, it’s a hard step back toward first base with your left leg.

When he sees you do this a couple of times as soon as he lifts his right leg, he’ll forget about picking off. I like to even jab back with my left foot when I do steal, I just do it before he lifts his leg altogether.

Remember Pavlov’s Dog? You train a lefty pitcher 2 or 3 times that you jab hard back toward 1st base every time he lifts his right leg, he won’t think you’re doing much base-stealing at all. Then, when you’re ready, you jab early and go when he lifts his leg.

This makes it the same jump you just got off the righty, maybe even a little better because lefties don’t usually slide step.



 

#4 Properly Position Your Feet

Your left foot should be even with the bag, some like to angle it towards second, but I think that makes you too slow getting back to the base on a pick-off.

Your right foot is a big deal when you steal. The best method I’ve learned is to line your right toes up with the middle of your left foot, this opens your hips a little toward second.

Once your hips are positioned, position your foot. Your right foot should be pointing 45 degrees toward 2nd base. 

This opening up method should be used if you’re running a 60 as well for you older players.

 

#5 U.C.L.A.

This is a beautiful timing tactic first formed at UCLA, hence the name. They led D1 the year they developed this, in steals.

How it works is most pitchers come set for 1-4 seconds before they go home. 

We want to know if it’s 1 second, if its 2, or if its 4, on average.

So, when the pitcher comes set, you start your timer: U – C – L – A. Say it in a way where each letter takes about a second. If he’s going on L every time, that’s his tendency, if he goes on C, then you know that too. This helps with timing and anticipation, and with leaning into the steal.

 

#6 Lean Into The Steal

This is an extremely subtle tactic which helps a ton. We talked about your mindset and how we want your weight to be centered so you aren’t suspicious and so you can get back.

An advanced tactic, is to time the pitcher using the U.C.L.A. method above, and then when he is about to go based on his tendancies, start a subtle lean toward 2nd base. This little momentum could save you .2 seconds which could be the difference between out and safe.

 

#7 Take A Big Crossover Step

The first step in stealing a base is crucial. The good news is, you don’t have to run 100-meter sprints to practice it, you only need to sprint about 5 steps to practice your first step.

It starts with your arms, pull your right arm down hard and bring your left knee and arm forward as fast as you can. Your first step should be fast and should gain a lot of ground.

 

#8 Peak-In On Your Third Step

On the third step of stealing the base you need to peak in to see if the batter hits the ball. 

If he misses on a swing, or doesn’t swing, you keep going. 

If he hits the ball on the ground, you keep going.

If he hits the ball on a line, you keep going (not enough time to get back anyway).

If he hits the ball in the air, you freeze, assess whether it can be caught, and get back if it can.

If he hits a base hit, you round the base and pick up the 3rd base coach.

 

#9 Slide Head First

This one is an opinion that certainly has pros and cons. I’ve just been thrown out too many times sliding feet first to ever do it again. Here are the pros and cons for you to decide yourself.

 

Pros

  • It’s proven to be faster (Sports Science – look it up)
  • It’s easier to avoid a tag
  • You get more safe calls on average (umpire perception)

Cons

  • You can hurt your finger sliding in if your fingers are pointed toward the base (see #10)
  • It can be a bit scary for younger kids to get used to
  • If you’re on turf, and it’s really wet, you can easily slide way past the base.



 

#10 Slide With Fingers To Sky And Stay On The Bag

As mentioned in cons above on sliding head first, you can break your fingers if they are pointing straight forward and you slide into a bag. 

This is why it’s important to practice at a young age to slide head first with palms up/fingers up.

At our baseball camps we practice this with a slip n’ slide into a pool, pretty fun way of learning to slide correctly.

Once you’ve slid into the base, and you were safe because you followed all of our steps, you need to stay on the bag.

Smart middle infielders will keep the tag on you for a long time in case you come off the bag for a split second. If you need to shake some dirt off or tie your shoe, call time before you do it.

 

 

We hope you liked our blog helping baseball players and parents on the complexity of stealing 2nd base. We believe that this is the most helpful information you can digest concerning stealing 2nd base in baseball. If you thought this blog was helpful, check out others, or if you’d like to check out our camps – click on your state in the map below!




Nick Rotola
Camp Instructor