I first heard about visualization in college but it’s something I had done throughout my baseball career by accident. We hired some high level mental game of baseball guys at my D1 school and I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. How can something mental help more than spending that same amount of time taking ground balls or hitting off the tee?
The coach talked about a D1 school in California that had asked their Psychology Dept. to help them win more games. One of the things that the professors pointed out is that players that have a big hit are much more likely to get another hit their next at bat. Likewise, a pitcher that is dealing for 4 innings is in the “zone” and will likely shove for the 5th inning as well. As compared to a so-so 4 innings where he’d be less likely to do well in the 5th.
Success often breeds more success.
Jordan Peterson talks about this same principal in his book: 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos. He observes Lobsters in the ocean and shows us that the ones that succeed early often succeed forever.
So the question then becomes, how do we succeed so that we continue to succeed in a game of failure like baseball?
Years ago when meticulously researching ways to get better I stumbled upon some research finding that athletes that compete and workout in their dreams were getting real results without actually doing anything. Their muscles were getting bigger just by dreaming that they were working out. They did this by helping the subjects lucid dream, meaning they were able to control their dreams better.
The interesting finding here is that the brain cannot separate something that you are visualizing or dreaming from actual reality. In other words closing your eyes and throwing a perfect pitch on the outside corner gets the same neurons firing as if you had actually done it.
I’ve never been a big home run hitter so it’s difficult for me to use the success of actually hitting home runs to help me hit more. Instead, I can use the principal of visualizing to imagine a home run before my at bat.
Interestingly enough the California school that first started doing this saw an increase in performance from almost every single player.
Also very interesting is the very strange fact that I haven’t hit a home run since learning about this without visualizing it first.
HOW TO VISUALIZE
This part is easy and you’ll see why I did it on accident before doing it intentionally.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking to the plate with confidence. Imagine a pitcher toeing the rubber, you do your routine in the box.
Imagine he starts his wind up and throws a fastball, imagine you crushing it up the middle. You start running out of the box and you take a hard round at first. Now open your eyes.
This same thing can be used to visualize throwing great pitches, fielding ground balls or fly balls, hitting home runs. Just close your eyes, and see yourself being successful.
After learning about visualization I started to see it in teammates in Professional Baseball. I also have seen players in the MLB doing this and writing about its effectiveness.
You can’t always go out and take 100 ground balls or have a coach throw you BP, but it doesn’t take much to visualize yourself being successful.
Remember, the player that hit 10 homers already this year is much more likely to hit a homer the next game. Also remember that hitting ten home runs in your mind the night before or in the dugout during the game has the same mental effect.
Visualizing success on the field is a powerful, effective, and an easy way to get better and help give you a big boost in your baseball career.
This article was written by Nick Rotola. Nick is the founder of American Baseball Camps and Current Professional Baseball Player. Nick has communicated with thousands of baseball parents and read lots of baseball sociology and mental game of baseball books. Nick is the author of The At Home Baseball Development Program and is working on his newest book for Baseball Parents. Nick resides in Wichita, KS in the off season with his wife Sophie and their dogs Moses & Millie.