An Insider look at the Mental side of Baseball

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An insider look at the mental challenges of playing professional baseball.

Mental baseball reality.  There are many talented baseball players who never make it in professional baseball.  What separates the players who thrive from the talented ones who struggle?  Why are there “can’t miss prospects” that never pan out and then there are 40th round draft picks that end up spending 10 years in the big leagues?  How can this happen?

In my first year of professional baseball, a coach told me that the players who make a career in the big leagues are the ones who were mentally tougher than their competition.

It is not just enough to want it more than the next person, sometimes thinking too much can paralyze you.

The sidewalk analogy.  Most of us can walk along a sidewalk with no problem at all.  We can walk with no worry of falling into a street or hitting a building, and we aren’t thinking about it too hard.  However, if we took that same sidewalk and place it 150 stories above the earth, we would be a lot more cautious and maybe even doubt ourselves a little that we could walk it without plunging to our death.

I feel that thought process is very similar to a baseball player.  When things are going well we think about nothing we just react and let things happen.  But once we make a throwing error, misplay a ground ball, or drop a routine fly ball, that sidewalk starts getting higher off the ground.  We start thinking and try harder and sometimes doubt creeps in.

The difficult thing is also sometimes when you want to succeed really bad it seems as though your sidewalk is not only getting higher but narrowing as well.  This mental struggle of getting back to not thinking as much and just reacting is why the greatest players in the world are great.  They can get back to a solid state of mind quicker than the next guy.

How to develop your baseball mental skills.   Succeeding takes mental toughness and requires skill just like hitting and throwing.

Many players spend time taking swings in the cage or working on a curveball, but neglect the mental side of the game.  Don’t make that mistake!  Here are some resources to learn more:

  1. To go deeper on the Mental Side of Baseball, check out this free mini email course from TX Rangers hitting coach Chase Lambin.
  2. Another resource is that classic and well-known book that all baseball players should read.  It’s called the Mental Side of Baseball, by H. A. Dorfman & Karl Kuehl.  Dorfman is a highly respected sports psychologist and counselor in Major League Baseball.   
  3. And there’s another book by the same author that has practical tips for developing mental skills.  It’s called The Mental Keys to Hitting:  A handbook of strategies for performance enhancement

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, he is now a professional scout with the Colorado Rockies. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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1 Comment

  1. Another excellent article!! The mental side of the game can be used in many other applications in ‘Life’. Thanks for bringing this to light.

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