This past spring training AJ Pettersen personally taught me how the mind can have significant influence in a baseball game. So many people throw around the term “be mentally strong or mentally tough”. What does that mean and better yet, how do you get there? AJ has been taught how the mind plays in baseball which has helped him throughout his career. Now, in the Minnesota Twins organization, he understands how the mind can work for you and against you in competition. I am happy that he wanted to share some of his thoughts about the very important topic which is rarely talked about and practiced. Mental Awareness.
Baseball Mental Tips
The game of baseball is incredibly taxing. Big leaguers can play over 200 games in a year between spring training, the regular season and the playoffs. This can be an incredible toll on the body. It can also be very difficult mentally. It is a game unlike any other-a team sport comprised of individual battles between the pitcher and the hitter.
The mind is utilized frequently throughout a game, whether you sense it or not. It is used to decide if you want to swing, it is used to pick what pitch you want to throw, and it is even used when you are sitting on the bench.
So of all the baseball mental tips out there, here is a seemingly obvious but often over-looked one – Awareness of what you are thinking and feeling during the game and how it is affecting your actions is extremely important.
As a young player, I didn’t pay attention to the mental side of baseball. I tried to play the game with mere physical talent. If I was having a good day, it worked. If I was having a poor game, things went downhill. Without knowing it, I allowed my external successes and failures to dictate how I felt, and my play followed suit. This is something I still struggle with at times.
When I was playing at the University of Minnesota our coaches made a point to teach the mental side of the game. We had team meetings with a performance psychologist throughout the year. He would talk about aligning out thoughts, feelings and actions. His exercises were intended to make us understand how aware we were of ourselves.
We would play the freeze game, stopping what we were doing and becoming aware of where our mind was. Being present mentally was the number one goal. Sometimes the freeze game would show that while we were physically in one place, our mind was in a completely different place.
When I was younger, I wanted to be successful, but if the ump made a bad call I couldn’t break away from my anger. The next pitch would come and go and I would be in a different world.
Once I gained mental awareness, I could sense these situations before they arose. I work on this skill often by playing the freeze game during competition and at home.
The first step towards improving your mental game is being aware of your mind. The game of baseball has a lot of downtime followed by spurts of intensity. To be prepared for the important moments you need to have awareness.
How are your thoughts and feelings affecting your play?
About the Author: AJ Pettersen
AJ is a utility infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization. He attended Minnetonka High School in Minnesota where he graduated in 2007. He played for 4 years at the University of Minnesota between 2008 and 2011 and was part of the Gophers Big 10 championship team in 2010.
He was drafted in the 25th round in 2011. He has played for the Elizabethton Twins, Beloit Snappers, Fort Myers Miracle (Advanced A) and New Britain Rock Cats (Double A) since joining the Twins organization.
He has written for Baseball America and Twins Daily on the lifestyle of a professional player.
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