Mental Side of Hitting – Part One

By Doug Bernier

Every baseball player struggles from time to time. In these moments of searching for answers it’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing hits.

Tying your self-worth as a player to getting hits is a guaranteed ticket to an emotional rollercoaster, and in the end, it’s counter-productive to getting the results you want.

The mental side of hitting doesn’t need to be a roller coaster – from a pros perspective

During those slumps and moments of struggle, it’s critical to have attainable goals that can be achieved every at-bat.

On any given day, the outcome may not be what we would like – but if we stay consistent with our process and mental plan, the results will follow.

Attainable goals are a series of repeatable objectives the you can control. There are days when you do everything right. You put a beautiful swing on the ball and the outfielder makes a diving catch… and you just don’t get the results you were hoping for.

That’s why it’s important to make your list of attainable goals things that you CAN control. In the next couple posts, I’m going to give you some examples of this, and finally a checklist that I was given by a very smart hitting coach with the Texas Rangers.

The Mental Side of Hitting – Attainable Goals

We choose objectives that force us to pay attention to what is happening on the field and form a mental plan around our strength as a hitter that we feel will give us the best chance of victory for the next battle against the pitcher.

When I would struggle as a youngster I’d hear coaches and parents tell me to “make an adjustment.”

The problem is I only knew 2 adjustments… I’d either choke up on the bat or widen my stance. They were both physical and weren’t able to get me out of a funk or keep me consistent when I was going well.

In 2002, my first year of pro ball is when I saw the importance of having attainable goals as they relate to hitting. The Rockies taught us to work on a mental 2 strike approach as opposed to physical adjustments. Many big leaguers didn’t like to make a physical adjustment with 2 strikes because they were trying to compete with a stance or feel that was not overly practiced. Their thought was, if they were a better hitter by making certain physical adjustments, they would use them the entire at-bat.

One key that I will go into more detail in the next post is having an aggressive vs. passive mindset. Early in my career I had a mindset of “put the ball in play”, “swing at strikes”, “work the count”,”hit the ball on the ground.” I thought this was how a smaller guy with not a lot of power was supposed to hit. In some cases I was taught to think like this at the plate. I was constantly feeding myself passive thoughts.

One of my attainable goals was to realize this passive self talk and change it. I started to think, “hit this pitch off the center field wall”, “drive this ball in the gap”, “hit this ball hard”. This simple goal of changing my self talk is one key that turned me into a more aggressive hitter that drives the ball much more than I did early in my career.

The Mental Side of Hitting – Creating a plan that works for YOU

During most of my pro playing career, I struggled to explain this process with clarity. Then I talked to Texas Rangers minor league hitting coach, Chase Lambin who I played against for years. This guy was a grinder who got everything out of his ability. He has been really trying to relay this information to his players and he has helped me a lot to simplify this mental process.

Next:  Explanation of this process in great detail about concrete, attainable goals

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, 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 batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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