Q: What is the key to success in baseball?
By Earl Nash
If you ask managers, coaches, and players in pro baseball for the key to success, their answers will all come down to that one word: balance.
In a variety of ways they will express this same fundamental concept:
“In baseball, you can’t let yourself get too high OR too low.”
During a game, a pitcher will experience highs: a key strikeout with men on base, a great stretch and stop by his SS to start a double-play, an umpire with a wide strike zone.
AND lows: walking the lead-off batter in an inning, an easy pop up behind third that falls between the 3b, SS, and LF for a glaring error, an umpire with a needle’s eye strike zone.
Although it’s a lot easier to get back to balance after experiencing a high, you will still need a method to reset, even after something good happens. Of course, it is much more difficult to “reset” back to your neutral balance point, when things go bad.
It is the nature of the game that a pitcher will become angry or frustrated with himself, his team mates, or the umpire; it is how you handle it that makes the difference; that’s what the great majority of pitchers in professional baseball will tell you.
Any of the many “bumps in the road” during a game will throw you out of balance and trigger your body to release chemicals that can cause anxiety and panic; the heartbeat, blood pressure, and temperature increase, oxygen use rises and so does the production rate of carbon dioxide; soon the muscles in your extremities (arms and legs) become starved for oxygen. Add in the over production of lactic acid and muscle tightness, even cramping, can result.
This normal reaction to stress will occur several times during a typical game. If the pitcher does not stop to reset his body chemistry, the feelings of anxiety and panic will build and snowball, until he can no longer get his body to do what his mind wants. Our upset pitcher is “off balance” and is about to have a breakdown of his fundamental pitching mechanics, making things even worse.
So, let’s get back to balance; it means being balanced mentally, emotionally, and physically. Your mind, feelings, and body must each be balanced for peak performance. If your feelings get out of balance, you cannot think clearly, and your body reacts.
Fortunately, there is an easy, no cost, natural way for any pitcher to almost immediately reset himself to a state of balance. Just as one word, “balance,” is the key to success in baseball, there is also a single word to answer this question:
“When I am on the mound and things go bad and I start to lose my (mental, emotional and physical) balance, what can I go to reset myself to return to a state of balance?
"That one word was on the white business card that Yoko Ono handed to John Lennon, when they first met at an art gallery: breathe."
[We will discuss the “Take a breath” technique in our next column.]
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