Time Between Pitches; Where the Mental Game Lives

Over the last few seasons MLB games have averaged right around 3 hours and 5 minutes. One time I read an article, and I forget where or who wrote it, but they kept track of the amount of time the ball was in play during various MLB games. They found that the ball was actually in play for an average of roughly 18 minutes. That means there is 2 hours and 47 minutes of average “down time” in a MLB game. Let’s assume that means we have about 1 hour and 23 minutes of total down time on defense. What that means is there is a ton of time to think in a baseball game. Time to think about the good, the bad, on field stuff but also off the field stuff.

…don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in Bull Durham (1988)

We can’t afford to let the time between pitches get away from us and allow unproductive thoughts take over. The time between pitches is where the mental game lives. It’s during this time when we must control and channel our thoughts for optimal defensive performance. On the defensive side of the game we can use the Pre Pitch Cycle (Image A) to help foster a healthy mental game.

Image A: Pre Pitch Cycle

The Pre Pitch Cycle can be used almost like a script for the time in between pitches. Let’s break down each component of the cycle:

Pitch/Play

This is when the ball is in play and we’re simply reacting to the ball. This is Live Game action.

Assess the Game Situation

This immediately follows the ball being in play. Here is where we see the new game situation in front of us. What’s the count, where are the runners, is there a bunt defense or 1st and 3rd defense play on, etc. Take in information the game is giving to use in order to prepare for the next play.

Communicate

After assessing the game situation it’s time to communicate with our teammates and even ourselves. Show support for the pitcher, communicate positioning, number of outs, confirm base coverage and/or defensive play responsibilities.

Pre Pitch Routines

Here’s when you take the time to prepare your mind. Perform your routine, whatever that routine might be, in order to maintain a sense of normalcy. It’s a time where we can release stress and refocus. Pick a routine that has meaning to YOU and perform it every pitch.

Anticipate the Next Play

Anticipate any demand the game might place on you during this next pitch. Look for pitch signs from the catcher, evaluate the previous swing of the hitter, “what am I going to do when [this or that kind of ball] is hit?” Anticipating the next play will prepare you for multiple situations.

Prep Step

Now it’s game time and time to react to the potential batted ball. Perform your prep step on time, on every pitch. This marks the end of the mental and the beginning of the live game action.

Following the “script” of the Pre Pitch Cycle can help eliminate poor thoughts that can distract us from performing at the top of our game. Guiding your mind toward productive thoughts, and doing so on a regular basis, will help us stay in the moment without dwelling on our last at bat, the error we just committed, other adverse moments on the field or even life away from the field.


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