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Baseball Mental Preparation For Success

As you watch the video below, think about how closely the mental preparation they talk about for baseball can be applied to your career and personal life!


ESPN: All right everyone let's get it going. Jeremy, what have you got?

Jeremy Schaap: A guy who 16 months ago had never played in the major leagues, but now he's been elected to two All Star teams, won the Rookie of the Year Award of the American League unanimously, and many people in baseball are saying that he has the potential to be the best ever at his position.

ESPN: Where was he a year and a half ago?

Jeremy Schaap: That's the thing that makes Evan Longoria in a lot of ways so special. I mean he really did come out of nowhere in a sense. Not only was he not drafted out of high school, not only was he not recruited by a single Division I baseball program, he was barely recruited by Division III, which doesn't award scholarships.

ESPN: What changed for him?

Jeremy Schaap: Well, he'll tell you the most important thing that changed for him was his mental maturation.

Narrator: Walk slow to the plate. Remember your breathing. Stick with the approach. Keep your routine going. Get in the game. Don't worry about the result.

Jeremy Schaap: What goes on in the mind of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, Evan Longoria has helped him emerge as one of the games highest profile young stars. The focus, the sense of calm, the faith, and process - they're all essential components of his makeup.

Don Zimmer: Everybody says the same thing to me. They watch him go up to the plate, holds a bat likes he's sleeping, until he explodes at the ball.

Jeremy Schaap: At the age of 23, Longoria's already a two-time All Star. His highly developed mental approach to the game, not to mention his willingness to discuss it, distinguishes him from his peers. It also gives him an edge.

Carlos Pena: To us, it looks like it just happens naturally, but there is a method. His ability to be in the present moment makes him one of the best. When the pitch is being thrown, he's already forgotten about last at bat and all that exists is this particular pitch, and this particular pitch is coming to me right now.

Evan Longoria: I see a lot of guys who have a lot of physical ability, but don't have enough of thought to be able to control certain situations. Or you know, some guys don't really buy into the whole mental training side of baseball I guess, but for me, I've been doing it for so long that it's something that I trust.

Jeremy Schaap: Longoria has been doing it for five years. Before then, there was no reason to believe he'd develop into a major leaguer. In 2003 when he graduated from high school, 1480 players were selected in the baseball draft. He wasn't one of them nor was he recruited to play Division I college baseball. Did you deserve to be overlooked when you were coming out of high school?

Evan Longoria: Definitely. Yeah, I wasn't good. I mean I knew the game. I enjoyed playing the game. As far as ability and talent, I wasn't a professional player at that time.

Jeremy Schaap: To continue to play the game, Longoria enrolled at Rio Hondo, a junior college just a few miles from his hometown in Southern California. After hitting 430, Longoria transferred to Division I Long Beach State. There he was introduced to the theories of Ken Ravizza, a professor of Kinesiology and author of several books on sports psychology.

Ken Ravizza: The essence is the idea of learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable and having something to go to when the garbage hits the fan, because the garbage will hit the fan and let's be ready for it.

Jeremy Schaap: More than anything else, Ravizza preaches the gospel of mental preparation and structure. He teaches players to recognize failure as an unavoidable part of the game and how not to dwell on it. In the last two decades, he's been a paid advisor to several colleges in major league teams. At Long Beach State, his most apt pupils included Longoria and his teammate Troy Tulowitzki, now in his third season with the Colorado Rockies.

Troy Tulowitzki: Ken Ravizza, he's done a lot of good things for me and Evan. It's all about relaxing, taking your breath and just making sure that the game is not moving too quick.

Jeremy Schaap: When you first were exposed to Ken's teachings even you said, "Come on, this stuff can't really work." What was the turning point you think?

Evan Longoria: We started playing in a lot of stadiums where it was a packed house or you know the pressure was on. And that's when I started to realize when the game becomes more of a mental grind; I needed something to go to.

Jeremy Schaap: How do you think those theories helped him?

Mike Weathers: I think it calmed him. I think the mental game really helped him in how he was way balanced after batted bats or bad games.

Jeremy Schaap: As Longoria matured physically, his mental training allowed him to maximize his talents. He emerged as a top prospect in the summer of 2005 when he was named MVP of the Cape Cod League, a traditional breeding ground for high draft picks. In the 2006 draft three years after failing to be selected at all, Longoria was the third overall pick.

Jeremy Schaap: How did he get so much better so quickly?

Ken Ravizza: I think his openness that it didn't come easy, that he went through the rejection. And he was willing to take the risk to grow versus playing it safe all the time.

Jeremy Schaap: Longoria's mental maturity helped convince the Rays that he could be the cornerstone of the franchise. Just six games into his major league career, they signed him to a nine-year contract worth up to $44.5M. Coincidentally, Longoria had found another true believer in Ray's Manager, Joe Maddon, a long time proponent of the Ravizza method. Joe Maddon: What Ken does is an attempt to make you think in a different or more clear way controlling the controllable aspects of playing this game.

Ken Ravizza: Every time I see Evan, you know it's, "Hello" and "What have you got for me today Ken?"

Narrator: When you're putting on the batting gloves, put on the batting gloves. When you step into the box, be in the box. Be where you need to be when you need to be there.

Jeremy Schaap: There is a Zen-like quality to Longoria's focusing techniques.

Evan Longoria: Ken talks a lot about the focal point. If I make an error in the field or if I swing out of pitch in the dirt at the plate, and I really feel like I've lost control of either my emotions or the bat, that's when I step out. I always look at the left field foul pole, at the top of the left field foul pole just because I know there will always be a top of the left field pole [in every stadium].

Jeremy Schaap: Wherever you are or just in this ballpark?

Evan Longoria: Yeah just because I know there's always going to be a top of the left field foul pole in every stadium.

Jeremy Schaap: And it works for you?

Evan Longoria: It works for me.

Jeremy Schaap: Even when he's not in the lineup, Longoria follows a mental routine. He'll slide on his batting gloves and imagine himself at bat. When he is playing, rituals help him relax and focus.

Ken Ravizza: Well let's say for example here comes his pitch, he fouls it off. He will step out of the box, he'll undo his gloves, release that pitch, grips the gloves back on, steps in the box, and he's back.

Jeremy Schaap: Where do you draw the line between what you think is superstition, what is habit, and what is really about focusing?

Evan Longoria: There are so many weird things that us, baseball players do, but it would be classified all as superstition. But you know I think superstition would be, you know, if my mind was all messed up when I got to the plate if I didn't do that.

Jeremy Schaap: And it's not that?

Evan Longoria: No. No. It's not that at all.

Jeremy Schaap: Not everyone attributes Longoria's success to his mental focus. There's his work ethic, his bat speed, and another undeniable factor. Your buddies out in California that we spoke to said that they thought it was actually a big moment in your career and development when Eva Longoria became famous.

Evan Longoria: It seemed like everywhere I went I mean that was the only thing I heard for two and a half or three years now. But it kind of got my name out there. You know whether it was Eva or Evan, I mean obviously they remember the last name.

Jeremy Schaap: What I understand last year, she got you a bottle of champagne when you made the All Star team. What did she get you this year?

Evan Longoria: Nah, she gave up. She gave up on me.

Jeremy Schaap: In the 2008 World Series, the chant Eva, Eva floated through the air in Philadelphia. Whether or not the taunting bothered him, Evan Longoria went one for twenty against the Phillies.

Evan Longoria: It could have been the pressure that I was putting on myself, it could have been the outside distractions that I let get to me. And I look back now and kind of kick myself in the butt for that. Things kind of sped up on me. I think that was part of the whole experience for me too, it's just learning - learning those feelings.

Ken Ravizza: I mean he gets upset, but he's got some tools that he uses and he knows that's part of the game. And then this goes back to his background where it didn't come easy. He had to struggle at times.

Jeremy Schaap: From undrafted and unrecruited to the All Star game and the World Series, it's been a quick trip for Evan Longoria. Now comes the hard part - maintaining focus. Do you think there will be a day when you don't need a focal point? When you don't need the mental exercises that you do?

Evan Longoria: No. I don't think there will be. Because as soon you start believing that in this game, you'll get humbled in a heartbeat. I'll always have that to kind of keep in the back of mind and when I need it, use it.

Narrator: Get rid of those negative thoughts. Be a batter at the moment. Prepare to get a hit.


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