Sometimes I get to do somethings that are just truly joyful. The other day I had the opportunity to sit down once again and talk hitting with Cardinals Hitting Coach Mark McGwire. Now trust me I don’t say this to name drop I just get so excited every time I get to do this and I can’t seem to hide my enthusiasm. Aside from being a great guy and knowledgable hitting coach, the guy was one of my baseball heroes as a kid so every time we’re together I’m suddenly 11 years old again and regardless of how many times we’ve talked it still hits me that I’m sitting there talking hitting with someone I looked up to growing up and has had such a huge impact on me as a hitting instructor.
Anyway, it’s always fun to hear about his hitters. I think like most people we assume that big league hitters have it figured out. That they don’t struggle with the same things as younger hitters or that they don’t have the same fears and frustrations that high school, college, and minor league hitters do. It’s always fun to hear that he and I have very similar experiences and that his hitters are going through the exact same issues that some of my hitters are. One of the biggest challenges in both of our jobs is getting our athletes to transfer the swing they demonstrate in the batting cage and into the game. Like me Mark believes that movement originates in the mind and a hitter’s ability to execute their mechanics in a game has more to do with what’s going on between their ears then it does with the number of swings they take.
Two of his hitters in particular work very, very hard at their swing but are unable to transfer their swing from the batting cage into the game even though they’ve put in the work necessary and have executed enough swings to develop the “muscle memory” necessary to have attained physical mastery over the skill. Yet these hitters don’t come close to performing at their highest capacity because they like most hitters look for physical reasons for less than desirable performance.
When I asked Mark why he thought that these two hitters couldn’t transfer their swings he instantly replied, “Because everyone looks at mechanics as the reason that they’re not hitting.” I couldn’t agree with this more. Hitters have a tendency to make an out and instantly ask, “What did I do wrong?” They look for the physical reason behind making the out and never ever get to the root of the issue.
As we’ve discussed, it’s important to remember that ALL movement originates in the mind. Your ability to transfer your swing from the batting cage to the playing field has everything to do with your mental state during the game and any mental resistance you may have during your at-bats. The answer to transferring your swing to the game does not necessarily rely on you taking more swings. After you’ve learned proper mechanics and have put in the time needed to develop the skill you need to look at what’s going on mentally if you want to find the root of your inability to transfer your swing to the game.
Simply put, anytime your thoughts and focus are off of things you can control and are outside the present moment you are creating resistance mentally and won’t be able to execute your swing effectively. If you find that you are outside the present moment simply return to listening to your breathing. This has an unbelievable ability to eliminate resistance and will help you transfer your swing into the game.