Every at-bat is a new battle. Situations, pitchers, and tendencies all change from at-bat to at-bat. As a hitter, you have to be able to maintain your focus and adjust to every situation.
Sometimes it’s hard to focus. The game speeds up on you. Maybe it’s a big situation, a new pitcher, or some other set of circumstances that just seem to throw you off your game a little. But being off your game a little can have huge consequences.
In college, you might only get one good pitch to hit per at-bat. If you miss it, you’ve missed your shot to capitalize on your AB and help your team. You can’t afford to lose focus even for one pitch.
One of the best ways to maintain your focus is to use a focal point. Sport psychologists have recommended focal points to big-leaguers for years. Ever watch Evan Longoria peer off towards the stands in between each pitch? He’s looking at his focal point. A focal point is a spot on the field that you focus on in order to do a mental reset. Here’s the process to picking a focal point:
1. Pick a spot on the field that will be present on every field (for example, I used the tip of the right field foul pole).
2. Set a routine for what you’re going to think about when you look at your focal point. You should pick a set number of things, and go through them, in order, every time. I used:
- Situation: has it changed since the last pitch?
- Goal: what am I trying to do in this at-bat? (e.g., get the runner in from third,get the bunt down, etc.)
- Pitch: what has the pitcher thrown me so far? What pitch am I looking for now? Can I be selective and pick my pitch, or am I in protect-mode?
3. Practice using your focal point routine.
Using your focal point for the first time in a game is a recipe for disaster. There’s too much to think about, and it’s too complicated. It will distract you from your at-bat. Practice using the focal point in scrimmages, batting practice (if your coaches don’t mind), or the batting cages.
Once you are confident using your focal point, it’s time to implement the focal point into your in-game routine. Here’s how you use the focal point:
Step out of the box. Don’t rush! Find your focal point and block out the rest of the world.
- Go through your routine. Situation, Goal, Pitch. Prepare mentally.
- Take a deep breath. Do not skip this step! The breath slows you down, and slows the game down. It helps you prepare for the pitch ahead and focus on the present moment.
- Come back to the “now.” Do something that gets you back into hitting-mode. Dig into the box, glare out at the pitcher, and get yourself ready for the pitch.
- Trust it. Don’t think anymore. You’ve prepared yourself mentally. Now you need to trust your skill and let yourself hit.