The Situation: There’s a runner on third, 2 outs, and the offense is down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. The 4-hitter is up. He is a big hulking right-handed hitter and also the biggest run producer and power hitter on the team.
The Play: The big slugger works the count to 2-1 and gets the pitch that he is looking for. He sees the fastball well, but is too amped. His swing is rushed and tight and he pulls off just a little bit. Even though he makes good contact, he knows right off the bat that he rolled over and it’s going to be a grounder right at the shortstop. He slams the bat to the ground and takes a couple frustrated, slow steps towards first. As he glances up, he sees the ball take a bad hop and hit the shortstop right in the chest. The uh-oh thought flashes through his mind as he starts running as hard as he can towards first. The shortstop grabs the ball from where it came to rest right next to him, and fires a throw to first.
The Outcome: The throw beats the hitter by just a half a step with the first baseman’s good stretch, and the umpire calls him out. The run does not score.
What Went Wrong: The big situation will always bring out tension in a hitter. The best hitters, and the best RBI-men, can control their emotions so that their swings stay consistent. There’s a difference between swinging to do damage and over-swinging. Staying focused and calm can be hard in the big spot, and sometimes emotions get the best of all of us. What absolutely cannot happen is letting emotions control the situation after the ball has been hit. A hitter cannot control if he hits the ball at someone, but he can absolutely control his hustle afterward. The frustration that the hitter showed in this situation caused him to be out. The difference between safe and out in this play was the first few steps, the uncontrolled display of emotion that the hitter showed. If he controlled his emotions and sprinted out of the box, he would have been safe and the game would be tied. However, because he let his frustration get the better of him, he cost his team a run. In many situations, not running hard will land you on the bench in college. Most coaches simply will not allow players to give less than 100% effort. As a player, you must control what you can control and always go as hard as you can until the play has ended.