The other night while watching the Phillies take on the Brewers, a camera focused in on Ryan Howard, sitting in the dugout with his head in his hands.
He did not just have a bad at bat, make a poor play in the field, or find out some bad news.
He was preparing for his upcoming at bat.
According to one of the Phillies’ announcers, this particular pose – and activity – is something Howard began doing a few years ago, and has kept up the practice ever since.
Howard is a big fan of visualization.
There are different forms of visualization, and in Howard’s case, he prefers to go through each pitch of his upcoming at bat while he sits on the bench. This form of visualization would require Howard to have a scouting report on either the pitcher he’s facing, the Brewers pitching staff, or even National League pitchers have tried to set him up and get him out in the past. I’m sure he had a few video files to run through in order to help him create his “mind movies.”
On a side note, take a note of the point where Howard begins his at bat. He’s not on deck. He’s not “in the hole.” Still, he’s getting ready for his at bat, even when there’s no guarantee that he’ll even get up that inning.
Because of this process:
You won’t see Howard running up to the helmet rack after realizing that he’s on deck.
You won’t see Howard forgetting or searching for his batting gloves at the last minute.
You won’t see Howard rush through his routine in the on deck circle.
You will know that He will be prepared both physically and mentally for his at bat.
His at bat plan starts four hitters deep in the line up.
Can you say that about your pre at bat approach? (It’s o.k. if you can’t, but you might want to ask yourself when you do start getting ready for your at bat.)
Anyway, back to visualization…
I became a huge fan of visualization way back in the days of VHS tapes. My Dad discovered a tape made by a company called Sybervision, featuring Rod Carew. It was called “Perfect Form.” This was NOT your typical instructional video! In fact, there wasn’t one word uttered throughout the entire video, or any subtitles about how to swing the bat.
It’s sole purpose was to teach you how to sit back and visualize your at bat… your swing, in a way that left you cool, calm, and ready to jump in the batter’s box.
I’d go into more detail, but sadly the tape didn’t catch on. In fact, I contacted the company a while back (seeing that my copy was stolen – I mean borrowed and never given back), only to find out they have no interest in making videos for baseball… only covering sports like golf, skiing, and tennis. You can find a few people selling their copy online, but seeing that the VCR has long-been extinct…
(Note: you can make “cheap versions” of this type of video. I’ve seen hitters carry their own highlight reel of big hitting moments with them, and I’ve suggested to some of my hitters to do the same, adding their favorite music too.)
In any event, you can very easily begin to practice visualization. It’s not hard to do. I mean Bobby Bouche from “The Waterboy” used it to perfection, right? (Or Happy Gilmore :))
You don’t need a scouting report, or video file of the pitcher you’re about to face. (It helps) You don’t need to create a mirror image of what you’re about to see in real time. (You’ll pick this skill up as you get better at “seeing” the field.) You just need to give yourself a few seconds “away” from the field, and use a little imagination.
It’s not daydreaming. It’s being able to put together a few images for you and only you to see, that matches up to the skills you know you possess, the game plan you have for your next at bat, and the belief in yourself to get that game plan done.
I wouldn’t wait until you’re a few hitters away from your next At Bat though. Get some practice in ahead of time. You’ll find that as you get the hang of it, it can get you into a great frame of mind before your At Bat… even relaxing you, which comes in handy when you feel like the moment is bigger than usual.