The field may be merely the neighborhood sandlot. It’s not the World Series or the NCAA championship, just bragging rights to determine the best in the neighborhood. It’s an event unworthy of legendary prose. Nevertheless, it is the site where legendary heroics often begin. From such insignificant beginnings, players first begin to experience the excitement of victory and the pain of defeat. It is the insatiable need for victory that instills one’s desire to be the best.
Much more than the cliches about extra effort we read on the sports page, dedication is self-image, work ethic, and commitment never to give up. These are the characteristics of athletes who come early and stay late. Great athletes work hard off the field, independently developing the tools and perfecting the skills necessary to accomplishing their goals.
Though his chances of achieving fame and glory are slim, this athlete is not deterred. When he faces superior talent, he does not allow it to affect his style of play. He continues when others quit, creating a victory. Every victory is worth the effort . . . a satisfying reward for a job well done . . . a magnificent reward for his effort.
To be successful, players have to be willing to pay the price in advance. An entire set of strategies, tactics, and attitudes has defined championship baseball. Successful players use every conceivable method within the rules to win. They are imaginative, inventive, and have a solid foundation in fundamentals. By using speed, finesse, and tactics such as aggressive base running, professional-style hitting, outstanding pitching, a comprehensive defense, and most important, by using their heads, they win championships.
Elite baseball players are perfectionists in the scientific style of play. Their unique style is often copied, but never mastered. Superior players are the masters that others pretend to be. Everything they do depends on their ability to play together in the professional style of inside baseball.
Concentration has been the name of the game, their key to success. They have the ability to block out distractions, using a two-part process of identifying a target for action and having a method to look at the target and take in all necessary information. Proper preparation increases the chances of responding quickly and properly. Teach your players the following keys to becoming a successful fundamental player.
- Know the inning, the score, the number of counts on the hitter, and the position of base runners.
- Know the offensive assignment for every situation.
- Know the defensive assignment for every situation.
- Anticipate active involvement in every play and react accordingly.
- Check the field to determine whether it is fast or slow, whether the baseball carries or dies, and how the baseball bounces off the barriers and corners.
- Always know the wind and sun conditions.
- Think and plan for the opportunity to react to any situation or crisis.
Champions are not those who never fail; they just never quit. These ballplayers have no fear of failure. They see adversity as an opportunity to succeed. They visualize accomplishments, recognize sacrifice, know the ingredients, and are willing to preservere toward the goal.
This is an excerpt from The Baseball Handbook.