Tag Archives: Baseball

Focus On What’s Important, Not What Isn’t

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

When I was a kid I played little league. One of my problems was watching the ball hit the bat. I remember my coach was always saying to do just that, but I kept looking up to where I wanted the ball to go, or where I expected it to go I swung and connected correctly. It seemed a lot easier to “watch the ball hit the bat” when you were supposed to bunt, but I never really liked bunting. Something about sprinting towards first base and always worried you were going to be thrown out.

I must rather enjoyed hitting one into the outfield, and thinking of second base on the way to first base. Rounding first, slowing up a bit and checking to see what the ball was doing was a great feeling. A mixture of success, control, and possibility for more. A bunt, on the other hand, is pure danger. Like you are challenging the pitcher to a race. Of course, when you bunt, you aren’t supposed to bunt it right back at the pitcher, you’re supposed to bunt toward the first baseman or the third baseman, providing they haven’t read your signals and are playing way up.

They say baseball is a game of inches, and when you’re talking about bunting, they are certainly right. But it’s much more fun to blast away and hit the ball as far as you can (or at least intend to), so you don’t have to run very fast towards first.

I finally figured out way to drastically improve my batting, and start to hit it out of the infield on a consistent basis. It was just a small addition to how I usually practiced.

I used to date this girl in high school. I guess it was your normal high school relationship. Nobody really knows what you’re supposed to do. You’re lucky if you can get a car. Being in high school, I never had much money, so going out on dates was always a challenge. Drive somewhere, sit around, and hopefully make a move of some sort. I found the best dates were the ones where I didn’t worry about the little things along the way, when I was able to focus on the big picture, so to speak.

When there was something big going on, (and free) like a county fair or some kind of event, it was much more fun. I was able to look forward to something large, rather than focus on every single nuance of the conversation along the way to just parking somewhere and hoping something “happened,” if you catch my drift. Those dates were always worrisome, as I felt I needed to maintain every little change in the mood, and keep the interest level up.

But when we went to some carnival or something, I didn’t even worry if my date was having a good time or not. I just kind of assumed it, as I was having a pretty good time myself. Those dates were always much easier, and ended much better (ahem.)

Once with a couple of friends, we decided to go skydiving. It was the tandem kind, where you strap yourself to an instructor. You get to pull the cord, but he is there, strapped onto your back in case you black out or something. That is perfect for first timers, as it only requires about fifteen minutes of instruction. It’s pretty idiot proof. The alternative is to jump with two guys on either side of you, but that takes several hours of instruction and drilling.

One thing the guy I was strapped to said just before we leapt out of the plane. He said not to look down. At first I thought that was the regular advice given to people that are afraid of heights. If you look down, you’ll freak out, and lose your nerve. But he was referring to the minute or so after we jumped out of the plane, and was free falling.

That was without question, the most exhilarating minute of my life (except the obvious exception). And it was also the quickest minute (except the obvious exceptions). The reason he said not to look down is that you tend to find some spot below, and try to focus on it, or “fixate on it,” as he said. And when you do that, you miss out on the feeling flying. When you are free falling, you only actually feel like you are falling for the first couple seconds. After that, you hit terminal velocity, which is when you stop accelerating. And you feel like you are literally floating on air. If you look down, you’ll miss out on the fantastic feeling, and spend your brain energy staring at something that isn’t important. If you keep looking forward, and enjoy the experience, it will be much more memorable, much more thrilling, much more extraordinary. So when he said “don’t look down” he wasn’t trying to keep me from getting scared, he was trying to make sure I got the most enjoyment out of the situation.

And the funny thing about learning to consistently hit the ball out of the infield was to practice doing the thing I hated the most. Bunting. I’d go to the batting cages, and stand there like I was going to swing, and then at he last minute, lay down a bunt. I must have looked pretty foolish practicing bunting in the batting cages, but it really trained my hand/eye/bat coordination.

Pretty soon I moved from simple bunts, to short, slow swings, to bigger swings, and to full motion full power swings, all while keeping my eye on the ball the watching the ball hit the bat. Pretty soon I was smacking them all over the place.

Just changing where you place your focus can make all the difference.


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Clear Intentions Leaves no Room for Mistakes

I was waiting at the train station the other day. It was a Saturday afternoon, and there were a many people. Mostly out shopping, a few kids that had to go to school on Saturday, as that is fairly common here. I started talking to this woman sitting next to me. She had an interesting book that was about baseball. It turns out her son is in university and plays baseball for the university baseball team, and she because she never really knew anything about the game, she decide to buy a book to figure it out. It turns out that her son had always been interested in baseball before, but he never felt comfortable expressing an interesting, because when he was a kid his parents had always placed so much importance on studying, getting good grades, and getting into a good university. Only when he went away to university did he find the persona l freedom to explore his desires. And he found out he was really good.

The funny thing was that his mom told me that had he said something about baseball earlier, like in junior high school, she would have loved to help him explore that option. So there she was, reading this book about baseball. The particular chapter she was reading was all about signals and signs and secret messages inside other pieces of random communication. In baseball strategy is very important, but sometimes communicating changes in strategy to players on the field is difficult. So they devised a complex set of signals and hidden messages. And because both teams are doing this, it can become very complicated to send signals that the other team can’t understand. Otherwise they would intercept their strategy and know what they are planning to do. They go to great lengths to conceal the intention behind their communication.

While I was talking to her this guy started walking behind us, mumbling something incoherently. He was holding some map of some sort, which looked to be a local train map. A few people looked like they wanted to help him, but he wasn’t really making any sense, so people just kind backed off. He stopped a few times, looked at his map, and then looked at the large map they have of all the different lines and their stops and intersections and times. They have it written in three different languages, so that all travelers can understand the sign.

When I asked the woman if she had ever talked to her son about why he didn’t express his interest in baseball earlier, it turned out that he had, she just didn’t understand, or maybe he didn’t communicate it very clearly. He would always watch baseball on TV, and when his parents asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, a couple of times he said a baseball player. His parents, of course, didn’t know that he was serious, as he never showed any interest in signing up for the local team. Of course, when he went to find out about it, they required a form signed by his parents, and the very day he brought the form home for his parents to sign, his father had decided that was the time to give him a lecture about choosing a career path, as he was soon entering high school. His father, of course, didn’t know anything about his desire to play baseball, and the son didn’t know that it would have been allright had he of asked.

When he finally told his parents how much he was enjoying playing on the University Team, they were both very happy. I asked the lady what she thought was interesting about reading about baseball signs, and she said she never realized that before the games they spend a considerable amount of time going over the signals so there is no miscommunication. Not communicating properly can lose a game. And when the lady went over and asked the man where he was going, it turned out he was going where most everybody else was. The reason nobody could understand him was because he was from a prefecture that is out in the countryside where they speak a different dialect. When the lady figured out what dialect he was speaking, everybody could understand what he wanted. It turns out he was a visiting professor that was going to give a lecture on communication.