I grew up in Glendale, California and played Little League in the Jewel City League and then in the city’s Babe Ruth league.
Like many Little Leaguers, my mom was in the stands cheering for me. And, like many Little Leaguers, I sometimes felt embarrassed by it. Don’t get me wrong, it meant a lot to me that my parents showed up and took an interest in my interests. It’s just that when you’re standing on the mound at 12 years old (and imagining that you’re the left-handed Dwight Gooden), you don’t want your mom to draw attention to the fact that you’re just a kid and you’re playing against the Knights of Columbus, not against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
You also don’t want anyone thinking you need your mom there shouting stuff at you in order for you to be good.
I was a good pitcher in those days. I wanted all the credit for it. I once struck out 16 batters in a 6 inning Little League game. After the game, the home plate umpire told my coach to make sure we submitted the box score to the Little League office – as he was sure I had just tied (or possibly broken) a record.
It definitely didn’t have anything to do with my Mom.
Thing is, it did.
As I’ve gotten more and more into coaching, my Mom’s words keep coming back to haunt me.
First, it happened when my son was on the mound in a game of his own, and suddenly I had that moment that so many parents have where I opened my mouth to say something only to realize (before the words left my mouth) that “oh my god, I’m becoming my parents”.
Thankfully by now, I realized the power of what my Mom used to shout out to me:
“See it and feel it.”
My mom used to talk to me about visualizing the pitch I was going to make before I made it. She would tell me to imagine what it felt like to throw that strike. We would talk about this at home. We’d talk about it in the car. As long as she wasn’t shouting those words out loud when I was on the mound, I loved it. It was my secret weapon.
So when my son started pitching, I would talk to him about “seeing and feeling it”.
And as he developed as a player, my coaching career evolved and my love of the game was reignited. I started seeking out coaching advice, drills, philosophies, strategies and just about anything else I could find to give my players an advantage.
Of course, once you start looking around, you find all kinds of talk about the “Mental Game” of Baseball.
I saw Brian Cain speak. He talks about “everything happens twice (first in your mind and then on the field)”.
I read content by Alan Jaeger.
I’ve even started using a meditation that I learned on a Stick&Ball TV podcast at practices.
Turns out that my mom isn’t the only one that gets that the mind is a powerful part of the game.
Now I feel bad for all the times that I wished my mom would shut up when I was striking people out in the 80s.
And I smile inside thinking that every one of them is probably thinking “shut up!” when I shout it from the dugout.