In the baseball world, there is a common phrase: control what you can control. But what does that really mean? You may think there are multiple things you can control but it all comes back to one simple yet complex thing, your mind.
I personally believe there are certain characteristics that make a pitcher successful on the mound. The one I’m referring to is someone who likes to be in control. If you like to be in control of situations, it means you want the ball. You want to be on that mound each pitch of every inning. You want the ball when the game is on the line. You want to believe that if you work hard day in and day out and execute on every pitch, everything will go your way because that’s what should happen. You’re in control of each and every pitch, every single thing that happens while you’re pitching, and every single thing that happens after you let go of the ball. The truth: you’re not as in control as you may think.
The truth is once you let go of that ball, you’re not in control of anything that happens within the next blink of an eye. You could locate the ball exactly where you want to, making it a perfect pitch you think will be unhittable, and still you can’t control the result. A number of things can happen. The hitter can hit a homer, flare one over the first baseman’s head, swing and miss, hit a ground ball, foul it off, etc. The point is you don’t know what is going to happen once you release the ball out of your hand.
So what exactly are you in control of? The only thing is your mind. The mind is a beautiful thing that can lead you down two roads, the road to positivity or the road to negativity. You can control both of those things. And yes, the road to negativity is always so much easier to travel upon especially on the mound. You are in control of how much work you’re willing to put into your craft each day. You are in control of pushing yourself even harder during strength and conditioning. You are in control of your body language and how you choose to respond during adversity.
On the mound, it’s easy to get down on yourself when things aren’t going the way you planned. If I’ve learned anything as a player, coach, or even now as I run a small business, it’s this: NOTHING GOES AS PLANNED. And to me, that’s part of the fun in life. You get to choose how you respond. When you give up a double, your teammate makes an error, you walk a guy, and then give up a homer to the number 8 hitter in the lineup, I can assure you with 100 percent certainty that you never planned that. You planned on having 8 strikeouts, not giving up any walks or runs, and your teammates making every play. Sorry to burst your bubble but that’s just not going to happen the majority of the time. You’ll make mistakes on the mound and your teammates will make mistakes behind you. There’s a reason there have only been 23 perfect games in 140 years of Major League Baseball. Nobody’s perfect. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be.
You need to train your mind to focus on the current pitch you’re preparing to throw while possibly simultaneously killing the running game and knowing where you have to go if the ball gets put into play. That’s a tough thing to do if you don’t have control of your mind. It doesn’t come easy either. You have to work on it constantly. Work on showing positive body language. Work on staying in the present even if you’re not at your best. Your mind will want to travel down that road to negativity and that’s OK. There’s no reason you can’t pump the brakes, make a U-turn, and take a right on the road to positivity. Now you may not do it all the time and that’s OK too. Maybe it’s something you’re trying to work on, to focus on controlling your mind, and are only able to get your mind back on one pitch of your outing. You know what I’d say? You’re heading in the right direction and now that’s a positive.