Sunday, July 20, 2014

Being On Time, Part 5: Visualization and Sound.

Today I want to talk about how hitters can use visualization and sound to improve their timing.

In the on deck circle, hitters use the movement of a pitcher's body and the tempo of his delivery to time the speed of the pitch. What is the gap between his fastball and breaking ball?

Some hitters use music or sound as a key to honing in on the timing and quickness of a pitch. How?

Imagine the sound of a fastball, hissing towards the plate. Ssss-sst. That was 85. Ss-sst. That was 90. There is a rhythm to a fastball, something almost musical. A hitter can visualize a pitch and a location while simultaneously imagining the sound it makes.

A breaking ball makes a different sound, depending upon the pitch and the speed. Hitters can hear the sounds and file those in their memories of what to look and listen for out of the hand when getting aggressive to fastballs or off-speed pitches. Hitters that are advanced are always ready to hit the pitch that they are looking for at that moment, but can take the pitch when they hear or see a different pitch OR if they recognize that the tunnel the pitch has come from is different than that required of their hitting zone.

Sound complex? It is. Just like every other aspect of hitting, these idiosyncrasies become intuitive when they are practiced over and over again.

Visualization is not nearly as helpful when it is not lifelike. If you were trying to imagine what a lemon tastes like, you would not visualize a watermelon. You also would not visualize a lemon the size of a basketball because your mind knows that is a fantasy.

Using the mind to visualize pitches is no different. Practicing this skill means creating a still and quiet environment for the mind. This must be practiced in the cage, with front toss, and tee work. To increase difficulty and make more game-like, increase distractions i.e. music, noises, radio, TV, teammates talking, etc.

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