Friday, December 5, 2014

Pro Hitter Advice

I recently caught up with a hitter I was fortunate to coach here at Lee a few years ago. He is a true
professional, a cage rat, and a talented ball player. He's a gem. Here's his advice in a question and
answer session we had.

1.)   How has your mental preparation changed and how has it stayed the same since you got to college?

My mental game has come a long way from being an 18 year old freshman to now be a seasoned vet in the minor leagues. Mental preparation is the biggest reason why am in this position and without it I'd probably be working a 9-5 job. I remember my first time I started reading the Mental Game of Baseball and from that point on I took off!  I still carry that book with me in my backpack as we speak. I never realized that physically, we all have a lot of gifts and, realistically, we are all on that field because we have the physical tools, but we all don't possess a strong mind.

There are many players out there that don't know the game, don't understand how to get themself out of a hole or rebound from a bad call the umpire makes. These things are what separate us from being elite. Control what you can control and most everything will take care of itself. My mental game now consists of understanding that I've put in the work, trusting the process and I talk about the process a lot but the "process" is doing your due diligence in preparing yourself knowingly that you did everything you could to be ready for your next event.

Can you trust yourself enough to say that I put in all I had to be ready to perform on stage? If your answer is yes then the game should be easy because all the hard work is over. You just go out and play with passion and desire to win the game.

2.)   What are the fundamentals of your daily mental routines?

My routine isn't very hard. It consists of a few things.

1.) From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I firmly believe in myself. I believe that any obstacle thrown my way I can handle.

2.) There is nothing and no one that will stop me from getting to my ultimate goal: the big leagues.
As far as when I'm at the field, I'm just reminding myself that I belong and I keep the attitude that I have something to prove every day. I'm never bigger than the game. I have things to learn and to get better at every day. Don't waste a day because you will never get it back!

3.) What adjustments have you made to your hitting approach in the minor leagues?

When I left college I felt like I had a pretty solid hitting approach. Hitting has always been something that I took pride in and I've always spent most of my time practicing it. It firsts starts in the dugout, watching the pitcher, studying his pitches and what he likes to throw. From there I take it to the on deck circle where I get my timing down and prepare myself for a battle. As I walk to the box I tell myself a few things and from there it's on. Drive something in the gaps.

Today a few things have changed: scouting reports are better and we have access to video. Now my approach starts when I show up the field. What pitcher is throwing tonight? What are his tendencies? Does he command the breaking ball? What pitch does he go to when runners are in scoring position? These questions I try and figure out before I even step foot on the field. From there most of my work is done, now I'm just looking for small things. Is he tipping his pitches? What side of the plate is he working on? 

As I make in-game adjustments it makes my job a lot easier. While I'm in the box, I'm focused on driving every pitch, staying up the middle unless the approach needs to change. Sometimes I'm sitting on a fastball on the outer half then I'm spitting on everything else in that at bat. I lock in more now than ever.

These pitchers only get better and when you got a guy commanding two and three pitches that night it makes your job tough. I just try to be disciplined and stick with my plan that AB and if I hit it on the screws or get the job done, I'm happy.

3.)   If you could go back and tell your 18 year old self one thing, what would it be?

If I could go back, I'd say work smarter rather than necessarily harder. Now I understand this could seem a little different, I still and always believe in a hard work ethic. The difference is I always thought that I could just outwork everyone and exhaust all my energy every single day. No days off, just expend everything I had all the time. I didn't understand that there was a process in doing things.

Whether it's physical or mental you gotta add and subtract. Work smarter rather than just harder is how I do work now. I know I'm putting everything into that task that day because it's a process. I don't have to go cram everything in at once. I used to try and lift for hours, run as much as I could and stay in the cages till midnight. Yes I feel like all that helped me and it kept me out of trouble. There were no distractions but as I've gotten older, I know my task and I know how much my body needs. I can structure my lifts and I can take time off hitting, knowingly that it'll come right back to me. I believe in the process and have no problem taking time off if it's going to help benefit me in the long run.

4.)   What does a day in the life of Blake Barber look like mid-season?

A day during my mid-season routine usually consists of sleeping, eating, playing ball and working out. I usually try and get an adequate amount of sleep each night as it varies whether or not we've been traveling or if we have a double header or if we play a day game. As I wake up, I usually go straight to the kitchen and make food; Eggs, turkey bacon, hash browns and coffee.

There will be days where I mix in protein pancakes or eat a bowl of power oatmeal. From then, I usually lie back down and relax for a few hours, watch some TV or talk with my family on the phone. As mid-day approaches, I make a smoothie filled with kale, Greek yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, blackberries, raspberries, spinach and orange juice topped with a scoop of weight gainer. I'll usually walk to the field after this and go through my daily baseball routine which is looking at video, taking BP, talking with my buddies and getting dressed for the game. After the game, I'll eat take a second to think about how the game went that night and then it's over I'm on to the next day. I'll walk to my apartment, enjoy some time with my roommates and go to sleep.

5.)   What part of your game are you working to improve right now?

This offseason, I have a few things I'm trying to work on: getting a better first step on the bases and out on defense, take better routes in the outfield, strengthen my arm, improve plate discipline, and use the whole field at the plate. I'm ready to take my game the next level which hopefully will be double A. These improvements will need to be part of my game for me to compete at a high level and be an every-day player. I've embraced the utility role. Each night, I never know where I'll be playing. This has been a great role for me because as long as I can play multiple positions, I increase my chances of making it to the big leagues.

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