Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to Win Opening Day

(photo credit:

Opening Day is a beautiful thing. The grass is just the right height, the sun seems to always peek out from behind the clouds, and the heartbeats of hitters everywhere echoe throughout ballparks. 

Hitting is hard, but it is simple. Opening Day is no different. Here's a short take on how to hit your best, from the very start of the season. 

1.) Prepare every day like it's Opening Day. When you practice fast, practice with energy and crank the pulse up every day, you learn how to be in control of yourself when the game gets quick. 

2.) Hit what you are going to get. You're the 4 hole hitter. You hit 15 jacks last season. Sitting on first pitch fastballs all day doesn't make much sense. Understand how you would pitch yourself, and commit to those approaches. 

3.) Aggressive under control. Everyone with a pulse gets fired up for Opening Day. Many are so jacked up, they look like the Ultimate Warrior in Wrestlemania VI. Breathe. 1-2-3-4. One in, two out, three in, four out. Simple. Controllable. Now your body can attack the baseball without tension.

4.) Hunt elevation. So many pitches on Opening Day are left over the plate and elevated. Don't be in such a rush to do damage that you swing at the first fastball you see. Get a good pitch to hit.

5.) Stay committed to your approach/ get into that bullpen. If the pitch you are hunting isn't there, grind out a 5 or 6 pitch AB. Starting pitchers' stuff will wain quickly on Opening Day, and almost everyone's middle relief has lesser stuff than their starting staff. Get into that pen.

6.) Be early on any fastball you anticipate. Most hitters don't find themselves out in front of fastballs on Opening Day. We "just miss" and fly out to center field, foul it straight back or pop out to second base a mile high. Don't give away at bats because you miss good fastballs to hit.

7.) Visualize today as the 20th game of the season, and you are hitting .350/.450/.550. Envision the ball jumping off of your bat with extra-base-flight. When you feel like you've been swinging it well, you're much more likely to be in the present moment. Everyone loves the clean slate that Opening Day provides. Get a leg up on the competition by visualizing that you have already had a great start.

8.) Be TOUGH: hunt free bases. Early games are often won with BBs, HBPs and errors, not three-run homers. Toughness to stay in the box and toughness to get down the line on a routine ground ball or pop up can often mean one more run in any game, particularly early in the season.

9.) Seek to bunt. Defenses are most rusty in the first week of the season. Some teams haven't even been outside yet! Everyone has practiced catching weak fly balls. Challenge the opponent's defense.

10.) Routines: set them and stick to them. 

What will your routine be when you show up to the field on Opening Day? Do you plan to show up to the locker room at 9:50 when you need to be ready at 10? Create good habits that will allow for you to be in control and adjust to adversity. Those who are rushed create excuses. 

Be early, not on time. What about your pre-game hitting routines? How will you get loose? Shouldn't it be the same every day?

Think about your on deck routines. Does what you do create mental and physical preparedness for what will actually need to do in your AB? Do you take half-hearted swings that don't get you prepared. 

Work smart. Confidence will come from your preparation and your routines.