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Swing Smarter's The Dugout, Issue #013 -- Can't get comfortable in the box? AND teammate bullies...
December 18, 2009
Hi,

Welcome to The Dugout, "Hitting Baseballs from the Neck Up." Here's what to expect from this month's issue...

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction to this Month's Issue
  2. On Deck for Next Month's The Dugout
  3. Please Share the Wealth
  4. This Issue's Heart of the Line-Up
  5. Surprise BONUS Thought of the Day
  6. Heads Up! Concern of the Month


INTRODUCTION TO THIS MONTH'S ISSUE...

In this month's issue #013 of The Dugout we're going to look into RELAXATION. This is going to be one of the most important areas as it relates to the mental part of hitting.

RELAXATION techniques for stretching and breathing are the most under-rated and simple strategies a hitter can use to their advantage. Tense muscles are slow muscles, loose muscles are fast muscles, no matter how you swing it.

We have to attack tension two ways, by externally stretching the muscles, and internally training our respiratory system to loosen the muscles up from the inside out, so we can maximize bat speed, and get better in the clutch when runners are on base.

I love this subject and can't wait to pass on pearls of wisdom from my experiences playing, and sprinkle in some new age Yoga techniques.

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ON DECK FOR NEXT MONTH'S THE DUGOUT...

In this month's issue #014 of The Dugout we're going to look into the proper mental environment of LEARNING. What are the stumbling blocks and how can we overcome them.

We touched on this with one of the first issues of The Dugout when we built a trigger for peak performance, but we're going to go more in depth on what it means to, as Ghandi put it:

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were going to live forever."

If you want to learn how to be a sponge, then this month is for you, lots of fantastic talking points coming up!

So stay tuned...

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PLEASE SHARE THE WEALTH...

If you find The Dugout, "Hitting Baseballs from the Neck Up" interesting to pass onto your friends, please do, we'd greatly appreciate it. The more people we can get to tune in every month, the better, so please spread the love to your teammates, players, and best friends...and hope your competitors don't find us. ;)

Also, don't forget to mention the two FREE Bonuses they'll receive for signing up, and they can also test drive The Dugout at no cost with the latest back issues linked to the following web-page. Unfortunately, today's new issue will NOT be available on back issue until 2-3 weeks after publishing.

Signing up is easy...

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The Dugout: Hitting Baseballs from the Neck Up eZine

Let's get started with this month's issue, shall we...

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THE ISSUE'S HEART OF THE LINE-UP... THE ISSUE'S HEART OF THE LINE-UP...

Wonder what the never ending battle is for a hitter?

It's how to stay relaxed in the art of war...what gets the blood boiling for most? Hitting with:

  • 2 strikes,
  • Runners in scoring position,
  • Your team behind, or
  • Loved ones watching from the crowd, and/or
  • Personal milestones/goals on the line.

Hitters of all ages can benefit from this eZine issue, and with the proper training early on, the better we will be in the clutch. This issue is pulling from our magnifying glass look into information discussed from Chapter 13, page 248 of The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, by H.A. Dorfman & Karl Kuehl. It's a great book and a must have.

We'll be looking into the difference between accelerating and braking muscle systems, and how most of the time, in tight situations, we're flooring the gas peddle at the same time as the brake. Furthermore, we'll learn how to spot crucial "tension tendencies" for ball players before it's too late, and lastly we'll reveal 9 different ways to deal with deflating that over-stuffed bratwurst you call a bladder in crunch time! :)

Let's dive right in shall we...?

As mentioned earlier, we have accelerating and braking muscles, if we didn't our joints would damage beyond repair. These are our push and pull muscles, one major group opposing the other, like Yin & Yang. Imbalances in these two types of muscles will most often lead to surgery, most common: Tommy John, Shoulder, Knee, and recently in the Big Leagues, hip.

For instance, if we're used to doing heavy bench press for the chest and we fore-go working our back muscles equally hard, then our shoulder joint will be packed full of TNT and will eventually explode; then you'll have to pay some high priced Doctor and Rehab Specialist, not to mention deduct over 6 months of playing time.

In the above example, the chest is an accelerator, the back a decelerator. If we have an overdeveloped chest, and a weak backside, then our arm will be speeding up with nothing to stop it, similar to a car going downhill without anything to slow it down.

What does this have to do with Relaxation? For most hitters the following "tie-in" is vital...

If you've been a follower of Swing Smarter dot com for any length of time, you know about our less is more hitting philosophy. The baseball swing is the fastest you can swing under complete control, so for percentages sake, let's say 85% of a full cut.

Grab a bat for a moment and take the hardest possible cut, at 100%. Did you feel how slow the swing became? It's because the braker muscles kicked in to minimize damage to the joints. Now, loosen the hands up and think about whipping the bat around at a 60% clip, see how much quicker, and more importantly, smoother, you feel?

Ted Williams said it best in The Science of Hitting...do you know when the grip is the tightest on the bat throughout the swing? Not in the stance, separation, or launch positions, it's but at the point of contact...the hands should be loose, until then.

We can increase our bat speed, not by swinging harder, but by swinging smarter...check out the Swing Smarter Albert Pujols inspired Increase Your Bat Speed in 30 Days Challenge.

There are key areas of the body most critical to relaxing before hitting in a tough situation, which we'll get to later, but first you have to become aware of the tension tendencies:

  • White knuckling - squeezing the saw dust/aluminum out of the grip of the bat,
  • Tightening of the leg muscles (glutes, or butt, in particular),
  • Irregular breathing with the chest and shoulders,
  • Clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth,
  • Forced swallowing,
  • Dryness in the mouth,
  • Knotted or queasy feeling in the stomach (butterflies), and/or
  • Twitching (Think of Jose Canseco;).

If we know what to look for and focus on, then it makes adapting so much easier, but first we have to become aware.

A quick story...

In the opening game my senior year at Fresno State, we were playing Fullerton and I was starting in center field. With this being my last collegiate year I wanted to make a great impression on my fairly new girlfriend (now wife), first year coach Mike Batesole (2008 National Baseball Champion) not to mention all 2,000 screaming fans in attendance, and of course the scouts.

I decided to chew some gum throughout the game to help with tension levels, well, long story short, we ended up dropping that contest, and surprisingly the next day my jaw was really sore. It didn't click until the next game when I started chewing another stick of gum and the soreness kicked up. I was so tense opening night, I chewed gum so hard it would make, head Chicago Bears football coach at the time, Mike Ditka proud during the 80's.

They once said during games Mike Ditka absolutely crushed his gum, and at the end he'd have a diamond!

So, being aware of your tension is the first thing, the next is learning how to cope with being too keyed up OR learning how to pick up the energy level if you're too relaxed. We want to be like a caged animal before stepping up to the plate, but handle it with controlled aggression. ;)

Here are 9 ways to find a happy medium into RELAXATION and peak performance hitting, and remember NOT all these are going to apply, so just use the ones that stand out to you...

1. Get Away
If you're feeling excess tension in your tendency areas, then step out of the box with a little white lie, like by complaining of dust/dirt in your eye.

2. Talk Out Loud
Some guys like to conversate with the umpire or catcher before stepping into the box, it helps to relax them in clutch situations. Take Derek Jeter for instance, I noticed some of the talking during the latest World Series, and we all know how well Jeter plays in October/November.

3. Use Movement
I did this in my stance by swaying back and forth, opening and closing my hands, and sometimes tapping my front foot in a rhythm. We can also use a pre-pitch movement too like what an A-Rod or Manny Ramirez might do.

4. Ballistic Stretches
Doing quick stretch movements outside the box can really help loosen up the body to get anyone ready to hit and relieve tension. Now, do NOT use static stretching (holding a stretch for anymore than 5 seconds) because you'll actually tire the muscles out. Common ballistic stretching: neck rolls, huggers (chest & back), twisting at the hips.

5. Visualize
Using visualization can be really effective, and more effective synced with the breath (see below). You can picture yourself doing whatever it is in the world that is the best at relaxing you, then step back in the box. Also known as lucid dreaming, if you can tap into this powerful skill, then you'll be ahead of the game...check out this awesome article from The Four Hour Work Week on Lucid Dreaming.

6. Tense A Muscle
Just by conscientiously holding tension in a muscle for about 3-5 seconds and releasing it, you'll have a tool for your toolbox for Ready-Relaxation. Try it with your grip on the bat, grip the bat with both hands as hard as you can for 5 seconds, then loosen them up...how did that feel? This is an easy and effective way to Relax when under hitting stresses.

7. Change Your Focus
Here's a Zen habit for ya, try hard focusing on a single blade of grass, a rock, or clump of chalk or dirt for a moment, then step in the box. This really works because you have given your mind a very brief but effective break in action, that's what these Relaxation techniques are suppose to do.

8. Break Your Face
I've found through Yoga, the best way to calm the body down is to focus on the part most animated in showing others you're tense, the face, most specifically the forehead and jaw. Most people hold stress on their face creating lines above their eyes, the other is clenching the jaw or chewing gum too hard. Try this when you're in the box...with your mouth closed (teeth touching), hold your tongue as best you can in the middle of your mouth, don't let it touch the roof or the bottom of your mouth.

Did you see what happen when you did that? You were concentrating so much on doing the task, I'm sure you forgot about every other obligation you had on your mind.

9. Breath Control
This is my personal favorite and one of the most beneficial Relaxation anecdotes. Breathing cleanses the body both internally and externally, and most athletes take a deep breath the wrong way using their chest and shoulders. We have to utilize the primary breathing muscle in the body called the diaphragm, located in the belly region...by inhaling and expanding the belly we fill up the bottom part of the lungs, which gets nearly NO love these days because people have failed to learn how to use it correctly.

Tony Robbins, the famed motivational speaker, has said 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths per day leads to a whole mess of good stuff inside the body, the Limbic System being one of them. The Limbic System transports waste products in the blood to get out of the body, and a healthy Limbic System means less fatigue and sickness in life. This is one of the major benefits to Yoga because we take a ton of deep breaths throughout a full 1 hour session.

Taking one 8 count (4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds exhale) diaphragmatic breath will lower your heart rate at least 5-10 beats per minute, which to a hitter is huge in a pressure cooker situation.

BONUS TECHNIQUE: here's another good one you can try...whistling "Yankee Doodle." I did this my last year in little league and hit like .900, seriously. Like all the previous tips, it helps to take the mind of hitting...if you don't like "Yankee Doodle," then do "Mary Had A Little Lamb" ;)

Well, I hope you got a lot of cool tips to use at the plate, and for those coaches, teach some of them to your kids. A note to coaches, make sure the language you use with your kids as they're performing at the plate is positive and NOT desperate.

Examples of desperate language:

  • "What gotta get a hit here Johnny"
  • "You have to come through for us right now"
  • "This is a HUGE situation, now is your time to shine" and also
  • Please shut down all the mechanics language when the kids are hitting in games, all they need to be thinking while in the batter's box is See it, and Hit it.

Swing Smarter ;)

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SURPRISE BONUS THOUGHT OF THE DAY...

I saw another athlete playing with a broken body part today on SportsCenter...Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers scored over 40 points in a game despite a broken middle finger! Two or three starters for the Collegiate Baseball Champion 2008 Fresno State miracle Bulldogs had broken bones in their hands and still won despite mountainous adversities.

I've seen players become heros for playing through pain, and I've also seen players ruin the rest of their adult lives for doing it too.

When is enough enough?

It's all about timing and circumstance. Is it healthy to make a 12 year football player with a blown out knee continue to play on it? I think professionals play by a different set of rules because they're getting paid the BIG bucks and get the best Doctors around to fix them.

In college, I saw a good friend of mine get cortisone shots in his ripped up throwing shoulder through a whole season, had surgery at season end, and will never have the same arm function again, and the fact he was never going to go pro anyway.

I've heard of coaches letting 12 year old pitchers throw curve-balls all in the name of winning, and now my job is to rehab this kid's elbow because if he's not careful, he'll be another young statistic for Tommy John surgery.

I've seen a young high school catcher smash his front teeth out, put the teeth in milk so he could re-attach them later, and catch the rest of the game. Now that is down right tough! :) I like to see that, but I couldn't do it.

When is enough enough? And when is winning for winner's sake?

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HEADS UP! CONCERN OF THE MONTH...

Dealing with teammate bullies...

Recently, I had a couple hitting students of mine tell me about a couple bullies they have dwelling on their team. It urkes me these bullies haven't been stepped up to yet, and put in their place...because often times they're talented players, but after they throw a punch, they go running. They're weak individuals that need to be set right.

We had one at Fresno State, and it took another teammate to punch him in the mouth until he stopped his hi jinx. I'm not saying we need to punch every bully in the mouth, but we have to put them in their place. Here's a list of a few things you can do, not all will work, so pick the best to fit the situation:

  • Punch him in the mouth (I've seen this),
  • Tell a coach what he is doing to bring down team chemistry,
  • As a team, pressure him to quit or leave the program (I've done this),
  • Tell him you love him, because he's NOT getting it at home,
  • Get in his face, tell him how you feel and leave it at that (I've done this),
  • Challenge him to a hitting duel or any contest for that matter, beat him, and shut him up forever (I've also done this).

You guessed it, you're never going to be without one of these knuckleheads, so you have to deal with it somehow, it's all a part of growing up.

The bottom line is to use your imagination, be creative, and don't always resort to violence. Unfortunately, most of these kids don't get the message unless they're beaten (figuratively or literally), and hit over the head by a 2X4. Stepping on eggshells around them will NOT get it done. Please subscribe to the Swing Smarter RSS feed, if you haven't already, to stay up to the minute on new happenings at Swing Smarter dot com, Subscribe to My Feed Here.

Thank you for joining us, and if you liked what you read today, please Submit a Testimonial about The Dugout eZine, so future readers can make a good decision to join our monthly meeting community. Your feedback is very much appreciated=-)

Swing Smarter NOT Harder,
Joey Myers
Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills.com

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