4/14/17 - Win the Moment Case Study: Situational Hitting
While I don’t remember very many specific details about my playing career, some moments are clear as day. I’d like to share a case study of sorts on in importance of mastering the moment. The inferences here are far from exclusive to sport.
On a beautiful spring day in 2005, we’re under blue sky playing on manicured Malibu grass overlooking the ocean. There’s a baserunner on second with no outs. We’re down two runs at Pepperdine. I’m up to bat.
Situation 1: My clear objective is to hunt a pitch that I can drive to the opposite (right) side of the field to advance the runner to third.
Making an easy out that moves the runner is a job well done. It’s quite common to bunt here as a more sure fire way to accomplish this task. As I looked down to get my sign from the manager, I was given the option to hit. To do my job I need to select the right pitch and execute on that pitch.
Pitch 1: Slider in the dirt. Ball One – SUCCESS
Pitch 2: Fastball high. Ball Two – SUCCESS
Pitch 3: Fastball outside. Ball Three – SUCCESS
The count is three balls and no strikes. Almost universally, the strategy is to decide not to swing regardless of the next pitch outcome. This is called a “take”. First base is open and the opponent would almost always rather walk a hitter in the middle of the lineup than risk giving up an extra base hit. I looked down to get my sign, and received a green light to swing. As a more of a power hitter, my manager must be betting on my ability to get a pitch to drive out of the ballpark. This was the only time in my career I was specifically asked to get a pitch in this situation to homer to left field specifically. With this sign, the situation changes. I’m no longer hunting a pitch away from me (like before) to hit behind the runner.
Situation 2: My objective is to get a fastball in to me and drive the ball into the Pacific Ocean.
I stepped in with this new plan, and got the perfect pitch. Ninety-three miles per hour, belt high, inside part of the plate. Bingo!
Or, not.. I didn’t pull the trigger fast enough. Frozen, I missed this chance and took the perfect pitch.
Pitch 4: Fastball Middle-In. Strike One – FAILURE
Situation 3: My clear objective returns to the original task. Hunt a pitch, likely outside, that I can hit to the right side of the field to move the runner.
Every time a hitter at the higher levels of this sport steps out of the batter’s box, they have mental routines that help erase the mind of thoughts of the past and future. Ideally, we get into the box with a clear focus on the moment and the objective. Since I had opportunity to hunt a pitch to homer with, got the pitch needed, and didn’t execute, I stepped out of the box in frustration. While understandable, it’s important to my chances for success in the next pitch that I return in the batter’s box clear and ready to execute Situation 3; nothing more, nothing less.
I got back in the box angry. I brought baggage to the next pitch. I made it more than it was. The next pitch I’d be trying to solve Situation 3 and redeem myself from Situation 2. Well, when you’re are tapping in to the edges of your human potential, fractured focus often loses to opponents with complete focus.
Carrying the failure from several moments ago, I got a slider down in the hitting zone on the next pitch, deviated from my plan, and put a poor swing on the pitch. With a groundball to the third baseman, I ran to first knowing I was out, failed to execute, and, worse yet, I let my own mind undermine my performance.
Pitch 5: Slider down. Groundball out to Thirdbase – FAILURE
If we look back on this silly example, the teaching moment isn’t in the results. When it comes to performance, it rarely is. The teachable moment is in the process. We will fail until the end of time. The failure on ‘Pitch 4’ may be frustrating, but it’s just one of an infinite amount of failures I will experience. The key is having the best chance for success with ‘Pitch 5’ and I didn’t. I made a hard job harder, and that’s what is inexcusable.
While I’m not getting in the batter’s box for a situation like this one anytime soon and you probably aren’t either, but you will be challenged every single day of the rest of your life to separate past performances and future worries from the performance of this moment. When examining your own performance, look to your processes. Your best self is only possible if you remove the baggage of the past and of the future from the task at hand.
As irrational, emotional humans, this is easier said than done. It’s true, nonetheless.
20 Box Jumps (30/24)
20 Power Cleans (165/115)