The MLB post-season kicked off with a bang last night, as Roy Halladay pitched a nearly flawless game, becoming only the second pitcher in baseball history to toss a no-hitter during the playoffs. (The other was Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the '56 World Series.)
How was the Phillies ace able to perform a feat that’s nearly impossible to pull off? Two keys: a strict routine and total focus.
Before Halladay became an ace pitcher, he spent more than four years struggling to win games in the minor leagues. When he was first called up to the Bigs, he was haunted by fear of failure, which mentally took him out of games and upset his pitching mechanics. However, after meeting with sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, Halladay began to follow a system that kept his mind off failure and focused on pitching.
“The thing about Roy,” Dorfman explained in a past interview, “is he knows how important the mental aspect is to performance. And he knew he was, for lack of a better word, unsophisticated about it.”
Dorfman gave Halladay his book, The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, which the pitcher read at his locker every day during the '03 season. It helped him focus on the good and ignore the potential bad. They devised a plan that called for plenty of repetition in Halladay's daily routine, replicating what he did when he was successful. The routine gives Halladay something to fall back on if things start to go wrong on the mound.
Halladay’s gameday routine has become his trademark. As his teammates and coaches know, he goes into complete “isolation mode,” immersing himself in concentration. During this time, he talks to no one except the manager or the pitching coach, as he focuses on planning every pitch he could possibly throw while on the mound. Unless and until he is taken out of the game, he doesn't even reply to a "hey" or a fist bump from a teammate.
Thanks to his routine of total focus, not only did Doc pitch a no-no last night, he also had a perfect game on May 29 against the Marlins and went 21-10 during the regular season. We're excited to see what else this post-season will bring.