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I recently watched the MLB Network's Countdown: The 30 Most Intimidating Players, which looked at some of the masters of mental training for baseball. The show featured guys like Randy Johnson, Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas, Albert Pujols, Dave Winfield, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Al Hrabosky and Hank Aaron.
These guys had a few things in common, whether they were known for hitting the ball 500 feet or throwing it 99 mph:
1. They Were Driven to be the Best
They would do whatever it took to be the best, not just on their team, but the best!
They took extra rounds of BP when they were in junior high school. They were out long-tossing while their friends were inside watching football playoffs. They were lifting and running while their buddies were sleeping in.
Were they born with amazing skills? Maybe. But many guys with incredible skills aren't willing to put in the effort early and develop it to the point where they make it to college, let alone pro baseball.
Once they made it to the pros, the guys on this list weren't flashes-in-the-pan. They were long-term ballplayers who showed up year after year, and in some cases, decade after decade, to instill fear in their opponents.
Derek Jeter is not the most skilled shortstop in baseball. But as a kid, he outworked his teammates and competition. He still outworks and out-hustles kids half his age. That's why he's the captain of the most historic franchise in sports history.
When you train tomorrow, think about whether you are training with the focus and intensity to become the best player ever on your team.
2. They Were Selfish Team Players
Huh? Selfish team players? Yep. These guys show(ed) up every day with the single goal to be absolutely amazing and set records. While chasing their personal records, they were setting their teams up for success:
- Rickey Henderson leading off with a single and ending up 90 feet from home two or three pitches later.
- Nolan Ryan being un-hittable time after time after time.
- Kirk Gibson hobbling to the plate to give the underdog Dodgers a Game 1 victory to lead the World Series.
Every one of the guys on this list wanted to be in the spotlight when the game was on the line. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were the best player for the situation, regardless of what it was, and they were going to dominate.
Randy Johnson, a career starter, coming on in relief in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series? He earned the World Series MVP (selfish) and helped lead his team to the Commissioner's Trophy.
These guys didn't train so hard for so long just to be another name on the roster. They busted their butts for years so that they would don the bestselling jersey at home games and in the process turn their home team into a winning ball club.
Ask yourself: Is my training to be the best completely selfish, or do I see the bigger picture of how my brutally hard work now will benefit every team that I play on throughout my entire career?
3. They Looked Cocky on the Field
You might think this is just an attitude thing and has nothing to do with training, but you'd be 100 percent wrong.
Attitude & confidence have everything to do with years and years of training and feeling 100 percent prepared every time you step on the field.
Barry Bonds walked up to the plate with a look on his face that told the pitcher, "I own you and you know it," and he was prepared to own that pitcher.
I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more explosive collision of confidence and attitude than the Roger Clemens/Mike Piazza match-ups. Both guys lived in the zone, knowing they were going to dominate whomever they were facing.
When two guys with that attitude face each other, sparks (and barrels of bats) are bound to fly.
Think about guys you've played against who had that attitude. Why not you? Are you not training hard enough to carry that confidence onto the field every time you lace up your spikes? Have you not yet earned the respect of your opponent simply by the way you carry yourself into battle?
4. They Thrive on Haters
Chipper Jones vs. The Mets. Need I say more?
This guy knew that the Mets and their fans (myself included) absolutely hated him and his Atlanta Braves. So every time they came to town, they brought their A game and stuck it to us. And if Chipper wasn't enough, I'm sure you remember the rage that John Rocker brought out of New York, and Rocker walking off the field telling fans, "I just struck out your best player."
Every team has guys who come into town and thrive on the hate. They are able to flourish in situations that would make most ballplayers crumple. Why? Because of their preparation—and their confidence in that preparation.
Do you get anxious when you are scheduled to play your rival, or do you get fired up knowing that you're going to dominate? If you're anxious, you haven't trained and prepared well enough. When you know with 100 percent certainty that you have trained harder and prepared better than your strongest opponent, you can hold your head high and look their best player right in the eye—because you are going to beat him.
So what's the takeaway here? Out-train your opponent every day.
Now stop reading and start training!