Getting mentally ready for each at-bat is just as important as the blood, sweat and tears you pour into your physical preparation during the off-season. If you strut up to the dish with a nonchalant attitude, ignoring this essential part of hitting, you shouldn't be surprised when your batting average plummets.
To learn how the pros get their minds right before facing a big pitcher, we talked to Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies 1B and a grizzled big league veteran, and Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals 1B and a rising star, at the third annual 2K Sports Video Game Challenge in Scottsdale, Ariz.
How do you scout the opposing pitcher?
Helton: You have to know yourself a little bit better than the pitcher, and your swing has to be good, or you're not going to hit anything. I watch him on tape [to learn] what his go-to pitch is; that's basically what I'm worried about.
Butler: We've got video on guys, just like they've got video on us. Most of the time, I try to stay away from it; but when you haven't seen a guy, I think it's really good to get some scouting on him.
What do you do in the on-deck circle?
Helton: I've got a few key points that I go through in my head, but the main thing is, I'm trying to pick up the pitcher's release point and tell myself to see the baseball. You can practice all you want in the cage, but if you don't see the baseball, you have no chance to hit it.
Butler: I make sure I'm loose, [that] I've got my timing down, and [that I can] just read pitches. Seeing how guys wind up [is crucial], because some guys can be fast to the plate or a little bit slower. You have to take that all into consideration. I do a toe tap [to measure the pitcher's quickness to the plate].
What song do you come up to bat to?
Helton: I think I'm going to go with Toby Keith, "I'm Not As Good As I Once Was."
Butler: Slavia, "Click, Click, Boom."
Why did you choose that song?
Helton: I think you can figure that one out.
Butler: I like the way it sounds, and it gets me pumped up going to the plate.
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