You’re lucky if you get five in one game, so you better not take a single at-bat for granted. It doesn’t matter whom you’re playing or what the score is: each and every plate appearance counts. Some of the best hitters in the big leagues weigh in on what it takes to piece together a strong at-bat.
Come to play
Whether he’s watching film or working in the cages, Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton is preparing to hit hours before the start of the game. “It’s part of my overall preparation,” he says. “Your swing has to be good or you’re not going to hit anything.”
Read the pitcher
Don’t wait until you’re in the on-deck circle to study the pitcher. “The preparation starts before you even pick up a bat,” says Texas Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley, who set career bests for homeruns and RBIs in 2008.
“You’re already watching the pitcher, understanding what he might try to throw you, and how he’s throwing the ball that day,” Bradley says. “When you get on deck, you have a good idea of what’s coming.”
Be aware of the situation
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop and 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins says it’s important to know the strategy of your opponent, such as how the infield and outfield are positioned.
“Other times I think about what it’s going to take to get things going for my team,” Rollins says. “Sometimes I go up and decide I’m going to take this pitch. Other days, I know the team might need me to work the count.”
Play your game
You’ve done all the prep work; now let your skills do the rest. “When you get into the box, you have to go on natural ability,” says Kansas City Royals first baseman Billy Butler. “Know who’s on the hill, but don’t think about it too much. Do what got you here.”