How to Improve Individual Batting Prowess and Collective Offensive Competency in M.L.B.?

From Tragedy’s Pain and Anguish, A New Look at How to Enhance the Batting Competence In M.L.B. and All of BASEBALL.

conigliaroplaqueConigliaro Grave

There is only one legitimate way to improve the Major League batting Prowess, but there are countless artificial/superficial ways. In “round-table” discussions, Major-League Baseball analysts have recently been pondering the prospects of what would improve the batting prowess of Baseball’s elite branch of offensive facilitators. Since Pitching has become so dominant, a few obvious solutions center around how to make the pitchers’ effectiveness be less than preponderant. So, two logical proposals have been placed on the table:

  1. Lower the Pitching mound (maybe “flat-ground”). More pitchers are now having surgeries on shoulders and elbows. This should increase that rate and diminish the ranks of the “high-quality” pitcher, eventually.
  2. Move the Mound back beyond 60 ft. 6 inches; perhaps nearer to 2nd Base. That could eliminate the cost of a 9th player. The pitcher could add to his burden the duties of a 2nd Base-man by scampering to cover the “hole” after he pitches the ball. The N.L. would like that. Plus, Greinki and all other former shortstops could augment their batting with additional fielding prowess as well. Of course that is liable to jeopardize their longevity as a player. The price for “Contrived Glory”!
  3. *Of course if an analyst were willing to “think outside the box” he might see the practicality of stricter rules concerning the Pitcher-Batter relationship that would certainly boost the confidence level of the batter in a way that produces more offensive competency. The greatest threat to all batters’ ultimate success is fear of “Death by Pitch”. Ray_ChapmanRay_Chapman_Graveltonyconigliaro3Everyone in Baseball knows this, either consciously or unconsciously. But no one really speaks out-loud about it. Batters don’t want that image embedded in conscious thought when going up to the plate, and Pitchers, although they don’t mind hurting an opposing batterhit by pitch6, don’t want the stigma of criminal intent on their “political” resumeshit by pitch4. I don’t know how many times I’d heard (in my short professional career) a pitcher irreverently say, “I’m gonna stick one in his ear”hit-in-face-pitch9. I actually heard one pitcher on my team bragging about seeing blood trickling from the ear of someone he had “nailed” (this was before ear-flaps were required on helmets.)

*A. Aside from mandating a pitcher to throw no faster than 80 MPH, the surest way to improve Major-League batter-confidence in order to improve competency is to take away (at least partially) the pitcher’s “intimidation-factor”. IF a pitcher wanted, he could “nail” a batter any time he intended. jeter-hit-by-pitch2And when a pitcher intends to hit a batter, to hurt him, or to scare the hell out of him (especially a good or smart hitter), he will set him up to expect a breaking pitch. The best of hitters has conditioned himself to first look-fastball over the plate. But to hit the curve or hard slider, he must wait and anticipate any pitch coming at him to break away. IF he detects that the ball is not intending to deviate from its straight-line trajectory, he will abruptly hit the ground or “turn, roll, and bend or fall”. If he waits too long, he’s “dead-meat”. If the batter is hit in the head (glancing or solid blow), drilled in the back, side, rump, arm, elbow, wrist, hand, leg, knee, ankle, or foot, he is awarded first base. If he is unable to continue in the game (perhaps placed on the D.L. for a week, month, or life) another player substitutes for him. The next batter grounds out, and the inning is over and all is forgotten, except by a Tony LaRussa, Kirk Gibson, or Kevin Towers, who, in all fairness to his player (and who would not empathize?), and in just retribution to ageless “tradition” will continue the policy of complete and utter disregard for the health and well-fare of another “human-being” (and it is usually an innocent batter who gets the brunt of “retaliation”). (Are you getting the picture of, “Bludgeoning Effect” of a 90-100 MPH 5 ounce, hard,round projectile?)hit by pitch13hit-by-pitch1Jimmy Rollinshit bypitch17

*B. The only practical RULE that will either eliminate, or at least diminish the hideous tendency to deliberately or “accidentally” hit a batter with a “Fast-ball” or “Hard Slider” or “Cutter”, is one that will award the batter 2 bases (not one), allowing him to pass First Base and go directly to Second Base, and putting him, or any previous base-runners, immediately in scoring position. (Then, maybe for extra measure, accredit him with a 2-base hit to boot.) If such pitched ball strikes a batter on a part of his body that is protected by “armor” of some sort (except helmet) then he is awarded one base. The umpire’s discretion would govern all aspects of the Rule.

*C. Although Bud Selig did an admirable job as Baseball Commissioner, his most blatant omission or dereliction of duty was in not conceiving and enforcing this rule before he left office. His successor must (and will) do the “right thing”. tony-coniglario2Will this guy ever play again?Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewershit by pitch10(G.S)And will this guy ever recover, to fulfill his potentialstanton Face?

As an aside-note to this specific topic, especially interesting to me, who is not much of an “old-school” advocate, is that Baseball’s Founding Fathers may have understood some factors of the game that hadn’t really come to light until the era of “Saber-metrics”. Back in the “old-old-days” any time a batter made it to first base, he was considered to have gotten a “base-hit”, and his average attested to this. Somewhere within the successive generations it was felt that the “art of getting on base” was not as important or glamorous as hitting the ball safely for a base-hit. So, rule changes denigrated those whose batting averages were below others of their contemporaries. (Imagine an era of no protective head -gear.)

Not until “Saber-metricians” established a verifiable scale of consistent positive characteristics to denote the over-all value of the offensive and defensive attributions of all players did the re-justification of the so-called “mediocre” ball-player come to Baseball awareness. Not only is “hitting a base-ball the most difficult skill to perform in all of sports”, but Baseball itself is, in my estimation, the most intricate and difficult of games to play in all of Sport. (That’s another topic for discussion, perhaps with “Hunger-Games”).

Also for consideration should be the fact that the 2 greatest Pitchers of all time, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax, would never throw at a batter. And if they accidentally hit a player on an intended inside-corner pitch, they were humble and considerate enough to apologize. They relied on their mastery of the “Art of Pitching”, and didn’t resort to any barbaric, intimidation factor to enhance their success. That’s the way Baseball was usually played in the Sandlot Leagues, where kids of my era would have been appalled if they knew their “heroes” were deliberately throwing at batters. Since “Bean-Balling”mean baseball face has been written about in such fondly sentimental fashion lately, Little-League and High-School Pitchers have recently developed the “Cool” penchant for throwing at the batter. Hit_By_Pitch7(L.L.)One way (the only way) to stop all this “Non-Sense” is to adopt this “new rule”, and continue the  enhanced modification toward making the Game of Baseball the most civilized as well as the most fun game for kids and adults to play.

Monuments and Plaques have been constructed in posthumous honor to players like Tony Conigliaro TonyC1969conigliaroplaqueand Ray ChapmanRay_ChapmanRaymondJohnsonChapmanPlaque, but a more practical and immediate memorial to all batters who incur the volatile and violent impact of any misplaced pitched ball would be the awarding of at least a two-base accommodation for their physical and mental anguish, not to mention the Team’s just compensation for their inappropriate loss if said player languishes on the Disabled List.

The following is part of a Newspaper article appearing in a Boston paper after Tony Conigliaro had the misfortune of being hit in the eye by a pitched baseball:

August 1967: A glum Tony Conigliaro ltonyconigliaro3was in his hospital bed at Sancta Maria Hospital in Cambridge while being treated for a cracked cheekbone, dislocated jaw, and damaged retina. This was the fifth time in Tony’ Cs major league career that he has been hurt by pitched balls. He suffered a separated shoulder during spring training when a John Wyatt fastball sailed during batting practice. During his rookie season, he suffered a hairline fracture of the left wrist after being hit by a Moe Drabowski pitch. A month later, he was out for six weeks when a Pedro Ramos pitch broke his right forearm. And in 1965, Wes Stock of the Kansas City A’s put Tony out of the lineup for 12 days with a broken hand. The injury from the Jack Hamilton pitch would prove to be the most serious of all. And ultimately “ended his life as a ball-player”.

I know that it is no consolation to Tony C. and Ray Chapman, but all batters, in all the Baseball Leagues in America, and around the World, would certainly feel a little bit better if they were awarded an extra base after being bludgeoned anywhere on their bodies by the force of that speeding, hard, round projectile fondly referred to, in most cases, as a baseball thrown by a Pitcher.                                                                                            THE END!

The Good Hitter, and The Great Hitter – Part IV (Conclusion)

Joe Morgan1Mark Mcgwire 4 Yaz-300934860.JPGBabe Ruth 3Albert Pujols 15Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay RaysTed Williams - Power&SpeedBarry Bonds 17

Part IV – Conclusion!

In conclusion, I would submit that the physical prowess of today’s athletic baseball players is far beyond that of the past. The pitchers are bigger, stronger, and have more of a vast assortment of training procedures and deceptive pitching techniques (as well as scouting reports) than their forebears. And the batters, while seemingly disenfranchised by this fact, are themselves equal in physical stature and have access to training techniques to potentially offset that superior Pitching preponderance. Every player dreams or fantasizes about getting a hit every time he comes to the plate, and even wonders, in dismay, why it is that he cannot fulfill his dream. Futility leads to hopelessness, and thus creates the enduring saga of the .250 hitter, or less. If Einstein was correct when he said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, then let every batter begin his quest for “perfection” in his own hope-filled mind, and imagine for himself how to pursue his daunting quest by the practice of a principle most likely to develop faith in his assured success. How and where to begin?:

Description: Ultimate Dimension—In the realm of mortal consciousness this dimension is
non-existent. It only exists in the hopes and dreams of those whose childlike rebuke of the cold conventionality of human imperfection would stand in defiance to the claims of those stagnant horizons of self-imposed status-quo. As the image and likeness of something greater than a vain-glorious adulation of individual self-aggrandizement, he that would be capable of climbing toward the supreme heights of ultimate bats-man-ship is one who is least fraught with a limiting sense of personal prowess. Anyone aspiring to a Self-recognizable commitment to nothing less than a Perfect Principle has the only hope of attaining the grandest height of proficiency, for himself and those who would follow his example.
To “believe assuredly” is to have absolute faith in a proven principle. On the human level it’s hard to find an “Absolute” from which to have an absolute-faith. The True-Self consciousness, in all of us, can discern the correct path to take, the right doctrine to espouse, and the most plausibly scientific way to hit a baseball. Could anyone besides a “Jesus” bat 1.000?Baseball - JesusCoaching10

Description: Penultimate Dimension—This chrysalis state from which an earnest achiever
would merge into the ultimate of highest batting proficiency is obviously the closest step to perfection. If batting perfection is impossible on the human level, then would it not behoove any semblance of mankind to strive for a suitable facsimile thereof, to a level as close as possible to that ideal, instead of stagnating at the miry depth of conformity to the sub-.400 range of hitting. If all those reading this paper were in agreement with a collective goal of developing the highest possible batting proficiency at this level, then where must we begin to explore this nebulous realm of Penultimate dimension?
Taking the advice of Aristotle and the inspired Scribe of Psalms, is it possible to extrapolate, from the collective archival achievements of Baseball’s most formidable hitters, a hint of productive principle from which to glean a promising standard for enhanced batting proficiency?
Thoughtful consideration of a good many aspects of the entire batting regimen must be
understood and applied conscientiously, in order for maximum proficiency to be demonstrated. The question has been, and might always persist. What is the proper regimen for establishing a technique that will procure the consistent, maximum effect while hitting a baseball? Many have theorized about the prospect, but only a handful have established credibility through their practical applications. But, of these, the closest to extracting a complete and understandable facsimile of truth has been Mr. Ted Williams, who happened to be the last Major League player to bat .400 over the course of an entire season.Ted Williams' follow through
Although Mr. Williams was nearly perfect in his understanding and application of the
principles governing the absolute definition of batting prominence, he was not altogether
un-flawed in his actual approach to its impeccable demonstration. The closest exponent of the perfect batting technique was/is Barry Bonds. He, in obvious ways, supersedes the brilliance that Ted Williams embodied. Barry&Ted(The only thing difficult to decipher was whether or not he was conscious of his pre-eminent status as a pure extrapolation of principle. Or was he subject to faltering, due to his misrepresentation of the “Power-Principle” with an unsuitable penchant for the illusory enhancement of chemically induced stimulation?)

Barry Bonds was capable of hitting in excess of 100 home runs per season, and batting .400 or more, because he was closer to flawless technique than anyone who has ever played the game. His strength was/is incontestable, his athletic ability was indisputable, his timing impeccable, and his stance, approach to the ball, and fluid mechanics were incomparable. In the few areas in which Ted Williams was lacking, Mr. Bonds was prolific. His only slight deficiency seemed to be in the realm of the mental accountability, which manifested itself physically at certain, momentary slumps.

What was it that Barry Bonds did consistently right, that most, if not all, other batters only
do sporadically? The answer is 5 separate things. They are the following:

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 11Barry Bonds HRBarry  Bonds 92001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow through
1. He established a strong low center of gravity within his stance.
2. He eliminated the movement of his head and eyes as he strode (very slightly).
3. He waited patiently for the ball to get to him.
4. When the ball got to his hitting zone, 4 things happened simultaneously:
a. The front foot planted quickly and firmly. Front leg began to straighten.
b. Front shoulder shrugged upward, while back elbow drove downward to flatten bat.
c. Back bent knee drove forward, as hips turned rapidly and front leg straightened.

d. The shoulders followed the hips in rapid succession, with hands and bat still behind            back shoulder until arms extended through the contact with the ball.

5. From contact, through the straightening of arms, through the follow-through, the
shoulders were continuously flowing, until they (shoulders) had changed position.

Consistency in Batting effectiveness (Home Run proficiency) had never been more highly
demonstrated than by Barry Bonds in the 2001 season, when he set what seems an                  insurmountable record, for anyone but Barry Bonds himself. And, in 2002, he won his             first (of what should have been many) “Batting Crown”. His extra power had catapulted         him to a higher level than had been previously thought possible. When he wasn’t quite         so strong, his drives were careening off the walls instead of sailing over the fences. Is               there anyone else smart enough to figure out how to duplicate his technique? “Truth is         revealed! It needs only to be practiced.”—M.B. E.

A few batters who have emerged since the Bonds era ended, who seem to have attained the most essential characteristics necessary  to continue the proliferation of Batting Excellence, are Miguel Cabrerra and Chris Davis. Miguel C. 4Chris Davis 4Cabrera’s consistency ranks him higher on that elite list than Davis at this point in their respective careers. Even with his “Triple-Crown” prowess and multiple MVP awards, Miguel has one particular flaw that, if corrected, could garner for him the highest tier in the hierarchy of Batting grandeur. That “flaw” is his “high-leg-kick” to initiate his approach to his “launch-position”Miguel C. 3Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays. Like other “H. L. Kickers”, RodriguezAlex 1that front foot, while in “suspended-animation” is subject to inconsistent “planting” that is the most crucial element necessary in initiating the swing. If “timing” isn’t perfect, such batter is either Late, or Early with the “plant”. When asked how he manages his ability to get out of momentary slumps, he offered the following statement, “I just don’t stride with my front foot, and it works itself out”. Duh! That’s the secret to the natural success that anyone would experience. So why doesn’t he do that all the time?

The most noticeable flaw that keeps Chris Davis from performing at his optimal level is his “Shawn Green”, Tall, Open, High-Bat stance Chris Davis (Stance). But from there he moves into a position of utmost advantage Chris Davis 3.

If Chris Davis would start from this position Chris Davis 3, but avoid the stride completely, he would be more ready for any pitch thrown to him. Then he would simply plant his front foot, and let the rest of his swing occur in its otherwise majestic sequence. C.Davis 7Chris Davis 4Chris Davis 2Chris Davis 1 With his natural power ( not needing to be steroid enhanced) Chris is the front-runner to legitimately replicate the Bonds’ mystique and carve out a niche in Baseball’s legendary “Hall of Heroes”. But only if he changes his false-impression of “proper hitting technique”! He must incorporate a new stance, and approach to the ball with thought-processes and actions of the scientific application of the proper batting mechanics practiced most consistently by Barry, and Mark McGwire (the vanguard to such scientific-artistry being attributable  to Ted WilliamsTedWilliamsShortSwing2).

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatbonds - contact 2Barry Bonds 17Barry Bonds 21Mark McGwire 5Mark McGwire 1Chris Davis 4
The End!

The Good Hitter, and The Great Hitter – Part III

Mastery of Bats-man-ship

Four Degrees (Dimensions) of Competence:

Fourth Degree—Ultimate Dimension

Third Degree—Penultimate Dimension

Second Degree—Scientific Dimension

First Degree—“Phenomenal” Dimension

Definition and Examples of Four Dimensions of Bats-man-ship:

First Degree: Phenomenal Dimension—The manifestation of what appears to be a natural propensity of a physical entity to perform to his/her highest degree of physical competency without the use of supplemental mental facilitation is indicative of a most primitive, single dimensional, fastball-hitting mentality. “Power versus Power” exhibits in a batter a need to gain a forward momentum in order to counteract the otherwise debilitating effect of a pitcher’s blazing fastball. Adapting to “off-speed” pitches entails a dimension of thought that includes a scientific component. A batter, incapable of adapting to any such circumstance, becomes easy prey to the pitcher who can throw a curveball for a strike.michael-jordan 3 Thus, the sudden, or gradual, decline in promise of the physical “phenom”. “Matter and its effects are states of mortal mind which act, react, and then come to a stop.”—Mary B. Eddy (S & H) Many there be that are called, but only a few are chosen from the ranks of the purely “Phenomenal”.

Second Degree: Scientific Dimension—Coalescence of Science with the Art of hitting a baseball begins a confluent Scientific-Artistry that supersedes the antiquated adherence to the superimposed brilliance of the “natural-athlete”. The development and refinement of batting skills began to take shape as individuals became determined to perform at higher and higher standards. When mere strength and “natural-ability” reached the limits of peak performance, conscientious hitters found that “technique” extended their effectiveness and longevity. Certain natural principles began to be applied to the peculiar aspects of the hitting game of “Baseball.”

The power of the swing was not maximized by strength alone, but was more reliant on the principles of “mechanics.” Strength was important and vital, but without proper mechanics, the integrity to optimal performance was undermined. Imagine the faces of disbelief and awe when “tiny,” or scrawny-looking players with the correct mechanics out-hit, and outslugged bigger and stronger players whose mechanics were suspect. EPSON MFP imageJoe Morgan 2Finesse had become, and still is, the main ingredient to precise hitting. “Some thoughts are better than others. A belief in Truth is better than a belief in error, but no mortal testimony is founded on the divine rock.” (Mary Baker Eddy—S&H . . .)

Third Degree: Penultimate Dimension—Highest Human demonstration of the scientifically-artistic display of bats-man-ship does not quite reach the level of perfection for which all batters (consciously and unconsciously) strive in vain. The last man to hit .400 was almost considered a god for what was considered a batting average as close as one can get to perfection, with an efficiency rating that barely exceeded 40%. By attaining a “hit” in only 4 of 10 at-bats, TedWilliamsShortSwing2Ted Williams was unsuccessful more often than he was successful, but still considered (by most) the greatest hitter in Baseball history. His attempts at combining scientific understanding to his prominent physical endowment and artistry were seminal to a new wave of expanding thought, but were in no way conclusive to those who were to behold the first rays of his enlightened approach to hitting a baseball. And because his scientific inquiry did not have the benefit of modern technological scrutiny (video, slow-motion replay), as well as not taking into account every single aspect of the “batting-pitching” condition, he and others gleaned little from his merely intuitive but speculative hypotheses. Technical flaws (although understandable now) prevented his progressive steps to the “gate” and possible entry into the realm of the “Ultimate” dimension. “Among them that are born of woman, none was greater than (Ted Williams) John the Baptist: not withstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt. 11:11)

Fourth Degree: Ultimate Dimension—A Spiritual dimension is the fundamental basis from which to build any endearing structure that will ultimately glorify the source as well as the effect of meritorious and magnificent display. The bats-man of the ultimate degree would be capable of hitting the ball squarely every time he swung his bat. Perfect application of a perfect principle probably sounds impossible, improbable, or a product of wildest IMAGINATION. But, “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven (Vortex) and the righteousness therein, and all these things shall be added unto you.”(Matt. 6:33) No mortal has yet demonstrated the competency that would exemplify ultimate bats-man-ship because mortal thought is incapable of comprehending and attracting the probable components necessary to manifest the ultimate bats-man.

End Part III

Coming Soon: Part IV (Final)

The “Good Hitter”, and The “Great Hitter” – Part ll

 

Even at the lowest levels of cognition, hitting a baseball is an art form. And some artists are just better than others! But with a serious application of scientific involvement, couldn’t  the artisanship be made to conform to a standard beyond what is customarily acceptable?Leonardo da Vinci expanded the scope of previous artistic standards with his own innovative application of scientific principles. Complementing his sensory sensitivity with the calculating precision of scientific understanding, he let principle and finesse govern the practical beauty of his structural and delicate successes. His work reached the confluent acme of scientific artistry!

What is it that prevents Baseball’s hitters from expanding the boundaries of batting  excellence to a point at or beyond the .400 mark? It is both a lack of insight and perspective that prohibits a mechanism from becoming readily available to catapult any prospective bats-man beyond the self-imposed limits of ignorance and irresponsible conformity. Three hits in ten at-bats seems a reasonable respectability to anyone willing to ignore a pathetic 30 to 35 percentile efficiency-rating as being the high standard bearer for baseball’s batting elite. Though it is true that hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult task in all of Sports (as ascertained by Ted Williams), is it reasonable to become complacent with a productivity rating whose low level has no comparable equivalence in any other area of business or athletic acumen?T. Williams - Science 3

A hope-filled pragmatist within the realm of Baseball’s professional bats-men might  investigate all means (scientific and otherwise) by which that abhorrent statistical anomaly can be improved upon or removed, or at least be diminished from the tablet of baseball consciousness. What would such an investigative assignment entail? It would probably include reconnoitering all available resource reference material that would be pertinent in order to attack such a bewildering set of circumstances. paciorek book

All the greatest minds in history would probably have to be consulted for their expert opinions as to the mesmerizing and enigmatic circumstances involved, from Socrates, Plato IMG_1217 and Aristotle to Newton, Einstein, Stengel, Berra, Paciorek,  as well as St. Paul, Augustine, and Mary Baker Eddy.

Borrowing from the Platonic dialogues, let us begin with a Socratic Dialectic inquiry so as to advance beyond an initial stage of ignorance. Why is it not possible for a batter to get a base hit every time he comes to bat? The immediate intelligent and practical answer would probably be that the 9 defensive players would somehow find a way to prevent that from happening—it has been a tradition in almost 7 of 10 at-bats. But Socrates might further the dialogue by asking “What would prevent the fielders from catching the ball when he hits it (if he didn’t strikeout)?”

A perceptive “interlocutor” might venture an array of educated guesses. “If he hit the ball over the fence, the fielders couldn’t catch it! And if he demonstrated an exact and precise principle of batting technique, the mechanics of which would considerably lessened the margins of erroneous calculation, then it might be theoretically possible to maximize his effectiveness to a more certain degree.”

Tirelessly in pursuance of an ultimate solution, Socrates might again inquire, “Is it conceivable for a batter with highly acute physical sense perception and strength, as well as pronounced scientific understanding and demonstrable application of sound mechanical principle to effect a flawless swing that would propel the baseball over the fence every time a ball was pitched for a strike?” The mindful student might respond, after thoughtful consideration, that “it is conceivable, to thought, that such a prospect would be possible, but the human practicality of such a degree of success would seem highly improbable.”

Albert Einstein would probably agree with the perceptive student, since his Einstein 4Relativity Theories precipitated the onset of Quantum Mechanics whose main postulate states that “at the fundamental levels of matter causation is a matter of statistical probabilities, not certainties”. But Newton’s advanced mathematical appliance of Calculus certainly made it evident that previously incomprehensible circumstances were now afforded a venue from which to reduce those margins for error that had previously exacerbated most querulous situations.

Since Socrates’ method of teaching always left room for additional inquiry, although the responsive student advanced to a higher plane of understanding, the solution was assigned to greater depths of investigation and personal practice. But Aristotle offered some advice to those searching for excellence. From his “Nicomachean Ethics”, I paraphrase what he said, “in order to begin a study of anything that would lead to the highest understanding and demonstration of its universal verity, one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon”.

The Bible may have put it even more succinctly, where in Psalm (37:37) it is stated, “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote a “heart and soul” effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.

Astute analytical research on the topic of “The most productive means for becoming a most proficient Bats-man”, would have to begin with a visionary outline of what might be considered the various degrees of observable competence and perhaps the underlying characteristics (if any) of the ultimate form of “excellence”. si_ted-williams-science-2Then, perhaps an elaboration of those varying degrees (with examples and illustrations) could describe the characteristics of each, and establish a platform for any prospective high achiever to undertake advancement toward that Ultimate goal.

End Part II

Coming Soon: Part III

The “Good Hitter”, and the “GREAT HITTER” – Part l

According to contemporary Baseball thinking, the “good hitter” is a batter who waits patiently for a pitcher to make a mistake (puts the ball where he does not want to—where he knows the batter is most capable of hitting it), and capitalizes on it, and effectively hits the ball with authority at least 2.72 times out of 10 at-bats. To me, there are many ways to be a “good” hitter, but only one way to be a “Great” hitter. The good hitter will wait and hopefully hit the pitcher’s mistake. The “great” hitter will be able to hit the pitcher’s best pitch.

Since the standard for being a good hitter is so low, then it might be well to presume that the standard for “perfection” is not or cannot be what a dictionary definition of perfection might imply. In Baseball, there is not an example of Ultimate Perfection. But under guidelines for what is defined as Penultimate, we can estimate the ultimate potential of those who might be the closest to perfection.Barry Bonds HRTed Williams - Power&Speed00934860.JPGMiguel Cabrera 2Albert Pujols 14

When most Baseball people attempt to analyze the highest proficiency of bats-man-ship, they see the skillfulness of the hitter as being comprised within a two-dimensional realm, natural phenom” and the “smart hitter”. Phenomenal exhibition would be a basis of evaluation that acknowledges the artistic, natural propensity of an athlete who, under his presently yet unrefined circumstance, makes solid contact of bat to ball without his advocating any strict adherence to disciplined principle.Babe Ruth 3 Most notable examples are those “Blue-Chip” prospects who are BIG, STRONG, and FAST, whose physical attributes garner for themselves “big bonus bucks” when they sign their initial contracts and carry the fresh hopes of those organizations that intend to weave this new and endearing material into a more durable fabric for team building. Matt Kemp 9(Thus the recycling of “team-building” continues until the futility of errant ways obviates, and heads roll.)

The “smart-hitter”Joe Morgan1 is a cunning adversary for any “pitcher”, with instincts and astute deductive processes that can successfully promote an effective hitting prowess. This type of batter combines his natural physical talents with a cursory understanding that certain indefinable mental qualities are essential to offset the sometimes-crippling dependency on physicality alone. He tries to incorporate a mental component into his prominent physical dimension because his instincts reveal some underlying mechanism to higher achievement. Rusty Staub4But without a thorough investigation into the depths of mechanical understanding, the closest his trial and error tactics will get him to his highest proficiency is the range encircling the .300 mark. Not bad, but far from superlative achievement!

The mentality of most professional batters, because of the overpowering “arms” of most professional pitchers, is one with two limited approaches to maintaining a relatively successful attack on the respectable .300 average. “See every pitched ball and swing at strikes,” and “look for a particular pitch, and make sure you hit it” are two simplistic notions that rely primarily on one’s quick physical responses to the given stimuli. And the success of either is determined by the quickness of the batter’s reflexes and the inability of the pitcher to put the ball where he wants it. The highest degree of consistent productivity is never attainable with either of these approaches because their sporadic and sometimes remarkable success is achieved while the batter’s senses seem to be acutely within “the zone” of feeling good, a state of being that is ephemeral at best. On any given day any such hitter could look like a potential “hall-of-famer”. But, by the end of a regular season, his numbers some times add up to a compelling mediocrity.josh_hamiltonBryce harper2john

End of Part I.

Coming Soon: “Good Hitter”, and the “Great Hitter” – Part ll

Who is going to be the Next .400 Hitter?

HERO or GOAT – The Difference Is?

With another Baseball season getting under way, the question that is almost never on the minds of sports columnists, analysts, and fans is, “Who’s going to bat .400 this year?” Everyone except the “most imaginative” seeker of a proven “Batting Principle” will agree that it is unlikely (if not impossible) that any batter of the modern era would be capable of changing his “mind-set” in order to determine a new and practical approach to “Batting Excellence”.

What is the difference between a .200 hitter (1 for 5) and a .400 hitter (2 for 5)? The simple and obvious answer, to the “superficial” observer, is 1 hit! Except, of course, if they batted 10 times. Then, it’s 2 hits (2 for 10; 4 for 10)then(3 for 15; 6 for 15).  It’s starts getting  complicated as each batter compiles an additional 5 at-bats. It would seem relatively easy to sustain a “clip” of 1 hit every 5 times at-bat. Does it seem outlandish to imagine the prospect of getting 2 hits in every 5 at-bats?

What does anyone actually know about a .400 hitter? Has anyone actually seen one in our generation? Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionTed Williams, in 1941, was the last batter to reach that high level of consistent hitting for a whole season. We’ve seen quite a few .200 hitters; they seem to be rather plentiful! Can the .400 hitter be easily distinguishable from the .200 hitter? Again, it’s hard to say. We have little verification that the prospect of another one could really exist. (It’s like “Big-foot”; people who say they’ve seen him give compatible descriptions as to what he could look like!) Some back-woods “bush-leagues” have probably come the closest to producing a legitimate prototype Roy Hobbs 2, but never actually authenticated the “Genuine-Article” for practical use in the Big-Leagues.IMG_1217

While devising the basic formula that would produce an ideal hitter, the prospect for a solution to the problem of inefficient bats-man-ship lay in the degree to which the batter is consistently able to apply the proper mechanics to his swing. It has been established over many years of observation, and finally deduced, that one’s high degree of athleticism is not the major factor in producing the best hitting credentials. The ability to devise (detect), interpret, and apply the proper mechanics to the swing is the major determinant in establishing a credible batting prowess. The main ingredients to establishing the proper mechanics are these: secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and quick compact swing.

Barry Bonds 3Mark Mcgwire 4don-mattingly 1A secure stance implies that the batter has postured himself in a most foundationally  advantageous position from which to clearly detect the pitcher’s release of the ball, as well provide a strong, functional mobility with which the body can react quickly to respond effectively and appropriately to the speed, flight pattern and nuances of the pitched ball.

Yaz-3Joe Morgan1TedWilliamsShortSwing2 Visual stability infers that, from a secure stance, the head of the batter will maintain a constant position, from the point that the pitcher releases the ball, through the torque of the swing, and during and after the follow-through, to assure that the eyes retain maximum acuity for proper and consistent focus on the target.

DSC_0125DSC_0126BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 11Minimum stride refers to the least amount of preliminary movement necessary for the batter to facilitate preparatory body momentum to effect a quick and powerful response to the pitched ball. Remembering that optimal visual acuity is essential to effective hitting, and that ultimate power is activated not by predisposed linear movement, the most efficient use of the stride would logically be to take no stride at all.

Barry Bonds 2Barry Bonds 4Barry Bonds 8Barry  Bonds 9A quick compact swing is one in which the minimum of time is elapsed after the front foot has been planted and the batter initiates and completes the turn of the hips and shoulders, with the arms and bat following in rapid succession with the minimum of ostensible drag. A point to always remember is that the lower the center of gravity the quicker and more powerful will be the turn of hips and shoulders.

These four aspects of proper mechanics constitute what would be considered a sound physical approach to applying oneself to the prospective “art” of hitting a baseball. If you have watched professional ballplayers taking batting practice before the game, you might have observed that they all seemed to look the same, as they blasted away at moderately fast moving batting practice pitches. Their stances seemed secure, knees bent slightly for effective balance. They hit every pitch, so they must have seen the ball clearly. They appeared calm and in control; minimum of extraneous movement—lunging at the ball. And most were demonstrating quick powerful strokes that carried the ball into the bleachers. Batting practice is always an awesome spectacle to behold! After watching such a display you might think that any or every one of those batters could be a .400 hitter. And why can’t they be?

On every Big-League team there is probably to be found at least one .300 hitter and a range of hitters from the high .200s to the low .200s. But no one batting .400 (except during an uncustomary prolific first month, or so). Is there an actual scientific reason for a player to be a .400 or better hitter in batting practice, and a .200 hitter in games? And, is there a scientific rationale for that .400 batting practice hitter, to apply to his game-condition, that would allow him to maintain that .400 “stroke” throughout the season?

To answer the first question, no really scientific explanation is necessary. Professional players are good, strong athletes with great hand eye coordination. A batting practice pitcher elicits no fear at all. And the sense of confidence that exudes when fear is not present, plus the one-dimensional component to hitting accurately thrown, moderate fastballs, have a tendency to induce a player to exhibit the fulfillment of highest physical potential. Unfortunately, the mental approach, for many of these physically endowed batting practice participants, is merely a pre-game physical exercise to loosen their bodies for the real-live performance.

At game time, you might notice a formerly relaxed and confident “Bleacher-Blaster” now exhibiting body language that expresses a less than authoritative approach to addressing the preeminent “mounds-man”. As he nervously swaggers his bat to and fro, the batter anxiously tries to regain the comfort-pose he postured, with nonchalance, during B.P. Somehow his confidence has sunk below anticipation level while facing the disdainfully insensitive eyes of a formidable (alien) pitcher. The semi-taut muscles that provided ample support for slightly bent but fluidly mobile knee joints, during Batting Practice, suddenly stiffened inexplicably, to accommodate an immediate need for improved stability. The first 93 MPH fastball caught his reflexes just a tad “in the rears”, as his bat-speed languished in 85mph range, and sent a poorly calibrated foul-ball to the off-side of the back-stop. A demeanor that implied untold gratitude for even touching the speeding projectile precluded an ominous prediction about the success of his subsequent attempts. Needless to say, a brilliant sequence of masterfully placed pitches sent the batter back to his dugout, after “His Eminence” concluded the series with an off-speed breaking pitch that had the high gliding bats-man lunging out, over his front foot, and whiffing at a ball whose bottom half seemed to disintegrate before his disconcerting, dangling eyeballs.

The preceding experience could have happened. In fact, it has happened, many times. And, it will happen again, because the common baseball player mentality is geared to think and act in accordance to how something Feels, not how intellectually and mechanically correct a proposition is. Baseball players tend to oblige themselves to the notion that “practice-makes-perfect”. They try to avoid the complete axiom that “perfect practice-makes-perfect”, because, in most cases, to do the intelligently and mechanically correct thing “doesn’t feel good”.

Most professionals will agree that a secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and a quick compact swing are essential ingredients to obtaining an optimal range of hitting proficiency. However, many factors influence one’s interpretation of how to apply these components to the individual temperament and physical makeup of every player. To what extent is a secure stance vindicated by the varying degrees of bent-knees to maintain a low center of gravity? Can optimal visual stability be perfected in a batter who insists on maintaining a high stance and excessive stride, or even a modest stride? Can a player who doesn’t stride generate enough quickness and torque from the mere rotary action of hips and shoulders (initiated by the correct knee action) to elicit formidable power to express his swing to its maximum extent?

Individual physical characteristics of each player obviously have to be taken into consideration before anyone can prescribe the most beneficial interpretation for use of the main physical ingredients to successful “Batting”. A great cook does not put the same amount of salt and pepper into a pot of stew when feeding himself, as he does when he’s catering a banquet! (And here, Yogi might say he’s not going to any banquet where all they’re serving is stew.) A short bow-legged player may not have to crouch as low as a tall, straight-legged player to facilitate an equivalent of speed and torque during the power-turn of hips and shoulders. But a taller player would have to bend his knees more to establish an equivalent strike zone to a shorter player.

Most ballplayers think that a batting average of .400 and above is impossible, so the probability of their reaching that level is negligible, if not impossible. Even if they ascribed to the precept that “thought precedes action”, they would still have to contend with a list of preconceived notions that would stifle any consistent progress they could make along sound intellectual and mechanical lines. The greatest deterrent to ultimate batting progress is the reluctance of any hitter within the .250 to .300 range to change any aspect of his swing that could possibly further reduce his presently respectable average.

A batter’s average throughout the second half of the season is determined by how well the pitcher can keep his pitches within the areas, in and outside the strike-zone, that the particular batters will either swing at errantly or cannot hit easily. If a batter has flaws in his mechanics (as well as in his mental approach to discerning the pitcher’s intent), scouting reports will generally identify the symptoms of such, and good pitchers will attempt to sabotage all vestiges of prior success due to misplaced pitches.

Is there a way to make the “hitting-game” easy to apply, and to genuinely extrapolate from a logical, rational, and orderly set of hypotheses a character whose special mental and physical talents would legitimize a .400 or better hitting phenomenon? The answer to that question is Yes!

The next .400, or better, hitter will be a batter who confidently walks to the plate with the understanding that the pitcher is tenaciously going to attempt to throw the baseball passed him. He realizes that the pitcher will be standing on a mound that is 18 inches above the plane of home plate. He intelligently deduces that the flight of the ball will be descending toward the plate at a speed varying from 70 to 100 MPH. He is conscious of the fact that the ball, after travelling a distance of more than 50 feet, will have to traverse the length of an 18inch wide home plate while maintaining a height range varying with the degree to which the batter’s knees and chest are separated by measure. And, he does not have to go out and attack the ball. The ball will come to him. With patience, he will let it arrive into his zone, then quickly and efficiently dispose of it—if he prepares himself properly. Barry Bonds HRBarry Bonds 17Albert Pujols 15Ted Williams - swing

While fully apprised of the physical parameters and logistics of pitcher-batter inter-play, in order to counteract all of the menacing tactics of an astute and finely tuned prestidigitator of mounds-man-ship, the .400 hitter will have to demonstrate near impeccable application of sound mechanics. He must also deprive his opponent of any additional advantage, to which the predominant pitcher has been previously accustomed.

To establish maximum stability and optimal viewing, the .400 hitter assumes a stance as low as will accommodate a minimum of discomfort. From this position, he not only will facilitate the most stable foundation from which to elicit the fastest possible reaction time to any assortment of pitched balls, but will also considerably diminish the area to which the umpire can define as a strike for the pitcher. Thus, the pitcher’s workload becomes a bit more excessive. (Score 1 for the .400 hitter).

If the batter’s stance is low, and spread to the extent of what would be the distance of his stride, his stable position better prepares him to view the incoming pitch. The distance between a high or low pitch is now so negligible that the batter will have less difficulty adjusting to the pitcher’s choice of location, presenting the additional conundrum for any team’s pitching staff. Therefore any “strike” is in the batter “wheel-house”. The pitcher no longer has that deceptive leverage-point that he had grown accustomed to with the batter in a high stance. (Score 2 for the .400 hitter).

Everything, to this point, has been for the purpose of more than adequately preparing the batter to effectively encounter what the pitcher has to offer. Now, the moment of application of mechanically precise engineering, which really attests the difference between the .400 and .200 hitters, comes into play. With stance secure, and vision stabilized, the pre- conditioned, natural sequential flow of body parts, choreographed to the rhythm of the whistling ball in flight, begins with a “gathering” of energy, shifting the weight slightly, not backward to disturb balance, but inwardly to secure balance. Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionBonds -stanceAs the coiled body awaits the incoming pitch, the hands and bat have moved to a position slightly beyond the back shoulder, facilitated by the lowering front shoulder and turning body. At the critical point, where the ball has been identified for its speed and/or specialized nuances, the body responds with the first wave of conscious forward movement, which occurs simultaneously in four distinct areas. If all functions are intact, and the timing mechanism accurately assessed, the front foot plants firmly as its knee begins to straighten. The three other areas, acting synergistically, are the back bent knee, and the front and back shoulders. As the front knee is straightening, the front hip is turning outwardly and backward, while the back knee is twisting forward and down, to assist the rapidly forward-turning back hip. The front shoulder begins its assault with an initial “shrug”, the purpose of which is multi-faceted: to stabilize and abruptly lift the shoulder, instigate the initial lowering of back shoulder and elbow, and provide momentum for initiating the complete turn of the upper body through the swing. After the quick action of the “shrug”, the front shoulder continues on its route until its completion at the back end of the swing.DSC_0036 DSC_0120DSC_0122DSC_0128DSC_0129Mark McGwire 5Ted Williams' follow throughThe beauty of being aware of the four simultaneous steps is that any one of them can be the conscious stimulant to initiate the batter’s swing. It is impossible to think of all four at the same time—too complex an endeavor. But just knowing that they all occur at the same time allows the .400 hitter to focus on any one, which seems most suitable at the time, and receive a successful result.

Since the .400 hitter knows that every pitched ball is travelling in a descending line, or arc, his body mechanics instinctively facilitates the corresponding action of the bat to meet the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as possible. The action described above (the four steps) allows the bat to begin flattening out automatically as the swing is initiated, and thus avoiding any time lapse that is induced by unnecessary conscious effort. As the swing progresses, the diametrical shoulder slant assists the front arm’s straightening, and lowered back shoulder and bent elbow to drive the hands and bat to striking area. Once the “belly-button” faces the pitcher, the front elbow snaps its arm to extension while the back elbow starts its subsequent powerful extension, for the bat to contact the ball. As the bat meets the ball, the shoulders remain the continuing power force that drives the arms and hands to direct the bat through the ball until the follow-through is complete. (If the fingers of the top hand were extended at the “contact” point, one would notice that the palm is facing upward, to assure that the wrists had not rolled over.)

The angle of the swing of the bat of the .400 hitter does not correspond with the parallel level of the playing field, but rather on a parallel line with the flight of the ball. Barry Bonds HRted-williams-science-of-hitting2Ted Williams - fundamentalsTedWilliamsShortSwing2 To swing the bat, on a parallel line with the field level, at a ball that is travelling downward from a height of 5 to 6 feet, would facilitate a hard ground ball in a majority of cases, if solid contact were made. Because solid contact, 100% of the time, is improbable, you might be able detect, here, one of the flawed characteristics that makes for a .200 hitter. The most detrimental component to any aspiring .400 (or even .300) hitter is the erroneous theory that the batter should swing down on the ball. And the prospective .400 hitter who follows the sequence of body mechanics mentioned above will never swing down on the ball, unless he is ostensibly late with his timing, or if he prematurely rolls his wrists over the ball at contact!

Is there any chance that a batter will again hit .400 or better? There are many current players who are hitting .300 consistently. Anyone of them could be a .400 hitter, if he knew for sure that there was a legitimate way to become that Hero, without the prospect for also being a Goat. He has to be willing to try something different, even though it may not, at first, feel good.

Coming Soon: The “Good-Hitter” and The “Great-Hitter”.

A New Season of Baseball Fun for All is Coming

Major-League Baseball will once again be upon us. Spring Training has begun and again brings with it New Hopes and the resurgence of enthusiasm that stimulates life on the American and International Canvas. The most ardent of baseball fans are looking forward to fulfilling their great expectations with relish, and of course Hot Dogs, Peanuts, Popcorn, and Crackerjacks.Baseball fans 1baseball fans 2baseball fans 3baseball fans 4baseball fans 5

Baseball is truly America’s national pastime. It not only epitomizes the “new-wave” national standard for universal “equality for all”, but characterizes the highest sentiment for democratic reform throughout the world. The indigenous character and homespun heritage of our country’s National Pastime foster the innovative and endearing qualities of America that can transform a competitive world into a peaceful arena willing to incorporate the essence of those qualities into an enduring fabric conducive to all spiritual, mental and physical environments.coaching 8

As we have seen displayed on the Inter-National playing-field, jubilant participants have  contributed to a universal camaraderie where the peace of goodness has been applied and appreciated. The Game of Baseball is the ultimate in sports activity! To all participants, players, fans, and officials  its unique simplicity conveys a human drama, and then reveals and resolves the complexities that would elicit trauma from mortal life’s uncertain circumstances.  “Could mere human contrivance order such preciseness, from the tri-hedral dimensions of the field of play, to the definitive specifications and range of intricate function for the designated participants?” – Socrates (from Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans – by John F. Paciorek)

As the world has fast become a theatrical stage for public sentiment to display both outrageous and benevolent characterizations of humanity, a universal demand for the highest possible standard of excellence can be embodied by those who would be model-heroes for aspiring youth. “Conceptions of mortal erring thought must give way to the ideal of all that is perfect and eternal.”coaching 4Coaching 1

As a professional Baseball Player myself, and subsequently a perennial fan and teacher of the “fundamentals”, my thought(s) about the “Game” gradually has been transformed from that of vigorously active participation to vicariously passive appreciation. My life’s purpose is no longer striving to be the greatest athlete, or baseball player, nor is it to fulfill my physical potential. I have simply come to recognize that my sole purpose is to experience “Goodness”.

So, starting my day from a spiritual basis, I begin looking for and anticipating those human experiences that afford me the opportunity for “Maximum of Good”. Good is God! God is not only good; He is All the Good that is and can be. The Psalmist states in at least four verses, “Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Jesus himself was not only the excellent example of God’s Goodness, his “Gospel” message promoted the “Good News” of Our Father’s ever presence. The ancient Greeks inter-changed the terms excellence and “virtue” to mean the same. And again the Bible describes the “Virtuous Woman” as finding “goodness” in everything she did from morning ‘til night.

Every man’s search for Goodness must begin with God, and vice-versa. In every venue of human life experience can be found opportunities to witness a glory emanating, even gradually, from the prospect of goodness. On the amateur level, parents and other adults support the nurturing cause of developing educational and recreational activities for prospective leaders and rising stars, while appreciating every good or enhanced step along his/her way.Baseball - Jesus

But, we find excellence displayed to the utmost in every venue of the Professional realm. The “maximum of good” is what people pay money in order to vicariously experience the ultimate satisfaction in Sports, Movies, Theatre, Opera, and all other forms of genuine Escapism.

When I go to a Major-League Baseball game, I am expecting to have the experience of witnessing the “maximum of good” that the highest level of the Sport can deliver to my full appreciation. It is a “Spiritual Experience”, at which, and for which I am never disappointed, no matter which team wins. When I go to a Little-League game, I don’t have the same “high-expectation” of “excellent” performance, but I do look for every slight indication of Good’s presence in the intentions, enthusiasm, sportsmanship, and mechanical application of skill of all the participants.pony_baseball_04

Baseball will always be America’s endearing National Pastime to me, for whom the season never ends, even though it is again just beginning.

John Paciorek played for the Major League Houston Colt.45s. (Currently, Astros).  He now teaches Physical Education and coaches Sports at Clairbourn – School in San Gabriel, CA. He has written two books: The Principle of Baseball, and All There is to Know about Hitting; and, Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans; and is the subject of a new Book, entitled, Perfect, by Steven Wagner.

Fun: From Inside the Batter’s Box

It is no secret in the Big Leagues – unless you are a pitcher or the “slickest” of fielders with a rifle-arm and “speed-a-foot”, your chances of making it to the “Show” and staying there are “slim and None” if you can’t HIT!. But most batters who had been signed to play professional Baseball had been thought of by their parents and “home-town” fans as decent hitters at one time or another.

Ted Williams exclaimed it first, but probably many before him realized the fact, and, assuredly, every athlete who has been privileged to experience the physical, mental, and emotional tension associated with swinging a baseball bat under game conditions can verify, “Hitting a baseball effectively is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports”.strike-outStrike-out 3strike-out 10

Many people, men, women, boys, and girls love to swing a baseball bat at a baseball (softball). It seems a pretty fair accomplishment—mentally sizing up the speed of that spherical object floating in a relatively straight path toward a designated area for the “batter” to physically strike with a long narrow cylindrical piece of wood or aluminum. It’s really fun! The skill involved is not just physical; the mental aspect includes the quick discernment of time, space, and geometric calculations, (and much more intense at the Big-League level). That’s why baseball (softball) games at family picnics and other recreational environments are such crowd-pleasing activities. And if no one gets hurt, it’s even more enjoyable!girl swinging baseball bat 1Boy swinging baseball bat 1Boy swinging baseball bat 2

For those who get involved at a more intricate level, like Little League, the game speeds up a little bit. The batter doesn’t seem to have as much control, as when dad or mom was pitching the ball. But the game is still fun; you just have to take it a little more seriously, more figuring and adjusting to more variables. And when your bat makes “good contact” the exhilaration is more intense and meaningful, even though your hard hit grounder goes through the shortstop’s legs for a base hit.

When you make it to Little League Majors, the pressure can almost seem too daunting. Everyone is bigger and stronger. You start asking yourself, “how am I going to maintain my .850 average? Then reality sets in, and more adjustments (physically, mentally, and emotionally) have been made, and you feel pretty grateful to sustain a modest .530 batting average. The .320 drop is attributable to the “curve ball”!strike-out 6

As a thirteen year-old, in Pony League, you’re now playing on a field where the bases are 23 feet farther, and the pitching rubber is 54 feet from home plate, instead of 45. Mental and physical adjustments have to be made! The pitching distance is farther; but the pitcher is bigger and stronger; and the ball is thrown faster, and it “hurts” a lot worse. (Remember, this is where your most imaginative 14 year-old pitcher starts to work on his “split-finger”, and assortment of other pitches, for which he no doubt will throw his arm out and diminish all chances of making the High School team, and the “Bigs”.) Therefore an emotional adjustment is in order—“do I really want to play Pony League, or High School Ball?”pony_baseball_04pony_baseball_5pony_baseball_3

With a year of “Pony” under your belt, you’ve made the necessary adjustments. You’re bigger, stronger, and back in dominating form! New standards have been acquiesced, and your .400 plus batting average is a given. Your size and physical ability give you overwhelming confidence, and the High School coaches reinforce your attitude with constant pandering. Watch, stride, and swing—that’s all you had to do, and pretty good contact with the ball gives you a hit 2 times in every 5 at- bats, every once in a while, a towering home-run. Hitting a baseball doesn’t seem that difficult! Sure, every once in a while, in tournament play, one or two pitchers seem to be overpowering! Should you make adjustments just for them? (You have not yet learned about the Big Fish in the Big Pond syndrome.)pony_baseball_1pony_baseball_6

High School provides a whole new experience for the “naïve” hitter. Until now, most instructors of the “art” of hitting have been parents, who didn’t claim to be infallible artisans of the craft but only slightly more than incompetent advisors whose lack of expertise couldn’t do much harm to a blossoming prodigy. Where the Little League coach pampered the players, because his son, daughter and neighbors’ kids were on the team, and didn’t want to risk offending anyone, along with the rule that everyone had to play, the Public High School coach has no such reservations to inhibit his personal, somewhat tyrannical resolve to develop the potential of the players for his team. If you don’t produce on your own recognizance, you’d better follow his specialized techniques, or risk “riding the pine” for the “duration” of your High School career, while lapsing into baseball oblivion.mean baseball face

During those High School years, the baseball player begins to realize that hitting a baseball consistently well must be the most difficult task in all of sports. Once this realization becomes prominent in the minds of the most determined hitters, an inexplicable desire to challenge the inescapable assumption that mere mortals are incapable of surpassing the pre-determined range of superlative achievement for batting excellence! To ever hit .400 again, on the Major League level seems impossible, and preposterous to think it could be done on a consistent basis.

After High School, those individuals who go into the college ranks or professional Minor League baseball quickly discover that mere physical enhancement will not entitle players to climb the ladder of developmental success. Even with the greatest of physical attributes, the acts of seeing, striding, and swinging the bat do not always procure the most beneficent effects. Thoughtful consideration of a good many aspects of the entire batting regimen must be understood and applied conscientiously, in order for maximum proficiency to be demonstrated.

The question has been, and might always persist, what is the proper regimen for establishing a technique that will procure the consistent, maximum effect while hitting a baseball? Many have theorized about the prospect, but only a handful have established credibility through their practical applications and thoughtfully spoken and written delineation. But, of these, the closest to extracting a complete and understandable facsimile of truth has been Mr. Ted Williams, who happened to be the last Major League player to bat .400 over the course of an entire season. Unfortunately, those who attempted to understand and follow his astute analysis of hitting perfection, misconstrued his intent, and misguided countless devotees into a darkened abyss of probable incompetence.

Aristotle pointed out, in his Nicomachean Ethics, that, in order to begin a study of anything that would lead to the highest understanding and demonstration of its universal verity, one must “behold” an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote a “heart and soul” effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.

Major League batters are at the pinnacle of their vocational pursuits. Yet, within their own ranks can be found distinguishable differences in individual mastery of skills and technique. The batters who would become excellent performers are they who would follow the example of the “martial artist”, by adapting to his study and application of fundamental movement principles. However, the alternative to taking martial arts classes would be to find someone in their own profession, who is renowned as a masterful exponent of their own respective art of batting. In other words, “mark the perfect man, and behold the upright”.

“Upright” does not refer to body-position while performing tasks. The more upright the body, the higher is the center of gravity. That’s not good in most sports situations. A low center of gravity is always preferred for short, quick, and strong movements of the body in all sports activities. Upright, in the biblical context, refers to intelligent, principled thoughtfulness that always precedes masterful behavior or action.

Barry Bonds and Ted Williams are the batters whom all prospective “high achievers” should emulate in order to attain a facsimile of credible “Excellence” and bring the fun back into their respective “hitting-game”.Ted Williams - swingBarry Bonds 1

 

 

Fun and Baseball

Fun: The Way to Baseball Happiness!

By

John F. Paciorek

How can I have fun playing baseball if I am 5 years old and have never before played the game? I have never caught, thrown, or batted a baseball.  This scenario might be considered a “stage 1” category of developmental (kindergarten level) inquiry. A 5 year old who would ask such a question must have seen the game being played by children his age (or perhaps older) who appeared to be having fun. He must have noticed the children hitting, catching, and throwing a round ball while running to and from various positions on a diamond shaped field with fence around the perimeter. IF he had not someone to show or teach him the simple fundamentals of playing the game, perhaps his imagination was cultivated enough to allow him to pretend that he too could perform the actions that he saw being displayed on that field or park, in the privacy of his own mind. As his body was becoming more capable of mimicking the actions of throwing, catching, and batting imaginary objects in and from the “air” while running bases and chasing balls from fictitious projections of his mind, he might have elicited from himself a readiness to experience the real thing if and when the opportunity presented itself.

I can only imagine what may have become of this erstwhile baseball prospect, but I saw firsthand how my 3 year-old brother initiated his baseball career. I was a senior on my High School baseball team in the early 1960s. All my relatives and sometimes professional baseball scouts would come out to see me show off my particular talents. Our team often played its games on Sandlot fields with 3 other adjacent fields back to back to back. Sometimes all fields were being used at the same time. Other times, only one field was in use.

It became common occurrence that while my game was proceeding on field one, my little brother would look forward to watching my game for a while. Then after moments of gaining inspiration and enthusiasm, he would run off to field two, directly behind mine. And there he would stay for 7 to 9 innings mimicking all the action he saw displayed on field one. Coaching10Pretending to pitch the ball, then hitting the pretend ball, then running the (real) 90 foot bases, sliding into 2nd, 3rd, and home bases. baserunning8 (Baby2)He would usually continue this exuberant activity for my entire game. And it wouldn’t be uncommon to observe the people in “our” stands looking over the guard railing onto the adjacent field watching the antics of a remarkable young baseball prospect in the initial stages of his long baseball career.

Is there ever any fun in any endeavor that presents no prospect for winning? Fun and profitability can be found only in the patient, subsequent, sequential learning and properly proficient application of the skills (physical, mental, and psychological) that are entailed in the ultimate prospect of WINNING! Everyone can be a “winner” according to the extent to which he diligently ascribes to the preceding statement.Coaching 1

A notable historic Persian Poet, by the name of Rumi implies that, in all of life’s competitive encounters, there is a viable alternative to the traditional conclusion that someone wins while another loses. From this we can assume that no one really wins unless everyone wins.

The greatest motivational tool to learning and teaching is to have fun. The teacher has fun by seeing his students have fun. He vicariously puts himself in their place and visualizes how he might have enjoyed that same experience when he was of their age. The student(s) have fun by first giving the teacher the benefit of not doubting his intent to increase their knowledge and understanding about the subject in order to allow them the opportunity to improve their proficiency in applying themselves to the lesson pertaining to their own prospect for winning an improved status in Life itself.Coaching 2

With all my youngest students, I generally ask if they are ready to have FUN.  Their hearty reply is always the first indication they are ready to accept my instruction and commence on a joyful journey of fun by way of enhanced application of learning. My older students already know from past experience that they are going to have fun, but don’t always accept willingly the prelude to their version of fun in the form of preliminary exercise and warm-ups. They want immediate access to the more “meaty” subject matter. Some perform the “ritual” vigorously, with the apparent understanding of its ultimate benefit to those wanting to be the best they can be. Others half-heartily go “through the motions”, perhaps thinking they are preserving energy to perform more adeptly at the later stages of the lesson. But as long as each student has a smile on his/her face, I know learning in varying degrees is taking place. And each, to his own degree of substantive learning, is a winner, to that degree.

In Sports, either during an innocuous game in P.E. and recess, or vigorous inter-scholastic competition, the primary purpose for which each player is participating is to WIN! But winning, to most participants, is the act of being victorious over an opposing team or individual. But those who have studied the “game” know that true “winning” is the natural consequence of “right thinking and acting” while in pursuance of objective after objective in route to achieving a pre-determined goal. In Golf, a commentator may say, Tiger just “hit a winner”; in Basketball, Koby’s 30 foot fade-away jumper is “a winner”, but neither shot might have won the match or game. Even on a professional level it is easy to see how the sudden and temporary  elation of one moment of competition can be filled with ecstatic joy. The simple appreciation of a single moment of glory can make everyone a winner, even if his team lost the game. After the game you don’t have to ruminate in despair or dissatisfaction, but rather remember and dwell on the moments that you and your teammates (as well as the opposing players) performed at the best of their abilities. The ultimate goal may not have been achieved this time, but in its pursuance, lots of fun and exciting moments of opportunity presented themselves to remind you and your teammates of what could happen “next time”.

Some coaches attempt to motivate their players (students) to win at just about any cost. They would have them intimidate their opposition, with physical force if necessary. And they may even inadvertently intimidate their own players with the intent to “harden them” to the point of insensitivity toward anyone who would oppose their own collective purpose of winning. It would be difficult to detect in this scenario any sense of joy that most parents would hope to see their children experience. The best coach is always one who emphasizes all the fundamental components that the game entails and an attitude (mental and emotional) that inspires all of his players to do the best they can do each moment of every practice while performing the essential skills he has introduced to them for the purpose of eventually gaining a proficiency to their highest level of competency. His objective is not to instill in his players the idea to “be better than everyone else”, but rather to “be the best he or she can be” – only to “be better today than you were yesterday”. How much better is totally up to each individual. If everyone reaches that simple objective each day, he certainly can consider him/herself a WINNER.

As “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”, so, there is no precedence to Happiness but by “Having Fun”. Having fun is discerned at the first sign of accomplishment, and is reinforced in subsequent steps of learning. The joy of “self-accomplishment” intrinsically inculcates into the minds of fledgling youth the notion that living life to the fullest is FUN! But of course, supervision and propriety are necessary forays with which to learn the natural sequence to all constructive enterprise.

If the teaching – learning experience occurs in subsequent steps, sequential development is their natural consequence, and joyful expectation of progress eventuates in the ecstatic revelation that his/her patience has indeed paid off as the entire journey culminates in a “fun-filled” adventure.Boy swinging baseball bat 2Boy swinging baseball bat 1pony_baseball_6Albert Pujols 15

Coming Soon: Batting Your Way to a “Fun-filled” Baseball Experience.

 

A-Rod: Is it the End, or a New Beginning?

The scientifically minded “artist-of-the-bat” should understand and adhere strictly to the rules of his mental-physical application, and rest his performance on this sure foundation. He should hold his thought perpetually to the idea that his natural talent and indisputable scientific certainty can and will evoke from Principle the rule for mastering the most difficult task in all of sports.

A-Rod                      

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There was no better athlete in the game over the last two decades than Alex Rodriguez. He hit home runs with greater ease than any other player in the game (except Barry Bonds). But why is it that opposing managers and pitchers hardly ever gave him an intentional pass, even in critical game – situations? It’s probably because they felt (or knew) that if they didn’t make a mistake they’d be more likely to get him out than they would Barry Bonds. A-Rod does one thing that Barry did not do, and this creates a “margin –for-error” that prevents him from being an even better hitter.
Barry’s front foot hardly lifted off the ground, and moved only slightly forward while keeping his head and eyes perfectly still in his low center of gravity. Barry had little difficulty in planting his front foot properly when it was time to attack the ball with the synergistic forces of the legs, hips, shoulders, arms, and hands. Very seldom could a pitcher catch him off balance enough to disintegrate his swing.Bonds -stanceBarry Bonds HR2001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow through
A-Rod is different. His stance begins balanced, low, and stable. But as the pitcher releases the ball, A-Rod starts an obtrusive attack with what I’m sure he thinks is a precision “timing mechanism” to incorporate a power surge. In fact, it does nothing less than unwittingly denigrate what is intended to initiate a “masterful stroke”. RodriguezAlex 1He lifts his front foot high off the ground while he waits in “suspended animation” to detect the speed, direction, and nuances being delivered by the pitch before he abruptly lunges forward and down to plant the foot to begin the swing. If the plant is too early, he’s out in front of the pitch and loses much of his power. If he is late with the plant, the fast ball is by him. It is not uncommon to witness the devastating effect of the “later” situation in the form of a called third strike when the ball speeds by him and his foot hasn’t yet planted. In the “former” situation, the effect of being too far out in front is usually not so devastating because his uncommon strength in the shoulders, arms, and hands affords him enough “hang-time” to at least make contact and string out a base hit or better.
The point of this article is to concede that A-Rod is a tremendously hard working baseball player. Everyone who knows of him presumes he is trying to be the best that he can be. His workout ethic seems to imply that he would be a “perfectionist” (even with all the steroid allegations). Now, even as an elder statesman, and if he can overcome his current “morality and ethical issues”, he can still be a productive ball-player if he can extricate himself from thinking he needs his “high leg-kick”.