The withdrawal I’m talking about is mine. As an avid, some would say rabid, Red Sox fan, I’ve been sorely missing seeing my guys these past few days. So even though tonight’s game starts at 10:pm and I’ve been up since 6 am, I’ll be in front of my TV, savoring every moment.
Baseball is an intensely psychological game and the pace of it allows you to really zero in on the mental toughness of the players. As much as I love, love, love attending games at beautiful Fenway Park, seeing the game on TV makes it possible to observe, close up, the facial expressions and body language of the players. Some give away more than others.
For example, Kevin Youkilis is one intense guy. When he’s at bat he’s like an atom bomb that wants to explode; he can barely contain his intensity. And, as we know, if he strikes out, he has been known to throw a mini-tantrum in the dugout. At the same time that intensity can get channeled into pummeling the ball over the wall so I’m not complaining…at all!
The young Jacoby Ellsbury appears calm and poised, his aggression emerging mostly when he runs like hell and succeeds in stealing those bases. Dustin Pedroia has an odd habit of opening his mouth and eyes wide when he’s at bat. It may be someone suggested he do that to relax but it sure looks funny. Still, with his recent success at the plate, he can look as funny as he wants just so long as he continues to hit.
Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew are the epitome of cool at the plate. So much so that sometimes it looks as if they are indifferent to what is happening. Their stats prove otherwise. I suspect what we see as calm or even indifference is actually a particular mental attitude that allows them to remain focused on the task at hand. Manny has been (in)famously quoted as saying (during last year’s play-offs) that “it’s only a game and if we lose it’s not big deal.” (Note: not an exact quote but essentially the message.) Now, of course he wanted to win but his perspective was and is – let’s take one pitch at a time and one game at a time.
People who get caught up in outcomes are less satisfied and perform less well than those who focus on the process of what they are doing. I think Manny falls into the latter catgory. I am not idealizing him, merely noting one of the qualities he has that enables him to stay focused under pressure.
The message for us mere mortals is to understand that we have no control over the outcome of anything. We need to focus on controlling the controllables which includes how we prepare for a performance and how we perform in the moment. I’ll be talking a lot more about this over time.