Development

Are you really watching the game with a purpose?

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Greatness is not something achieved by the average spectator. There’s a reason hecklers in the left field bleachers are chanting “Number 8 Sucks” while pounding a few beers; they aren’t good enough to play themselves. Spectators are average baseball fans. They may understand the rules and even some of the small nuances of how the game is played, but they pay to watch the game for entertainment purposes.

As a player, you can’t afford this luxury on your road to greatness. You aren’t a spectator, you’re an observer. You observe the game for educational purposes as opposed to entertainment purposes. Yet, most players don’t understand the difference. They believe that watching the game for entertainment is the same as watching the game with a purpose. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In a stadium full of 40,000 people, how many will realize that the starting pitcher has a tendency of throwing a breaking ball after getting a first pitch strike? You can count the number of people on 2 hands, and none of them are sitting in the bleachers.

Great players understand that they can’t be spectators. They must watch the game on a deeper level to achieve higher levels of performance.

Think about this real quick: How well prepared would you be for your at-bats if you watched every single at-bat throughout the course of the game with the same focus and intent that you have in your own at-bats? If you’re the 7th hitter in the lineup, you can observe 6 different at-bats by the time you get up to the plate. How many first pitch strikes the pitcher threw. What pitches he’s throwing for strikes. What pitch he likes to use in 2 strike situations. Would having this database of information be an advantage for you? I would think so!

You can learn so much by watching the game with a purpose that it’s crazy to think players don’t do it.

Yet even players at the highest level of baseball fall into the trap of watching the game as a spectator. It’s easy to do, as entertainment is often more appealing than education. But the players who can discipline themselves to watch the game with a different mindset and perspective can give themselves a huge competitive advantage.

Are you a base stealer? How many of you know your average steal time? How many of you compare your steal time to the catcher’s pop time and the pitchers delivery time? Stealing bases is a simple game of math. If your steal time is under the pitchers delivery time + the catchers pop time, you can steal the base. Isn’t that something you’d like to know before you steal?

This takes a little extra effort, which is why most “spectators” don’t take the time to do it. Logical decisions are not part of the entertainment process.

But it’s details like these that separate observers from spectators. Players from fans. From sitting in the dugout to sitting in the stands. From being prepared and guessing.

You often hear the phrase, “he’s a guess hitter.” He’s guessing which pitch will be thrown so he can cheat to that pitch. But they aren’t completely guessing. It’s an educated guess based on a number of different factors that they’ve observed.

Question: When you ambush a fastball on the first pitch of an at-bat and pull a line drive 6 inches foul, what pitch do you think you’re getting next?

Answer: I’m guessing off-speed

Question: When you lace a double off the left field wall in your first at-bat, do you think you’re going to get that same pitch again?

Answer: Doubtful (If the pitch was inside, he’ll work you away; if it was a fastball, expect more off-speed)

Question: When you constantly chase breaking balls out of the zone, do you think you’ll be getting a lot of fastballs down the middle?

Answer: No way

Question: When the pitcher has yet to throw a breaking ball for a strike, is that a pitch you want to look for?

Answer: I eliminate that pitch in my mind all together; I’m looking fastball.

Great hitters are constantly thinking like this. There’s a difference between a guess hitter and a good guess hitter. Guess hitters are just flipping a coin as their process for guessing a pitch. Good guess hitters are guessing based on the database of knowledge they’ve accumulated from observing the game.

A few weeks ago I was a guest coach for a team during a playoff game. One of the freshmen that didn’t play much was standing at the edge of the dugout. I started asking him about the game, what he was seeing, and what he was learning. He seemed a bit puzzled. Although he was watching the game, he wasn’t observing. He was a spectator.

We started conversing about every at-bat throughout the course of the game. I’d ask him what pitch he would look for in this situation, giving him a little guidance at first as to why I would look for a particular pitch. By the 7th inning, this player was guessing 90% of the pitches right.

A week later when he started playing summer ball, he texted me saying he wanted to thank me for seeing the game in a different way. He went 4-5 in his first summer league game.

Nothing changed in this player’s ability over the course of that week, other than the fact that he was immersed in the game on a deeper level. The game became much easier because he was learning and preparing in a way he hadn’t before. He was now an observer as opposed to a spectator.

Being a baseball fan is easy. It’s fun to watch the game waiting to see the next 400-foot home run or diving play. Even the lousiest of fans can appreciate that. But if you want to be a great player, you must watch the game with a different mindset. You must be an observer, not a spectator.

You must watch the game with a purpose.

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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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