When the Cal State Fullerton baseball team was floundering midway through the 2004 season, on a pace to become the first losing team from the program’s history, an unusual team meeting was called. The players were brought before a kindly gentleman with weary eyes, a warm smile as well as a Wilford Brimley mustache.
The man was Ken Ravizza, a kinesiology professor at the university. He got right to the point: Forget the last game, forget the last play as well as forget the excuses.
To help drive home the point, Ravizza left the players which has a miniature toilet smaller enough to fit from the pocket of a baseball glove. the idea became a fixture from the dugout, a metaphorical cue to flush away a bad at-bat, a poor pitch or a fielding mistake.
“We all thought the idea was pretty funny — the idea’s a toy,” said Kurt Suzuki, which team’s captain, who is actually right now a veteran catcher with the Atlanta Braves. “although as we bought into the idea, the idea definitely helped.”
Ravizza died This specific month at age 70 after a heart attack. He left a lasting impact on which team, which also included Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner as well as P.J. Pilittere, who is actually right now the Yankees’ assistant hitting coach, as well as on a considerable swath of baseball.
Ravizza was a co-author of two baseball psychology books, worked for years with Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon as well as is actually considered a trailblazer — along with Charlie Maher of the Cleveland Indians as well as Harvey Dorfman — in bringing the mental game into major league clubhouses.
When Ravizza first began preaching his theories some four decades ago, they were considered eccentric. right now, 26 of the 30 major league teams have a mental conditioning coach, Maher said, as well as many have more layered throughout organizations, as well as countless loyalists among player as well as managers.
Suzuki is actually one. He was responsible for the toilet’s safekeeping on which Cal State Fullerton team, setting the idea up from the dugout before each game. He dutifully performed This specific task all the way to the final game of the College World Series, which the transformed Titans won. Their championship rings are engraved with the words which drove them: Next Pitch.
“Ken might as well have been on the field with us — he was which vital,” Pilittere said.
from the 1980s, Maddon, then a minor league instructor with the Angels, began working with Ravizza. As a result, Maddon has long argued which the mental component of baseball is actually the sixth tool for which players should be evaluated, along with running, throwing, fielding, hitting for average as well as hitting for power.
which is actually to say which baseball has come a long way by when Ravizza began, when the first question by skeptical ballplayers might be: Where did he play? Or even by 2005 when Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, upon hearing which the team had hired its first sports psychologist, said: “I don’t believe from the idea. I think the idea’s for people who are weak-minded.”
“There’s still remnants of which, although the idea’s changed,” said Maher, who has been with the Indians for 24 seasons. “The players know This specific is actually a hard game, as well as they want everything working for them. The focus on sports psychology has become more positive as well as the idea’s on performance rather than ‘what’s your problem?’ You’re an elite athlete; you’re not here by chance. How can we help you get better?”
This specific view is actually reflected in job titles. Sports psychologists are right now often referred to as mental skills coaches, which might be semantics although also reflects how they are increasingly seen as akin to a pitching or a hitting coach.
Chad Bohling, which first sports psychologist hired by the Yankees, who is actually right now the team’s director of mental conditioning, said Ravizza was skilled at taking generic concepts in psychology as well as applying them to high-level athletes in a manner in which they could understand.
as well as yet George Horton, the coach at Cal State Fullerton in 2004, who is actually right now at the University of Oregon, said the value in Ravizza’s lessons was which they could be applied broadly.
“The same tools he was teaching my players to handle the stresses of baseball could be used in a job interview, exams or if you had a bad day or a bad week,” Horton said. “Nine out of 10 things might be terrible in your life or your game, although he might get you to identify the one thing you are doing well as well as always had a way of doing you feel there was something you could go to. He wouldn’t allow you to wallow in your pity.”
Baseball is actually rooted in failure. The best hitters are out two-thirds of the time. So hanging on to desire is actually vital, even for elite athletes.
Matt Duffy, the third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, was introduced to “Heads Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time,” by Ravizza as well as Tom Hanson, when he was in high school in Lakewood, Calif. When Duffy met Ravizza a couple years later while playing at Long Beach State, he said the idea was like meeting a minor celebrity.
Duffy eventually graduated to Dorfman’s book, “The Mental Keys to Hitting,” which he began reading during his first full season in professional baseball, in 2013, knocking out a chapter a day on bus rides to spring training games. Duffy still carries the book, which is actually marked up, tabbed as well as dog-eared, with him during the season. the idea is actually his personal slump buster.
“Honestly, to me, the idea’s everything,” Duffy said of the mental game. “I didn’t start having success professionally until I got into the mental game. You’ve got to understand how to handle failure. You definitely have to trust your work as well as have a Great mental state to not run to the video room after an 0-for-4 with two lineouts.”
He continued: “A lot of slumps start with some bad luck as well as a run to the video room for the last 10 at-bats. The next thing you know you feel like a Little Leaguer from the box as well as you don’t know why. the idea’s amazing where your brain goes when you start doubting yourself.”
When the Cubs won the entire world Series two years ago, one of Ravizza’s proudest moments was the pep talk Jason Heyward gave to his teammates while they were waiting out a rain delay from the ninth inning of Game 7.
The gist: Forget about anything bad which had happened which night — like blowing a late lead — as well as play like the team which had the best record in baseball.
Heyward’s speech book-ended a talk Ravizza had delivered in spring training.
Ravizza had gathered the Cubs on the field, where he had lined up 162 baseballs, plus about a dozen more, as well as separated them with seven bats. The objects represented the number of games the Cubs might play over the course of the season, including the playoffs, as well as the bats divided them by months.
“How long the season is actually, yet how individual the idea is actually as well as how each game means something,” said Adam Warren, a Yankees reliever who spent the first half of which season with the Cubs. “For an athlete, the idea’s easy to say ‘forget about which’ or ‘focus on the next pitch’ or ‘one game at a time.’ although if you have something visually which you can see which symbolizes which as well as resonates, the idea’s going to stay with you as opposed to something you hear as well as then forget about two minutes later.”
This specific is actually why Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has an inscription in Japanese on the inside of his glove reminding him to pitch like a warrior. Or why Luis Severino wrote “paciencia” — patience in Spanish — on the bill of his cap last season to remind him to slow down.
Neither pitcher had worked with Ravizza, although the broader message in their reminders — be from the moment — is actually a tenet of his teaching. When Suzuki stands from the batter’s box, readying himself for each pitch, he incorporates a routine which he traces back to college: He fixes his gaze on the trademark of his bat as well as takes two deep breaths.
These habits are familiar to an increasing number of ballplayers, no matter who has influenced them. although they may resonate a little more with those who sat in Ravizza’s sports psychology class, received his radiant greeting — “How’s the idea going?!” — or still recall the power of a toy toilet.
“You can always hear him from the back of your mind,” Suzuki said. “Flush the idea. Let the idea go.”