"I always want to get better," said Tim Lincecum, who had a league-high 265 strikeouts last season for the Giants. "I come into this year, I'm not just sitting on my ass hoping everything's going to be all right because of last year. I've got to come out here and work and become better. That's what it takes to be a good major-league baseball player."
Prepare for pressure situations by putting pressure on yourself in practice. Have the same high standards in practice that you have for yourself in games. Allot some time in practice to put on your game face and practice with the same mental and physical energy that you would in games. For a pitcher, it could be having a mentally intense bullpen session. Both Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux use to react to poorly executed pitches in the bullpen in the same manner and intensity they would in a game. In effect, they are also practicing how they mentally handle a poor pitch in a game, and how they plan to fix it and refocus on the next pitch. Lazily shagging fly balls in the outfield or playing home run derby with your hitting group does not prepare you to play a game or handle clutch situations. When it is your turn to practice, whether you are taking a ground balls from a coach or stepping into the cage to hit, put on your game face. Do not practice your practice habits; practice how you will play the game.
Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester was always ready for the field, but he got thrown a curve ball that no player can ever anticipate or prepare for. On Aug. 31, 2006, two months after getting called up to the Bigs, Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer of the lymph nodes.
Lester recalls, “When I was called up in June, I had some success [7-2 in 15 starts]. But come August, I started having a lot of back pain. We were in Seattle, and I went to see my uncle, who’s a doctor. He got me in the ER to get it checked out.
“When I learned it was cancer, the hardest part was those first couple days, just dealing with the fact of not playing baseball and having this new sickness. But once we found out what we had to do as far as treatment, I told myself, ‘Lets move forward and try to beat this.’”
Ultimately, Lester wanted to get back to the Majors, but he took a one-step-at-a-time approach. “I wanted to get back to playing baseball, period, whether in the minors or wherever,” he says.
Lester fought his way back to full health—and eventually back to the Show. “I had to prove myself all over again and show the managers I could pitch,” he says.
His hard work paid off, and the Red Sox eventually named him as their starter in Game Four of the 2007 World Series. The leftie led his team to victory that night, allowing only three hits and no runs in 5 2/3 innings. “It felt like a normal game for me,” Lester says. “I didn’t do anything different—just went out and tried to do the best I could.”
With so many triumphs in his young career, including a no-hitter against the Royals in May 2008, Lester says the secret to his success is preparation: “The biggest thing for me is my work between starts. I do my workouts and know my body is ready to take the pounding every five days. I know when I step on the mound, I will be physically prepared to perform. Knowing your body is ready eases your mind, so I only have to worry about what pitches I need to throw.”
"One day during practice, a visitor observed legendary Coach (Paul "Bear") Bryant doing something that aroused his curiosity. From time to time during practice, the coach would reach into his pocket, pull out a crumbled little piece of paper, read it, and then put it back in his pocket. The visitor watched him do this several times during practice, and finally mustered up the courage to ask the coach what was written on the paper. Coach Bryant simply smiled, pulled out the paper, and let the visitor read it himself. It said: It's the itty bitty, teeny tiny things that get you beat."
In sports, the little things can be the difference between a sub par year and a championship season. In baseball, taking those five extra swings every day and taking those ten extra ground balls can be the difference between a good player and a great player. In life, doing the little things can also change our lives tremendously.
"If you take care of the little things, you never have one big thing to worry about." - Cal Ripken Jr.--
In September 1980, Kansas City’s George Brett got the baseball world buzzing with the possibility of his reaching .400 for the first time since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. The Royals were in a pennant race, and Brett was hitting to win. “Every time up, I was just trying to give out club the kind of at-bat the situation called for,” Brett said. But the night we wrapped up our division, I thought, ‘Hey, I’m close enough. I’m going to go for it. I didn’t have to try to hit .400.’ That was the day things fell apart. I didn’t have many good at-bats when I started concentrating on getting hits.”
"We're OK with guys coming to Purdue expecting to make it to the pros but they have to understand that you get to be a pro by making your team win. Coaches are looking for players who make their team better. It's true for college coaches looking at high school players and it's true for NBA coaches looking at college players." -MATT PAINTER Head Coach Purdue University
“We were down in the Rangers’ locker room and their No. 1 goal is not worrying about winning or losing. It’s all about chasing personal excellence and if you can do that in your life, you’re going to be the very best you can be. The rest you can’t control.” - Dan Hawkins
PERSONAL EXCELLENCE: Doing your very best each day. Giving it your best from when you rise in the morning to when you go to sleep at night.
Do you strive for PERSONAL EXCELLENCE each day????