How I coached a player from “bad attitude” to collegiate all conference

“From Rage to Riches or …

…how to go from the guy who kicks dirt and water coolers, throws helmets, and breaks bats, to a collegiate first string all conference clean up hitter batting over .400″

Three years ago a young man was recommended to the program I conduct for college baseball players. Standard practice is that I invite the player in for an “evaluation” before we begin working.

It’s pretty simple. I need to see the player in order to ascertain “what” and “how” to do the work.

First things first . We begin with defensive skills; “catch and throw” … then hit.

Hitting in my opinion … especially when you’re teaching and trying to “keep it simple stupid” for the student athlete is three things; (1 – mental (2- mental (3 – mental. Ooops!!! My mistake. I meant five things: (1 – mental (2 – mental (3 – mental and then … (4 – the swing and finally (5 – the pitch.¬† seeing-the-baseball-pitch

In terms of the evaluating the swing mechanics I just want to see if the player does the fundamental things correctly; feet, head, hands.

The “evaluation” is simple: I sit behind an “L” screen, flip balls, and watch.

This player was heading into his sophomore year in college and certainly had decent enough “beginner level” college skills that would be appropriate for a freshman. He had decent balance, appeared to “track” the ball well and had “okay” hands with some fairly typical “freshman” level things to work on. He rolled over the ball occasionally, tried to “lift” too much, etc., etc. However, over all, he possessed a lot of potential and had one huge “plus.” He was as strong as the proverbial ox. Although only about six feet, he is incredibly strong in his upper body; his hands, forearms, and shoulders. He has the strength to literally walk up to the plate, sit in a chair … swing with just his hands and still get a hit; an extra base hit at that.

He doesn’t hit. He punishes the ball. You can tell by the “sound.”


Only one problem but it was a big one. He didn’t speak English.

No, he wasn’t Hispanic or Japanese or anything like that.

The problem was that he spoke “dugout” when he hit … and only dugout.

Never heard of “dugout”? It’s simple. It’s @#*!!@#%^#%^^{>!#.

I’m sure you get the picture (and can hear the soundtrack as well).

I told him I would take him into the program but that for three sessions he was to show up with no equipment; especially not his bat and that we were going to “work out” at the coffee shop.

“You’re kidding!!!” he responded.

“Not,” I replied.

We went for coffee and talked … I’m not exaggerating … three times … for three full hours … during which I told him that, unless he learned to control his emotions; particularly of course, his temper … that he had absolutely no shot whatsoever of succeeding in college baseball.

Baseball is all mental. It is a minimum (probably more) of 90% preparation and adjustment and a maximum (probably less) 10% performance or (better word): “execution” of a skill.

When a player is able to grasp this “concept” … there is literally no failure. That’s right; NO FAILURE!!! It is always a “process” of “getting better”. You cannot fail. SUCCESS IS INEVITABLE!!!

And just what is the process? Simple … you “prepare” for correct execution, you “adjust” when you do not execute correctly.

hitter-connecting-with-pitchAnd just what is success in hitting? What is correct execution? Believe it or not, it is NOT hits (that comes with the territory but it is NOT the goal).

The goal is to “square up the inside half of the ball deep in the zone.”

If this is your approach, then there is no failure, just the process of success.

What happens when you get beat?

Okay … two choices:
(a) – hang your head, throw your helmet, kick dirt … then the water cooler, break the bat over your knee, curse and flail the air and scream at the pitcher, your teammates, and anyone within a square mile range or
(b) – analyze “why and how” you got beat.

Did …?
… you beat yourself with your swing …
Did you see the ball? Were you balanced? Did you “execute” your swing mechanics properly?


Okay. Analyze why and “fix it” because … (here’s the key) … there’s always another game, another pitch, another at bat.

Did … ?
… the pitch “beat” you … fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, etc.?


Okay. Again: analyze why and “fix it” because … (again; here’s the key) … there’s always going to be another game, pitch, at bat.

Always. Until you quit playing the game there’s always going to be another … (big word) … “opportunity” for success and the more you apply this “process” the better you get. It’s inevitable.
Numbers? Statistics? I think anyone can easily see that the numbers will follow. Again; it’s inevitable.

I always pose a trick question at clinics. I tell the kids that I once had a double header where I went 0 for 7 and I thought it was one of the best days of the year.

How is that possible?

It is because I succeeded in accomplishing the goal of squaring the inside half of the ball up deep in the zone … seven times. I hit the ball hard every single time.

I was thrilled. If I keep doing that, I’m going to have other doubleheaders where I’ll be 7 for 7. Inevitable.rounding-third-base

(PS. By the way, every single one of my at bats moved runners and we won both games. Translation: I helped my team win two games and after all … isn’t that the goal?)

Gradually this player started to “get it”. He learned to breathe. He learned a little mental drill I call “yellow light, red light, green light” wherein he saw his emotions starting to soar (yellow light) and held them “in check” (red light) and was able to move forward with productive performance execution (green light).

He became a hitter … mentally. Wow!!! Now there’s some success. Big time!!!

Oh, and by the way … statistics? He hit over .400 his junior year, made first string all-conference, has been moved into the cleanup spot in his college lineup for his senior year, starting to hit for power, and is looking realistically at pro tryout events.

Not bad; especially for a former dirt and water cooler kicker, batting helmet thrower, bat breaking maniac.

That guy? Mr. Hyde? (As in Jekyll and Hyde) He’s gone … now we have a baseball player. Now we have a hitter.

KARL AVDEK is a baseball “lifer”; college player and coach; consultant. Writer/Producer of nationally distributed baseball instructional DVD series endorsed and sponsored by major vendors/leagues/coaches and used in the coaching certification process of the National Alliance of Youth Sports. You can see more information supplied by Karl at and through his nonprofit foundation;

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