They’re the moments that adorn highlight reels and live on in favorite memories. The moments where the player rises to the occasion and snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.
But what goes into that mental toughness? What allows some players to shine in these situations while others quiver? Former professional center fielder Marlon Byrd dissects the equation of coming up clutch in baseball in this Pro Tips guide. Follow his insight on what you can do to help your odds in big-game moments.
AN UNTEACHABLE SKILL
When faced with a clutch performance, you first need to understand “clutch” isn’t a learnable skill. According to Byrd, it’s just something you have.
“It’s that mindset, that’s it. Being able to clear your mind, being able to slow your breathing down. It’s one of those things that is not able to be taught,” he says.
TIPS FOR IMPROVED READINESS
Fortunately, you can prepare yourself through diligent training and practice. Working on situational hitting and defense can acclimate you to varying baseball scenarios. The more comfortable you are in those situations, the more ready you’ll be when it comes down to the wire.
For example, Byrd recalls a make-or-break scenario from his career where his preparation and mental toughness shone through.
“I am playing for a team in 2008, and what they do is they walk the guy in front of me to load the bases … The other team is up by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. I have two outs. They don’t want to face the guy in front of me because he was a better hitter, but I was prepared, I was ready. [I] Got a first-pitch fastball and hit an opposite field home run for my first walk-off grand slam.”
Byrd adds that he was able to take the necessary steps to control his breathing and clear his mind prior to the at-bat. In addition, he says he was ready for the moment thanks in part to his preparation and training. Had he not been a student of situational hitting and knowing the pitcher, things might have ended differently.
If you’re presented with an opportunity to come up clutch with your team, remember these tips. Clear your mind, slow your breathing and rely on your training. You just might come out with a moment worthy of your own highlight reel.
There’s plenty of opportunity to be the hero in your playoff push. Listen to these additional Pro Tips on how to transition your regular-season success into the postseason.