DRAFT DAY MENTAL GAME
Today begins the 2018 Major League June Draft!
Over the next couple of days a select few (under 1000 players) will realize their childhood dream of playing professional baseball.
For the rest, it’s the saddest week where baseball waves goodbye to them in the rear view mirror, leaving a cloud of dust in their face and a big ol’ hole in their heart.
Either way, both call for dramatic changes in thinking with neither having a smooth road ahead.
For the MLB draftee, scholarships and orange slices no longer satisfy. Playing for sweet sweet mula is a whole new ball game which comes with a new demanding voice whispering ‘be successful or be sent home.’
For the non-drafted athlete, life begins anew with a haunting wave of aimlessness accompanied by a case of the what ifs and what could’ve beens. And perhaps some Ben and Jerry’s.
So, how does one prepare for the next level whether in or out of baseball?
Despite all the preparation in the world – these new territories can never fully be prepared for, they must be experienced – but let’s try to prepare for them anyways.
Our Focus: The Competition Awaiting You AND Your Response to It All
The Competition Awaiting You
In a 2012 article, (why this hasn’t been updated I don’t know), research found that only 66% of first round draft picks ever make it to the MLB, with a dying trend after that including 49% of second rounders, 32% of 3rd rounders and so on.
What can we learn? There’s no such thing as a sure thing. The competition at the next level is full of ‘teammates’ and opposition who want the exact same thing as you… to move up in the organization as quickly as possible with the motivation of making millions and living the life.
Those that show great promise (Matt Bush 1st overall pick 2004 finally made it to the Bigs in 2016 as a pitcher) don’t always pan out while ‘no names’ like Mike Piazza can turn into Hall of Famers (drafted in the 62nd round selection number 1,390 in 1988).
For those now outside baseball, the ‘real world’ presents the same cutthroat mentality. You’ll be competing with people from all over the globe vying for the same position. It’s likely that they have a better resume with much more experience from summer internships while you were off playing summer ball chasing sliders and girls.
Don’t forget though, what you lack in internship experience in your new field, you make up for big time in what you’ve learned on the field. How to be on time, how to compete, how to deal with adversity with lots of people watching, how to communicate, how to work with tough bosses (coaches), how to earn your spot and stay there, and so on. These are invaluable. Use them.
Either way – the competition is stiff and all you can ask for is an opportunity to show what you can do.
The Many Facets of Adversity
In a game where failure is built in and a 30% success rate earns you a promotion; it’s no wonder baseball players must learn to deal with failure quickly without the comfort of mommy and daddy in the stands constantly.
On the field struggles are only half the battle. Unless you signed for a boat load of money – you’re making a minor league wage akin to an all-star Mcdonald’s employee, a place frequented by Minor Leaguers as ‘fine dining’ on never ending bus rides.
You add a girlfriend, or several, some online classes trying to finish up that degree, three international roommates blessed with God given talent you didn’t know existed that don’t speak english but know how to drive your car really fast, and all the sudden you’ve got a lot of extra fluff vying for your attention from your job playing baseball for a living. The baseball field might be your one escape. You better hope you’re playing well.
In the ‘real world,’ similar adversity awaits. Like trying to land and keep that first big boy job – while searching craigslist for a decent roommate and cheap rent so you can afford a place setting for two and a fan as your air conditioner with enough left over to start paying back those student loans you owe to three different companies.
You get the point. Life gets real and the adversity is no joke.
For a message that started out with the excitement of Draft Day it seems to have take a turn towards negative town. This has nothing to do with any residual bitterness held from my own 2010 draft no call and everything to do with the reality that whether drafted or not – the next day is all about PRODUCING NOW. (Look who I was up against… never heard of ’em)
YOUR RESPONSE TO IT ALL
Whether it’s a professional sports organization or not, they’re all looking for mature candidates. With so many things previously discussed falling outside your control – let’s discuss a few in your control that will help give you the best chance at arriving where you want… whether in baseball or elsewhere.
#1 Competition Never Ends – Embrace It
Realize, you’ve been competing since before you were even a thought in the minds of your parents. Yes, I’m talking about when you earned the Olympic Gold of Life in swimming, beating out millions of competitors to earn the right to experience life.
Then, you competed in school for 18 years, first in elementary, then widening the fields in middle school and high school trying to be top of your class (hopefully).
In college, you may have again discovered more smart people exist from afar trying to beat you out.
In other words – you’ve been competing your whole life and it never ends.
So, instead of fighting it… choose to develop a mindset where you use competition to your advantage to make you a better athlete or employee by seeing what the best do and how they do it – then make it your own. So, what are you good at?
#2 Find You’re One Thing
In pro baseball, you don’t compete in all facets of the game (unless your Shohei Ohtani). You’re either a position player or a pitcher and you’re expected to give diligent attention to your craft and literally become one of the best in the world at your job (The MLB has about 750 players).
A pitcher or hitter is drafted based on a select set of talents and skills they show promise in and are expected to refine those skills in the minor leagues for 3-5 years before shining on the bright stage.
In life beyond ball, ask yourself what combination of innate talents and skills you posses that you can funnel towards one thing that’s worth mastering and getting paid for?
In ball, everyone throws a fastball and an off speed pitch. But some are more effective than others in how they move, dip, and dive. I guarantee there’s people in your field that do exactly the same thing you do. BUT, they can’t do it just like you. Find your uniqueness and own it.
Example: A recent ESPN special featured a guy who pursued his dream of designing specialty cleats for pro athletes like Derek Jeter who’s Mother’s Day cleats featured a pink Jordan symbol and all his career accomplishments.
Rare? Yes. But wasn’t/isn’t chasing an MLB dream just as rare if not more elusive? So, why not you and why not now? Why not become the best in the world at something you love – no matter how outlandish it may seem. You’ve already got plenty of experience chasing a dream.
It takes dedicating yourself to one thing and loving it enough to not be swayed away by doubt, fear, or a slew of other distractions. In baseball at some point they tell you directly or indirectly “You can’t play this game anymore.” Life might try to do that. But don’t listen. Unless you should.
#3 Know Your Competition and Make Sure It’s Not You
I always tell the players I work with: “There are two people that will keep you from making the Major Leagues, who are they?” After some thinking, and more thinking, and probably a little help from me, they soon understand that only the pitcher their facing (or the hitter if they’re a pitcher) and their own thoughts stand between them and realizing their dreams.
They aren’t playing an entire team and they aren’t competing verse their own teammates. In the moment, which is where baseball and life are played out, there is you and one opponent.
The mature athlete (whether in sport or no longer) takes the time to prepare their mind to work for them rather than against them.
– They developing a strong self-image that breeds confidence before it’s necessary
– They develop positive self-talk that they believe rather than just say.
– They redefine success for themselves rather than go by industry standards
– They believe it before they see it especially when no one else sees it
– They do not fall for the temptations that others fall prey to
– They understand that failure WILL HAPPEN
– And when it happens, they thank failure for teaching them what not to do and for weeding out others who fall away at the first signs of heat coming.
Whether you’re a fresh draftee being shipped to a minor league team in the middle of nowhere to begin your professional career or a rookie employee first day on the job – here’s something to remember:
Someone within the organization believes in you enough to take a chance on you. They believe you bring something unique that no one else brings.
Make sure you believe that about yourself. What will you bring that no one else brings? A consistent smile? A contagious laugh? A relentless work ethic?
A new idea that changes the course of a franchise or one meaningful conversation that changes the course of a life?
Why not you?
Why not now.
Dedicated to your thought life,