In an earlier post, The Mental Side of Hitting https://torque-hitting.com/2013/08/10/the-mental-side-of-hitting-a-must-read/ , I described the basic principles of the mental approach to sports performance developed by Tim Gallwey. One of his more advanced observation techniques I really like is called “Riding the Ball”. Even though he used this technique for his tennis students, I believe it is also applicable for baseball and softball hitters. Here is how Gallwey describes how to ride the ball in his book Inner Tennis:
“Riding the ball begins afte the mind has reached a high level of interest in the ball’s trajectory. The mind follows the flight of the ball from one racket to the other, seeing it leave, then approach again, and there comes a point when you simply climb on it and “ride” it as it flies through the air. You no longer see it leaving or approaching you because you are always with it. Instead of merely perceiving the ball, you feel gravity pulling you toward the court and the sharp change in direction as you bounce up toward the racket. It’s hard to conceive, but not to experience at least partially. After becoming absorbed in the ball’s trajectory, just climb on when you feel like it and stay on as if your riding a horse. Don’t let your mind fall off until the rally ends…All I know is that when I’m riding the ball, I know it better than when I am only watching it from a distance. I see it, feel it, hear it–and after a while it seems as if I am it.
The application to hitting a baseball or a softball should be obvious. I ask my hitters to “jump on the ball” as soon as they see the ball being released from the pitcher’s hand. I encourage them to grab onto the seams and ride the ball until it collides with the bat. I ask them to feel the wind in their hair and to feel the trajectory of the ball as it approaches the plate.
Some hitters who have tried riding the ball tell me the more they do it, they actually begin to feel like THEY are controlling the ball, instead of the pitcher. They are steering the breaking ball into the sweet spot of the bat. They are even steering the ball out of the strike zone, which results in better strike zone discipline.
The real benefit of this technique is hitters are not focused on their mechanics, the pressure of the game situation, or anything that could force them to tighten up before or during the swing. Their minds are clear of everything except a keen focus on the ball. If you like amusement park rides, you may want to try riding the ball for greater hitting success.