Battle Mode — Brandon Belt
When you play 162 games, plus games in the spring and postseason, you find yourself developing pre-game routines. For me, and I think for most guys, it’s not about superstition, like wearing the same socks during a winning streak. It’s about getting your brain into a battle mindset.
Having a routine saves you a lot of energy. You don’t have to figure out a new way every day to switch off normal-life mode and turn on focus-and-fight mode.
I’ll take you through my pre-game routine and mindset.
I start to feel the change on my way to the ballpark, whether I’m driving myself to AT&T or taking a taxi or the team bus to a ballpark on the road. My body and brain know a game will be happening in a few hours. It’s like the dogs in that experiment – what was that guy’s name? Pavlov?
So at that point I’m feeling some anxiousness. For a 7:15 game, I’ll get to the park around 2:30. When I step into the clubhouse, my demeanor gets more serious. I’m having fun with my teammates, but I’m not as goofy and loose as I am at home. I’m enjoying myself, but my body and brain know the clubhouse is my place of work.
As the game gets closer, I’m feeling more intensity. I just get going. I used to feel the intensity and restlessness way too much, and I had to learn how to calm myself down.
I did this in a few ways. I stopped – or at least I try really hard to stop – worrying about results. I can’t control them anyway. What I CAN control is how much I prepare. So I make sure I do everything possible to feel as prepared as possible mentally and physically. If I know I’ve done everything I can do – take extra fielding or batting practice, get my sleep, eat well, go over the defensive charts — I’m going to feel confident and more relaxed.
After BP, I eat, stretch, open mail, etc.
As teammates start to pull on the game uniform, I wait. I stay in my practice uniform or in a T-shirt and shorts.
About 30 minutes before the game, I change into my game uniform. By then, everyone else is already dressed.
Putting on my game uniform is the final step in getting into full battle mode. It’s like putting on armor. For a few minutes, I sit quietly in front of my locker. I’m not having conversations. My mind is focused on what I need to do to help us win. I’m thinking about my approach at the plate: Keep it simple, stay within yourself, see the ball and hit the ball. I try to keep myself from getting too caught up in the opposing pitcher’s strategy. Don’t overthink it.
But soon I have to start moving. Once the uniform is on, my brain and body are on red-alert to play. I want to get going. I might expend a little energy taking some cuts in the batting cage behind the dugout. I might walk to the dining room and grab something to drink. I want to just get out there and play. It drives me nuts to just sit at that point.
I’ve been doing this same routine, more or less, since I was in the minors. It keeps me calm, gets me focused and energizes me for another game of a very long season.
Thanks for reading. . . And thanks for all the All-Star votes! It really means a lot to see and hear about the efforts to get the vote out. I feel really lucky to play for the best fans in baseball.
(Movie reviews soon.)