"He talked about belief in his stuff, and all I told myself last night and today was the same thing. I went out tonight with confidence, and just, you know, the game just rolled by."
--A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees pitcher, who learned from the Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher Cliff Lee, about how to mentally prepare for his appearance in the 2009 World Series.
Prior to Game 2, Burnett was walking through the home clubhouse when he noticed Lee, Wednesday's winning pitcher, giving an interview on a nearby television. Burnett stopped to listen as Lee talked about trusting his stuff, pitching with confidence and using positive self-talk.
"All I told myself last night and today was the same thing," Burnett said. "I went out tonight with confidence, and the game just rolled by. I was in a good rhythm."
Burnett found himself in a pressure-packed situation in game two of the World Series. The Yankees did not want to go down 0-2 at home.
Rather than fail under the pressure, Burnett succeeded, outdueling Pedro Martinez, Phillies' starting pitcher and leading the Yankees to a 3-1 victory, evening up this best-of-seven World Series.
"I knew I had a big task ahead of me with Pedro on the mound, and I wanted to go out and pitch the best I could," Burnett said.
“You try to prepare for yourself for these games and this city and this crowd, but I think I fed off the crowd tonight,” he said. “They were up every time I got one strike, they were up every time I got two, and instead of over throwing, I kind of just stayed within myself. I was just trying to keep that going for them.”
"Nothing compares to today," Burnett said. "That was the funnest I've ever had on the baseball field."
CLOSING IT OUT AND DOING YOUR JOB
"You know what you have and what you can do. It's always difficult to pitch in those situations, but you have to do your job."
--Mariano Rivera, who came in as a relief pitcher to close out the win against the Phillies.
Excerpts from Yahoo Sports.com and MLB.com (October 30, 2009)
For more on mental conditioning, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.