Thursday, July 12, 2012

Josh Hamilton Has Talent, But Does He Have Staying Power and Discipline

"What he's doing is incredible. Hot, man, is when you hit .350 for a month, .350 for a week—not .450 with, like, 10 home runs in a week. I can't do that. I have abilities—but not like that."
--Adrian Beltre, veteran major leaguer, discussing Josh Hamilton's hot start at the beginning of the 2012 season.  

Peak Performance Out of the Box

To start the 2012 major league baseball season, Josh Hamilton, outfielder of the Texas Ranger hit .402 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs in his first 31 games, the best start by a hitter since the Athletics' Jimmie Foxx in 1932.

During a torrid seven days in May, Hamilton hit .467 with nine homers, 43 total bases and 18 RBIs including a record-tying four home runs in one game. By June, Hamilton had cooled down but was still was hitting .354 and leading the majors in homers (21), RBIs (57), OPS (1.138), total bases (142) and slugging percentage (.728).

Unprecedented Talent but What About Discipline

 "Josh has more talent, Barry Bonds had more discipline. I don't think Josh would ever get to the discipline that Barry finally got to, but I've never seen a talent like him. He can run, field, throw, hit, hit with power. Barry had all that, but as Barry got older his speed disappeared. The arm disappeared. Hamilton has it all. He just never knew what work ethic was. He never knew how to work. It was all talent."
--Ron Washington, Texas Rangers manager, discussing Hamilton's talent and potential for more.

It was obvious to all who saw him, Hamilton loved to perform and loved the adulation and the glory of the big hits. But, he didn't work hard enough at this craft. He didn't like to study the game.

Work Ethic and Mastery

"He didn't love baseball. He loved to hit," says Roy Silver, who runs the Winning Inning baseball academy, that Hamilton attended. "He loved to dive for balls. The third fungo I hit him, he dove for it and got up and pumped his fist and cheered for himself. But he wouldn't go upstairs and watch baseball. He would go upstairs and watch cartoons or play a video game."

During spring training in 2009, Gary Pettis, the Rangers' assistant coach, made Hamilton his main project. With so little time spent in the minor leagues, and a tendency to avoid opportunities to learn and study, Hamilton only was willing to learn by doing. Pettis helped him to value such things as: how to study tendencies, how to stay in the game defensively even when his bat goes quiet—in essence, how to be a professional.

"It's been a process," Pettis says. "Josh is 100 percent better today than he was when we acquired him. Especially mentally, he understands how this game is played."

At the halfway point in the 2012 season, Hamilton is considered by many to be the MVP of the American League, if not major league baseball. He is batting .308 with 27 homeruns and 75 RBIs.

What Does the Future Hold?

Can Josh Hamilton sustain it? An admitted crack addict and alcoholic, he has fallen off the wagon multiple times. Does he have what it takes to maintain this type of performance day-in, day-out, season after season?

One clue about his growing maturity came in Hamilton's decision to skip the 2012 Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities this week.

"Why mess up a good thing?" Hamilton said in explaining his reasons for skipping this year's Derby. "I've got nothing to prove. It's fun. I would like to do it, but you've got to think about the whole season and the club."

"No, it didn't hurt in 2008, but it takes one swing [to injure himself]," Hamilton noted. "You've got to be smart about it. I understand that I play major league baseball, but I work for the Texas Rangers. I understand that they need me healthy, and I want to be healthy."

Smart and mature.

Excerpts from (June 11, 2012) and (July 10, 2012).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bryce Harper Goes Full Tilt

“He doesn’t take things for granted. When you get in the game of baseball, it gets long, and the hustle, the fight, sometimes you don’t do it all the time. But he’s 100 percent. From start to finish, he is in it, mentally, physically. You can kind of see guys slip up a little bit. Even the best do it; I’ve done it. You can’t see it from him.”

--Cole Hamels, All-star pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, discussing Bryce Harper, rookie right fielder of the Washington Nationals.

Harper is the youngest position player in MLB All-Star Game history and third youngest overall. As a replacement for injured All-Star, Giancarlo Stanton, Harper has a .282 batting average with 8 home runs and 25 RBIs.

Excerpt from (07/10/2012).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 09, 2012

Olympic Sprinters: Mental Conditioning Techniques Used to Control Physiological Responses

“It’s such a crazy race. A lot of people can’t handle that lactic acid. When that lactic acid hits, naturally, your body wants to do something. Naturally, your body wants to rock back, your legs want to flare up, your arms, your body is just in this shock mode and you really have to get in the mental zone and focus on just moving forward. 
--LaShawn Merritt, the reigning Olympic champion in the men’s 400-meter race, discussing the second half of the distance.

Although Merritt has extraordinary muscular strength that powers him through the first 200 meters — sometimes in less than 20 seconds — those muscles may also suffer under a buildup of lactic acid toward the end of the race.

Michael Joyner, a physiologist at the Mayo Clinic, says that sprinters who tense up, especially in the arms, move more slowly. It is known as a “bear jumping on your back” or “turning to stone.” The tension makes a runner less efficient bio-mechanically, thus expending the same amount of energy but not travelling as far.

Some coaches and doctors, including Joyner, instruct runners to let their eyes droop during a race, hoping that if they relax their face, the rest of the body will follow.

Part of relaxation is rhythm. Anthony Koffi, track coach for Amantle Montsho, the reigning world champion female in the 400-meters from Botswana, believes in using humor during practice, often yelping as he cheers runners up the stadium staircases.

Excerpt from (05/08/2012).

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Tour de France Requires Team Resilience

“In cycling, a good team isn’t defined by how perfect it is in winning moments, but instead how it moves forward when all is [expletive].


--Jonathan Vaughters, the team manager for Liquigas/Cannondale, wrote on Twitter after the stage.

This stage, number six, was marred by crashes which scrambled the standings.

The team's Peter Sagan, has already three stages in the world's most prestigious bicycle race.

Excerpt from (07/07/2012).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, July 06, 2012

LeBron James Learns to Block Out the Noise

"It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom basically to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person. I’m just happy that I was able to be put back in this position. I trusted my instincts, I trusted my habits that I built over the years and I just got back to being myself. And I didn’t care too much about what anyone said about me. I just kind of made my own path, but did it the right way.”
--LeBron James, discussing his mindset during the season and the 2012 NBA Finals, which led to an MVP season and a championship for the Miami Heat.  

Trailing 3-2 in their series with the Boston Celtics, the Heat headed to Boston for Game 6 and facing another possible disappointing exit in the 2012 the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.  Last season, the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.  

James' leadership and shot selection, the team's offensive strategy and head coach Erik Spoelstra's competence were being criticized, something that had been a constant occurrence over the past two seasons.    That night, James scored 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in one of the best big-game performances in the history of the NBA playoffs. 

After the game in Boston, he said, "I don't really hear the outside noise of what's said about me or my team."  

The Heat went on to win Game Seven and then followed that up with a win in the NBA Finals, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-1.   

Excerpts from (6/20/2012) and (6/23/2012).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Steve Nash, New Los Angeles Laker Zen Playmaker (VIDEO)

"Mental toughness encapsulates physical toughness."

--Steve Nash, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player as the point guard of the Phoenix Suns, and new free-agent acquisition of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"With Steve it's all about the flow." -- Bill Duffy, Steve Nash's agent.

Flow, of course, is a term for that state of mind that artists and athletes strive to enter into, and which in full flood entails an ecstatic expansion of consciousness that releases them from confines of the self and produces crowning moments of creativity.

"My first and second years in the N.B.A., I used to get really nervous in a tight game. But now I wait for that moment when things are really close - that's what I really love. Having the ball in my hands and the responsibility makes me feel calm and open. Not to have that, not to get to that point in a game, would feel really...really confining."

--Steve Nash, who still seeks his first NBA championship.

An interviewer asked, "Was there one shot or game when you first felt that way?"

"Probably it built over time - I don't want it to sound like there's anything too mystical about it."

"I've always said when Steve retires, I'll retire. I don't want anyone to be able to figure out whether our success is because of my system or Steve's ability to make it work. There's a period in a player's life where the novelty wears off. You've got kids and money, and sometimes your basketball flame begins to flicker. And then a few years later, you realize you've got a limited amount of time and this is the best it's ever gonna be. I think Steve is one of those guys who has always lived for the game. You can have all the money in the world, but for the great players the only thing that matters is winning a title."

--Mike D'Antoni, former Phoenix Suns head coach.

"There are nights when I ask myself, 'Am I really playing basketball?' But that's mostly from the stuff around the game: talking to the media, taking the bus, getting warmed up. Once I'm out on the court, in the game, the game is great."

--Steve Nash.

"I don't know. I have a lot of energy and a lot of motivation. I have a hard time sitting still. I guess in a way I can't live with the alternative to being driven, which is sitting around being bored. If I'm going to go for something, I'm really going to go for it. I think I realized as a kid that I would keep going when other kids stopped. If my legs are there, if my quickness is there, I can have a good game. If not, I try to find other ways of making plays without being quick. Making smart plays. Making the game simple."

--Steve Nash, responding to a question about what drove him and motivated him beyond the obvious goal of a championship.

Excerpts from Play magazine November 2007. 

Roger Federer Gets in the Zone in Comeback Win

“I do go into a trance-like state I guess at times. I did feel that midway through the third set on Friday, things were clicking for me.  And I knew that it was going to be hard for him to come through."
--Roger Federer, talking about his ability to get in the zone during a match against Julien Bennetaur at Wimbledon last week.  

Federer came back from two sets down in the match to stay alive at Wimbledon in this second round match.  He went on to win two more matches to set up a rematch with Novak Djokovic in one of the semifinals.  Federer has won Wimbledon six times.   

Excerpt from (July 1, 2012).