Saturday, October 8, 2011

Staying The Course In Baseball

By Jim Bain

Arguably, Albert Pujols is the best baseball player playing the game today, if not ever in the history of baseball. His numbers the first the ten years of his career are all but astounding, with Hall of Fame RBI, Home Run and Walk, both intentional and "just a good eye" numbers.

However, the start of the 2011 season have been anything but kind to Pujols. His home run numbers are way down, his strike outs are way up, and he has hit into an incredible amount of double plays. It appeared Albert's magical ride to the Hall of Fame was taking a detour.

Yet, Albert Pujols maintained there was nothing wrong and although his offensive production, which would have been good for 80% of major league players, suffered, his sparkling defensive play never wavered.

The National sports media and the St. Louis local sports all began printing what they considered what Pujols' problem was. Many thought the pressure and distraction of the contract difficulties he was encountering with the Cardinals was the main culprit, while others began to question if his Super Star abilities had somehow waned and prophesized the end of his career.

Yet, Albert Pujols maintained there was nothing wrong with him and simply asked for patience from the media and the fans. The St. Louis fans were not an issue, as they adore Pujols, but he felt the pressure of disappointing them. The media, of course was a different story, as they say "bad news sells newspapers," and they stayed on the story like a shark feeding frenzy.

Being from St. Louis and an avid Cardinals fan since I was six years old, I felt the panic which gripped the city, a city which loves their Cardinals even more than their Busch and Bud Lite beer, and it was disconcerting for me.

I didn't realize until well underway with my investigation, that I had inadvertently became an imaginary Cardinal coach and had taken it upon myself to figure out what was wrong with Pujols. If I was attending a game, I was glued to the big screen television, observing and scrutinizing every little motion of Pujols while he batted.

I analyzed the way he stuck his tongue out while hitting, thinking maybe if he was sticking it out too far, it was throwing his balance off. I would hit the pause button stopping the action and peered at where Pujols would pick his foot up, then set it back down, reasoning that could definitely negatively affect his swing.

For what seemed like months, I watched Albert who never varied anything in his batting stance, including sticking his tongue out. Albert continued to maintain there was nothing wrong, but his performance wasn't quite verifying that position.

It happened against the Chicago Cubs, fittingly enough for the hated Cubbies, Albert proved there was nothing wrong. He had two massive walk off home runs on two back to back days and began a streak of power hitting which quickly had opposing pitchers, who had been challenging Albert, pitching around him.

Albert was in deed right. There had been nothing wrong and he was proving it, but Pujols doing what Pujols does, is not what impressed me about the entire situation. What impressed me, while humbling me for questioning, was the attitude Pujols took through the entire ordeal and it should be a lesson for all ball players young and old.

Albert knew what he had done and how he did it the past 10 years was the proper thing to continue doing. He had proven his numbers were not a fluke, 10 years of consistent numbers is not a fluke. It would have been easy for Albert to have begun tinkering with his hitting mechanics, opening his stance, dropping his hands or a number of other changes which players try to get out of their slump.

Albert held the course because he knew he was right. Young players should pay special heed to this action and courage. If you know you're right, past performance verifies what you're doing works... stay the course. Not until you begin to question your hitting mechanics, and I'm not talking an 0-4 game or even two in a row, I'm talking you feel uncomfortable at the plate, do you begin altering your hitting mechanics.

This is a great lesson in courage and doing what you know what is right.

Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player, who since retiring has dedicated his life to teaching baseball to youth, shares his advice on running baseball drills on his exciting info packed website:

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