DuraCatch™ & DuraHit™ Mental Mindset

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DOJO MINDSET | 2|12|24

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Order, Timing & Intent

You step into the batters box, and you start thinking about how this guy is going to attack you.  He gets a lot of chases and misses with his slider, especially late, so you’ll have to watch out for that.  He doesn’t throw his changeup a lot, especially to hitters with your handedness, so you can take that one off the menu.  He tries to keep his fastball down and away, and he likes to get ahead in the count with it.  You like to pull fastballs for power in early counts, and middle-in is your happy zone.  So, what’s the plan?

This generally looks like a good process, right?

Look again at the very first sentence.  You’re late.  If these thoughts are going through your head after you step into the box, the first pitch will blow right past you before you realize it, or you’ll panic and swing at anything that comes out of his hand (including the rosin bag).  You’re also thinking about how he is going to attack you, so you’re already in defensive mode.

The second sentence tells me that you care too much about his strengths.  Your first thought about him was about his wipeout slider, and because you started this process after stepping in the box, it’s the only thought you have time for before the pitch is on the way.  You’ve set yourself up to chase it.

The third sentence is a nice observation and helpful, just not while the pitcher is in his delivery..

The fourth sentence makes sense, and gives you an idea of what he’s trying to do with his fastball.  But it’s near the end of the thought process, and it’s getting smothered by the other thoughts.

Your own strengths only come to your mind as the fifth thought.  The basis of your attack plan should be up front, clear and correct in the front of your mind at all times.  “You like to drive inner-half fastballs.”  Think this first.

Finally, you ask yourself, “What’s the plan?”  Wrong.  This question needs to be asked well in advance.  Before the game.  On the bench.  In the on-deck circle.  Any time before you get into the box and you’re facing the pitcher.

Let’s simply flip the order and timing of these thoughts and see if there’s a difference…

Before you step into the batters box, you consider your plan to attack this pitcher.  You like pulling inner-half fastballs for power.  This guy tries to keep his fastballs down and away, but no pitcher is perfect, and if you get one in your sweet spot, you’ll jump on it.  He doesn’t like his changeup, so you can take that one off the menu.  You’re aware that his slider is his putaway pitch, and he wants you to chase it out of the zone.  Now you’re ready to step into the box, get your breath right, let your eyes take over, and wait for the pitch you’re looking for…

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DOJO MINDSET | 1|29|24

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: Confidence

LEADERSHIP: Confidence

Confidence is a skill.  We normally think about confidence as a characteristic or trait, but then we tend to confuse it with “cockiness.”  Rather than thinking about confidence as a feeling that we experience (like cockiness), let’s consider it as something we can purposefully practice.

First, you must choose confidence.  It may sound fake when you first think about it in this way, almost like cockiness itself, as though you are trying to convince yourself that everything will work out just fine.  But if you take a closer look, you’re actually committing to the work required for true confidence, rather than just hoping you feel good about your luck.  This decision itself doesn’t make you confident, but it unleashes the power of your intention.

Next you must prepare.  “Win first, then fight.”  This is where to apply your effort.  Know the answers on the test before you take it.  Knowyou’re ready to block because you’ve done your drill work.  Know you’re ready to call the game because you’ve done your homework on the opposing hitters.  Know you’re ready to help your pitcher get through potentially tough spots because you’ve talked to him about it beforehand. If you “hope,” you didn’t do the work.  Know you will perform because you’ve already done it.

Finally, you must project confidence.  Let those around you see your confidence by how you carry yourself.  Your very presence should say, “I am prepared.  I’ve already won, and now I’m ready to fight.”  Deliver this powerful message with your chin up and your chest out, calm and steady, in good times and bad.  Speak with clarity and authority.  You’ve earned it.

Have you decided?
Are you prepared?
Do you project?

Are you cocky or confident?  At the end of the day, only one of these options is worth following.

Which will you choose?

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DOJO MINDSET | 1|15|24

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

“Win First, Then Fight”

It’s not time to fight, but the time to win is now.

Soon, you’ll be fighting for a spot on the team.
Then, you’ll be fighting the other team for a win.
Then, you’ll fight all the teams for the championship.

This is not the time to relax.
This is not the time for days off.
This is not the time to rest.

It’s go time, right now.

Get tired now, so you’re strong when it’s time to fight.
Get sore now, so you’re fresh when it’s time to fight.
Get frustrated now, so you’re focused when it’s time to fight.

Have you earned your roster spot?
Have you won your first game?
Have you won the championship?

Not sure?
Don’t wait to find out.
Win today.

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DOJO MINDSET | 1|1|24

A DuraCatch™ & DuraHit™ Exclusive

Begin Again

Every year we make New Year’s resolutions.  We promise to work harder, lift more weights, and run more.  We vow to eat better, stay hydrated, and get more quality sleep.  We pledge that we will take more swings, block more balls, and receive more pitches from the machine.  And by January 7th, we have totally forgotten our solemn vows.  It happens every year.

Let’s take a fresh look at this process.  You can make a change in your life any day of the year, so what’s so special about New Year’s Day?  It’s not the promises to “do better” that matter, but the spirit of beginning again.  This day is about taking stock, acknowledging that we’ve taken a trip around the sun, marking our progress toward the goals we’ve set, and renewing our commitment.

So, instead of making a resolution that you’ll forget in a week, take a step in the direction you’ve already chosen.  Tomorrow, take another one.  Then, do it again.

Now, take a deep breath, inhaling through your belly and up into your chest, then release it slowly, slowly, back down through your chest, gently squeezing your core like a toothpaste tube until there is not a whiff of breath in your lungs.

You are now ready to begin again…

DOJO MINDSET | 12/20/2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Happy Holiday’s

When you’re focused on achieving big goals, it’s necessary to prioritize what matters most, like how we’re spending our free time, what we’re eating, and whether we’re getting the sleep we need to perform at our best.  We end up setting aside some of the things we like because achieving our dream has become more important.

But sometimes that focus can lead us to neglect our most important relationships, and we can get wrapped up in the pursuit of our dream, blocking everything and everyone else out.  It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, but you don’t have to.

The holiday season gives us a chance to reconnect with family and strengthen our friendships.  It’s the perfect opportunity to set down our projects for a minute to enjoy and appreciate the people closest to us.  Sure, this is an important time of year to train and prepare for the upcoming season, but it’s also a chance for us to pause and spend some time with those who love us the most.

It’s probably the perfect time for them to do the same, as they have their own goals and ambitions, just like you.  So it’s important to take advantage of these natural common breaks in our schedules because, once we get past the holidays, our busy lives will once again begin to accelerate, and those opportunities will begin to slip away.

So, take a break.
Hang out with your friends.
Spend time with your family.
We’re all in this together.

Happy Holidays!

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DOJO MINDSET | 12|4|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: DECISIVENESS

You’ve done the work.  You know your pitchers.  You know the opposing hitters.  You created a game plan.  Your instincts are trained and trusted.  You know when to improvise.  What’s left to do?

Decide.

This is where a lot of players get hung up.  The decisions feel big, and each one is under a microscope because there are consequences attached to them.  Well, there are consequences, but it’s your job to decide.  So, decide.

This is no time to get stuck on the fence, deliberating on what to do.  You did that before the game.  That part’s done.  This is no time to second-guess yourself.  (That will come later.)  This is the time for the “first” guess.  Follow through on what you planned to do.

Get comfortable with the possibility of making a mistake, but also get comfortable with the probability that you’ll make good decisions.  You are prepared, and you trust your gut.  What is it telling you?  Do what it says, and pull the trigger.

The game can’t start until you throw a finger down.
Well, we’re waiting…

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DOJO MINDSET | 11|21|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: GRATITUDE

Your mom drives you to every practice and every game.
Your dad throws batting practice every time you need it.
Your parents together pay for your lessons and travel teams.
Your older siblings are your example.
Your younger siblings cheer at your games.
Your teammates stand by your side.
Your coaches correct your mistakes and teach you a better way.
Your friends celebrate your victories and support you in defeat.

Nobody has ever succeeded on their own.

So take a moment to personally thank the people who give their time, money and emotional support to help you reach for your dreams.

They’ve earned our appreciation.
We couldn’t do it without them…

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DOJO MINDSET | 11|7|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: IMPROVISATION

You’ve done your homework.  You know your pitcher’s strengths.  You know the hitters’ weaknesses.  You met with your starter and the pitching coach before the game.  The game plan is to attack the hitters with a heavy mix of sliders and off-speed pitches, as they are a very good fastball-hitting team.

During his warmups, your starter is spotting up his fastballs and ripping nasty wipeout sliders that dart in and out of the zone.  He is on tonight, and your confidence is high as you walk in from the bullpen together.

Then the game starts.

The first hitter walks on five pitches, and two of them are spiked sliders.  The second hitter rips a first-pitch fastball just foul down the line, then spits on another slider in the dirt, which squirts away from you and the runner advances to second.  You call another slider, he tosses a hanger over the heart of the plate, and the hitter smokes it into the right-center field gap for a double:  1 — 0.

Now what?

General Colin Powell once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  In this case, you planned on using a lot of sliders to neutralize a fastball hitting team, but your guy’s slider is garbage so far, and they’ve already done damage.  You can blindly follow your original battle plan, falling behind every hitter with bad sliders, or you can improvise.

Try something else.

Have you tried his changeup?  Have you moved his fastball to different parts of the zone?  These may not have been part of your original plan, but you need alternatives quickly before things get out of hand.  And, diverting from the plan just temporarily might be enough for him to regain his feel for the slider, which would give you a chance to return to the plan.  Or, he may never regain that feel in this game, but you can still lead him in a direction that will allow him to limit the damage with the stuff he has tonight.  But, sticking with a plan that’s not working, and expecting success, is the definition of insanity.

Pay attention to his stuff and how the hitters are reacting to it.  What pitches are working for him this game?  …this inning?  …right now?  Call the pitches that are working best — even if they go against your game plan!

Would you rather keep trying to run through a brick wall, or find another way around it?

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DOJO MINDSET | 10|23|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: INSTINCTS

Once you begin gaining expertise, the next step is training and trusting your instincts.

Knowing technically how to do something and being able to do it under game pressure are two different things entirely.  The flow and chaos of a game demand quick and fluid thinking, which is best handled by your subconscious mind.  The baseball world has become hyper-conscious recently.  Every move, thought and decision gets analyzed to death, which makes it hard to think clearly in the heat of the action.

The best catchers trust their instincts to make decisions during the flow of the game.  They don’t memorize an entire scouting report and recall it every pitch.  They don’t think about a hitter’s OPS on four-seam fastballs on the inner third of the plate and compare it to his OPS on sliders down and away while the batter is in the box.  They don’t stare incessantly at the card on their wrist band for the answers.

To be clear, they’re also not back there making blind guesses either.  They’re not feeling their way through the dark, hoping their intuition gets them through it.  They can trust their instincts because they train their instincts.  They weren’t born with them.  They do their homework before the game: scouting reports, conversations with their pitchers, and check-ins with the pitching coach.  They use the experience of past mistakes to further educate their instincts for future games.  And once the game begins, the answers come much more easily.

Your instincts will improve with hard work and experience, just as theirs do.  As they improve, trust your instincts.  Your brain works much better when you get out of its way and just let it happen…

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DOJO MINDSET | 10|9|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: Expertise

In-game decisions are a catcher’s most important responsibility and is most often the reason catchers struggle to stay in the big leagues.  The manager, the pitching coach, and the pitchers themselves need a leader behind the plate who can call the game effectively, and if a catcher can’t handle this responsibility, they will be looking past him for someone who does this well.  So what’s the first step to gaining this skill?

Become an expert.

Get to know your pitchers — physically, mentally and emotionally.  What does he throw?  What are his best pitches ranked best to worst, against righties and lefties?  How does fatigue affect his pitches?  Does he like to call the game, or does he want you to handle it?  Does he read swings well?  What’s his personality like when he’s pitching well?  How about when he’s struggling?  What does his body language say?  Is he different off the field than he is in a game?

Study the hitters.  What pitches does he hit hard, and in what location?  Where will he chase out of the zone?  Can you move his feet with an inside fastball?  What pitch does he miss in the zone?  What pitches will he put in play weakly?  Can you distract him?  How do his weaknesses match up with your pitcher’s strengths?

Understand the game.  With the winning runner on third base, just trying to get ahead with a cookie fastball is not the right call.  Make him chase and miss.  With a runner on first base and one out, you have an opportunity for two outs on one pitch.  Which one will you call, and where do you want him to hit it?  After your offense just put your team up by four runs, it’s not time to nibble at the corners.  Go after the hitters!

How are you supposed to learn all this stuff?

Well, it doesn’t happen by itself, nobody’s born with it, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Talk to your pitchers and watch them in action.

Hang out with them away from the field.

Talk to your pitching coach.

Watch the hitters take B.P.

See how they react in the game.

Read their body language.

Talk to your manager about game decisions.

Read a book.

Watch a big league game and chart the pitches.

Learn the game.

Pay attention!  Or, zone out flipping through your Instagram feed.  It’s up to you.  But know that even if you’re not paying attention, your manager is…

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DOJO MINDSET | 9|25|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is how much physical, mental and emotional distraction you can endure before losing your focus.  It’s not how much grit, determination or perseverance you have.  It’s how consistently you are present in this moment.

What does that mean for you as a catcher?

Stay on task.   There are a lot of details that need minding, and missing just one can lose a game.  There is only one way to attack the following list, and that’s by focusing on each step at the right time:

  • Get the pickoff sign from the coach.
  • Choose the best pitch to call.
  • Observe the hitter’s feet as he gets in the box.
  • Give the signs.
  • Set up on time and give a good target.
  • See if the runner breaks.
  • Judge if the pitch will reach you in the air.
  • Receive, block or throw the ball.
  • Check the runner again after the pitch.
  • Think about how the batter reacted to the last pitch, and choose the next pitch.
  • Start the whole process again for the next pitch.

Recognize distractions.  Your legs are sore and you’re moving slowly today.  Is there something you can do about that right now?  Is there an adjustment you can make to help?  If not, will you dwell on this thought at the expense of the other things that need your attention, or can you simply accept it and focus on your task?

Separate your defense and your offense.  Hitting is hard enough, but it gets a lot harder if you’re thinking about catching while you’re in the batter’s box.  Likewise, your last at bat shouldn’t follow you back behind the plate.  Whether you just hit a grand slam or struck out with the bases loaded, it’s over.  Now your butt is back behind the plate, so make sure your head is right above it so you can get this job done now.  And when you step back into the batter’s box later in the game, leave your catcher brain on the bench with your shin guards.

Understand your emotions.  We think our distractions come from the bad plays we make, like the error you just made, the runner at third you failed to drive in, or the fact that your team is trailing by ten runs.  Actually, it’s not the outcome but our emotional reaction to it that drains our focus.  The elation of a grand slam can be just as distracting as the tragedy of a punch out, if that’s what’s on your mind when you’re supposed to be getting opposing hitters out.

Learn to refocus yourself.  You can’t control your emotions, but you can choose how to respond to them.  Whether you feel angry or happy, tired or energetic, train yourself to acknowledge it and move on.   Ask yourself, “So what?”  Then ask yourself, “Now what?”  The first question allows you to let go of the emotion.  The second question allows you come back to the job at hand.

You’re done reading this.

So what?

Now what?

DOJO MINDSET | 9|11|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: Physical Toughness

Physical toughness is measured by the amount of punishment you can endure before giving up or going down.  It’s not how much you can give, but how much you can take.

What does that mean for you as a catcher?

It means accepting the fact that catching is exhausting and painful.  For professional catchers, the first day of spring training is the best they will feel for the next eight months.  Muscle soreness, bruises, sore knees, and sore backs start on day two, not to mention dislocated or broken fingers, concussions, and arm injuries.  None of these are uncommon in our world, but there is a difference in these lists.

It means knowing the difference between being hurt and injured, and acting accordingly.  If your finger gets dislocated by a foul ball, that’s one thing.  But if that foul ball hits you in the thigh, that’s no reason to stop the game and roll around on the ground in apparent agony for what will eventually amount to a colorful bruise.

It means no drama.  What message are you telling your teammates if you’re constantly complaining about your aches and pains, or every time you block a ball you go into full drama mode, just because a baseball hit you?  Yes, it hurts.  But why would you let anyone see that?  Do you need a little sympathy to make your boo-boo feel better?

It means leading with our body language.  What do think when you see a catcher block a tough pitch that drills him in the elbow, and he pops back up like nothing happened, without flinching, grimacing, or even rubbing it?  I see a guy who prioritizes his team’s success over his personal pain.  I see a stoic.  I see a leader.

But if a stoic approach is too much for you, maybe you should just go stand in the outfield…

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DOJO MINDSET | 8|28|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Leadership: TRUST

Our most important relationships are with our pitchers.  If they trust us, they will follow our lead.  So, how do you build trust?

Become an unselfish teammate.  We’ve all heard the term “selfless,” but that seems a bit dramatic.  You don’t need to lose your pride, or sacrifice your success for anyone else’s.  Instead, simply focus your pride on your team rather than making it about yourself.  Think and speak about “us” and “we,” rather than “I” and “me.”

Show them you care deeply about their performance.  Catch their bullpens.  Prepare for their starts.  Do your homework on the opposing hitters.  Be ready to help them all the time.  Once they begin to notice, their trust in you will begin to grow.

Take the blame, and pass the praise.  When things go wrong, find a way to take the heat.  Your pitchers will see that you’re willing to share the responsibility instead of pointing fingers.  And when things go right, point that finger right at them!

Always support them, no matter what.  This isn’t always easy, but when they see you by their side, especially in tough times, they know they can lean on you.  They will follow your lead when they see you have their back.

What kind of leader would you follow?
What are you doing to become that guy?

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DOJO MINDSET | 8|14|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

LEADERSHIP: Respect

Respect is the foundation of all leadership, and as catchers we need to establish a reputation of respect in order to lead our team.  So how can you do this, especially as a young catcher?

Respect is never free.  It is always earned, and it starts by respecting yourself.  Carry yourself with dignity and people will take you seriously.  Act like a clown, and they will dismiss you easily.  Sure clowns are funny, but when the game is on the line, can you really depend a guy wearing a wig and a red nose?

Try offering respect before demanding it.  When you respect your teammates, they are much more likely to return it, but if you disrespect them, your path towards leadership only gets more difficult.  The same goes for your opponent.  Don’t be surprised when he shows you up if you do it to him first!

Work and play hard, especially when things get tough.  It’s easy to work hard when you feel good and play hard when you’re winning.  Anybody can do that.  But when push through the exhaustion, blocking every ball in the dirt despite being down by ten runs, your teammates will notice.

Match your actions with your words.  Say what you mean, and do what you say you’re going to do.  The respect your teammates have for you will disappear quickly if you’re caught in a lie, or if you can’t deliver on your promises.

Repair your mistakes.  Respect is quickly lost when we make mistakes, and it’s much harder to regain if we don’t fix the damage.  Own your mistakes and make amends.  The repair itself could very well make the respect they had for you even stronger.

Take your time.  Building a reputation of respect doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t.  Keep laying the bricks for your foundation and the structure will begin to rise.  So, when do you want to start laying the first bricks?

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DOJO MINDSET | 7|31|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

It’s Time to Sweat

You’ve taken stock of your season, and you know what you want to improve on the field for next year.  You’re between seasons with fall ball approaching, and you’ve enjoyed a little rest.  Now what?

It’s time to sweat.

Get strong.
Get stable.
Get flexible.
Get quick.
Get powerful.
Get in the weight room.

One catcher is working, and another is taking the day off.
Which one is winning the 2024 season?

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DOJO MINDSET | 7|17|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Taking Stock

This summer’s season is coming to a close.  Teams are wrapping up their last tournaments and getting ready for fall ball.  Some of you are getting ready for high school to start.  Some of you are headed off to college for the first time.  Some of you are becoming upper class-men.  It’s time for a much-needed break.

This is the perfect time to take stock.

Are you winning before the first pitch is thrown?

Are you trained or untrained?

Is your mind open to new ideas?

Do you pay attention to the details?

Have you freed your mind?

Are you searching for knowledge outside of baseball?

How do you approach your work in the bullpen?

Do you shake off the bumps and bruises without complaint?

Can you just wait for the ball?

Have you found the link between your body and your mind?

Do you play the game?

Are you hoping for that, or taking care of this?

When the storm hits, do you anchor your team?

Can you slow the game down for yourself?

Do you know when your pitcher is in trouble by just looking at him?

Are you ok with going unnoticed, even if you help your team win?

Have you thanked the people who have supported you?

Did you come back from your injury even better than before?

Can you let go of the game when you need to?

How will you continue to grow?

DOJO MINDSET | 7|3|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Get a Grip

You’re working out in the weight room with a heavy set of dumbbells, and about halfway through the set the weight begins to slip. What should you do?

You have to let go to get a better grip.

You’re grinding through the summer, working out every day, playing a few games during the week and tournaments every weekend.  But you’re getting a little tired, practice isn’t as fun any more, the games start to drag, and your focus is getting a little fuzzy.  What should you do?

To get a better grip, you have to let go.

Do something other than baseball. Hang out with friends. Go to a movie. Go fishing. Do whatever you like to do other than baseball. Recharge your batteries. Refresh your body. Rest your mind.

Let go…

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DOJO MINDSET | 6|19|23

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Injury

You sprained an ankle and the doctor says you’ll be down for a few weeks.

Bummer.  

Self-pity creeps into your mind.  You’re helpless.  You’re useless.  You’re worthless.

Boo hoo.

Doubts begin circling around your mind like vultures over a wounded animal.  It’s hopeless…

What can you do?

  1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Stop complaining.  Start acting like a catcher.
  1. Be patient.  Wait.  Let time do its job.  You can’t change this, so stop wishing the universe will make an exception just for you.
  1. Find ways to get better, both physically and mentally.  Take care of your ankle with ice, heat and movement.  Do your rehab exercises.  Fight to get back into the lineup as quickly as you can.  Strengthen the rest of your body with upper body lifts and arm care exercises.  Learn something new about the game with a book, or a video, or a long conversation with a coach.  Don’t waste your time.
  1. Find ways to help your team.  Watch the opposing hitters.  Chart the game.  Talk to your pitchers and share new ideas about how to win.  Encourage your teammates.  The more you think about them, the less you will think about yourself.

Or, you could just keep crying about it.  It’s your choice…

DOJO MINDSET | |6|5|2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Seniors—
As you finish your high school careers, take a moment to thank the people who made it possible for you to play the game.
Thank your coaches for teaching you the game.
Thank your teammates for standing by your side and pushing you to get better.
Thank your friends for coming out to cheer for you.  
Thank your grandparents for all the bats and balls and gloves and shoes they’ve bought for you over the years.
And thank your parents for giving up their weekends to drive you to tournaments, sacrificing to find you the best private instructors, putting up with your complaining after a bad game (and still giving you a pat on the back), and showing up at every game.
Never forget: we are nothing without those who support us.

DOJO MINDSET | 5|15|2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

You’re cruising through a game, and your pitcher has everything working today.  His fastball has life and he’s spotting it up.  He’s throwing his slider for quality strikes early in the count, and the hitters can’t touch it with two strikes.  His changeup has batters from both sides of the plate out on their front foot, and it’s getting quick weak outs when he’s behind in the count.  He’s strutting around like a fighting rooster.
With two outs, he runs into his first 3-2 count of the game, and he nails the corner with a comeback sinker.  You catch it perfectly…and the umpire calls it a ball.  Your pitcher swears into his mitt, catches the ball, and takes a long pouty walk around the mound.  Runner on first.
The very next pitch is another perfect sinker, and the hitter pulls a harmless three-hopper to the shortstop, but it takes a bad hop and he can’t quite field it.  Now your pitcher’s head drops and he raises his palms to the sky, as though catching raindrops.  Runners on first and second.
Four pitches later, he finds himself in a 2-2 count, and he unleashes the slider that’s been wiping out hitters all day, but this one backs up and gets smoked into the gap for a two-run double.  He just stands in the middle of the field as the play unfolds, not even backing up the play at the plate.  Two runs in and a runner on second.  Here comes the pitching coach.
You’re late.  You missed the moment.
Can you spot it?  Not the double.  Not the hanging slider.  I’ll give you a hint: after the walk, before the bad hop.
Now you see it: the moment his body language changed.  He was focused on THAT borderline call, then THAT bad-luck play, then THAT two-run double.
Might the inning have gone differently if you had gone to the mound, at the exact moment when you first noticed a change in his body language, and brought his focus back to executing THIS pitch?

DOJO MINDSET | 4|24|2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

You’ve worked diligently to quicken your release, strengthen your arm, and throw accurately, and your throws between innings are automatic.  You move into the pitch, catch the ball deep, and release firm throws into the tag zone in around 1.90 seconds.  You’re feeling pretty good about the work you’ve put in, and your confidence is high.

The first hitter of the inning gets a base hit, and as you give the sign for the first pitch, you’re thinking, “I’m going to throw this guy out.”  Good thought, right?

Let’s see how it plays out…

The runner gets a good jump and your pitcher is slow to the plate.  As you see the play develop, your brain is screaming, “Hurry up!  There’s no time!  Throw him out!”  So, you lunge and reach out for the ball, exchange it as fast as you with your feet scrambling beneath, and blindly uncork the hardest throw you can muster.  The ball sails high and to the right, and the runner slides into the base, pops up, and runs to third when he sees the ball rolling into center field.  You never get a pop time because it never touched the infielder’s glove.

What went wrong?

Was it the wild, uncontrolled throw?
Was it the messy footwork?
Was it the hurried exchange?
Was it the lunge?
Was it the reach for the pitch?

Or was it your thought?

What was on your mind when you were firing pellets right on the bag between innings?

What changed?

DOJO MINDSET | 4|10|2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Emotions are contagious.  By reading the body language of our teammates, most notably the leaders, we tend to sync-up with their emotional state.  This is especially true when things go wrong.  We start looking around to see how others feel about what’s happening.

“Oh, crap!  What do we do now?”

What does this mean for the catcher?  You’re the only player who faces the entire team.  You have eight sets of eyes pointed directly at you, which makes you the de facto leader on the field.  How you carry yourself directly influences the emotional state of your entire team.

When your pitcher gives up a bomb, do you shake your head?  When the umpire doesn’t call a strike after you perfectly receive a borderline pitch, do you pout?  When the shortstop boots a routine ground ball, do you throw your hands up in the air?  When you miss an easy block, do you hang your head and slump your shoulders? 

What do your teammates think in these moments? 

Would they respond differently if you simply kept your head up and your chest out?

Who is in the best position to anchor your team?

DOJO MINDSET | 3|28|2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Where is your head?  

Are you in middle school hoping to make the freshman team next year?  

Are you a junior varsity player working toward a starting role on the varsity team?  

Are you shooting for a college team, maybe even Division I?  

Are you a college player hoping they call your name in the amateur draft?  

Are you a minor leaguer, shooting for the big leagues?

Are you a big leaguer who wants to be an all-star?

This is here.

That is there.

This is the level you’re playing at.

That is the level you want to reach.

Do you think you can reach that without first taking care of this?

DOJO MINDSET | 2.28.2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Take a breath.

If you’re like me, you probably inhaled first, then exhaled.  You expanded your chest, then relaxed it to let the air back out.  

Observe the effect of this breath on your body and mind.  Describe any changes to your vision, your body posture, or any subtle changes to your emotional state.

Ok.  Take another breath.

This time exhale first, contracting your abs to push the air out, then relax them to let the air pour back in.

Is anything different?

Ok.  Take another breath.

This time exhale first, but control of the airflow.  Use your abs and core to slowly and smoothly push the air completely out of your lungs, all the way to the bottom, then relax your entire torso and let the air pour freely and effortlessly back into your lungs.

Does the world around you seem to be in a little sharper focus?  Do you feel a balance of tension and relaxation in your body?  Has the noisy chatter in your mind begun to settle?

You are beginning to discover the link between your body and mind.

How can you use this?

DOJO MINDSET | 2.13.2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

We are bombarded daily with messages and theories about movement.  Be quick!  Be powerful!  Be efficient!  But we don’t hear a lot about timing.  When should I be quick?  When should I be powerful?  How can I be efficient?

What happens at the beginning of the play determines the end of the play.  If you are late at the beginning, you will end up chasing the play and the pitch will move your glove, regardless of the speed, strength or efficiency of your move.  If you are on-time, you will be waiting for the pitch and you will stop it when it comes to you.  And you’ll find that you need much less speed and power than you thought you did.

Waiting for the play allows your eyes to move your body without your brain getting in the way.  When you’re late, your eyes are still moving as the pitch is delivered so they’re late to focus on the ball and your brain panics and your muscles tense up and your rhythm is destroyed and you end up chasing the play.  When you’re on time, your eyes settle, they pick up the pitch quicker, and they move your body fluidly and smoothly in response to the ball.

When you can calmly and quietly wait — not tense or relaxed, but engaged — you will experience the quality of move you have been searching for all along.  Your eyes will take your glove to the ball on time — without any extra manipulation — and you can stop that pitch at any point.  Your eyes will have time to read when a pitch will be in the dirt — without anticipating or cheating — and you can respond easily to block a dirt-ball.  Your eyes will see the runner break early, and you will roll into your throwing rhythm without panic.

This sounds mechanical, right?  

Wrong.  

This is about intention.

Are you trying to look good as you slide casually into your stance?  Do you feel quicker if you’re moving before the pitch comes?  Are you paranoid about base runners relaying pitch locations?

Or, do you just want to be ready for this play?

DOJO MINDSET | 1.30.2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Why are you doing this to yourself?

Why did you choose daily pain and exhaustion?
Why did you choose to tattoo your inner thighs with colorfully blossoming bruises?
Why did you choose to take the blame for every hung pitch and hard-hit ball?
Why did you choose fractured and dislocated fingers?
Why did you choose the effort and responsibility of learning the other team’s weaknesses?
Why did you choose to be a grunt?

More importantly, do you think you have the right to complain about any of it?  
After all, you chose it…

DOJO MINDSET | 1.16.2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

It’s time to start working with pitchers again.  Winter vacations are over, pitchers are taking the mound again to prepare for the upcoming season, and they need you to catch their bullpens.  This is your best opportunity to practice for a couple reasons.

First, catching a bullpen provides game-speed reps with inconsistent locations.  Nothing prepares you to catch in a game like bullpen work.  It can be chaotic and unexpected, much like a game.  Elite catchers use these sessions to mindfully hone their skills.  They set up on time, paying attention to their balance and stability.  They read each pitch and respond accordingly and correctly.  They receive each pitch properly, working it back to the zone and holding it for a count.  They block pitches in the dirt without cheating.  They work on throwing exchange and footwork.  In a nutshell, they see the bullpen session as an opportunity to improve at game-speed.  Mediocre catchers see bullpens as a chore.  They just catch the ball and throw it back without focusing on their technique.

Second, catching bullpens offers an opportunity to build trust with their pitchers.  Before his pitcher even steps on the mound, an elite catcher talks with him about the upcoming session.  What are you working on?  How can I help you?  He establishes a personal connection with the pitcher, and lets him know he cares.  Once the bullpen starts, he works to help his pitcher execute, providing encouraging, but honest feedback.  Afterward, he meets him again face-to-face, and provides any further feedback the pitcher wants.  He develops his communication skills, and at the same time gains the trust of his pitching staff.

So, the next time you strap on the gear to catch a bullpen, consider what you’re about to do.  If you see it as an opportunity to improve your skills and strengthen relationships with your pitchers, then your work will pay off.  If you see it as a chore, and you can’t wait to get it over, then you might as well just set up a catch-net and walk away.

DOJO MINDSET | 1.2.2023

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

If you’ve been following our Mindset blog and Midweek Motivations so far, you’ve noticed a lot of quotes and ideas from people who have absolutely nothing to do with baseball.  You probably don’t even recognize many of the names attached to the quotes.  There’s a reason for that.

Baseball as an “industry” can start sounding like an echo chamber.  Coaches and “gurus” say the same things back and forth, maybe with a little different wording, and each one slightly louder than the next, until they’re essentially screaming the same message back at each other.  In all of this noise the message gets lost, and players can get confused.

To gain some clarity and perspective, try stepping outside the echo chamber and look into disciplines that seemingly have nothing to do with baseball.  You will find fresh voices, speaking at a normal volume about their craft, and they almost always offer lessons you can directly apply to your game: mental focus, leadership skills, awareness and mindfulness, physical training, stress management, decision-making, balance and movement, and the list goes on…

Here is a short list of some of my favorite “baseball” books to get started:
        — The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, by Bruce Lee
        — The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey
        — The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle
        — Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about baseball came from way outside the game.  An expert from another field just may be holding the key that opens up the next level of your game, so why not take a look at what they have to say?

DOJO MINDSET | 12.19.22

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive

Welcome back to the dojo.  You’re right in the middle of your off-season training program by now.  You’ve identified the best techniques.  You’ve been concentrating on the the details.  But it’s starting to get a little boring.  It feels like you’re doing the same drills over and over again, and you’re still months away from your first game.  A thought begins to creep in…what’s the point?

The point is a free mind.  “Mu-shin” (pronounced moo-sheen) is a Japanese word that means “no-mind.”  It doesn’t mean ignorant, stupid, or unintelligent, but rather having a mind free of conscious thought.  In the dojo, martial artists train their moves with endless repetition so they don’t have to consciously choose to punch, block or kick while they’re actually fighting.  They work tirelessly to make their physical movements automatic, thus freeing their mind to be aware and responsive during action.  In a state of mu-shin, their body becomes loose, quick and powerful. 

In baseball we call this state of mind “being in the zone.”  Being in the zone has nothing to do with success or failure.  It means responding automatically and “effortlessly” within the flow of the action, free from the tension caused by conscious thought.  You’re just playing the game.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  Elite performers prepare themselves to play in the zone.  Their bodies and minds have been trained, so they can let go and simply respond to the action.  

A clear mind leads to elite performance, and the key to a clear mind is repetition.  Repetition builds muscle memory.  Repetition frees your body.  Repetition creates mu-shin.  Repetition allows you to play in the zone.  Repetition wins the fight BEFORE the fight.

So, if you’re interested in elite performance, quit complaining about your boredom, and do another rep, and another one, and another one, until you can do it without thinking.

DOJO MINDSET | 12.5.22

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive


Mastering Details

Welcome back to the dojo.  You’ve begun your off-season training program by now, you’ve been experimenting with some different styles, and you’ve chosen some techniques that work for you.  Now it’s time to focus on the details.

The smallest detail is the difference between keeping a strike at the bottom of the zone and pushing it out for a ball; between smothering a pitch in the dirt and chasing it to the backstop; between throwing out a base runner and watching him slide in with a stolen base.  The difference is quicker than thought.  In very rough terms, human reaction time is 0.2 second; 0.1 second for your eye to focus on a moving object, and 0.1 second for your brain to respond.  Once out of the pitcher’s hand, it takes a fastball about 0.4 second to reach the plate, giving you 0.2 second to beat the ball to the spot after you’ve recognized it.

How can you work in such a thin sliver of time?

Master the details with mindfulness.  Mindfulness means complete focus in THIS moment, not allowing your mind to wander for any reason.  It means attending to the “little” things that most people ignore, not cutting corners.  Sloppy moves in practice create longer moves in the game, and more lost strikes, missed blocks, and stolen bases.  Consistently focusing your thoughts and movements while training makes your actions quicker and more precise when it counts.

Train mindfully.  In drills, give yourself some time before and after the movement.  Pause…Movement…Pause.  Make your movements crisp and precise.  Use your breath to control your energy and tempo.  Reflect on the move you just made, and mentally note the adjustment you will make for the next rep.  Be the boss of your body.

Right now, you are almost done reading this article.  Are you thinking about how these words can help you become an elite catcher?   Are you thinking about ways to incorporate this idea into your next training session?  Will you read this again, looking for a detail you might have missed the first time?  Or, are you just plowing through it so you can check your Instagram feed?

DOJO MINDSET | 11.21.22

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive


The Power of an Open Mind

Thanksgiving is almost here, and it seems like the baseball world is at rest.  Ordinary players are kicking back, getting ready to watch football and fill up on turkey, thinking there is plenty of time to get ready for the season.  But for elite catchers, the time to win next season has already begun.  It’s time to get in the dojo and train.

The first step is choosing techniques that work best for you, and an open-minded approach will allow you to explore and learn, sifting through all the different possibilities.  Everybody claims to have the “best” technique for catchers.  Crusty old-school coaches repeat the same techniques their coach taught them, and their coach’s coach taught them.  On the other hand, an army of new-school catching gurus flood our social media accounts, each one preaching the “best” ways to receive, block and throw, and “proving” their theories by citing (specially selected) Major League stats and (specially selected) video clips.  But how do you choose the best one for you? 

Question everything.  Does the stubborn loyalty of old-school coaches blind them to the evolution of the game?  Are they willing to break with tradition and adjust their lessons to fit your individual needs?  Do new-school coaches know how your mind works and your body moves?  Does their single “best” way account for your abilities?  Aren’t both of these groups just trying to fit catchers into their own mold?  If you simply take their word for it, whether old-school or new-school, you are blindly following someone’s theory of what “should be”, but not paying attention to “what is”.  Instead, find out for yourself what actually works for you, and what doesn’t.  Try and fail. 

Hopefully, by now you’re asking yourself, “Why am I listening to someone who wants me to fail?”  You’re catching on…

Nobody wants to fail, but there really is no other way to compare techniques.  With a closed-mind, you might be overlooking methods that could unlock better performance.  Even if you feel like your techniques are good, simply trying other methods will allow you to compare.  You may only confirm that your original method works better, or you may discover a technique that brings your game to the next level.  Neither is possible without testing, failing, and comparing.

Timing is everything.  Fail in the dojo before the fight.  You are guaranteed to fail when you try something for the first time, which is why training sessions are the perfect place to explore.  The game is absolutely the wrong time to try something completely new.  Explore new techniques with an open mind before the games start, so you have freedom to explore and test new ideas without risking poor performance when it counts.  By allowing you to embrace failure in this environment, an open mind becomes a powerful tool that can reveal the best techniques…for you.

So, it’s almost Thanksgiving.  It’s time to get the failure out of your system before the season starts.

It’s time to get back in the dojo.

DOJO MINDSET | 11.7.22

A DuraCatch™ Exclusive


Win First, Then Fight

In Japanese, the word dojo means “Place of the Way” or “Place of the Path.”  The dojo is where martial artists train in the way of Karate or take the path of Aikido.  It’s more than just a gym for working out; they don’t practice kicks, punches, or throws in the dojo.  They cultivate both mind and body.  They learn to see, think and move according to their chosen art, and how to respond to the world around them as it unfolds.  It is a sacred place, respected by teachers and students alike.

The dojo mindset is the spirit of preparation.  It means recognizing that the fight is won before it happens.  It means exploring many techniques with open-mindedness, then concentrating only on the most effective ones.  It means focusing mindfully to master even the smallest details.  It means repeating endlessly simple elements of recognition and movement until they are thoughtless and automatic.  The dojo mindset allows the fighter’s mind to be free when the fight actually takes place.  

There are essentially two types of people: trained and untrained.  An untrained person reacts to a situation emotionally, unpredictably, and ineffectively.  A trained person responds to the same situation efficiently, automatically, and without fear.  The trained person wins the fight before it happens.  As catchers, while we are not preparing for an actual fistfight, we train with the dojo mindset to win before we play.

So, have you already won, or are you waiting for the game to start?

Are you trained or untrained?

Welcome to the Dojo.

The Florida Baseball Ranch Staff.