Numerous little leaguers come to me each year with a new found fear of getting hit by a pitch. The first thing I do is congratulate them for being honest with themselves. Half the battle is just being able to communicate this fear in a healthy way to a parent or coach. Secondly, I inform them that they are not alone in this fear. At one point or another every college and/or professional player (including me) has dealt with this shaky feeling when stepping into the batters box. It usually happens the first or second year of kid pitch, and most pros can tell you the exact pitcher that struck fear into them at that ripe age of 7 or 8. Why is this age so prominent? The pitchers are fairly new to being on a mound, thus they are wild. Combine that with the fact that these hitters simply aren’t used to facing another human their age, and it’s a perfect concoction of “I’m scared and I wanna quit.” This is where I hit them with a few facts:
1) Baseball players are mighty warriors. If they weren’t, then everybody in the world would be playing baseball.
2) The pitcher is holding a tiny rubber ball wrapped in plastic and thread, while you are holding a mean, lean, fighting machine we call a bat. I’d rather be holding the mean thing as opposed to the puny thing if I’m headed to battle.
3) There is a huge difference between pain and injury. Pain hurts for a few seconds, but you don’t have to go to the hospital. An injury means we need to get the ambulance ready. I’ve been hit hundreds of times, including 55 times in my four years of college, (Brown University School Record btw) and I never suffered an injury. I’ve also witnessed thousands of HBP’s in my lifetime, all of them causing pain, but not injury.
4) This one tends to get the best response… When you do get hit and you feel that pain, yes it stings, and it hurts, and it is no fun. BUT, as you jog down to first base, guess what’s happening? Every player on the opposing team is whispering to their buddy, “Hey, that guy that just got hit, he’s tough and I want to be like him.” Every player on your own team is saying the exact same thing. The coaches, umpires, and all the fans in the stands all echo in unison, “That kid is tough. I wanna be as brave as that kid. He’s a Mighty Warrior!” By the time you’ve gotten to first base and all those people have said those glorifying words, the pain is pretty much gone, yet you’ve earned the respect of many.
In closing, The approach of the parent and/or coach makes all the difference. I’ve seen this happen many times where an aggressive tone towards this issue just fuels the fire of fear. Make these words challenging, yet relatable and uplifting. This will give the little leaguer a good head start. The only true remedy though is experience. The process of simply stepping into the batters box over and over again, looking out at that pitcher, and attempting to be a mighty warrior is paramount. Then a day will come where that fear just simply disappears, and they will noticeably be on the offensive.