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Advice from a former Big Leaguer – Greg Litton

Jon Gregory Litton is a former infielder-outfielder in Major League Baseball drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 1st round (10th pick) of the 1984 amateur draft. He played for the San Francisco Giants (1989-1992), Seattle Mariners (1993), and Boston Red Sox (1994).

Litton was a versatile utility man. The positions he played most often were second base, the outfield, and third base. He also played shortstop, first base, and catcher, and even made one appearance as a pitcher. His personal high for playing time was during the 1990 season, when he was in 93 games and made 220 plate appearances.

1. What was it like playing in the big leagues?
It was a dream come true. It was literally like living out a dream. It was fun, challenging, frustrating and exciting all at the same time.

2. What was it like playing in the minors?
Confusing would be a good word. Every level creates it’s own challenges and they were very different. From dealing with more talented team-mates and opponents to the mental challenges that grew the closer I got to the Major Leagues. Which I think was the toughest, but it was also a blast.

3.What were some major obstacles that you experienced during the course of your
career?

Dealing with a different team attitude at every level was probably one of the hardest things. Playing as a team made it easier but the higher you go, the less team it becomes and selfish players trying to get themselves to the big leagues.

4.What do you think separates average players from great players more? Physical ability or Mental / Emotional ability.
With out a doubt it is Mental ability and toughness. Only a handful of players had enough ability to overcome the mental aspect of baseball, all the rest there was not enough difference in talent so it became the one that wanted it the most or worked the hardest.

5.Do you think there is a limit to a baseball players potential?
Maybe, but the longer you play, the better you get so I don’t believe anybody ever reaches his limit.

6. What was the greatest lessons you learned playing baseball, and think every
player should understand?

That baseball is the greatest sport because it allows someone like me (moderately talented) to compete at the highest level against much more physically talented players because baseball is much more mental then the other sports.

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Failure in baseball part II

Baseball is a game of failure.

If your having trouble with failure, watch this for some useful perspective!

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Choosing the best stride

 

Having the correct stride is very similar to getting your hands back. Both are necessary movements to starting your swing. If not done correctly, you may find yourself not being able to handle certain pitches.
A common debate for many teachers of hitting has been about what to do with the lead leg when beginning to transfer your weight. Should you have a leg kick, toe tap, simple stride, post stride, or a leg lift that simply comes up then down?  Like every other mechanical attribute, a hitters front leg movement depends on the type of hitter he is and what he is capable of. Each style has their benefits and their handicaps.

Leg kick

An example of an effective leg kick would be Hanley Ramirez. His power comes from shifting his weight s
lightly back thus allowing his lead leg to lift. As his weight shifts back to his center of gravity he has cultivated momentum which will allow his hands to be pulled through the zone while using his core for torque. This movement creates UNBELIEVABLE power but the problem is that most hitters heads will move too much during the stride thus disabling the hitters optic nerve to receive the information (pitch) accurately enough to make the correct adjustments and react accordingly. The more
the head moves the less you see. So if you have a leg kick, your head moves back but after the weight shift it has to come back to where it was in the beginning stance or a few inches forward. A little head movement won’t hurt, but a lot will. I wouldn’t recommend this for younger hitters because their legs haven’t developed enough for the necessary leg strength and balance.

Toe tap

A toe tap is all about rhythm. Chipper Jones is probably the best at this style. It allows you to get some weight going back before you stride while you keep your feet close enough to the ground so that you can avoid getting your foot down too late. Personally I think this is a good style. I did this early in my college career and also ended with a style like this. This also allows your head to stay still while you attempt to pick up the pitch early enough. There really isn’t anything negative I can think of about this approach.

Simple stride

This style is probably the most basic movement that majority of hitters have done. Not much emphasis is being put on getting your weight back, but is a style that is good for getting your foot down in time with without post- striding. A simple stride is basically the movement of your foot in your stance striding straight to a flex stance without a leg kick or toe-tap. A  Couple of players that do this well are Evan Longoria and Dustin Pedroia.

Post stride

This is a stride that you see more often in college and minor league ball. These players are finally seeing high velocity on a day to day basis so are having to make adjustments by getting the front foot down before the ball is even released. This is a very effective style as long as hitters remind themselves to keep their weight back and or not to Over stride. Some hitters tend to drift forward as they post stride thus robbing them of their power and ability to stay back on off speed. There aren’t a lot of big leaguers that do this but its not because it isn’t effective but because these guys are so athletic and experienced that they have made adjustment to big league fastballs. Juan Pierre, B.j Upton, Curtis Granderson have made hitting look easy when they do this.

Leg lift

The final style is leg lift. Its a simple lift of the leg and it lands back in the same spot. Watch A-rod or Derek Jeter. They both do his very well. This is a style I recommend for younger players along with the post stride. The style promotes keeping the head still while still generating some movement back before weight transfer.
Regardless of your preference in stride, a proper leg lift ALWAYS keeps the hitters weight inside his back leg thus keeping his center of gravity. The stride is always short. I can’t think of many hitters whose stride is long. Some hitters may start their leg lifts to late thus getting the foot down too late. This will disrupt timing, so read Getting front foot down in time:) Remember, the stride is the most important movement in your pre-swing so keep things comfortable and simple, but don’t be afraid to experiment. You never know what you will discover. There is a “True Player” inside all of us waiting to be discovered.

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The art of hitting

Hitting is both an exact science and a form of expression. It can be explained and dissected by physics as well as represented as a way of life. It is when these specific principles and elements are combined that it becomes an art form.

So much emphasis is focused on technique and strategy which influences the modern-day hitter.  Scouting reports and approaches are main themes in the awareness of most teams offensive strategy. With all this information so readily available, the most important aspects of any endeavor are lost. The focus of the process is forgotten.

When it comes to performing, while you are in the batters box, you must come to a level of consciousness that involves emotional content. Yes you must truly hit with emotion. All that you have learned physically and mentality was learned so that you may eventually forget it as it becomes an instinctual part of who you are. You must cease to be aware of yourself, which is to be unaware of any external things as well as most internal things. This process must also be effortless. Similar to the teachings of Bruce Lee, it’s the art of effortless effort or trying less trying.

The desire to succeed and win has vanished for we have now become process oriented. Since we are no longer concerned with success or failure we have greatly improved our chances of success.