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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

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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How to raise a Hard-Working little leaguer

I have met plenty of parents that are raising a child athlete.

What they all have in common is this inate desire for their child to be truly successful. Their only hope is that one day they will be able to live their dreams through their child, and in my opinion this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The key is trying to establish core values that will be a foundation for the childs future and if fate should see it fit, your child will have the internal tools to accomplish anything that is asked of a special person.

I have written in other articles about the importance of hard work and the benifits of learning this virtue at an early Age.

For parents, when raising a child who is constantly influenced by external factors, creating a foundation for them that will serve as an effective recipe for growth and success will be a very challenging as well as frustrating thing.

Teach him focus

A lot will be asked of a parent so that their child will succeed. For me- when I was young, despite the strong interest I had inbaseball, distractions were still present. Video games,friends, the lack of understanding of priorities were a foriegn concept to grasp at the time ,but the trick is to capture their attention.

You have to show them that working hard is not a chore but a way of life, and can be just as fun as it is challenging. In regards to baseball, working hard is very similiar to playing hard.

Which is always fun!

What’s most important is that while guiding your child in the right direction, you are simultaniously, preparing them to be a responsible adult who understands the balance of having fun while taking on resposibility.

Playing baseball is in many ways a privilege and for most kids, a shortlived career. So if as a parent you are able to instill into your child that taking this game for granted is not only unbecoming of a true player but will rob him of the opportunity to pursue his passion, whatever it may be.

Teach him to dream

Instilling a sence of wonder into a child is just as important. Promote your kid’s innocence. His ability to use his imgination will only provide him with what he needs to get through the tougher more mudane experiences in baseball.

You would be surprised at how ressiliant kids are. If a kid feels like he is able to one day be a sports hero, something admirable, he can withstand anything.

When I was a kid growing up, I would imagine playing in the MLB at turner field with the braves. Not a day whent by when just the thought of playing baseball would make my hands sweaty before bed. Children need this kind of stimulation. It’s the kind of fuel that made this a kids game in the first place.

If a child is fortunate enough to have developed a dream, it’s important to have someone guide that dream. To nurture it with love and care.

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Increasing Baseball Vision and Reaction

It takes only four-tenths of a second for a fastball to reach home plate which is only 60 ft 6 inches away.

A hitter has an average of about two tenths of a second to decide whether to swing or not which means the hitter has only two-tenths of a second to process this visual information and react.

The hitter has to recognize whether a pitch is located on the inside or outside part of the plate, recognize a breaking or off-speed pitch. The highest level of athletes can process this information quicker which gives them more time to make adjustments to their swing.  Ichiro Suzuki has gone on to say,

” You can only hit when the information picked up by your optic nerve is processed by your brain and then transmitted accurately to your body. If your eyes can’t pick it up, then you can forget about good results”.

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Try this eye exercise

So we now have come to know that it doesn’t matter how sound your mechanics are, how good your approach is or if you have plus- plus power. You can’t hit what you can’t see. One of the biggest differences between an advanced hitter and an average hitter is his ability to use his eyes in an effective way. He has to be able to compute what he sees and react to it quickly enough. It is well-known that athletes have better vision capabilities than the general population but through proper dieting and consistent vision exercises, your vision skills can be improved.

What you can do to improve your vision skills will be explained in a bit.

Baseball requires for players to have a unique set of vision abilities as well. In order to hit we have to judge, pitch rotation, velocity, in order to bunt accurately we have to have the correct depth perception. What is a common misconception about baseball is that there isn’t a difference between good eyesight and good vision skills. THERE IS!!!!!!!  How good your “eye-sight” is determined by your ability to interpret information and surroundings from visible light reaching the eyes. Visual skills, on the other hand, determines a whole other set of attributes which can all be improved to become more consistent hitters. Think about what increasing your vision skills can do to your batting average!!

Depth Perception
So essentially depth perception is your ability to perceive objects in three dimensions. More importantly, it allows you to judge an object’s speed and distance. In order to have efficient depth perception, you MUST be able to use your eyes simultaneously. The more functional your eyes work together, the better the results.

Visual Tracking
Visual Tracking is the process of your eyes measuring their point of gaze or the motion of the eye relative to the head. Visual Tracking is important for a hitter’s pitch recognition skills to see more effectively how the defense is playing you. Visual tracking is something that all successful quarterbacks have in common. Being able to scan the field in a more effective way will allow you to respond quicker and more accurately to external stimuli on the field.

Speed of eye dilation
Similar to other visual skills, the speed at which a baseball player ‘s eyes are able to focus can be trained and improved overtime. The ability for your eyes to dilate will affect your ability to pick up a pitch coming in the zone. The closer the ball gets to you the more your eyes dilate, thus the faster your eyes are able to dilate, it will also increase the time you will have to react.

Visual reaction time ( Optic Nerve Processes)
The optic nerve transmutes visual information from the retina to the brain. Think of your optic nerve process as a computer (essentially that’s what it is) the faster the information is processed the slower the ball will look in the zone. This process functions at its highest when you are relaxed. Have you ever noticed that when you are taking a pitch on a 3-0 count the ball looks bigger and you may even be able to see the seems better? The muscles surrounding the eyes have completely relaxed with very little strain. (Imagine Neo in the Matrix, I wonder how productive his Optic Nerve was:)

Visual Flexibility
In my opinion, between Visual flexibility and Optic Nerve Processes, these two attributes are the most  important vision skills to train. Visual flexibility allows for your eyes to move together to allow sight to become more efficient. Training this will allow a hitter to get his eyes on the ball with more accuracy and in less time.

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