The hardest component of baseball for a pitcher is being able to focus on every single pitch. As a starting pitcher, you pitch every five days for a two-hour-plus span. You don’t even play every day, but for the time you’re out there, there is such a heavy physical load as you try to throw the ball with 100 percent intent, over and over again.
But the mental game is just as taxing, as you think about what pitch you can beat your opponent with, how you can set him up with the next pitch, and how to approach that player in his next at-bat. This cycle of thinking is exhausting.
After a game, it’s hard to unwind. Whether it’s a good game or a rough one, I find myself so mentally drained, yet unable to calm down my mind and relax. It’s often the middle of the night when I fight to put away the hours of trying to defeat my opponent from my mind so I can sleep.
There’s a phrase in baseball which goes, “Don’t let the game speed up on you.” When your mind starts to race and your heart matches it, you have to slow down to control the moment. You need to be able to think clearly to not allow your mental, emotional or physical game go astray. You’re battling against the hitter, but you’re also battling against yourself. You must win the internal battle in order to have the chance to defeat the player at bat.
After each inning, I try to take a moment to go to the bench and thank God for allowing me to get through that inning, whether or not it was one of my better times on the mound. I pray for peace of mind to allow His thoughts to be my thoughts. Knowing that this is just a game, and that God is in control of it all, helps relieve me of the pressure and stress of performance. This truth allows me to reboot after each inning and refocus my thoughts on what counts. There’s a peace knowing He’s listening and guiding me. There’s a peace knowing that without Him, this would be impossible.
There is also a confidence found in the time and preparation you put into your craft. This confidence is based on the hard work you put into where you’ve come. You can’t neglect the work and expect good results; that’s not how it works. It takes four intense days of preparation, training and rest to be able to pitch your best on your start day. We are called to prepare our lives, watering and seeding the field so that God can come in and bring the produce. Knowing God is ultimately the one who brings about the results offers me a place where I can find rest.
And rest is monumentally important for me in this game. When all I think about is the game and all I need to accomplish, baseball suddenly becomes so much harder. Endless persevering is overwhelmingly stressful, causing each moment (whether good or bad) to become more magnified than it should. By taking myself away from the field — to golf, spend time with friends and family, and spend time in God’s Word — I’m able to breathe. And then when I return to the mound, I find much more enjoyment in the game.
While the pursuit of your dream takes hard work and perseverance, it cannot be your all. Along with the everyday pursuit should come rest, rejuvenation and reliance on the God of it all, who’s in control every moment.
— Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher
Luke Weaver is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.
Check out Luke’s Increase profile here: https://theincrease.com/author/luke-weaver/
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