Baseball great Yogi Berra has many famous colloquialisms, one of which states that, ‘baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical’. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the math doesn’t add up, but that’s not his point. The mental aspect of baseball is such that it can, and does, often determine the success or failure of a player.
Before a player steps on the mound or in the batter’s box, that player has to mentally prepare him or herself for success. It can be through practice, doing research on your opponent, anticipating and visualizing success before it happens, or simply being comfortable with your equipment or uniform. I don’t think anyone would disagree that playing catcher without an athletic protector is not a great idea.
You look good, you feel good, you play good! That same concept applies to a batter’s decision on whether or not to use batting gloves.
For many players, the decision comes down to ‘feeling’. This ‘feeling’ could be mental or physical. How does the bat feel in your hands when you wear batting gloves, as opposed to without? Do you feel more ‘connected’ to your bat without batting gloves? Or do you feel like having gloves gives you more confidence in taking a bigger swing because the gloves will absorb vibrations from getting jammed or hitting a ball off the end of the bat? You may like gloves because they give you a better grip on the bat.
Those decisions can affect a hitter’s success or failure even before stepping in the box. Some hitters like the naked feel of the bat in their hands, and are not concerned about getting jammed. Some players prefer to weave a strip of tape or Lizard Skins around the handle to improve their grip, or add pine tar. Or both pine tar and tape/Lizard Skin. Or neither. Oh, the possibilities!
Personally, I prefer batting gloves with a nice tape job on the handle to improve grip. No pine tar…too sticky! I can’t explain exactly why. I just like the way the bat feels in my hands with that combination. I feel prepared mentally.
I can remember one occasion when I didn’t wear batting gloves to bat. I was stuck in a huge hitting slump and my manager suggested I hit without gloves. I was struggling at the plate, and had lost my confidence as a hitter. He suggested it as a way of changing how I felt mentally at the plate. It was such a different feeling than what I was used to, but it was nice (for a brief period of time) to worry about something other than trying to tear the cover off the ball in order to break out of my slump.
I wouldn’t say that I broke out of my slump, but I did manage to get a couple hits that game. But more importantly, it reminded me that my mental focus was not properly directed. That was more important to my long-term success.
So, whichever combination you prefer, it’s important to feel comfortable at the plate, both mentally and physically. Your success or failure is largely determined before your step in the batter’s box, so arm yourself with the best tools to insure your success.
And please keep this in mind: good players practice until they get it right, but great players practice until they cannot get it wrong!