2013 baseball season
Interesting article from Angelique Chengelis—Erik Bakich remakes Michigan baseball with mental training, community presence—in advance of Michigan baseball's first game tomorrow.
"The reason we do perspective posters and visit the hospitals is so these guys have a true appreciation for how fortunate they are," Bakich said. "But also with baseball, you build up these bottom-of-the-ninth, game-winning situations like they're life and death. When we actually go visit people who really have struggled with life and death, you understand we're playing a kid's game. We can actually perform better knowing it's not really a life-or-death situation. It's about execution and we'll make the opponent make it life or death."
. . .
Bakich has enlisted the help of Brian Cain, a mental conditioning coach who has worked with several college baseball programs. Cain's purpose is to give players tools to understand the mental aspects of baseball.
"They've learned how to implement routines and use breathing and visualization and self-talk to not only help them maintain their confidence, but be able to focus on one pitch at a time," Bakich said. "Brian has been great for routine implementation and getting these guys to stick to the process."
And part of that process is, very simply, having the players work on their breathing, whether he's a pitcher, hitter, or playing defense.
The players also have been taught to recognize "signal lights," when game situations are getting tight and players begin to talk to themselves negatively. Every player, Bakich said, has a release, whether it's kicking dirt, taking his helmet off or adjusting his batting glove. Next, the player finds his personal focal point, whether it's the left-field foul pole or a spot on the bat, for example, and he then returns to positive thinking.
And here's the official Michigan baseball preview video:
UPDATE: Michael O'Neill was named to 50-man preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award
With only 11 days until Michigan's 2013 season opener, a few Big Ten conference previews were posted today.
The most detailed one, from Baseball America, has several Michigan-related items:
- Michigan picked to finish a surprisingly high sixth place
- Wolverine outfielder Michael O'Neill selected as preseason conference player of the year and the #2 prospect for the 2013 MLB draft
- Freshman Evan Hill, a left-handed pitcher, tabbed as top newcomer
- Michigan also featured with this:
Michigan Jr. OF Michael O'Neill (.327/.381/.525, 19 SB), whose uncle Paul was a five-time all-star with the Reds and Yankees, was the fastest player in the Cape Cod League last summer (6.36 seconds in the 60-yard dash). He also has bat speed, power potential and center-field skills. O'Neill plays right field for the Wolverines in deference to Sr. OF Patrick Biondi (.303/.408/.407), a smaller speedster who led the Big Ten with 32 steals last spring and the Cape with a .388 batting average last summer. He turned down the Marlins as a ninth-round pick.
Most of the Perfect Game preview is behind a paywall, but they pick Michigan to finish eighth.
Based on a survey of 9 out of 11 Big Ten coaches, College Baseball Insider has Indiana as the favorite to win the conference title (as do the two sites above). Biondi and O'Neill figure prominently in their rundown of the conference's best players:
The best defensive outfielder: Patrick Biondi, Michigan
The best outfield arm: Michael O’Neill Michigan
The best pure hitters: Michael Pritchard, Nebraska; Sam Travis, Indiana; Michael O’Neill, Michigan
The biggest power threats: Sam Travis, Indiana; Chad Christensen, Nebraska; Michael O’Neill, Michigan
. . .
The best baserunner: Patrick Biondi, Michigan
Here are some miscellaneous items:
- In their countdown of the top 100 players in the country, College Baseball Daily, after previously placing O'Neill at #77, has Biondi at #41.
From a scouting perspective, the success that Biondi had with a wood bat in the CCBL during the summer of 2012 shows a lot of promise. When added with his intuitive defense and fantastic base-running ability, that success may make all the difference for Biondi in the 2013 draft. Having Biondi back for his senior season gives the Wolverines one of their most talented players and leaders in 2013, as Biondi is one of the top players to watch for this season.
- As I posted in another thread, Erik Bakich made an appearance on WTKA this morning—here's the podcast. Among other things, Bakich talked about how young the team is, with many freshmen expected to play major roles. If the season were to begin today, the starting infield would include three freshmen.
- This is from a couple weeks ago, but in case anyone missed the news release, Biondi was named team captain and was one of five players selected for the team's Leadership Council.