What the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo listens to before games to get into a winning state of mind

By Bob Tewksbury and Scott Miller

Inside of Anthony Rizzo’s computer are the guts of the thoughts he takes with him each trip into the on-deck circle and then into the batter’s box.

These guts come packaged one by one, eleven tracks in all, downloaded from an audio program left over from his days as a teenager in the Boston Red Sox organization. Great thing about this tool kit is, it’s transferable. Wherever he goes, in whichever city he calls home, it’s just a click or two away.

“It’s all mental,” Rizzo says of his program, which beams like a lighthouse guiding him home when things get foggy. “It’s about visualizing, positive self-talk, performance anchor statements that guide you through at-bats. Breathing. You’re talking good thoughts to yourself. ‘I am a good hitter. I see the ball right out of the pitcher’s hand.’ And then repeat it two or three times. ‘When I get into the box, I am the best player.’”

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Da Capo Press

For Rizzo, I personalized the program and sandwiched an inspirational song of his choosing between tracks pertaining to breathing, self-talk, perception and anchor statements. See the ball, hit the ball.

“I listen to his stuff even now,” Rizzo says. “When I get into a rut, I’ll throw on tracks one through eleven, put it on repeat and fall asleep listening to it.

“It locks you in. Repeating things. When you hear positive self talk, that’s what it’s all about. This game’s all mental. Everyone at this level in the big leagues has always been the best on his teams his entire life. So the only thing that’s separating us, or stopping us, is between the ears.” […]

TRACK 4: Positive Self-Talk. This is where the Little Man appears, that voice that worms into your head like a termite with negative thoughts, working to break down positive self-talk by finding cracks in your mental toughness. It is vital to let that thought pass, like a cloud in the sky, and then refocus on the anchor statement and the task at hand. Once a player controls the Little Man, he rapidly will find that he’s reacting to situations and games with new confidence. […]

TRACK 6: Introduction to Visualization. Visualization starts simply with thinking about what you want to mentally rehearse. A nice, balanced swing? A perfect follow-through on a swing? The best visualization engages each sense. See the pitcher, and visualize details. The color of his uniform. […]

TRACK 9: Performance Anchor Statements. In which I use my most soothing, late-night FM deejay voice to repeat various specific examples of anchor statements that players hopefully will co-opt and make their own. And “repeat” is a key word here. Each example, I repeat three times, slowly. I am aggressive and under control . . . My motions are smooth . . . My swing is effortless and easy . . . I like hitting with men on base . . . I swing at pitches in my zone. . . . I am a good hitter. […]

TRACK 11: Hitter’s Performance Checklist. This is something a hitter can revisit to make sure he is doing everything he can do. It is both physical and mental preparation. Is he getting his rest? Doing his weight work? Cage work? Keeping the same routine? Same batting practice routine pregame? Breathing? Accepting things out of his control? How’s the concentration? Is he seeing the ball? Is he controlling his emotions, or are feelings getting in the way? Is he focusing on the task at hand? Is he beating himself up after bad atbats? How about the body language? Is it positive and productive? […]

The mental skills techniques that Rizzo first devoured at eighteen served him just as expertly when he emerged as one of the pillars of Chicago manager Joe Maddon’s clubhouse, helping the Cubs win a World Series.

Excerpted from the book “Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball” by Bob Tewksbury and Scott Miller.


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