|Former MLB Player Catalanotto In-Tune with Mental Side of Game||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on June 20, 2011
In baseball, usually the players who think too much are the ones that often fail. However, one of the anomalies is 14-year MLB veteran Frank Catalanotto.
"Thinking away from the game is great and is one of the reasons I stayed in the big leagues so long," said Catalanotto. "I was never really the best player on my team, but I always wanted to get better and I also wanted to practice."
He was drafted out of Smithtown High School on Long Island, N.Y, in the 10th round of the 1992 draft by the Detroit Tigers. His competitiveness prepared him for life in the big leagues.
As an 18 year-old kid, Catalanotto took these teachings seriously and became a mentally tough player, especially as a hitter. Even in Double-A, he kept a book on opposing pitchers in which he chronicled each of his at-bats.
Parrish asked Catalanotto how he was feeling after his first season. Catalanotto said his body felt fine but that he was mentally drained. Parrish explained that was the point.
This mental preparation gave Catalanotto an edge, since he was able to anticipate what would happen before it actually happened. His preparation always began in the on-deck circle.
"You watch a lot of guys, and they're looking in the stands when they're in the on-deck circle," said Catalanotto. "I was totally focused on the pitcher, trying to see how quickly I could pick up a pitch."
In a memorable example while with the Toronto Blue Jays, Catalanotto noticed that then Texas Rangers pitcher R.A. Dickey -- currently with the New York Mets and before he developed his knuckleball -- was tipping his pitches. Every time Dickey's mouth was open during his delivery, he'd throw a changeup, and every time his mouth was closed, he'd throw a fastball. It was these little things Catalanotto noticed that led to his .293 career batting average.
Many players fall into the trap of over-thinking a game situation or at-bat. However, Catalanotto developed the mental discipline to think about a facet of the game without over-thinking it.
"Once you get into the batter's box, you shouldn't be thinking," said Catalanotto.
He exemplified that proper preparation is the key to success in this game. He showed up five and a half hours before the game, in which he would review video, discuss the scouting report with the hitting coach, do a core stretching routine, sit in the hot tub to loosen his bad back and partake in hitting drills -- all before regular batting practice.
Despite this rigorous schedule, he wasn't finished once the game ended. Catalanotto recorded his at-bats in his book and then reviewed his notes on the following day's starting pitcher. He would often contact his former teammates including Michael Young and Alex Rodriguez if they had just faced a particular pitcher to increase his readiness.
"The preparation is a lot greater than some people would think," said Catalanotto. "The older you get, the more you have to prepare. You have to do a lot of extra work to be out there."
Since he's so mentally tough, Catalanotto would not rule out someday returning to the big leagues as a coach. He, along with future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, will help coach the Italian national team this summer.
"I was always a student of the game," said Catalanotto. "I never had the most talent in the world. I didn't run the fastest. I didn't have the most power. I wasn't the strongest guy. But I feel like I can help them [younger players] not only through the mechanics of the game but also the mental part of the game."
Catalanotto's passion for hitting and understanding of baseball's mental side would make him a knowledgeable hitting coach someday.