Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Notes from the Field (Baseball Prospectus) – Chris King tells the story of Colt Daninos, a high school pitcher who has faced some adversity, to put it mildly: “Colt was born with a rare disease known as DiGeorge Syndrome. It is caused by a missing chromosome in his body and has many symptoms, including neuromuscular problems, learning disabilities, congenital heart disease, and many others. It has required Colt to undergo surgery 14 times; it required his entire spine to be fused together. It keeps him reading at a third-grade level and will likely prevent him from attending college.” This article is so full of awesome. You might need tissues. And heck, as long as we’re all having a good cry, go ahead and read this bit about the guy who proposed at a Tampa Bay Rays game.
  • James Shields on his Changeup, Longevity, and Age (FanGraphs) – Eno Sarris examines Shields’ signature pitch, mixing good research with good quotes. As for Shields, dude gets it: “The game evolves. Everyone around the league knows I have a changeup. Sometimes, if you see the guys are sitting on it, you’re going to throw other pitches.” Seems like common sense, but not everyone applies it. In other pitching news, Craig Kimbrel recently blew a save, which was unexpected enough that Jeff Sullivan had to dissect it. More pitching? David Kagan talks radar guns, which sort of qualifies and is interesting in any event. And speaking of radar guns, Ben Lindbergh wrote something cool [h/t Craig Elsten] that mentions Randy Jones.
  • Tate, Padres Haven’t Given Up On Career (Baseball America) – Bill Mitchell reminds us that Donavan Tate remains in the organization. The third pick overall in the 2009 draft, now 24, is at High-A Lake Elsinore (whose Diamond somehow didn’t make Baseball America’s list of best ballparks in the minors). Tate still believes in himself: “I can play at a high level. I can compete with anybody, so I think this is going to be a good year.” While his optimism is admirable, he is way behind the proverbial curve. Big-league success is probably unattainable at this point, but life success remains within his grasp. Here’s hoping. [h/t Mike Couzens]
  • The Mental ABCs of Postmodern Baseball: Searching for Every Possible Edge (Bleacher Report) – Scott Miller notes the growing trend among organizations to have a dedicated specialist that helps players with the mental side of baseball: making sure they get enough sleep (which Russell Carleton has discussed ($) in the past), improving their concentration skills, etc. Former Padres pitcher Bob Tewksbury has worked with the Boston Red Sox for much of the last decade in such capacity. And we’ve talked with San Diego resident Geoff Miller about his work with several big-league teams. It’s good to see decision-makers taking this area of expertise seriously. [h/t Corey Brock]
  • For ex-Dodgers star Matt Kemp, Padres offer chance at fresh start (SI.com) – Ben Reiter chats with Kemp about injuries, aging, and more. Money quote: “I can still run, but I can’t run like I used to run. I got to do a lot more maintenance, making sure my body is right. When I was younger, I could just get out of bed, go play a game and be good. I’ve got to warm up, get those muscles loose to get ready for a game. It’s a process now.” [h/t Brady Phelps]

Geoff Miller is the author of Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game – In Baseball and in Life. He has worked with the Pirates and Nationals, and is currently the mental skills coach for the Atlanta Braves. A San Diego resident, Miller will be at Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center on Sunday, October 12, at 2 p.m. to discuss his book. Find him online at WinningMind.com or on Twitter at @WinningMindGEM.

Recently I had the chance to ask Miller a few questions via the magic of email. Here they are, along with his informative responses:

Son of a Duck: When people see “mental skills coach,” they may think you’re a psychologist, but that’s not quite right. What exactly does your job entail?

Geoff Miller: Yes, there is a difference between being a psychologist and employing methods of sport psychology. I prefer the term “mental skills coach,” as it’s important for me to make a distinction between the two fields. I work exclusively with athletes on understanding how to perform under pressure and learning what it takes to use all of their physical talents on a consistent basis in their sports. I don’t do any work involving clinical issues like depression, drug or alcohol addiction, relationship issues, or general mental health counseling. My role is educational and strategic rather than medical in nature and, in fact, a good deal of the work we do at my company is executive coaching. Mental skills coaching could be seen as “executive coaching” for athletes. There’s a big misconception that my work is usually about helping athletes when they have “problems,” but even if that misconception is about helping athletes when they are slumping, much more of my work is helping athletes understand how to be their best and teaching them ways to get to the top or stay at the top of their professions.

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