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Schmidt focusing on mental side of hitting

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Schmidt has spent countless hours in the batting cage, first fine-tuning his swing as a Hall of Fame third baseman and second trying to hone the swings of Phillies hitters as a special instructor.

But Schmidt's satisfaction these days comes from helping a player become a "thinking man's hitter."

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Schmidt has spent countless hours in the batting cage, first fine-tuning his swing as a Hall of Fame third baseman and second trying to hone the swings of Phillies hitters as a special instructor.

But Schmidt's satisfaction these days comes from helping a player become a "thinking man's hitter."

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"I have my theories on the mechanics of hitting and all that, but I enjoy the mental side of hitting," Schmidt said Wednesday at Spectrum Field, where he joined big league camp as a guest instructor. "How can you learn ways to relax and things that I went through during my career? That's what interests me now more than getting into the cage. I will occasionally talk about the mechanical approach to hitting, but never to where I would interfere with [hitting coach] John Mallee and [assistant hitting coach] Pedro Guerrero. After being here a day, it seems like everything I think, they think."

But Schmidt knows there are distinct differences between the old-school and new-school approaches to hitting.

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For example, hitters today are trying to hit the ball in the air more than ever.

"There's a little bit of analytics stuff that they're using now," Schmidt said. "They want the ball in the air more than on the ground, a slight uppercut. I would dispute a few of those things, but a couple years from now, I might be preaching it myself. When I became a really complete hitter, I had more of a downward plane. But it's not like a downward plane, it's down to the ball and the natural finish."

Schmidt, who plans to return this season as a TV analyst for weekend home games on NBC Sports Philadelphia, said he used to preach that hitting line drives and ground balls was the most productive.

"I want to prevent the fly ball," Schmidt said.

Well, Schmidt said, maybe not for everybody. He certainly would not want Yankees slugger Aaron Judge or Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins not trying to hit the ball into the air.

But somebody like Cesar Hernandez? Sure.

"Now if somebody in here -- and I'm not around here that much -- if his hitting coach wants him to hit fly balls -- and I'm not saying he does, I'm not saying he does -- but I can't get involved in that," Schmidt said. "I wouldn't coach that myself. There's a lot of new theories these days that we wouldn't have subscribed to back in the day. It could pan out to make us totally wrong."

So perhaps that is why Schmidt is more interested in the mental aspects of hitting a baseball. Phillies mental skills coach Geoff Miller earlier this week had Schmidt speak to the organization's Minor League players at Carpenter Complex about just that.

"Assuming you have a pretty good base for hitting mechanically, I believe you've got to be a thinking man's hitter," Schmidt said. "I don't believe in freelancing, which is what I call it, when you go to home plate and you see the ball and hit it. I don't believe in the see the ball and hit it approach. Just going to home plate, 'If he strikes me out he strikes me out, if I get a hit, I get a hit.' I believe in a plan for each day. If you don't want to do that, I don't think you're on the right track toward reaching your potential.

"Everybody told me I thought too much when I played, but I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn't for my crazy brain taking me to different levels."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

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