Constant Losing Can Cause Nightmares

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

FULLERTON, Calif. — Losing can become a potential powder keg with teams.

During the 2004 season, Cal. St. Fullerton started with a 15-16 record after 31 games and were on pace to become the worst team in school history.

Head Coach George Horton (now retired) was perplexed. He had tried every physical and mental technique he knew to turn around this team. But nothing worked.

At this time, he brought in Ken Ravizza to try and turn the season around with his mental techniques.

Ravizza was an internationally acclaimed performance consultant who co-authored the best-selling book Heads-Up Baseball with Tom Hanson.

A professor in the Kinesiology department at Cal. St. Fullerton who worked with pro and college baseball teams for nearly 40 years as well as other sports, Ravizza was involved in one of the greatest turnarounds in college baseball history.

 “During the season, there are always lightning bolts that hit,” said Ravizza, who passed away in July of 2018 from complications of a heart attack.

“When I became involved that season, they (Cal. St. Fullerton) were ripe fruit. I came in at exactly the right time. They were ready for what I had to say. It was one of those things where the coaches were only telling the players what they were doing wrong.

“The players were frustrated that they are doing it wrong. I remember after hearing George (Horton) and his staff talk for about 10 minutes, I asked him, ‘George, are they doing anything right?’ He said, ‘Yes, we are fielding the ball.’

“I said, ‘OK, let’s build on that.’ That was the first thing. The next day, I sat the team down and challenged them by telling them that they were the worst team in Cal. St. Fullerton baseball history, which they were. They had the worst record (15-16) and had lost to teams that this program had never lost to.

“I told them they had an opportunity to have the greatest turnaround in Cal. St. Fullerton history. Then we got back to focusing on the process instead of outcomes and focusing on doing the little things, focusing on the small steps. With that particular group, they were able to get it turned around.”

Ravizza said only a handful of players had been involved in one of his classes prior to this point in Kurt Suzuki, Ricky Romero, Jason Windsor, plus others.

“They knew who I was and were comfortable with me. From there, it was an issue of the coaches, Rick Vanderhook, Dave Serrano and most importantly George Horton, really reinforcing these concepts.

“They talked about the process, discussed Titan baseball and talked about getting to the next pitch. I think it was very important when you talk about high level performance. It is a matter of managing the moment. Instead of looking at the big picture, just take care of the moment of how I am going to get from here to there.

“When you confront crisis, amazing things happen afterword to many people. The Chinese have the term for it, and they even have symbols for crisis. One is opportunity and one is danger. A lot of times we just talk about opportunity. But there is also danger. The Fullerton baseball team in 2004 could have ended up being the worst team in school history. There was a chance they wouldn’t turn it around. I told them they were facing this reality, and I didn’t sugar coat it.

“It’s not like the book, The Secret, where if you believe, you will achieve and everything works out. Reading that book is like going to Disneyland. It ain’t that simple. The thing I have learned from the military guys is that you may have some anxiety, but you have to focus that anxiety and sharpen your sword with it and use it toward your advantage.

“The 2004 Titan baseball team was one of the best teams I have ever been involved with in getting to the next pitch and being prepared to win the next pitch. It took several times a week talking with them from halfway through the season all the way to the end.

“At the same time, I was working with Long Beach St., a team that had Jered Weaver and Troy Tulowitzki. We were doing very similar things with that team, and they didn’t make it to the College World Series.

“What I want to make clear is that the 2004 Fullerton ball club experienced the happy ending as they went 32-6 the rest of the season after a 15-16 start and won the national championship. But I still haven’t let go of the 2004 Long Beach St. team that didn’t make it to the College World Series. There is no magic to this. Too many people believe that if you do A, B and C, you will be a champion. That simply isn’t the case.”

Survival Of 57-9 Champions
It was brought up to Ravizza that another Titan ball club won the national title in 1995 under then Head Coach Augie Garrido.

They had the best record in school history at 57-9. However, they experienced a point in the season where the team lost three games in a row as fear gripped the team.

The Titans lost two straight 1-run games at Wichita St. and then traveled to Reno, Nev. to play the University of Nevada in a 3-game series. Fullerton was ahead in game one, but then the fear of losing reared its ugly head as the team started committing errors and lost once again, 10-8.

Ravizza was asked how a team this talented could face such a turning point and survive as the ball club won 18 straight games after that third loss in a row.

“I think the key was Augie (Garrido) realizing that the time was right to turn the team over to the players and let them take it by the horns. That year, he had a much more talented team than the 2004 ball club.

“Friedrich Nietzsche was quoted as saying ‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’ You have to go through the adversity. Sometimes teams get an easy Regional and walk through it. Then they get a Super Regional and walk through that. Then all of a sudden they get to Omaha at the College World Series and face damn good pitching.

“Their confidence changes in how they worked the process versus their confidence coming from the end result. And that is a big difference. Most of us get our confidence from getting hits or results. But I think the key is to be resilient and survive. You’ve got your confidence from how you are going about doing your work and the way you work the process.”

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