As Shawn Green stepped into to the batter’s box, scattered boos could be heard from throughout the Dodger Stadium crowd. After striking out, the sprinkling of boos turned into a downpour as Green slowly made his way back to the dugout. This was a scene that repeated itself numerous times in the early part of the 2002 baseball season.
Green was struggling mightily as his batting average dipped down into the 230s. The fans could not forgive a guy who only two seasons prior had signed a massive 6-year, $84 million contract. The boos were a very loud and rude reminder that Green was not earning his keep.
Green had to get back to the basics. Green responded to his slump by going back to the batting cage. When Green entered the batting cage, he was certainly working on the mechanics of his swing, but there was something else going on, which Green felt was far more important. He was working on the mechanics of his mind.
In his book, The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph, Green describes hitting off the tee. “My breathing became rhythmic: inhaling as I put the ball on the tee, holding my breath as I got in my stance, and exhaling as I took my swing. What was happening here?” The repetitive rhythm of hitting a baseball off a tee began to morph into a form of meditation for Green as he emptied his mind and just let the natural flow of swinging the bat to take over.
Although Green didn’t practice meditation in a traditional manner, there is no mistaking that his method of batting practice created a meditative result. On the GameChange podcast, Thru the Tunnel, company co-founder Paul McDonald states why meditation is so powerful. When we quiet the mind, it allows us to get in this flow state, a.k.a. “the zone”, where we perform at our best.”
A few days after Green began his meditative batting practice routine, the Dodgers were in Milwaukee for a game against the Brewers. In his first at-bat, Green roped a double. An inning later he hit a three-run homer. This was followed by two more home runs and a single. He had five hits, including three home runs, with one more inning left to play.
Green described his last at-bat in the ninth inning. “As I settled into my stance, I realized I was still too locked in to burden myself with thinking. I’d simply look for my pitch and swing hard.” With the count one and one, a thigh high fastball approached. Home run.
Green circled the bases as the Brewers fans all stood and gave him a standing ovation, rare for a visiting player. They recognized that they had just witnessed the greatest hitting performances in the history of baseball. Green went six-for-six with four home runs and nineteen total bases, a major league record.