One of the most common questions I get from my days as a scout is, "What are the traits of elite hitters?" I got a look at so many elite-level baseball players and athletes. I always enjoyed learning their backstories and seeing where they came from as they grew into elite baseball players. While some of them were just genetic freaks, if they hadn’t picked baseball they likely would have been pro-level prospects in any other athletic endeavor they’d have picked. As I saw more top players and followed them throughout their playing careers, I realized that many shared some traits allowing them to perform at such a level.
With the World Series underway and the crowning of the best team of the year, I thought this post was timely. Surely, this isn’t a comprehensive list of what makes athletes great, but I still think it’s a useful look at how elite performers are wired. So, here are 3 common traits I saw in most elite hitters.
They spent long hours honing their craft and prioritized fitting in their skill work above all else. Even though they were still amateurs, (to quote Robert Frost) it was their vocation AND their avocation. Games, with the competition and pageantry and glory that come with them, are fun for anyone. But elite performers separated themselves with the time they spent on improving themselves outside of competition (and when no one was there to watch).
Top athletes have a short memory when it comes to failure and adversity. Failure is part of baseball (and all sports!). I always reminded our scouts that any insights we could gain into how a player copes and deals with failure were the most important “makeup” trait that we could learn- and that was often difficult given that we didn’t see elite high school players fail often! However, while the best players might be fuming in the moment after a strikeout or rolled-over groundball, they quickly learned from it and adjusted when it came time to perform again. As an evaluator, it was always a red flag for me when I saw a hitter have a bad first at-bat and then spiral downhill with each subsequent at-bat. On the flip-side, I was encouraged whenever I’d see a player struggle in his first AB only to make an adjustment and see his at-bats improve through the course of a game- that’s a trait that’s indicative of success in pro baseball.
Last, the top players were always seeking out new ways to improve and add to their development routines. Even as high school players (where many top athletes could have dominated on physical ability alone), it was encouraging to hear prospects already into a weight routine and showing interest in nutrition (despite metabolisms that still operated at warp speed). While not completely necessary at the moment, these were habits that were paramount at the next level. More important, though, is that this was already a sign of a player showing a willingness to improve past just practicing on their games. As you follow the careers of top players, you saw that they constantly added new ways to improve at the margins- be it recovery methods, adding video to their game preparations, etc.
These improvements on the margins are where vision training comes in. We’ve worked with many MLB players that are giddy to find there’s another place they can improve when they learn about vision training and our program (and the connections between improved scores in our platform and performance on the field). Using a program like our Edge Trainer is a systematic and portable way to track your improvements in your depth perception and recognition skills.
What should be a motivator for all players is that all 3 of these traits- loving practice, moving on from failure, and constantly being on the lookout for ways to improve- are habits that anyone can build on with grit and dedication.