TAMPA, Fla – University of Tampa infielder Mitchell Preston believes mental preparation is the key ingredient to winning championships.
Preston is in his final year for the Spartans, who were 16-1 at this writing and looking to win their third Division Two national championship in four years.
A former captain at Ocean County College, Preston is a born leader who says extra responsibility can help with improving one’s personal performance.
“It definitely helped my game having more responsibility,” said Preston, in a shady spot at the team stadium. “I was always there early and I tried to lead by example. It gave me more of an edge, day to day, I wanted to be the best leader I could be.”
Preston was hitting .310 after 17 games, something he attributes to mental focus.
“Ninety nine percent of my swing is mental,” Preston said. “It’s all about the mindset going in to the game. If you are thinking well then you are going to hit good. If you have negative thoughts then you are not going to succeed.”
The importance of mental preparation is vital for Preston who believes it separates him from other competitors.
“I did some reading on the mental aspect of the game,” Preston said. “Making sure you have a clear mind when you go up to the plate, being positive and consistent.”
“All of us have the physical tools to succeed, it is the mental side that takes our team to the next level.”
The New Jersey native has a few personal tricks for keeping his mental game strong.
“You have to be confident, it’s hard when you’re not performing physically but you have to get yourself feeling good. Whatever it takes to get you get locked in,” Preston said. “I keep in touch with some of the ball players from back home, it helps talking about it with someone who has known me for my whole life.”
The Wall High School, N.J., graduate says he has a few mentors he would credit with improving his all-round ability.
“My dad and a couple of coaches have always helped me out,” said Preston. “Mike Condon and Adam Rosenberg helped me with my fielding, hitting and mental game. Everything really.”
Tampa coach Joe Urso says the senior players such as Preston are crucial for team chemistry and helping the younger guys feel comfortable.
“That is what makes this program so successful,” said Urso, in a post practice scrum. “Guys come through, they learn what the expectations are, and then when they are seniors they teach those freshman and sophomore how to go about their business.”