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Book Review: Rod Carew’s Hit to Win

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Have you discovered this book?

Rod Carew, 1967.
Rod Carew, 1967.
SetNumber: X12677 TK1 R20

After an internet search, I purchased two books on hitting. The first to arrive was full of generalities and lacked insights worth knowing. What I learned from the first book:

  • You can’t judge a book by its’ cover (or its’ internet hype).
  • You have to kiss some boring books goodbye on the journey to life-changing books.

The second book, Rod Carew’s Hit to Win, was amazing beyond my expectations. It was amazing for two reasons – great insights and well written. Although it was first published in 1986, it rings true today. Timeless books are really exciting!

In 1991, his first year of eligibility, Rod Carew was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“He has no weakness as a hitter. Anything you throw he can handle.” – Catfish Hunter

Two examples of memorable insights.

As you may know, I relish examining mental habits of baseball players. This book’s chapter on the mental game was well worth reading. Nevertheless, the mental game insights extended beyond that chapter.

One example of a memorable insight was the distinction between two kinds of confidence; overcoming outside distractions and optimistic beliefs about self.

Overcoming outside distractions. One concept was when you make on-field mistakes and get boo’s from fans, walk away and let your bat and glove do the talking. Another concept was always seek advice before making big decisions and before taking action. Regardless of how negatively he was evaluated (which decades ago was a huge distraction in my life, too), Rod Carew always humbly believed in his own ability and kept working hard.

Optimistic beliefs about self. In the context of staying within himself (his second key to good hitting), Rod Carew always believed he was going to get a hit every time at bat. That optimistic belief about himself was one of the many reasons for his success.

A second example of a memorable insight was his imperative to never extend batting practice beyond 15 minute intervals. I postulated that many days had more than one practice interval because Rod Carew wrote that he always took extra batting practice. I doubt that I’m mistaken.

The underlying principle is that perfect practice is more important than an extended practice time. Two things happen beyond when time exceeds 15 minutes: focus & concentration fall below their best, and some muscles may start to tire encouraging bad habits to compensate for that tiredness. It is very important to know what you are working on and strive for a perfect swing with full focus and concentration.

Baseball bats make a difference.

The book discussed several aspects of the baseball bat. For example, a wider gap between streaks of grain reflects a more solid bat.

The book reveals three ways to make a bat more solid. What really shocked me was that rubbing a bat along the grain with another bat “…compresses the wood , making it doubly solid on the surface.”

My first thought was, “Is there a rule against that?” Although it was not directly addressed in the rules of baseball, the following rule was relevant:

“3.02 (a) No laminated or experimental bats shall be used in a professional game (either championship season or exhibition game) until the manufacturer has secured approval from the Rule Committee of his design and methods of manufacture.” – Official Baseball Rules 2019 Edition

Whether the rule applies depends on the answers to two questions (which I cannot answer):

  • If the bat is rubbed, can that action be considered an additional step in the manufacturing process?
  • If the bat’s surface is doubly hard, can that bat be considered a laminated bat?

Regardless of how solid the bat, making solid contact on the sweet spot of the bat is most important.

Four reasons the book is well written.

It has wide margins which include occasional boxes with points to remember. The wide margins invite a student of the game to make personal notes in the book.

It has many photos. Rarely (four times) did I notice two consecutive pages without a photo. The photos invite a student of the game to tape his personal photos (or perhaps a baseball card) over the photos in the book.

It is organized with great summaries, such as Rod Carew’s 10 keys to good hitting.

It has an index. Months and years after reading the book, the index makes it easy for a student of the game to find the parts of the book relevant to what he is focused on.

Summary.

This book is worth reading. It would be a great gift for an aspiring student of the game.