Sports Talk: Carlsbad writer teams with ex-pitcher to explore baseball’s mental side

The pairing came about through a friendship years ago in the Twin Cities.

Carlsbad’s Scott Miller was covering the Minnesota Twins, and Bob Tewksbury was one of their pitchers.

“It wasn’t like we were really close friends but he was a guy I enjoyed being around,” said Miller, who was then with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “But he had a good sense of humor and I liked how he thought about things.”

Tewksbury, who also played for the Padres in his 13-year career, directed a message to Miller’s email box two years ago, with a fresh pitch: Would Miller like to collaborate on a book?

Baseball writer Scott Miller, a Carlsbad resident, has teamed with former MLB pitcher Bob Tewksbury on “Ninety Percent Mental.” Photo by Gretchen Miller

“One thing led to another and I was interested in the subject,” Miller said.

They put their baseball noggins together and the result is an innovative and smart look at the national pastime. Readers are keen on it, too, with “Ninety Percent Mental” standing atop the listing of baseball books on amazon.com.

Miller is talking about, and signing his book, at Warwick’s in La Jolla on July 23.

The lessons crammed into this fast-moving piece are transferable. While written through the eyes of a pitcher who reached the game’s highest level, it’s not restricted to elite athletes.

“It’s a mental skills book with a baseball narrative instead of the other way around,” said Tewksbury, who’s with the San Francisco Giants.

Miller, 55, agrees and he’s been around baseball enough to know. He covered the Padres for the Los Angeles Times San Diego edition before becoming a national baseball writer with CBS Sports and, currently, Bleacher Report.

He’s also a contributor on Padres broadcasts on FOX Sports.

“It appeals, obviously, to baseball fans but also to the combination of parents and their younger players in Little League, high school, college, and even athletes in other sports,” Miller said. “Some of these mental tips might help them in their daily life as well.”

The most important six inches on any diamond is between a player’s ears. Baseball is a thinking person’s game and it’s easy to see why when thumbing through the pages.

Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs slugger, didn’t thumb his nose at Tewksbury’s mental tips. When Rizzo was a youngster in the Boston Red Sox organization, Tewksbury was the team’s mental skills coach. He formulated an audio version of messages to aid Rizzo before he hits.

“It’s all mental,” Rizzo said. “It’s about visualizing, positive self-talk, performance anchor statements that guide you through at-bats. I listen to his stuff even now. When I get into a rut, I’ll throw on tracks 1-11, put it on repeat and fall asleep listening to it.”

The eyes don’t get heavy reading “Ninety Percent Mental.”

“Anybody seeking to sharpen themselves mentally, that was often seen as a weakness,” Miller said. “We’ve reached a point in sports, and in society, that that’s not necessarily seen as a weakness anymore.”

Baseball once turned a blind eye to staying sharp above the shoulders. Now all 30 teams have mental skills coaches who are dedicated not to the pace of play, but peace of mind.

Players toil endless hours swinging at pitches, taking ground balls and then being told what to eat to reach their potential for the game’s first pitch.

“So why wouldn’t you,” Miller asked, “want to make sure they are using their mental skills, too?”

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him @jparis_sports.

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