Special thanks to the Mets’ Scott Hairston for hanging out with us today. Scott has enjoyed a nine-year MLB career after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB draft and then making his big league debut in 2003. He is now in his 2nd year with the Mets and is having one of the most productive years of his career, including hitting for the cycle a few months back.
To say that Scott comes from a baseball family is an understatement. Scott’s brother Jerry is currently with the Dodgers, and his grandpa, dad, and uncle have also played in the big leagues as well. Today, we tap into some of his vast baseball knowledge and talk about the most mentally tough player he’s been around, the best piece of hitting advice he’s ever heard, how he refocuses in the batter’s box, an example of self-talk he uses while walking up to the plate, the importance of having a hitting routine, nutrition and more.
1. What is one baseball-related lesson you learned early on that has led to your success today?
Growing up, I was fortunate to have a dad that played in the big leagues. And he always told me that you really have to work at the craft of hitting. There is a lot of effort that goes into getting to the next level. It takes a lot of work and tribulation.
Even being a major league baseball player, you have to dream and make goals for yourself. Success isn’t something that’s going to be handed to you. It’s something you have to work for.
2. What was it like growing up with your brother Jerry, who has been a long-time Big Leaguer as well?
He’s four years older than me, so there wasn’t an intense sibling rivalry… but growing up, we were always playing catch and pepper in the back yard. Playing “strikeout” against the garage. Stuff like that really just led to us both developing a deep passion for the game of baseball.
3. You’ve gotten to play with a lot of great ballplayers over the years. When you think mental toughness, is there anyone in particular that sticks out?
There’s a bunch of guys, but as far as hitters go, Adrian Gonzalez sticks out. He is a very special hitter. He’s always focused and determined to do what he wants to do at the plate. I got to see him do it for a long time. He’s a humble guy who’s always doing stuff for the team. I tell my sons about him all the time.
4. What’s the best piece of hitting advice you’ve ever received?
Keep it simple. It’s easy to say and hard to do. Sometimes hitters have a tendency to get in their own heads. It comes down to knowing yourself as a hitter and listening to those who have a lot of experience.
5. Can you walk us through your hitting routine and mindset from the dugout to the batter’s box?
Focus is key. You have to know who the pitcher is and what he’s throwing. You have to have positive self-talk in your head when you’re walking up to the plate. You always want to be confident. Confidence is huge not just in baseball, but all sports. That confidence comes from your work ethic and your routine that day. You can’t give doubt a chance to creep in.
6. Can you give us an example of positive self-talk you use when walking up to the plate?
“I’ve put in the work. I’ve worked hard this year. I’m ready. I’m confident. I feel good. This pitcher is in trouble.” Something like that. It changes based on the day, but you get the idea.
7. How to you refocus during an at-bat if you feel some doubt creeping in or find yourself thinking too much?
There are at-bats where I need to step out and call time because I find myself thinking too much. When that happens, I step out, regroup, take a deep breath, and then get back in the box and start over again. When you’re young, you don’t ever really think about doing that, but as you get older you learn to say, “This is what I need to do before every pitch to be ready.”
8. How do you get out of a slump when you’re struggling at the plate?
I like to go back to the tee. Too often aspiring ballplayers get to a certain age and stop using the tee. I use the tee to get my swing down and then sometimes use video to check myself. Also, taking the time to remember when you were hitting well goes a long way towards getting your confidence back.
9. Specifically what kind of ‘tee work’ do you do?
I move the tee all around and hit to all fields off of it. It depends on how my swing is feeling. I have my own little personal tee routine that I go through. I start with the inside pitch, then down the middle, then outside, then high, and then the low pitch.
10. How important is it to have a personal hitting routine?
It’s VERY important! You got to have a comfortable routine that works for you. All the successful hitters are out there every day doing a hitting routine that makes them feel comfortable.
11. What do you feel has led to your longevity in your big league career?
I would say hard work. Your work ethic goes a long way. Always being hungry to improve and never being satisfied. Always believing that as a player, you always have something to prove.
12. How big of a part does nutrition play in staying in shape throughout the long baseball season?
It’s very important, especially now that I’m getting older. If you have a real nice car, you’re going to take care of it and change the oil, put in the right type of gas, take it to the car wash, and all that kind of stuff. As an athlete you want to have a fine-tooled body. I avoid the junk food and drink a lot of water. You have to realize that what you put in your body has a big impact on your performance.
13. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring baseball players out there who want to get better?
Kids have a great opportunity nowadays with the Internet (Next Level Ballplayer) to learn from athletes that are willing to share their experiences. I encourage kids to be passionate about learning the game of baseball. Always be learning and asking questions. And then consistently work hard at your craft.