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Mental work preps college senior for upcoming season

Zach Gerler
Zach Gerler (click to enlarge)

Growing up, confidence on the baseball diamond was never an issue for Zach Gerler.

A standout good enough to get drafted out of high by the Baltimore Orioles in the late rounds of the MLB Draft, Gerler decided to go the junior college route for two years before transferring to Austin Peay for the 2008-2009 season.

Then, for the first time, Gerler lost his confidence. He split playing time at shortstop. His average dipped. His attitude changed.

Now, after a five-week stint at IMG Academy doing physical and mental conditioning, Gerler hopes to return for his senior season as a renewed man.

"I let my mind take over last season," the 6-foot-3, 200-pound St. Louis native said. "Instead of asking myself, 'What can I do to make this better,' I started pointing the finger."

Working with Athletic & Personal Development program mental conditioning coach Josh Lifrak, Gerler learned how to simplify his thoughts on the field and how to focus on what he can control.

"We really dwelled on using the same routine," Gerler said. "Even if you're not playing baseball that day, just taking 10 minutes to yourself to get your mind focused and stay away from the negative."

Zach Gerler (click to enlarge)

During his stay, Gerler would do an hour of nutrition or life skills training in the morning, followed by two hours of strength and agility work. After lunch, he'd have an hour of mental conditioning or communication training, then a two-hour practice session on the baseball field. It was a far cry from his previous two summers that saw him simply continue his season by playing more baseball all summer.

"With no break from playing, I was starting to get burned out," he said. "I couldn't keep weight on and lost strength. Now, I feel a lot stronger. I've gained 13 pounds since I've been here. I feel like I'm faster. I especially feel more confident after doing the mental conditioning stuff.

"I think that was one part that really hindered my play last year."

Clearing the bases with Zach Gerler:

Favorite team: St. Louis Cardinals.

Favorite team: Albert Pujols is unbelievable. My favorite player of all time, though, is Cal Ripken Jr. I feel like I have a lot in common with him. He's a really tall shortstop. He didn't always have the best skills, but he had the best mindset to get through every day.

Stance on steroids: It's happened so much, that it's not surprising to hear anyone's name. You don't want to see your favorite players on there, but it's not surprising anymore. I know guys see other guys doing it and want to get that edge. I wouldn't even be surprised if Albert did. He's such a massive man and does such amazing things. I don't think he does because of his kind of straight-edge personality, but I wouldn't be shocked.

Best baseball moment: When I was 10, we were in the AYBA Little League World Series, not the one that's on TV or anything. We had a core group that had played together forever. We were in the final game, and I was pitching the 7th inning. I struck the first guy out. The second guy flied out. Then I struck the third guy out. I was mobbed at the mound, and there was a dog pile and all of that. It was awesome.

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