“Image x Vividness = Reality.” -Kirk Gibson
The 2003 season can best be described by the title of the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The season saw plenty of all three.
I spent the first several weeks in my standard role of coming off the bench to pinch hit, pinch run, or play defense with the occasional start against a left-handed pitcher. I was growing increasingly frustrated but continued to do everything in my power to keep a positive outlook and believe that my opportunity would come at some point. The Detroit Tigers were in town and one of my favorite players growing up, Kirk Gibson, was on the coaching staff. After our batting practice before the first game of the series, Gibby was on the field hitting fungos, so I snuck over and asked him if I sent over a bat to the visiting clubhouse, would it be possible for him to sign it for me and send it back? He hit one more ball then turned around and stared at me as if I just interrupted him during his at bat against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He eventually fired back, “Send it over.” He quickly turned around and continued to hit fungos. Not exactly the warm reception I was looking for, but I had heard all the rumors of how intense he was so I did not let it bother me. As a matter of fact, it actually made me like him even more.
I sent the bat over and Gibby signed it and had the bat returned to me before the game even started. Mikey Thalbaum, the visiting clubhouse manager, wrapped it in a long sanitary sock. I kept the bat in the sock for protection and took it home. The next day when I was taking BP, Kirk Gibson came up to me this time.
“You get the bat?”
“Yes, sir, thank you very much.”
“Have you read what I wrote?”
“No, I took it home but I haven’t taken it out of the sanitary sock yet.”
“Take it out, read it, figure out the meaning, understand it, then apply it.”
When I got home after the game, I immediately grabbed the bat and pulled it out of the sock. “To Eric, I x V = R.” What could that possibly mean? How was I supposed to decipher this mysterious equation?
I asked everyone I encountered the rest of the day and got nothing; nobody had any idea what it meant. The next day was a day game, so we were not taking BP on the field but the Tigers were. I absolutely could not take it anymore! I needed to know the meaning of I x V = R!
As soon as I got to the stadium I went down to the dugout and essentially stalked Kirk Gibson until he came out onto the field. When he showed, despite being surrounded by several other Tigers coaches and players, I immediately bombarded him.
“I take it you read the bat?”
“Yup, I have asked almost everyone I know in the last 24 hours the meaning but nobody has a clue.”
“Not many people do. I X V = R, Image x Vividness = Reality. The more vividly you are able to imagine something the more likely it is to become your reality. This equation changed my career and it will yours as well.”
I immediately went up to the clubhouse and wrote it down.
Ironically, that very same day, Jermaine Dye hurt his knee in the outfield. Terry Francona, who was the bench coach in 2003, told Adam Piatt, another reserve outfielder and former Minor League player of the year, to grab his glove. As Piatt was getting ready to run out to replace Dye, Macha intervened, “Byrnes, get your ass out to right field.” Assuming Piatt was going in, I had to scurry to find my glove then sprint out to right field completely disheveled but fired up to be in the game.
At this point, I just kept repeating, “I x V = R, I x V = R, I x V =R…” I then visualized seeing the balI well at the plate, taking good swings, and making plays in the outfield. I ended the day with three quality at-bats and two hits, one of which ignited a rally that eventually helped us win the game. I got the start the next day and laid out a couple more hits in another win, buying myself another start.
I now made visualization a part of my routine. I would watch video of the next day’s starting pitcher and completely etch him in my mind, studying the different pitches he throws and the mechanics he used to throw them. Then, right before I would go to bed I would visualize all of the pitches I was going to see. A fastball inside for a ball, a fastball inside for a strike, a fastball over the middle for a ball, and a fastball down the dick (middle) for a strike. A fastball outside for a ball and a fastball outside for a strike. I would then repeat the same thing with all of the other pitches the pitcher had. I would also repeat this routine in the batting cage, whacking all of the visualized strikes off a tee 20 minutes before the game.
By the time I stepped into the batter’s box to face Greg Maddox or Roger Clemens, because of my vivid imagination, I felt like I had faced these guys and had success off of them several times already. Amazingly, I was in my 4th season and had yet to start 3 consecutive games, but thankfully that was about to change. One way to hold a team hostage and force them to play you is by playing at such a high level that you don’t give them a choice. That’s exactly what I did. 3 games became 4 and then 9 games became 10. I didn’t realize it until I got to 10 because I was so focused on the moment and doing everything in my power to stay in the starting lineup, but I had also hit in 10 consecutive games. At that point, I figured so long as I kept the hitting streak going, Macha would have to continue to write my name in the lineup.
Human Crash Test Dummy Life Lesson #60
The brain is the most powerful tool that we possess. Use it to your advantage. Visualization does not guarantee success, but I will guarantee you that you will be more comfortable and confident in a situation that you have already played out in your mind. Comfort and confidence will in turn give you your best chance to succeed. As Gibby laid it out for me, the more vividly you can imagine something the more likely it is to become your reality.[Listen to the audio version of the I x V = R above, or on The Hustle Podcast.]