MLB Matt LaPorta: Transitioning Out of The Game and Dealing With It

FFL 033 | Out of The Game

We’ve got another incredible guest, former Major Leaguer, former Cleveland Indian, Matt LaPorta, former University of Florida Gator. That’s a big deal out here in Florida so give him some props. He just got inducted to the Hall of Fame and I bring that up and give him a big, “Congratulations.” I had a great time talking with Matt. He was one heck of a ball player and he’s so articulate. I’d describe what he did on the field, but the deeper structures of what goes through his mind and explaining things, making decisions, being his very best, definitely exciting interview to bring to you. One thing that jumped out to me, and actually I’ve used several times in the last few days and applied in my own life, is he goes into the story of he worked with a sports psychologist and so many fears and what-ifs in his mind.

The sport psychologist just tells him, “When that happens, then you deal with it.” No need to worry, no need to stress about it now, but if it happens then you deal with it. He’s talked about how he took that and ran with it during his career but also how that has impacted him and transitioned him when his life moved away from his career, post-retirement. I tell you, not just for professional athletes, not just for athletes in general, but when you grow up and you’re obsessed and your whole life is about one thing, it becomes sometimes a part of you at an identity level. When that happens when you have to move on from it or the role and a place in your life changes, a player goes to being a coach, sometimes that could be devastating and a very, very hard thing to go through, and sometimes it takes people very, very long time to come out of it. Unfortunately some people fall into depression and a lot of other negative patterns.

When you have this mindset of “If it happens, then you deal with it.” Not only are you going to get out of yourself, get back to taking actions, do something about it, but it also develops this idea of this concept that we talked about of self-esteem. In past podcasts, I’ve gotten a little bit more in-depth about that. There are so many different levels of confidence. You can have a feeling of it. You can have a level of confidence in your abilities. If feel you’re confident in being a good hitter or being a good player, whatever it is, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to other areas of your life or having confidence in other skills. When you develop self-esteem, that is a level of confidence within yourself that does, it is pervasive into other areas of your life. It doesn’t make you any more competent in other areas but it gives you confidence that, “I can get through this. I can learn it or I can handle this. I can get to the other side and be successful in what it is I want or where I want to go.” I think that’s the beauty of this concept and idea of dealing with it. I know I had to bring and remind it to myself several times in the last couple of days with some of the personal issue that I went through.

I think of another story that someone put on Facebook. This is a football coach. I know he does baseball as well. He was just sharing how one parent was complaining because their child wasn’t playing and that he was damaging the player’s self-esteem. This goes exactly to what I’m talking about self-esteem comes from the adversity. It comes from your going through the hard challenges. It’s not about being in the right situation on the right team playing well, that doesn’t build self-esteem. That builds a lot of confidence and other things but it doesn’t build the true depth of self-esteem, dealing with that adversity, knowing that you can come out on top again and again, that you can take on a bigger challenge next time. That was the thing I want to share with you, a little insight.

I’m very excited to bring you this interview with Matt. Also, I appreciate you guys for coming again and again check out this Full Force Life podcast. I hope also that you’ve taken the time to go to @JasonBottsPeakState, the Facebook page as well as my personal profile, @JasonBotts, Instagram, we’re in there @BigJasonBotts and Twitter, @BigJasonBotts.. I enjoin you, appreciate you taking the time to listen to the podcast but there is so much more content that you can find on those other pages. I’m making videos each week. I’m starting to do live videos as well where you can go in and really do a true question and answer situation. Definitely coming down on social media, there’s so much more I want to share with you when it comes to peak performance, mental performance, being our very best both inside and outside the white lines and living full force. Without any further ado, let me go ahead and we’ll get Matt LaPorta up to the plate. He and I will see you on the other side.

 

Listen to the podcast here:

 

MLB Matt LaPorta: Transitioning Out of The Game and Dealing With It

First off, you finally got the introduction in the Hall of Fame, right? 

Yeah.

Congratulations. University of Florida Hall of Fame. One of the first questions I want to task you is talk about that experience and why you chose to be a Gator and to go there.  Just share some of your experiences.

FFL 033 | Out of The Game
Growing up, I thought that guys that went to college were frankly losers.

Originally, I never really wanted to go to college. You played professional baseball and you know that deal. Growing up, I thought that guys that went to college were frankly losers. I didn’t think they were good enough to get to the Big Leagues and that’s why they went to college. Little did I know, I would end up in that route going to UF. What happened was I got drafted in the fourteenth round at a high school. I was going to sign. I was dead set on signing, take my $150,000, and go start my professional career. Really, it got to a point though where Coach Dave Tollett, who is now the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast and my high school baseball coach, we talked a lot about it. I prayed a lot about it and just trying to figure out what makes sense for me. Since then, I came to a decision obviously to go to University of Florida. My mom went to school there, so it was still a natural fit. I had a good chance at starting as a freshman so I made the decision and end up going to college.

What are some of those reasons, do you remember? Making the change of mind?

I took the emotional part out of it and started really weighing out. My dad would always say, “Write down your pros and cons of each situation,” so I did that. I really had a lot of talks with people. One of the things that stood out throughout those talks was, “If you’re not good enough to get drafted again out of college, you are never going to be good enough to make it to the Big Leagues. Go to college, get an education, get stronger, get better at your craft, and when you come out, if you are as good as you think you might be or hope you might be, maybe you don’t start in Rookie Ball, maybe you start in High-A or Double-A or Triple-A. You’ll never know.” I took that approach and that’s really what helped drive me to make that decision to go to school.

On the website, it’s said you were born in Port Charlotte. Did you grow up in Port Charlotte?

I grew up in Port Charlotte; the Rangers there. I’m sure you have seen me at Rookie Ball at some point or something.

That was my first day of professional experience was arriving into Port Charlotte at 12:15 AM and walking into the Days Inn Hotel. I had a lot of fun memories for myself there, but I think it’s really cool you grew up there. Any experiences with going to spring training and the Rookie Ball? You got the Florida State League there. How was that growing up having access to all that stuff?

It was great. My really good friend owned this field. There was nothing out there. There was this house that was right next to the field, that was my buddy’s house. They had a fruit stand. A lot of guys actually remember that little fruit stand because it was right there on the corner when you turned into the stadium area. When spring training came around, we’d always go to spring training, the games, go to batting practice and collect all the balls so we could hit with at a later date. We were always there, we had it set up. We had his little brother would stand on top of the fence and tell us when a home run is coming and we’re looking and trying to race to where it’s at, fighting these old men trying to get the balls because obviously Big Leaguers are hitting with pearls, so we’re trying to get all the balls we can.

I remember when we were in the Minor League level, taking batting practice on those back fields and having to go out there and take the balls back from the little kids. I guess that’s one of the differences of the Minor Leagues and the Big Leagues. The Minor Leagues got to go out there and get the balls back from the poor kids. Were there any players you remember coming up to the system and going and watching at the games? Were you following closely enough to remember names?

Yeah. I remember obviously you had Pudge. Watching him, I remember when A Rod signed his $250 million deal, that whole day and the media that was there. I remember Jose Canseco, I think he was there when you’re rolling in. I remember, I think it was his, a yellow Lamborghini, Juan Gonzalez, Gabe Kapler. I remember watching a rehab game. I think Gabe was playing in it one time. This dude was shredded. He just hit this massive tank on one of the back fields. I was like, “These guys are insane,” and Travis Hafner. It was pretty cool to see some of those guys and then get to play with some of them or pass some of them throughout baseball. It was pretty cool.

Where did those guys get all those cars? I feel like most of them are rented. I guess Canseco was a Florida guy. I remember one spring training, they had Ruben Sierra, it was the year of Alex Rodriguez so Pudge was there, and there was Palmeiro. They would all take turns each week renting some new luxury vehicles, Ferraris, Bentleys, all these other things. I remember Pudge decides to get flown in his helicopter from Miami and he lands it on Field 6 in the back field and just keeps it out there all day. That was the Big League move. It was taking their own helicopter for those guys. 

Talk about the transitioning from being a college player and going into the professional level. How was that for you? What went into your decisions? Was it a smooth transition or was it something that there were early struggles? How did it go for you?

I would say the transition from college to professional baseball was a pretty smooth transition. I was the seventh pick by the Brewers. I was a pretty good ballplayer at the time and it just filtered in and I fell right into place and just picked up where I left off from being in college. I started my first full season in Double-A and had a great Double-A year. We had an unbelievable team. I think through the first half, we probably hit 325 as a team or something crazy like that.

What league was that in?

The Southern League at Huntsville. I would hit three or four or something. I had 21 home runs, I think, before the break. On our team, we had Michael Brantley, he’s been a multiple All-Star. We had Alcides Escobar. We had me. We had Cole Gillespie, he’s had some time in the Big Leagues. We had a backup catcher with a couple of teams, Carlos Corporán with Astros. We had some good ball players on our team. It was pretty impressive.

Your theory of going to college and maybe starting at a higher level ended up working out?

FFL 033 | Out of The Game
I was the guy that was tabbed to be potentially Rookie of the Year, potentially make it to an All-Star.

Yeah, without a doubt. I went back for my senior year in college, too. I always encourage kids, “Go to college. Get your degree because this game will be over one day, whether you want it to be or not.” I know we hear it from everybody and a brother about that, but I feel like I come from a different point of view. I was the guy that went to the university. I was the guy who was the seventh overall pick and made a good amount of money. I was the guy that was tabbed to be potentially Rookie of the Year, potentially make it to an All-Star. All these things and I’m out of the game in four years. I just had a hip replacement surgery. It can end so fast for you.

It’s one of the things I was curious, not necessarily for the podcast but just curious for myself, was the hip part of the ending the career early? Did you hurt that during your career or something happened after?

I hurt it during my career. My first hip surgery on my left hip was 2009 after my rookie season. Basically, it didn’t really feel good, rehabbed pretty much part of 2010 but still played. Then thought I was out of the weeds there and then it started flaring up again in 2012. I had to have hip surgery again in 2012. Then the replacement came in 2017. It just never got better.

It’s one of those things like how you mentioned where as a ballplayer, you come up, you’re invincible,. the career’s never going to end and then it does end. You have this shot of feeling that you are mortal but then you still do things all the time in other areas of your life that aren’t so smart. I was thinking about my physical training now and how there are certain joints and elbows and my hips too and I see you have that surgery and I just saw Aubrey Huff had his replaced too. My hips have been killing me for a long time. I was like, “I really need to make sure I do something different here soon.” That’s some scary stuff. Everything is going good with the rehab?  

Yeah. I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt in seven years. I’m in no pain. It got to the point where there was just excruciating pain. I’m just grateful I don’t have to deal with any of the pain right now.

Going back into the Minor League stuff, I wanted to ask you, any horror stories in terms of bus rides or travel trips or anything that stands out in your mind? Did you ever had a bus breakdown?

No. I never was on a bus that broke down, thankfully. We’ve had some stories where you basically roll into a town at 5 AM and you’ve got a 1:00 WEGO or something. You’re just finding, “I’m shocked. Good luck.” There’s not enough coffee or anything that’s going to get you up for this game. I’ve had a couple of those. In Triple-A, the travel is a little easier. I didn’t play too much in the A-Ball or Double-A or Rookie Ball.

Where did you play in Triple-A?

I was in Columbus, Ohio.

By then, you already switched over with the Indians? 

Yeah, so ‘07 draft, ’08, played half a season with the Brewers, got traded for CC along with Michael Brantley, and basically played my entire career with the Indians.

Getting called up to the Big Leagues was your first year?

2009 was my first year. I got called up at the end of April. I don’t start the first game. I just didn’t start. I was like, “I’m anxious, I want to get out there.” Then I found out why I didn’t start. They were just holding me back to face Verlander the next day.

How did you get told about the call?

I was in Durham Bulls playing and they called me and said, “Come into the office and you’re going to go up.” That was it. I remember walking back to my hotel with really tears of joy, and calling my parents and just, “Hey guys, we did it. We’ve cracked that surface. We’re in there now. Now we got to keep working and keep that dream alive.” It was an unbelievable whirlwind for the next 24 to 48 hours. Obviously, I won’t forget it. I made my first start there and facing none other than Justin Verlander.

That was your first game, first time against Verlander?

Yeah.

How did it go?

I’ll never forget it. I didn’t do well against him. I remember this one at-bat. Bases were loaded. I’m battling, I get to a three-two count and he’s pumping 98, fouled it off; 99, fouled it off; 101, fouled it off; 100, fouled it off; then he just breaks off his little twelve-six break in ball and just freezes me. I thought it was little inside.

I’m sure it was. You know how it is being a rookie at the Major Leagues, that strike zone is pretty big. 

That’s when I was like, “This guy is good.” In 2009, he was really good. Wasn’t he like second in the running for Cy Young maybe or maybe behind Greinke?

Yeah. What was the rest of the at-bats?

I don’t even remember. I think I got sold off on one and grounded right back to them, ground out maybe to the shortstop and I don’t know what else the other one was. I just remembered that one because I had bases loaded. I could have made this huge impact. I couldn’t connect with one of those fastballs.

It reminds me, we had a guy get called up one year and we were in Toronto. We had an injury or two or something, and we had to call a guy up. A good young player, his first game in the Big Leagues. He was playing third base or something for the starter of that night. It was Roy Halladay. The year right before he went to Philadelphia. It was really unreal. He went up there and it was a hat-trick,. The first Big League Game hat-trick. Just poor, poor timing. He was not the only one who strikeout three times at that game. He was very good. First Big League hit though, when did that come?

First Big League hit came the next day in Toronto against Brian Tallet. He was a soft-throwing leftie. He might not like me saying that but anyway, it was a home run, left center.

You did make your impact. It was just a day later?

Yeah, I made that impact, just a day late.

One more question about the Big League time, I love asking this one. What was the thing that stood out in your mind as being something that’s just really cool? I’ll give you an example. First time you’re staying, you got your own hotel room or you’re drinking Starbucks, or you go to Anaheim and they got In and Out Hamburgers in the clubhouse. What was the one thing that was really cool? You don’t carry your own luggage or anything that stands out in your mind of that Big League experience?

FFL 033 | Out of The Game
I’m more than willing and capable and physically able to take my own luggage up.

I think all of those really resonate. There we so many cool aspects of it. I think flying on a private plane and really not touching your luggage from the time you get to your ball field to the time you land. Even at your hotel, you’re not touching it. I’m frugal. I remember our first road trip. They’re like, “You don’t bring your bags, let the guy bring it up and just flip them a $20.” I’m looking around and I’m like, “Flip them a $20?” I go, “This guy just took my luggage that maybe weighs 25 pounds and he walks it up to my room, $20?” I just never could expect paying somebody $20 to take my luggage up to my room for something that I could do. I’m more than willing and capable and physically able to take my own luggage up. Now when I travel with my four kids and my wife, I’m happy to pay somebody $10 to $20 to take my luggage. You have different perspectives now in life.

I was the same way. It was a tough thing, not carrying. It was mostly on the getaway days when you’re supposed to call someone up to take your luggage , “I’m carrying it down. I’m a hard worker. I came from a hardworking family. I can carry my own luggage.” I remember, one of the coaches catch me in the elevator going like, “You can’t do that. It’s a good thing we’re off kangaroo court or I’d have to turn you in right now.” I can carry my own bags. I’m a hard worker.

I definitely want to ask you a few questions when it comes to the mental side. One of the things that popped in my mind was did you ever struggle a little bit with nerves? Did you have anything that you would think about or focus on maybe the big games or big moments where you had those butterflies maybe?

Yeah. From a mental perspective, I think this is a part of the game that nobody talks about or it’s not talked about enough, in my opinion. I had probably been talking with sports psychologists since I was a freshman in college. I did go into school and thought I was going to start, and I didn’t end up starting, so I really struggled a lot as a freshman mentally. I reached out to one of our sports psychologists at the university and started working with them. It really didn’t all start sinking in from a mental perspective until I was probably a senior in college. This one guy that I started using was just incredible. Some of the main things he helped me focus on really was acknowledging that you’re scared, acknowledging that have fear of striking out or fear of not getting the job done. Then take a step back and go, “What am I going to do about it right now though?” I would follow that up with, “Right now what I’m going to do is I’m going to see the baseball and I’m going to attack the baseball.”

That was my framework anytime I started getting a little anxious or nervous. I think a lot of people say, “Don’t be anxious or don’t be nervous.” That’s part of human nature. We need to be that, we should be that. We should have that little fear in there. I’m not saying be fearful of failure. I’m just saying that it’s there. It’s a reality and acknowledging that. I think it brought so much clarity to my life and the way I went about the game just by acknowledging that. I could sense this pressure, this weight fall off me every time I would acknowledge that fear and then go, ” What am I going to do about it right now?” To me, it was some of the few things that really stood out to me from him that I think helped me become a better baseball player.

Is there anything else you remember from those talks or something else that helped you with back then, or maybe at a certain point in your career, something else another sports psychologist may have mentioned that helped?

There were probably a lot of things. The main thing that really just stood out was really that. I feel like I could really base a lot of my decisions in life about that. I think everybody is different and we all need to find our own coping mechanisms. How do we cope with different situations and how are we looking at different situations?

I got traded and I came to Cleveland with a lot of expectations and pressure on me. As athletes, we’re putting that pressure on ourselves anyway. I would always tell him, “I’m struggling, I’m 0 for whatever. I’m afraid I’m not going to get a hit. I’m afraid I’m going to punch out or not get the guy in.” He would always say, “So what? What are you going to do? If that happens, you will deal with it.” What if that situation happens, whatever the circumstance is, let it be the circumstance. After that happens, just deal with it. Find a way to deal with it.” I think a lot of people, that might be rough for them to hear. A kid may say it, ” I just punched out.” “So what? Now go deal with it.” To me, it just was so clear, it was like, “So what if that does happen? So what if my dog dies? What am I going to do about it now?” Acknowledge the situation, acknowledge the outcome, but now what is my next task at hand? To me, it just sank in and really again another thing that offered a lot of clarity and peace to me.

You would describe that as being your coping mechanism, your attitude on how you saw poor result or something?

Yeah. I’ll give you a better example. My biggest fear in baseball was what happened to me, not being the Rookie of the Year, never making it in All-Star, not ever a sniff of a chance of being an MVP, not making the millions of dollars that I thought, and being out of the game at 32 years old. That’s my biggest fear. I was just scared. I would always tell people if I never made $50 million as a baseball player, I was a failure. Think about that. What am I thinking? Now I’d play just in the Big League for free probably.  I would have these conversations with him. His name was Don and I was like, “Don, I’m afraid I might not be Rookie of the Year this year. I’m afraid I might not this.” He goes, “So what? If that happens, you will deal with it. Basically, don’t worry about it now. If it happens, you will deal with it. Matt, if you’re out of the game at 32 years old, so what? You will deal with it.” It’s true. I’m out of the game, so what? I had to find a way to deal with it. I don’t feel like I’ve dealt with it perfectly but I feel like I’ve dealt with it in a really respectful manner and made the transition a lot easier than I think some players do. That’s not saying that to brag, that’s saying that because I feel like I had a good coach, who was a mental coach, who helped me walk through those processes even while I was still playing.

As far as helping you transition out of the game or just that you got a foundation of how to deal with stuff as you’re going through during your career?

I think it was a foundation on how to deal with stuff. We’re always going to have stuff that comes up in our life, whether you’re out back pushing a snapper for a living or hitting home runs for a living or throwing touchdown passes for a living or a charter fisherman or a teacher, we all have stuff. He taught me how to deal with my stuff. Every day, we’ve got stuff to deal with, we’ve got decisions to make, we’ve got things that happen to us. Are we going to be reactive or are we going to be proactive about it? I think the approach that I took and he helped me take was to be proactive about it. Knowing that these things are going to happen, and when they do and if they do, you’re going to find a way to deal with it.

It puts you in a state of being present and not worrying about what may or may not happen in the future, just stay here and now. If it does happen then, we’ll stay present and figure it out and we’ll deal with it. I love it. You mentioned that everybody’s different. Obviously, I think not only from the physical standpoint, the mechanical standpoint, but with the work that I’ve done the last couple of years, everybody’s different from a mental standpoint too. You bring up the idea of coping mechanisms and how people deal with things differently. I think that’s dynamite that you mentioned that and that you brought that up. The one thing I also want to ask you too is about what was your intensity like when you were at your best, when you were in your best state, your peak state, when you’re performing? Were you someone else that’s amped up or were you’re laid back, somewhere in the middle? How would you describe it when you were at your best?

Probably when I was at my best, I wouldn’t say I was amped up on a ten, but I’ve never been like a mellow, chill type player and not really care. I’m intense.

Zero to ten?

I probably played a seven. I played with a lot of confidence and probably borderline arrogance.

If you’ve failed so much, you’ve got to be so freaking tough mentally. You’ve got to psych yourself out that you’re better than maybe even what you are at times. I remember a guy who I played college with. I actually played Little League and in high school with. He was a couple of years older than me. I’m actually getting inducted in our high school Hall of Fame.

Congrats again, you’re on a roll.

FFL 033 | Out of The Game
It’s like God saying, “This is the close of your book of baseball. You’re done. Your playing days are done. Close the book.”

Thanks, it’s Hall of Fame month right now. It’s like God saying, “This is the close of your book of baseball. You’re done. Your playing days are done. Close the book.”

This guy, he was a left-handed guy, little bit of pop, little bit of speed, great athlete, no arm, but he was the cockiest person I think I’ve ever met in my life. I couldn’t stand him frankly, but he made himself better than he really was because of this attitude, because of his mindset. Again, I’m not saying for everybody to go out and do that. I didn’t care for him, not in a bad way. He wasn’t my boy but he was a gamer. He’s a guy you want on your team.

I’ve got an interesting question. You’re the first one I’m trying it out on so I’m curious to see. I think you’ll know what I mean, at the very least. How do you know that you were just locked in? Did you feel a certain way? Did you notice something about how you’re seeing the ball? What was it that told you, “I’m locked in right now?”

When I’m locked in, the game was so slow. Wherever the ball was at, my barrel was touching it. It’s just the game would slow down, the ball looked bigger. I wasn’t thinking. I just was reacting. I was letting my ability play out. I think when we get in trouble so much as hitters, we start getting so mechanical. That’s why some of the things that I talked about with guys, I try not to talk about mechanics. Frankly, I don’t care about your mechanics. What’s between your head? I think that drives how you feel as a hitter. To answer your question, yeah, when I was locked in, I was having fun, everything was just in slow-mo, it was easy. I can get up there and I would just spit on balls that are on the black. I don’t care if it’s a strike. I’ll take the two strikes, I don’t care. I’m waiting for my pitch. Don’t give me that pitch because I’m going to crush it when I get it. It was that locked in feeling.

What goes on between the ears, that’s what I wanted to ask you next. Also maybe mention too about some of the videos that I’ve been seeing you make. I know you got LaPorta Sports. Was there another one too that I’ve seen that you talked to or shared about? Is there another page?

Yeah. When I got out of the game, the first thing I tried to create and we still have it, we just haven’t really been able to follow up with that. I just frankly don’t have the time. I got four kids. It was a program that really hopefully helped baseball players transition out of the game. I felt this burden. I have a heart for us, as baseball players, we have a brotherhood. I was fortunate when I got out to have a lot of great things happen to me prior to getting out: graduated from school, played a little in the Big Leagues, made a little bit of money in the draft. I live in Florida. I went to University of Florida so I got a lot of those connections. I’ve got a father-in-law who’s got a church of 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 people. Again, surrounded with connections and networks where there are a lot of guys that aren’t surrounded with that. There are a lot of guys that weren’t a first-rounder, that didn’t play in the Big Leagues, that don’t have those connections.

I really felt like there was this need and calling to help these guys transition, to help them in their lives from a mental perspective. Maybe even just coaching them up on how do you approach finding a job. How do you even know what you’re going to be good at next? Taking some self-assessment tests really for self-awareness. Trying to find out who I am, what am I best at? I know what I’m good at. I’m not an extremely detail-oriented person. I’m a big-picture guy. I need people around me that are more detailed than me; finding out things that we would be good at. That was the premise behind it. It was really helping a player transition out. It’s slowly moving. It’s moving forward but it’s so slowly moving.

The other thing that we’ve got going, which we haven’t even really launched it yet, I’m just starting to put out some content, like what you’re doing now. It is LaPorta Sports. Basically, the premise behind it is I’m a hitter. I love everything about hitting. What we wanted to do is create custom batting gloves for players because there’s not really a market for fully-customed, like with team logos and team names, because your Nikes, you Under Armours, your Franklin, whatever, they don’t need to do it. They don’t want to do it. That market share is too small for them.

Hopefully, this will be a really fun niche to be able to offer to travel baseball high school teams. You’ve got a custom-batting glove your color, with your logo and your team name on there. The only place for my logo is going to be is on the bottom of the wrist. It’s your batting glove. Prices are going to be really reasonable just like all the other batting glove companies. Our objective with the company is to create quality. We want Big League stuff. I played in the Big Leagues, I know what Big League stuff feels like or should feel like or should be. We got the batting gloves and then we’re going to make wood bats. We got a wood bat company that we’ll get all our custom bats for guys. It’s just about hitting basically and about baseball, and just offering everything that I’ve learned throughout the game.

My perspective on the game is I’ve never really wanted to give lessons for a lot of reasons. One being, I don’t have the time. I know a lot of lessons are given between 3:00 and 9:00 at night at family time. I got four kids. It just doesn’t work for me. That’s one reason. The second reason is for it to be worth my time, I’d probably charge $100 an hour, $150 an hour for it to be worth my time. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. If there are guys that do it, that’s fine. For me, I feel like I’ve got value, I’ve been blessed with the gifts. I’ve been coached and people have taught me these things for free basically. I want to be able to share those. I want to be able to share whatever nuggets and wisdom and value that I have with people. In turn, the objective would be that they go check out our site and hopefully they see the videos like, “This dude is awesome. This guy is really producing for us and given us some things. Why wouldn’t we trust him with our batting gloves or bats?” We’re really excited about that. I just love hitting and I think it’s just that cool resource where guys can get bats and batting gloves and just know that it’s going to be quality stuff.

Can you share the one about the mental approach? I know you love talking about the stuff between the ears too. When you’re in the batter’s box, what were you trying to focus on in terms of the process of hitting?

For me, it took time to get to this point, but really trying to get it simplified. I know a lot of Big Leaguers talk about, “I can read this pitch. I’m sitting on this pitch.” That wasn’t really part of my game. My game was, “See ball, hit ball,” and try to keep it simple. That was taught to me again through Don who would really just help me from a mental perspective. You don’t teach yourself how to walk every day. You don’t tell yourself, “Matt, put your left foot in front of the right and then keep doing that.” No. It’s the same thing with hitting. You’ve been hitting since you were five years old or seven years old or eight. He goes, “Why are you trying to teach yourself how to hit and tell yourself what to do while you’re in the batter’s box? You’re just clogging up your mind. You’ve got to take the mind out almost.” You’ve got to focus on what are the things that I can control? Right now I can focus on seeing that baseball and attacking that baseball. That’s really as simple as we would get it to is just focus on that.

FFL 033 | Out of The Game
When you step in that box, I’ve got one objective and that’s I can’t hit if I can’t see it.

Before the at-bat, understand the situation, know what’s going on. When you step in that box, I’ve got one objective and that’s I can’t hit if I can’t see it. I’ve got to do everything I can to see that baseball. You can have the best swing in the world. You can have the most power in the world, but if you’re swinging at garbage that’s bouncing 55 feet in front of you, what good is a swing? What good is your swing? What good is all that money you just paid to a swing coach? What did he do for you? No offense or nothing to anybody that’s a swing coach, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m getting you to think in a different way. I want you to think from my mental perspective of hitting, not just the physical perspective. That would be my approach. Make sure you’re relaxed, take some deep breaths, assess the situation, and go in there with your plan of attack. That’s, “See baseball and attack baseball.”

It might sound like a very subtle difference to a lot of people, but going up there and hitting and going up there and being a hitter is a very huge difference. When it comes to making adjustments, what does that mean to you? When people are in a game, it’s about making adjustments. Baseball is a game of adjustments. What are some examples that come to your mind when you think about that?

Every day is different in the game of baseball. No day is the same. You generally don’t feel the same you did the day before from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint. A lot of guys throughout the season are playing with bumps and bruises, and so you have to adjust. Rain out, rain delay, you’re constantly adjusting. You have to know how to remove yourself from different situations that may cause anxiety or stress. We play 162 games so we have to really figure out and learn how to maintain composure, maintain our mental stamina, maintain our physical stamina. I think a lot of times for guys in a slump, we tend to dwell on that slump a lot more, “I need to go hit.” Maybe stop making those adjustments for that time. Maybe we don’t need to make adjustments, maybe we need to pull back some or, “It’s a rain delay, what am I going to do now? I’m getting cold again and I was at the at-bat.” We have to adjust from that moment and move on one way or the other and realize that moment is gone, it’s not the moment anymore. What’s our new moment?

What has the game taught you about life?

The game of baseball is so much like life. The game of baseball is 162 games played in 184 days. The game of baseball doesn’t care if you’re sick. It doesn’t care if you’re hurt. It doesn’t care if mommy and daddy are not well or your kids aren’t well. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if your dog died. The game is relentless. If you’re not mentally tough, the game will eat you up. Life is the same way. You’ve got kids, I’ve got kids. I’ve got four kids. It is relentless. I love my kids to death, but every day it is between the kids, work, just life in general. Life is relentless. Life doesn’t care if you’re sick. There are no days off, I don’t get days off. When I’m sick, I still got the four kids. It doesn’t matter. I still got to work. It doesn’t matter. There are just no days off. It’s the same thing with baseball. To me, I think life is so much like baseball. Life might be a little better at times because you might have some more successes than baseball because you’re not failing all the time, but life is relentless. It doesn’t care if you’re sick. It doesn’t care, life still went on. I had my hip surgery, my hip replaced, life still went on. People are still closing deals. People are still selling. My family is still moving. My kids got to get to school.

Hurricanes come. It doesn’t stop. If you let one or two or three or a week go by and life has beaten you down, you better find a way to crawl out of that hole because life will suck you in that hole and it’s tough to get out.

What was the coping mechanism? What was the phrase you kept saying?

If it happens, I will deal with it.

I appreciate your time and all you got to share and your insights. You mentioned LaPorta Sports. I know it’s on Facebook. Is there a website?

It’s LaPortaSports.com.

Is there a way for them to reach out and get a hold of you through that?? 

Yeah. They can go on there and they can email us. They can go like our Facebook page. They can contact us through the Facebook page or if they wanted to buy. Right now, we’ve got shirts and hats up there. We’ve got bats ready to go. We haven’t officially launched yet, but in the next month or so we will have that launched out.

Once again, Matt, I really appreciate your time. Everyone else out there, if you have any questions, comments, criticism or sarcastic remarks for either Matt or I, we can handle it. Go ahead and send them to info@JasonBottsPeakState.com. Until then, aim high, swing hard, and smile often.

Guest Bio

FFL 033 | Out of The GameMatt LaPorta is a former Major League baseball first baseman and left fielder for the Cleveland Indians. Born in Port Charlotte, Florida, he would go on to be an All-American and 2x SEC Player of the Year at the University of Florida. Matt was drafted 7th overall in 2007 and a member of Team USA that won the Bronze Medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

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