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June 25, 2009 - 3:16 am

A reader sends in a href=”http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090624content_id=5497488vkey=news_mlbfext=.jspc_id=mlb”an interesting article/a about athletes being treated by sports psychologists:br /br /blockquoteMel Didier is as old-school baseball as they come.br /br /The 83-year-old has been around the game for 58 years as a Minor League player, big league scout and executive and has seen and learned a lot.br /br /It was Didier, for example, who told Kirk Gibson that Dennis Eckersley would throw a back-door slider with a full count and first base open and then watched one of the most famous home runs in World Series history leave Dodger Stadium.br /br /In other words, not a lot surprises Didier, even though he has seen established Major Leaguers such as pitchers Zack Greinke and Steve Blass, catcher Mackey Sasser and infielders Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax suffer from diagnosed and undiagnosed psychological maladies that affected their play in strange and sometimes career-threatening ways…..br /br /More and more, clubs are turning to sports psychologists to make these situations less difficult, and according to a prominent doctor in the Pacific Northwest, it’s good to see anxiety disorders now being considered legitimately DL-worthy.br /br /”It’s a highly stressful situation with players these days,” says Dr. Donald Smith, the director of the clinical psychology program at the University of Washington and a former roving Minor League psychology instructor for the Houston Astros (1985-96) and team counselor for the Seattle Mariners (1990).br /br /”Anxiety is a mind and body phenomenon, and muscle tension interferes with the smooth, athletic movements we normally associate with Major League players. We tackle it by teaching stress management coping skills.”br /br /Smith says he has helped conduct studies that have shown that anxiety is much more likely to affect pitchers than position players and that even moderate muscle tension by a batter can “make an 85-mph fastball turn into 95 mph.”br /br /And for any team that has any doubts that psychological treatment can help players riddled with anxiety, Smith says clubs can go ahead and avoid it — at their own risk.br /br /”I met an old-school pitching coach who told me, ‘I’m not here to coddle mental weaklings. It’s a game of survival.’ br //blockquotebr /br /You can read the a href=”http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090624content_id=5497488vkey=news_mlbfext=.jspc_id=mlb”rest of the story here. /a

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