Justin Turner masters mental part of baseball
Ken Ravizza brings us to Justin Turner.
Just as Justin Turner brings us to Ken Ravizza.
Turner got the Dodgers rolling in the first inning of the first game of the National League Division Series against Arizona’s Diamondbacks with a three-run home run.
A .300 regular-season hitter during the past four seasons, he was a torrid 4 for 8 in the opening two games of the best-of-5 series, leaving him with an extremely healthy .375 postseason batting average during the same four years.
The Turner-Ravizza connection goes back to Turner’s time at Cal State Fullerton, where he was a kinesiology major as well as a star on the 2004 Titan national championship baseball team. Ravizza, a guru on the mental side of sports, was one of his professors.
The last time we visited Ravizza was late in the summer. One of the subjects was his connection with the Chicago Cubs and manager Joe Maddon.
“I think he’s one of the best in the business,” Maddon said.
So it is that Professor Ravizza, a Redondo Beach resident, could be a magic link between the Cubs and Dodgers and the World Series.
If, of course, you believe in such things.
Since this is baseball, where players decline to step on chalk lines believing to do so will bring bad luck, there is a good chance you will endorse anything that might assist the Dodgers.
The starting point is the Cubs, with Ravizza in the shadows, advanced to and won the 2016 World Series.
Now come the Dodgers, last appearing in and winning the World Series in 1988, with Ravizza in Turner’s shadow.
Your focus, understandably, is on what you can see.
You see Clayton Kershaw pitching brilliantly for six innings and then hitting a wall in the seventh.
Is press box speculation correct that his back, despite his denials, leaves him at less than 100 percent?
Could it be that modern baseball strategy limiting the number of pitches starters are allowed to throw has reduced his effectiveness beyond the sixth inning?
Could it be that he is sound enough to get the job done and just needs a little time to rebuild his strength after being shutdown part of the summer?
You see Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Turner taking their cuts and you are confident the Dodgers have the offensive fire power to play with anyone in the game.
You see Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen as the foundation of a pitching staff you trust can reel in the required 11 games for the Dodgers to once again rule baseball.
Ravizza speaks to an esoteric/invisible part of the game, the mind, and how it impacts the athlete.
This is the area where he and Turner have connected for more than a dozen years. Now 32, a veteran of nine years in the major leagues with the Orioles, Mets and Dodgers, a .322 hitter this summer, the student still checks in with his old prof for more than a hi-how-ya-doin’?
“Justin has always been into the mental game part of it,” Ravizza said.
This is why when the Reds, the organization that drafted Turner out of Fullerton, gave up on him without so much as giving him a minute in the majors, when the Orioles and Mets dumped him, when it appeared he did not have the batting skills to survive in the majors, he had the strength to keep plugging away.
Simply put by Ravizza, “It did not come easy for Justin.”
That no doubt is part of the reason he is enjoying his late taste of success as well as everything that is going on around him so much.
Puig, 26 but given to the non-big league-type exuberance of a teenager, clowned around during a first-game postgame press conference, mimicking his own tongue wagging act after sliding into third to conclude a wild horse triple.
Turner, sitting a few feet away, did not give him the veteran this-is-a-serious-time-be-serious stare.
Instead, he almost doubled over laughing, enjoying how much the effervescent Puig was enjoying himself.
“Justin’s a great guy,” Ravizza said. “It’s nice when you see guys like that do well because not all of them are great guys.”
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