By Andrew Polk
Before a Chicago Catholic League game against Mount Carmel High School on April 5, the DePaul College Prep Rams baseball team had some time to kill.
After they finished their warmup exercises, the choices were endless. Some teams play pepper or hacky sack, while others might return to the dugout and anxiously wait until first pitch.
The Rams, however, took a different approach to pass the time. The team lined up their gloves on the left field foul line, sprawled on the artificial turf at Kerry Wood Cubs Field with their caps over their faces and meditated.
Leading the team through the guided meditation was assistant coach Steve Costello, who introduced the practice to DePaul Prep’s baseball program in 2019.
“When I first introduced meditation to the team, it was kind of a hard sell,” Costello said. “Now, the kids actually look forward to it. I call it mind nourishment.”
The positive effects of mental training tactics in professional baseball are well-documented, with all 30 MLB teams employing a mental health professional according to MLB.com. But Costello and the rest of the DePaul Prep coaching staff said they believe meditation and mindfulness can greatly benefit high school players as well.
Costello grew up playing both football and baseball and accepted a football scholarship at Dakota State University in 1976. As his passion for coaching baseball grew over the years, he admired Ken Ravizza, a sports psychologist who assisted legendary baseball manager Augie Garrido’s staff at California State University, Fullerton.
“Baseball is such a challenging game, and it’s 90% mental. The mental game lives in those 15 to 20 seconds in between pitches,” Costello said. “I wish I would have meditated and practiced mindfulness when I was still playing.”
“It’s a mental approach to baseball,” said Chris Haas, the Rams’ coach. “We try to preach ‘Play the game one pitch at a time,’ and ‘Have a mental approach.’ (The meditation) just gets our minds free and focused, and it channels our inner energies.”
Brian Costello, DePaul Prep’s pitching coach and Steve Costello’s nephew, posted a picture of the Rams’ pregame meditation to the team’s Twitter account and received praise from baseball mental training advocate Alan Jaeger. Jaeger founded Jaeger Sports in 1991, and the company specializes in both physical and mental health for baseball athletes.
The Rams utilize meditation whenever time allows, sometimes starting a practice or weightlifting session with a guided reflection. Senior pitcher Joey Hartman said he especially enjoys when the team meditates before weekday games.
“I think it’s really helpful because you forget all the stuff that happened in school, especially with 4:30 p.m. games right after school,” Hartman said. “I feel like the meditation really gets us locked in and focused on the game.”
Although the Rams lost to Mount Carmel following the team’s meditation session, DePaul Prep won its next three games and owns a 9-13 overall record in the 2022 season. The team is seeking to capture its fourth consecutive regional championship later this spring, and Brian Costello said he believes mindfulness practices can assist the Rams in achieving their goals.
“We’re all trying to find a competitive edge, and for us, it’s being present as much as we can in a world where there are so many distractions,” Costello said. “I think more teams should do it, and making it a priority could have a benefit for a team.”
Andrew Polk is a sports reporter at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @apolk17.