Jaime Cevallos – Positional Hitting

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book is also my first. It’s called Positional Hitting: The Modern Approach to Analyzing and Training Your Baseball Swing.It is an unprecedented approach to improving at hitting. In my ten plus years of research, I realized a few very valuable things about the baseball swing: 1) The positions a player achieves through the swing as seen on video have direct correlations to their performance, 2) Almost all baseball players are working too long and hard on their hitting and seeing very little results, 3) baseball teams, even at the highest levels, are drastically underestimating the value of video analysis for improving a player’s swing technique and subsequent performance, and 4) baseball teams are underestimating how quickly a player can improve his power and consistency simply by modifying his training approach.

Most teams’ hitting practice consists of mindless batting practice or drills like soft toss, where the player hits a ball tossed by another standing to the side. With very little attention paid to the positions that players are achieving during their training, very little positive changes are made. Changing the positions a player achieves through the swing requires training that looks very different from the traditional methods of practice. But hitting is a law of averages skill; if you learn to move the bat through the zone in such a way as to give you the best odds of hitting the ball and hitting it hard, you will succeed more often then your piers.

I have seen this void/opportunity within baseball for years and it still exists everywhere. I suspect in twenty years, every Major League club will have “swing instructors” or “movement coaches” that help players get the most out of their “micromechanics.” “micromechanics” is a word that I coined that refers to the split second movements in sports, like the baseball swing, or even the transition from the glove to the throwing hand for a fielder. There are more efficient ways of moving that give athletes more power and consistency and usually they are slightly different from the way they naturally learned or were taught by coaches.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am from Philadelphia. I was in love with movement from a young age. I loved to learn new skills and watch professionals move with such grace. Basketball was my favorite sport at first because of the beauty of the dunk and certain jump shots. I also loved the legedary juggler Bobby May and taught myself to juggle and move the way he did. I ended up falling in love with baseball because in the area I grew up, baseball stardom could make you a local star.

I excelled at fielding but hitting was always a struggle. I walked onto the team at Mount Saint Mary’s University in 1996 and earned the starting shortstop position as a freshman, only because of my fielding ability. I batted a miserable .196 that season. Before the next year, I discovered certain positions through my swing that helped me hit the ball much better. This was my discovery of what is now called Positional Hitting. The next year, I batted .364 (4th in the NEC) and hit four home runs. I had never hit a home run in my life up to that point. I made first team all conference and a scholarship for the following year.

To many peoples’ surprise, I quit baseball after that year and went on a quest to find the rest of the secrets to the baseball swing (youtube video showing during this time after college – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4o_mwDtDnY). Ten years later, in 2007, I began working with Major League Baseball players on my method and their improvement was immediate and measurable. My book explains my journey and shows players how they can improve their swing by working smarter instead of harder.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by the passion to figure out the baseball swing. The book was just a natural result of years and years of curiosity. When I finally lifted my head up from my search and looked around, I realized how far behind the baseball world was and a book was the best way to get my message – the way I see the swing – out to as many people as possible.

How did you choose the title?

There were two popular hitting methods when I began writing the book – Linear Hitting and Rotational Hitting. Early on I named my method Positional Hitting because it sounded like these two, so people making the transition will be more comfortable. I struggled with the name for a while because it sounds so academic and boring but I wanted the title to be what people call the method and vice versa, and that seems to be happening.

I wanted to name the book “The Seven Figure Hitter” – referring to the money a player can make these days in baseball and also referring to the seven positions described in the book. It is a much more sexy name, but I went with my gut.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I went with a self publishing company because I wanted to have all of the control, being that it was a new and different method that people don’t understand until they learn about it and try it. I wish I could recommend the company but it was quite a horrible experience. I will go with another company for my next book.

The biggest problem came when we were in the final editing stages. They kept making careless mistakes and their sloppiness costs me hundreds of dollars but even worse pushed back the release about three months! It was a very difficult time for me. I spent a lifetime refining my methods and then writing the book, and it is very frustrating when you have people who just don’t care working with you in the very final stages.

I don’t know that I overcame these obstacles. I just dealt with them. Honestly, I’m still coming down from all the stress I felt during that period of time.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I had a great writing teacher in high school, Mr. Ed McCabe, who encouraged me. He was really enthusiastic about writing and taught us how to stay on point and write interesting sentences. I realized at that time that I enjoyed writing. I would like to write more books but right now I have other projects that I’m working on.

Tim Ferriss is also an inspiration to me. I had the chance to have dinner with him in 2009 and he also featured me on his blog – http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/12/18/swing-mechanic-jaime-cevallos/ He is a great writer and helps so many people with his books. I respect that.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I always have a piece of paper and pen with me. My wife will even say, “do you have a pen?” when we leave the house. I’m hit with inspiration at the most random places and I have to be ready.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I did. The most important thing I learned is to do the most important things first. When I first started writing the book, I realized that I couldn’t start doing anything else to start the day, not even check email, or else I would never get around to writing. Writing takes so much of your mental energy that to switch gears is almost impossible. I spent days in a row not answering phone calls or emails – just writing.

I also learned that all of your writing won’t, and shouldn’t, make it into the book. A good book is not only a matter of the addition of great material, but also the subtraction of mediocre material.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have gone with a different publishing company. I also would have edited the book myself. I realized that nobody else knows where you are coming from and what kind of voice you are going for. Unless you have the money and connections to get a top notch editor who can spend a lot of time with you, just edit the book yourself by reading it over and over and over again. If you have gramatical questions, you can ask experts on those specific points – for example post the question on LinkedIn discussions or call a local paper and ask to speak with the editor (“This is a really random question, but I was wondering if you could help me…”). People are usually happy to help if you acknowledge that you’re coming from left field.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I like business books now. For the first time in my life, I am making money – from the sales of my books and training bat – and find business to be an interesting subject as well as one that I need to learn about. Tim Ferriss, as I mentioned earlier, is fantastic. I just finished The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Great book.

I’m also reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States which is an awsome book and very enlightening.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am not working on a book right now. I would like to someday write a book that helps people in more everyday life matters, rather than just dealing with a one second movement like the baseball swing. But that inspiration hasn’t hit me yet.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

If you see the world differently from others in some way, there may be some value there. Can you make others see it your way? And if so, would it benefit them in some way?

Also, if you can be successful enough at what you do, you can get major newspapers and magazines writing quotes about what you do in articles. I’ve been mentioned in ESPN The Magazine, Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Tampa Tribune, and many other outlets for the work I do with Major League players. That has been helpful for prospective customers to feel comfortable that the book they are buying is legit.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Fathers of baseball players are the biggest customer base right now. I would like to see more kids who play baseball purchase the book but I understand that most kids are not like I was. I was crazy about my hitting mechanics, even from a young age. I think kids are kind of down on instruction as a whole because coaches make it so miserable most of the time. First, they yell at the kids too much. And second, kids aren’t stupid; they want to see that what they are practicing is actually improving their performance. If they don’t make that connection, they won’t be
motivated to practice. With Positional Hitting, they will see that improvement and will be naturally motivated.

Although it is less than the fathers, there are still quite a few kids that purchase the book, and I love to see that.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to see Major League, Minor League and college coaches purchasing the book in high volumes. One D-1 coach purchased a copy for every kid on the team! Which was nice :-).