Psychological Adjustment Profiles of Talented Professional Baseball Players: Pitchers versus Hitters

By McCutcheon, Lynn E.; Calicchia, John A. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Psychological Adjustment Profiles of Talented Professional Baseball Players: Pitchers versus Hitters


McCutcheon, Lynn E., Calicchia, John A., Aruguete, Mara, Bridges, F. Stephen, North American Journal of Psychology


A previous study compared baseball players who had brief careers in the Major Leagues with controls who had never been professional athletes on then-and-now measures of sport motivation, adjustment to important adult roles, and psychological well-being. The purpose was to see how well players who did not become wealthy from baseball were able to adjust to life after sport. In the present study we compared 50 pitchers with 52 hitters on these same measures. Results showed that pitchers were slightly taller than hitters, and that the two groups had similar adjustment styles to life after sport. Results concur with a previous study showing that most former players are well-adjusted after leaving professional baseball.

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Professional baseball players who reach Triple A or the Major Leagues (MLB) constitute a unique population. The odds of getting there are quite low and the average MLB playing career is short (Coakley, 1994).

Part of the adjustment that the average professional athlete makes going back to the "real world" after baseball involves possible changes in attitude about sport orientation, post-sport occupation, marriage, parental responsibilities, and homecare. His psychological well-being may be affected. Suddenly the ex-athlete who was "on the road" with the team several months a year is now a man who may come home to a wife and children each night. His income may have declined, and if he was not a highly-paid star he now mows the lawn, repairs the kitchen sink and plays with his children. We wanted to find out how average MLB athletes met these challenges outside of professional sport.

The present study is modeled after an earlier one (McCutcheon, Aruguete, Parker, Calicchia, Bridges, & Ashe, 2007), in which 80 players were compared on adjustment issues with a control group who were comparable in age--men who had never played a professional sport. That study, like two similar ones (Haerle, 1975; Lerch, 1979) showed that a few former players had a difficult time adjusting early on, but that eventually most of them were about as well-adjusted as the controls. The former players became less concerned about competing and winning over time, a finding that probably reflects transitions to careers that were less competitive than professional baseball. They actually were more concerned about their roles as parents and husbands than the controls (McCutcheon, et al., 2007).

Life after sports can be understood contextually by noting that in the domain of sport psychology there is a long-standing interest in attitudinal and personality differences between athletes, but relatively little comparison of athletes within the same team sport who perform different roles (see Wann, 1997, pp. 58-88). One of the few such studies found no difference between pitchers and hitters (those who play any position except pitcher) on emotional intelligence (Zizzi, Deaner, & Hirschhorn, 2003). On the other hand, psychological coping skills were found to be more predictive of pitching performance than hitting performance (Smith, Schutz, Smoll, & Ptacek, 1995). Friend and LeUnes (1990) found that "good" collegiate pitching could be predicted in part by high levels of vigor and the pitcher's belief that he can perform well without much help from powerful others, like coaches. For hitters, low levels of anger predicted several measures of "good" hitting performance.

Thus a few studies suggest that there might be personality or attitudinal differences between pitchers and hitters, but no study, to our knowledge, has compared pitchers and hitters on the variables used in the present study. For this reason, we consider the present study to be exploratory.

METHOD

Participants

The participants were 50 former professional baseball pitchers with a mean age of 55.42 years (SD = 12.9 yrs.), and 52 former professional baseball hitters with a mean age of 55. …

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