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How to Get “In The Zone” With World Series Champion Buddy Biancalana

Chatting with the 1st-round MLB Draft pick about his ascension to the big leagues & how to master the mental side of the game.

An interview with 1st-round MLB Draft pick and World Series Champion, Buddy Biancalana
Credit-Buddy Biancalana/Joker Mag

Buddy Biancalana was a first-round pick in the 1978 MLB Draft.

As a 160-pound shortstop from Redwood High School in California, Biancalana was selected 25th overall, ahead of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. (2nd round) and Ryne Sandberg (20th round).

He reached the majors in 1982 and – alongside teammate George Brett – helped the Kansas City Royals win the World Series in 1985.

Biancalana’s performance in that series sparked his interest in the mental side of the game. He was absolutely locked in at the plate – hitting .278 with an eye-popping .435 on-base percentage on baseball’s biggest stage.

Today, Buddy teaches other athletes how to get in the zone. Through his company Zone Motion, he’s helped big leaguers such as Matt Cain, Adam Ottavino, and countless others.

I was fortunate enough to ask Buddy a few questions about his big league career and his approach to the mental side of baseball.

Buddy Biancalana on reaching the big leagues: "I struggled early on. However, once I reached the AAA level and experienced how I was able to compete, that’s when I knew I would get there."

Growing up playing baseball, when did you realize playing at the MLB level would be a reality?

It was certainly my desire as a very young child, and scouts began speaking to me during my sophomore year in high school. However, it was one thing being drafted and then, what seemed like an entirely new journey began once I entered the minor leagues.

I struggled early on. However, once I reached the AAA level and experienced how I was able to compete, that’s when I knew I would get there. 

A big challenge for me was the undiagnosed concussions I had as a child and the fact that I had no idea how they impacted me at the time and throughout my career.

Head injuries are much different than injuring another part of the body where it’s pretty easy to make the connection between the injury and its effect. But, with a head injury, it’s extremely difficult because you can’t necessarily feel the reduced blood flow to different parts of the brain as you grow and try to navigate through life.

As I look back, I realize that the lack of blood flow and reduced brain functioning led to fatigue and other injuries that very much impacted me from playing consistently well along with impacting me in making necessary adjustments when needed.

However, like most people’s challenges, it was a great opportunity to grow, so I have much gratitude. They have allowed me the strength and courage to face life’s challenges and I have also been able to heal the effects of the concussions thanks to many knowledgeable people.

What did it feel like to be a 1st-round MLB Draft pick at 18 years old?

It was an amazing day when the Royals made me their first pick and it was my first experience of the power of my intention which was to play professional baseball.

Again, I was very clear as a child as to what I wanted. I had heard I was going to go in the 3rd or 4th round, so it pleasantly caught me off guard going in the 1st round. I did not feel much pressure at the time as I was young and just innocently doing something I loved by playing baseball.

Once I signed and reported to the rookie league in Sarasota, Florida, I quickly realized it was now business. I could feel the pressure the coaches exhibited in doing all they knew how to do to develop me into a Major League player as quickly as possible.

You entered the 1985 World Series as a 25-year-old shortstop with minimal postseason experience. Yet you were locked in at the plate, hitting .278 in the series with a .435 on-base percentage. What did it feel like to be “in the zone”?

It was an amazing experience. I felt like I was in my own world – just me and the baseball.

Everything slowed down. I wasn’t thinking and everything I did was fluid, effortless, and with perfect timing. Every throw I made in all seven games came out of my hand with perfect speed and trajectory. It was almost a feeling of not being able to do anything wrong if I tried! I felt I had much more time at the plate to recognize pitches.

One thing I give partial attribution to was being able to process my emotions before Game 1. Although as a young child I was clear on what I wanted, playing in a World Series was beyond my scope of possibilities. But there I was sitting at my locker before Game 1 and the realization hit me pretty hard.

I felt like I was not going to be able to catch a ball if thrown to me from 10 feet away! It was intense fear! However, I moved through it to then go out and access a level of play of which I was always capable, but until then was not able to access.

Buddy Biancalana on his performance in the World Series: "Everything slowed down. I wasn't thinking and everything I did was fluid, effortless, and with perfect timing."

With your company Zone Motion, you’ve helped countless pro athletes and coaches master their mental game. What do you think is the biggest mental challenge for young ball players today, and how can they overcome it?

The greatest challenge for any athlete is the integration of what they are learning and the ability to access their full ability on a consistent basis.

The brain-body connection is a very complex system with very subtle yet powerful components. It’s not the big things that make the big difference but rather the subtleties in the brain and body that allow the muscles to fire in a sequentially, synchronized manner.

Of the athletes you’ve worked with, what are the most common traits of those who have found success?

First of all, they are very committed. There is no substitute!

Then they have been able to build, strengthen, and maintain the neural pathways in the brain that allow for the muscles to fire the way they are capable, along with having done their work with their biomechanics and strength and conditioning coaches.

If you could put one message on a big billboard for millions of people to see, what would that message say?

Believe in all possibilities and ask yourself, what and who can be of help to me?

How can our readers support you?

Zone Motion is the only scientifically proven mental training program. There have been five studies/research projects done on Zone Motion proving the training enhances performance, expedites development, and minimizes soft tissue injuries. Benefits carry over into the classroom for student-athletes.


Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Buddy for being so generous with his time and for sharing his hard-earned wisdom with us!

A few more baseball stories you might enjoy:

A Fastball to The Face Almost Killed Him – Here’s How He Made a Miraculous Comeback

Sandy Koufax Nearly Quit Baseball Before Becoming A Hall Of Fame Pitcher

Chris Coste: From Division 3 To Indy Ball To World Series Champion

For more inspiring underdog stories, join thousands of sports fans on our free Underdog Newsletter 👇

Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.

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