Nats employ former Braves team psychologist

Nats employ former Braves team psychologist

By Dan Steinberg.

Ever since Stan Kasten got involved with the Nationals and the club began stockpiling young pitching arms, we’ve heard stories about how Washington was getting ready to be the Atlanta Braves of the 2010s. And so of course the team is now working with Dr. Jack Llewellyn, the psychologist who is often credited for his work in helping launch that Braves dynasty.

“He’s been worth his weight in gold around here,” Chipper Jones once told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Ask Mark Wohlers, ask JohnSmoltz, or myself.”

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In the summer of 1991, Llewellyn showed Smoltz the power of positive thinking on the golf course, talking up his good shots and not mentioning the bad. He taught Smoltz focus at his basement pool table, trying to distract him during shots of eight ball.

He made a highlight vide of Smoltz’s best fastball, slider and split-finger while pitching to left-handers and right-handers and sent Smoltz home with it so he could memorize how they looked and felt. That way, when Smoltz backed off the mound after a hanging slider, he could visualize the nasty one he’d thrown to Matt Williams. The approach helped Smoltz turn a 2-11 start into a 12-2 finish.

“It helped me refocus,” Smoltz said. “When you’re young and you’re struggling, I didn’t know where to go with it. He gave me the opportunity to channel it within the game.”

Anyhow, Llewellyn — who used to have an exclusive deal to work with the Braves — is still based in Atlanta, but has been working with the Nats since Spring Training, according to MASN. He told MASN’s Debbi Taylor that he focuses on helping ballplayers recover more quickly from adversity, and that he met with the Nats and their minor-league affiliates this spring “just to let them know I was there and what I do

“I’m not a dangerous person and I’m not there to do any harm,” he said, “just there just there to help them supplement their talent. There’s nothing magic about it, it’s very practical.”

He also told Taylor that while you can’t do anything without talent, “talent only takes you so far, and then once you match somebody else with the same talent, the person who’s stronger mentally is gonna win most of the time.”

I’m trying to think of someone with the Nationals who seems to have a history of talent but lately seems to be struggling under a mental burden of some sort. Nah. I got nothing. Anyhow, Taylor also asked Llewellyn for his thoughts on the Nats.

“I’m pretty old so I really think back to the Braves,” he said. “In ‘90 I think they lost over 100 games, and I went in in the middle of ‘91 and they’re just young kids. Golly, they just wanted to play the game, they just want to have fun, and this team reminds me of that. They’ve got aLOT of young talent, and for those folks who are Nats fans who don’t get to the minor leagues, they have some tremendous talent in the minor leagues. They’re doing everything right, and it’s just a question of learning to win and developing the chemistry. We don’t talk about chemistry til we don’t have it, but it’s developing that chemistry so that every day when you walk in there’s an expectation to do well instead of an expectation of what’s gonna go wrong today. Because with a positive expectation, at least the probability’s on your side.”


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