Sport - MLB
Repetition, Adaptability And Early Starts Built Bo Bichette’s Batting Strengths
Despite rupturing his appendix in his debut season, Orlando-born Bo Bichette’s career trajectory has been stellar. When he crossed the landmark of 50 home runs in a fourth innings win over Cincinnati Reds in May 2022, he became the second-youngest player to do so.
The 24-year-old Blue Jays shortstop tells RSNG.com how early starts, devoted practice and an understanding of mindset are enabling him to triumph in what he calls, “a difficult game.”
Florida’s Mr Baseball
The 2016 MLB draft saw Toronto Blue Jays use their second-round pick to select Lakewood High School player Bo Bichette. Even though he never actually attended the Florida college, Bichette turned out for them in matches.
His baseball performances and potential made him stand out. Thirteen home runs and a batting average of .569, saw him awarded the Gatorade/USA Today Florida Player of the Year for the 2015-16 season and Florida’s Mr Baseball.
Unfortunately for the Orlando-born player, he ruptured his appendix, causing him to miss half of his debut season in professional baseball; but such setbacks don’t dampen the enthusiasm of such a forward-thinking talent.
“Yeah, in my first year in the Major Leagues an injury put me out for a little while and that was a tough break, especially when I didn’t know exactly what it was at first,” Bichette begins.
“What I will say is every game I did get to play on the field was fun and I really enjoyed it. I know that I am lucky to be alive because after getting appendicitis, my appendix burst after playing through the pain.
“When I came back, the staff made sure that I was ready to start up again and I have them to thank for the double scores and walks that I was able to achieve. I put all of the games I missed behind me.”
The Art Of Being Early
At 24 years and 77 days old, Bichette became the second-youngest player to surpass the half-century of home runs at the win over Cincinnati Reds. Coincidentally, his Blue Jays team-mate Vladimir Guerrero Jr is the youngest (22 years and 102 days).
Being ‘early’ is not something which is alien to Bichette, who is son of quadruple MLB All-Star outfielder Dante Bichette and youngest brother of Dante Jr.
“I know that I have to work hard at a difficult game and people have often commented that I make it look easy,” says Bichette. “Baseball is not an easy game and I’m flattered to receive praise, but it’s not luck.
“Priding myself on putting in all of the hours for that one hit or that clutch shot at the end of the ninth is what keeps me going. If you want to be the best – or certainly be the best you can – you have to strive for that, and striving for me has always meant getting up early and staying late. You only have one chance.”
Playing in amateur tournaments, Bichette was comfortably the freshest-faced competitor. Bo – named after the only dual-sports All-Star, Bo Jackson (NFL and MLB) – uses this to his advantage, as well as great conditioning.
“I grew up playing every day in some of the hottest weather you can think of, and I think that’s really helped me to play in more comfortable conditions. Fitness is key, as is health, and after my scare I’ve never looked back.”
The Tale Of Technique
Bo certainly hasn’t – he continues to grow into one of the hottest properties in MLB, but how does he hit the ball so well, so hard and so far? He is a player with immense power, timing and accuracy and at such a young age, he stands out as a player with tremendous attributes perfect for baseball.
Is it the fact that more practice makes him a better player? Is it more to do with how he understands the physics of the game and the physical shape he has to be in? Or is it an artform which he just happens to be good at?
“I would like to say that this is the first time I have thought about this and that I will need to take some time over the question and come back to you… but it isn’t!” he laughs.
“I like to dwell on the art and the science of the game – especially the batting side of things – and because I like to study things and wonder how and why I can hit a 95mph baseball well, I like to think I know the answer.
“It is certainly some kind of artform, yes. But alongside being able to actually do it, there is a lot of mentality that comes with it. Knowing you can do something is tried and tested, so once you can add confidence into the mix, just do it.”
An Eye On Versatility
But surely, Bichette doesn’t just come off the bench, recall the muscle memory, and then, after a few practice swings, he’s ready? Quite the opposite. He says that he has tried out and worked on “multiple different swings,” and that the one he will go with depends on the type of ball that the pitcher he’s facing will throw.
“My hands, eyes and brain are my weapons against a pitcher who has a big arm and who is looking to outfox me in whatever way he can. So, I like to practise my technique in the cage against all kinds of different pitches.
“I like to think that before I even get to the practice field or the diamond in game time, that I have done everything I can to face the practice pitches. But if you complicate things for yourself, that’s an extra disadvantage.
“Technique wins the day every time and it’s about thinking about the path that the ball is traveling towards you. So, if it’s a down ball, you can get lift and if the ball is up, you need to swing flat. Every player is different – I do what works for me.”
WHAT NEXT? For another RSNG.com exclusive interview with an MLB star, read how Shohee Ohtani approaches balance in his game….