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Joe Musgrove Finds Success by Visualizing Failure

  • June 24, 2022

When Musgrove and Clevinger arrived in spring training and publicly described their underwater exploits during the winter months, they could not be certain the program would lead to success. They still don’t know for certain, but it clearly has not hurt.

“It’s been a master class in pitching,” Clevinger, who is just recently returning from Tommy John surgery, said of his teammate. “He’s doing the whole thing.”

Jurickson Profar, a Padres outfielder, added, “It’s incredible to see the way he commands the field when he’s on the mound.”

A self-described late developer, Musgrove has long sought ways to add alternative skills to complement to his physical gifts — he stands 6 feet 5 inches and is listed at 230 pounds. When he was 15, he practiced the Hoefling martial-arts method, named after Gus Hoefling, who trained star pitchers such as Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1970s, and he has dabbled with other psychological tools.

Musgrove said he often asks fellow players, coaches, trainers and others about favored techniques, picking and adding whatever fits his own style and approach. He can unearth useful mental challenges almost anywhere, including “turning off the quit button” while jogging in the outfield on hot afternoons and washing dishes.

Even while standing at the sink, doing the most mundane of chores, Musgrove transforms it into a challenge by forcing his mind to stay in the moment — like a form of self-taught meditation. He tries to focus only on scrubbing and rinsing, despite the brain’s impulse to wander, and the skill is transferable. Even an elite pitcher’s brain can veer to outside thoughts, sometimes in the middle of a key at-bat.

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