From eating a favorite sandwich to wearing a red cap, it’s more than just silly superstitions.
Freshman third baseman Daniel Martinez steps into the batter’s box. Moments before the pitch arrives, he goes through his at bat routine.
He adjusts the straps on his glove, always going from right to left. Whenever he takes a bad swing, he steps out of the box, and goes through the motion again.
“It feels like it releases the bad pitch,” Martinez said. “I think it’s psychological but it works so I stay with it.”
Martinez carries out his routine, praying that the baseball gods will tilt the odds in his favor. He is not the only one.
Sophomore softball pitcher Devon Rodriguez’s pregame routine is peculiar. Before each start, she begins her warm-up in the bullpen, then takes a bathroom break, then returns to the pen to finish her session.
“It’s not like if I don’t have my bathroom break I’m going to pitch bad,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just routine, it’s comfortable.”
Though Rodriguez says that it’s more a matter of comfort than superstition, her teammate freshman Sabrina Perez feels that not going through these personal rituals impacts an athlete’s psyche, influencing on-field performance.
“It is in their head,” Perez said. “And once it’s in their head it will make a difference out on the field.”
Fernando Ortiz, a psychology professor at Santa Ana College, echoes these sentiments, citing the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy — a prediction that directly or indirectly may cause expected results to come true.
“If you believe something is going to happen you somehow subconsciously work to make that a reality,” Ortiz said.
Perez has been wearing a leopard bow in her hair as her source of good luck this season.
Like Perez, many athletes want to wear a sentimental piece of equipment that has been through many on-field battles.
A sweat-stained, faded red Santa Ana hat with a graying bill is the rabbit’s foot of right-handed reliever Kagan Richardson.
Each player is issued a new cap every season but Richardson says the new hat hasn’t had enough “work” yet.
“I wear my new hat during the game before I go in to pitch, then right before I head out to the mound, I switch to my old hat,” he said.
In many cases athletes may not be aware of their pre-game habits.
Starter Matt Blanchard hadn’t realized he eats the same honey bacon ranch sandwich from Subway before it was brought to his attention.
He does at least change the bread each time.
“Now that I think about it, it’s a pattern,” said Blanchard. “I’ve had Subway the last six or seven starts.”
Superstitions are derived from a pattern of success, Ortiz says.
He believes that athletes see it as a way to make sense of things as well as to make themselves believe they control their own destiny.
“We like to think that the coincidences that occur in real life, we have some control over,” Ortiz said.
However, whether these routines guarantee positive results is a matter of speculation.
Psychology professor Jeffrey Pedroza believes athletes can benefit from superstitions as long as they can refrain from crossing the line from ritual to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behavior.
The line is crossed when athletes’ rituals consume too much of the their time.
“When a ritual takes over a person’s life it impedes their success,” Pedroza said.
As time consuming or random as these habits may be, for some reason they have always been part of sports and probably always will.
“If you believe something is going to happen you somehow subconsciously work to make that a reality,” Dr. Fernando Ortiz said.