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August 20, 2009 at 8:55 AM

Bill Hall says he let pressure of contract get to him

There’s a sprawling set of tattoos on the back of newest Mariners third baseman Bill Hall that reads: “Reach for Yours.”
I asked him what it meant and he said it signified “reaching for your star.”
That’s something Hall admits he tried too hard to do after signing that four-year, $24 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007. He was coming off a 35-homer, 101-RBI season in 2006.
“I think some guys just tend to put more pressure on themselves and that’s what I did,” Hall said. “One of my goals when I first started playing professional baseball was to get better every year, to do better every year.
“I put up pretty good numbers in ’06. It’s tough to do better than that. It’s obviously not imporssible, but hitting 35 home runs and driving in almost 100 runs, it’s a good season. To put pressure on yourself to do better than that, that was a little bit of my downfall as well.”
Photo Credit: AP

Hall arrived here alongside Ken Griffey Jr. this morning, having flown in from Arizona by 1:30 a.m.
Within five minutes, he was pulled into manager Don Wakamatsu’s office for a chat. Wakamatsu has given Hall the day off, mainly due to his late night arrival, but he expects to play third base this weekend against at least one of the lefty starters.
One of the things the Mariners will want to see is whether Hall can still hit righthanded pitching. That’s something he was able to do in 2006, but hasn’t had much success at since. Obviously, his ability to do that will determine whether he becomes a full-time player in Seattle, or a platoon or utility guy.
“I can still hit righthanders,” Hall said with a laugh. “I can hit anybody. It’s one of those things where, if you say something so long, you might even start believing it yourself. Like I said, it’s one of those pressure situations I put on myself. They brought it to my attention. I’d never heard it before. I’d had pretty good success. It just kind of came out of nowhere in ’07. So, then, anytime I got in there against a righthander, I was like ‘I’ve got to get a hit’ instead of taking it one pitch at a time, one swing at a time. Like I said, it just kind of went downhill from that little bit of negativity I let seep in, I’ve been working a lot on just staying mentally positive and not listening to so many people, I guess.”
Hall is glad to have a fresh start and feels he can parlay that to a return to some of those lofty numbers he had with the Brewers.
“i was just going out there trying to do too much,” he said. “Nobody likes to not succeed when they get a contract. I wasn’t succeeding, so I was trying harder and harder. That’s not the best thing to do all the time. It’s OK to try hard, but I was pressuring way too much. Way too much pressure on myself on a daily basis. Not taking it from pitch-to-pitch, trying to hit 10 home runs at once to get back on track.
“But like I said, it’s a change of scenery. I can, not forget about the past, because the past was good at times. But it’s definitely about the future right now and about the Mariners.”
Wakamatsu said he’ll try to get Hall in a game this weekend in Cleveland and see where he’s at. He’d wanted to see Hall hit in batting practice this morning, but they’ve got tarps on the field in anticipation of a major thunderstorm that could impede the start of today’s game.
“This guy has done it before,” Wakamatsu said. “And that’s an awfully important piece to the puzzle.”
The key now, Wakamatsu said, is to get Hall to focus on the process that goes into each at-bat rather than the results. It’s those results and the worries he had about them that the team believes caused Hall’s career to head south at such a young age.
“That’s not believing in the process as much as the result,” Wakamatsu said. “And we’ll constantly try to change his mentality on that.”
That will mean ensuring Hall is using quality pitch selection when he’s up there, not swinging into easy outs.
Hall figures he’ll be playing mostly third base for now, given Adrian Beltre’s injury. Other than that, he has no idea what the future holds.
“He did mention that it was all about the bat,” Hall said of his conversation with Wakamatsu. “If I hit, I’ll play for him.”
As for Garrett Olson, he is indeed the guy heading off to Class AAA to clear room for Hall.
“The thought process with Garrett is that we’d like him to go down and possibly start down there for a short period of time,” Wakamatsu said.
Olson has worked on some mechanical changes in bullpen sessions here and the team plans to bring him back up — with his arm more stretched out — once major league rosters are expanded from 25 to 40 in September.



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