Mark Doran is known internationally as a premier batting instructor. He played baseball and football at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned the All-American award in baseball. Out of college, Mark was drafted in the first round by the California Angels in 1983, 23rd overall, where he excelled at every level in the minor leagues. He was on the major league roster for both the California Angels and Chicago White Sox.
After learning hitting from Hall of Fame baseball player Rod Carew, Mark began teaching the proper techniques of hitting and fielding to young athletes. Through training premier baseball athletes, Mark began meeting with top collegiate coaches in softball to learn the game of fastpitch. As one of the only coaches nationally to train both Major League Baseball players and Olympic softball athletes, Mark has been known as one of the best hitting instructors in the nation.
He has trained several USA Olympic softball players, Greek Olympic softball players, Canadian Olympic players, Major League baseball players, and NCAA baseball and softball athletes. Mark currently mentors coaches from national powers Washington, Florida State, Arizona State and others.
You can connect with Mark “Dorny” Doran via e-mail, [email protected]
Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance Coach here with the Brian Cain Peak Performance Podcast. Today our guest is Mark Doran, better known around the world and in baseball and softball circles by one name – Dorny. Dorny was a 1983 Major League Baseball first round draft pick, 23rd overall, by the California Angels. He came to them out of the University of Wisconsin, where he was a two-sport athlete in baseball and football. He played quarterback, defensive back, kicker and punter for the Badgers football team.
Dorny, I appreciate you making time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk with us here on the podcast, man. Thanks for joining us.
Doran: Oh, I love it, man. It’s fun.
Cain: If you would, Dorny, let’s go back and talk about you as a player at Wisconsin (two sports) and then in Major League Baseball. What was the mental game for you?
Doran: Well, the mental game for me was simplifying everything and actually quieting the game down. Playing for the Badgers in football there were 85,000 fans every game – screaming, noisy, a great place to play. Then you go into the Big House and you are playing in places like that. I think that really prepared me for baseball.
Being a field goal kicker is a lot of pressure on you at times and there is a lot of crowd noise and a lot of craziness going on. I think I was really able to just shut things down and focus on things. I can remember a lot of times when I was kicking big kicks against Michigan. We upset Michigan. They were number one in the country in 1981. I kicked a field goal and it was a key point in the game. It was a tied ball game. I kicked a field goal and it was like everything was really loud and then all of a sudden it was quiet and all I could hear was – our holder looked back – “Are you ready?” I nodded my head and I heard him yell to the line, “Ready.” Before that I couldn’t even hear anything. But I think I was so tuned in, I just got so focused and it was kind of a calming situation, I just fell into practice mode. We did this in practice all the time and that is what happened. I just fell right into place.
Cain: So if you go back as a place kicker now (this is 2015, you’re kicking in 1980-83), can you go back and clearly describe what you did as your routine?
Doran: Well, my routine was I made sure that I kicked about 4-5 balls into the net before I walked out on the field. Really, I get to the sideline and I didn’t want anybody around me or anything. I got down to the end of the player’s box that they have on the sidelines and I just stood there by myself and I really visualized myself kicking it.
It was something that you kind of go back to when you were a kid. Right across the street from my house I had a high school football field, so I would go over there and kick field goals when I was 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grade and through high school and everything else. It was kind of like “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BOOM” and you go nuts and run around the field and everything else. That was kind of how I – it was like now I’m living what I did when I was a little kid and you kind of fall back in those kiddy days.
That is one thing I think kids don’t do nowadays because they have so much video stimulation and everything. They don’t have that where they’re out in their backyard shooting baskets or something like that and then they don’t have anything to fall back on when they do get in those pressure situations. I think that is something that kind of flows into them growing as athletes. I really think being able to reach back into those memory days and saying, “This is what I have done for this moment” – I think that takes you in the moment and you’ve done it ever since you were a little kid so you have gone over it and over it your entire life. So you couldn’t wait for those spots.
Cain: So your whole life is like a visualization and preparation up till that point, and when you finally get in there, you are like, “Huh, I’ve been here before.”
Doran: Yes. I really think that is what it should be.
Cain: No doubt.
Doran: I really believe that. I think that is where young athletes today have lost that. I think that is where some of the stuff that you kind of comes into it, because that is what you are trying to do, is get them to think, “I’ve been here, done that, wore a T-shirt.” You know what I mean?
Doran: We did it when we were kids growing up. Now that I look back at it (and listening to you talk) that brings me back to those days and saying, “Wow, as a kid I was preparing myself as a professional athlete then.” So it’s kind of neat.
Cain: So like many athletes, they have done the mental game without even knowing they were doing it.
Cain: Now take that to baseball. You’ve talked about the football place kicking routine. You were obviously a great hitter when you played. Now you are one of the top most-respected hitting coaches in all of softball. What was your hitting routine like? When did your “at-bat” start and when did it end?
Doran: It goes back to the same things. You are hitting the home run in Little League and you are running around the bases. You did it with your friends playing ball. But I think baseball-wise I really started getting a routine when I got into pro ball and I had one of your mentors, Ken Ravizza, really work with us on that, preparing ourselves.
The Angels did a great job. I think we were ahead. Joe Maddon was my first real coach, I think, in professional baseball and he was into that kind of stuff, and look at how great he does now. Joe kind of liked always getting involved with the mental side of the game and really tried to talk to you and teach you and mentor you in the game. I think that is why he is having so much success.
When I got into pro ball – and it’s like every “at-bat” is kind of making you money really. It can either make you money or it can take money away from you. I think that is what I really had to learn because I had a football mentality in baseball and at times that is not good.
Doran: So I think the stuff that I learned on a routine and calming myself down and finding that relaxing point, I think that was where Ken really affected me and it really helped me – actually he helped me calm down and slow the game down really. He got me under control with a lot of his stuff.
Cain: You’ve talked a lot, Dorny, about having routines and visualizations and being able to kind of calm yourself down. Is there anything else in the mental game, like focusing on the things you can control or going one pitch at a time, that you felt like helped you to be the player you were or that you now teach players that you go through with them at Sports Academy?
Doran: Well, I really think that these young players nowadays – we just had a talk today about this stuff. We were talking with the girls today and I was asking, “Why do you girls do cheers in the dugout?” “Well it’s to keep us in the game.” I go, “How about this – how about starting to watch pitchers and see what their tendencies are?” I think that is more in the game than doing the rah-rah stuff and I think those are some of the things that they need to do, is focus on the little intricacies and how can I approach that and how am I going to get locked in on that stuff?
A lot of times pitchers are creatures of habit. As a hitter, you want to fall into those habits and find out what they are doing so that you can make adjustments easier.
Cain: You’ve got a chance to work at not only the Florida State Camp together for the past five years or so but I’m sure you go around and work other camps as well in the country. You’ve been around some of the top coaches in college softball. You played for Joe Maddon. You’ve been around some of the top coaches in baseball. What are some of the common characteristics that you see amongst the most successful coaches?
Doran: I think the most successful coaches lead by example. They give you great examples of, number one, their character. Joe Maddon always talked about character. He talked about doing the right things, practicing with a purpose of, when you practice, to try to be perfect. It’s not just practice. It’s not going through the motions. I think that is part of his thing. He expects everybody to be at a certain level. Being around some of the great people that I’ve been able to meet – that is the one thing that I find out from everybody – is there is always a purpose. There is always a purpose behind everything they do.
I think there are some coaches out there (and I don’t think they are very successful) who have a routine and they just do this routine and they don’t really have a purpose for that routine. They just go, “Hey, here are our practices schedules” and go through them, boom, boom, boom, boom – “We’re done, see you later, go home.”
I’ve experienced that with a lot of kids. They go to practice but they don’t know the purpose of that practice. There is no real direction in what they’re doing. So you ask those kids, “What did you learn today?” “Uh, I don’t know.” That kind of bothers me. I want kids that when they walk away to know, “Here is my new plan; here is what I have to do to succeed.”
Cain: I love that. I think you could say it like this. You could say that routine without intent is monotony. Routine with purpose and intent is high-level training.
Doran: There you go. And that’s it. You have to be able to focus on something to get it done. If you don’t have something to focus on, you are never going to get better.
Cain: I’m going to put you on the hot seat here, Dorny, and have some fun for a minute here. I am going to ask you random questions and have you give me the first answer that comes to your mind. The shorter the answer the better. Wrigley Field.
Doran: Wrigley Field. I don’t like it.
Cain: Oh, man. You threw me off here. Books.
Doran: Books. Westerns.
Cain: Cowboy boots.
Doran: Cowboy boots. Love them.
Cain: Championship rings.
Doran: It’s a beautiful thing. That is like love right there because you have put everything into it.
Cain: Florida State Softball.
Doran: Some of the best people in the world.
Cain: Let’s take you off the hot seat and I’m going to ask you this question. The book that you would gift the most if you were somebody who was going to give books away to other people. So maybe the book that has had the most impact on your life.
Doran: I’d probably say Matheny’s new book.
Cain: Matheny Method.
Doran: Yes. I really liked that.
Cain: Matheny Manifesto.
Doran: Yes, Manifesto. I really liked that. That is a heck of a book.
Cain: What is the number one takeaway for you from the Matheny Manifesto?
Doran: Since we have to deal with parents so much, it’s his message to parents. I really think that it hits home.
Cain: Love it. Purchases. The purchase that you have made under $100 that has had the biggest impact on your life?
Doran: Wow. Under $100 that has made the biggest impact.
Cain: Probably the vehicle you bought your Sophomore year when you were in high school.
Doran: Back then we could buy one for that cheap. Geez, that is a tough one. I don’t really have one. I can’t think of anything off of my head. Probably my first real leather baseball glove. My father bought a really nice glove for me and I had to work it off for him and it really made me appreciate what I had. I’ll never forget it. It was a stinking Montgomery Ward’s all-leather glove, but it was a beautiful glove and I treated that thing like my baby for four years.
Cain: If you could go back and talk to the Mark Doran that was playing professional baseball, knowing what you know now, what would you say to him?
Doran: Pay more attention to detail. Don’t think you are a great enough athlete to make up for a lot of things. I think that is what happened. I fell into a trap where (going all the way through college and everything else) athletically I think I was more gifted than a lot of people and I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to play. I thought that would do it for me. I worked hard but I didn’t work hard enough on fine tuning everything. I thought it would just come to me.
Cain: Last question for you here, Dorny. The million dollar question which we ask almost everybody who has been on the podcast. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were just getting started (let’s say) in your coaching career? You’ve been coaching for a while now. When you just got started, what do you know now you wish you knew then?
Doran: When I first started coaching?
Doran: I’d probably have to say dealing with kids now compared to the past is really more difficult, and I wish I would have known all the techniques that I know now back then because the kids that I trained back then wouldn’t have been so much better because they didn’t have all the outside crazy influences.
Cain: Last question, Dorny. Is there any question I didn’t ask you on this podcast that you think I should have?
Doran: No. You did a great job. It was pretty good.
Cain: Thank you for joining us, man. If people want to get in touch with you and they want you to come and speak at their clinic or work at their camp or anything like that or they want to ask you more questions just about your experience, is there a way that people can contact you? An e-mail address? Twitter account? Anything?
Doran: Contact me at [email protected]
Cain: That is [email protected] Dorny, I appreciate you making time, man. Thank you so much. Appreciate you.
Doran: My pleasure.