Chicago Tribune – Sep 1, 2005 – Bill Ordine and Roch Kubatko – Experts say earplugs not necessarily answer for Palmeiro – Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro can wear earplugs. He can stuff wads of cotton in his ears. He can put on headphones and listen to Green Day full blast. He can do all that and it won’t necessarily block the distractions that might be responsible for his recent feeble hitting. Palmeiro wore earplugs Tuesday night in Toronto to muffle the jeers from fans; he went 0-for-4. Since his return from a 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids, he’s 2-for-26 with one RBI. He did not play Wednesday.
“It might be that he has some inner chatter going on, and it’s not just the external distraction from the booing that’s affecting him,” said Patrick J. Cohn, an Orlando sports psychologist.
Palmeiro said he used the earplugs to help his concentration.
“I’ve been booed before. Obviously, not this heavily,” the 40-year-old first baseman said. “It’s part of the game. But when I’m up at bat, I’m trying to focus on what I have to do, and it’s just hard to really focus when the whole stadium is booing and yelling.”
Two negative things can happen when distractions overtake an athlete, said West Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist John Murray.
“One, you might not process information as effectively as you normally do … you might not be as visually aware, for instance,” Murray said. “And second, the information may not be communicated as well from brain to body. You might have the ability for great motor skills, but the message from your brain is blocked in getting to your arms and hands.”
If distractions–either external or internal–are contributing to Palmeiro’s problems at the plate, the remedies can be elusive. It could be the player needs to get back to a regular routine, as he did before the problems surfaced, Murray said.
Or the fix might not come until there is a catharsis involving the murky circumstances of Palmeiro’s steroids difficulties.
Palmeiro said he wasn’t sure whether he would try the earplugs again.
“It hasn’t been easy,” he said.