Old Tappan’s Mary Wiley is batting better through song.
Friday, April 6, 2012
BY TIM LEONARD
The situation almost doesn’t matter. The bases could be empty or full. It could be the first inning or the seventh. Mary Wiley (GOLD) just wants to be as relaxed as possible when she steps into the batter’s box.
The Old Tappan junior first baseman takes a deep breath and a couple of practice swings before she settles into the batter’s box. That usually helps her focus on the task at hand and chase any stray thoughts from her mind. But in those times where she might be overanalyzing the pitcher or her own swing, Wiley has a way of getting herself back in a groove.
The songs are in her head and can be just about anything she has heard that day or in the last few years. Whether it’s “Chicken Fried” by her favorite country act, the Zac Brown Band or even “Jingle Bells” or something a teammate may have been singing on the way to a game, the songs Wiley hears usually produce some sweet music from her bat. These hits can’t be heard on the radio.
“Sometimes I sing to myself when I’m hitting. It helps me not think too much and let my mechanics take over,” Wiley said. “It’s the most random thing, but it helps me to clear my mind.”
Whatever Wiley is doing, it works. She led Old Tappan with a .507 batting average last season and was named to the All-Bergen first team. Wiley also led the Golden Knights with 37 hits, 11 doubles, five triples and 23 runs batted in. The left-hander pitched in several games as well, but prefers playing first base to being in the circle.
Wiley is Old Tappan’s cleanup hitter and provides protection for senior catcher Allison Brown. The duo will be critical to the Golden Knights’ success this season, as runs have been tough to come by in the team’s first three games.
“She’s going to be a Division I softball player,” Old Tappan coach Melissa Landeck said. “She’s been consistent since Day One. She’s patient, looks for a good ball to hit and works counts well. She’s a smart hitter.”
Wiley has produced since arriving at Old Tappan and joining the varsity squad as a freshman. Besides the strong bat, she plays a smooth first base.
Besides music, Wiley also uses visualization techniques to improve her game. She takes batting lessons twice a week and is tireless when it comes to becoming a better hitter.
“It’s a little less embarrassing than singing ‘Jingle Bells’,” Wiley said with a laugh. “You have to do what works.”
But even good hitters fall into an occasional slump. It’s bound to happen over the course of a season. That’s when Wiley may turn to a musical solution. The ironic part is she’s admittedly a much better hitter than a singer.
“I like to think I’m a good singer, but I’m not,” Wiley conceded. “It’s the most random thing, but it helps me to clear my mind.”
And that leads to hits.