Long Beach State

Obituary: Ken Ravizza Left His Mark On Long Beach Baseball

Even though he never actually played or managed in a baseball game, Dr. Ken Ravizza was one of the most influential people in the sport as a mental skills guru. He also mentored Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, and spent a lot of time working with the Long Beach State Dirtbags as well as other college programs.

Ravizza passed away on July 8, six days after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.

“He helped me become a better coach, taught me how to communicate better with our athletes, and connect the physical work with the mental game,” legendary LBSU coach Dave Snow told the USA Today. “He touched so many people in a lot of ways. I’m dealing with a lot of emotions right now.’’

Ravizza revolutionized the mental approach to baseball with psychological science, and now almost all of the Major League Baseball franchises have a mental coach on their staff. His book “Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time” concentrated on visualization and preparation, and Long Beach State Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley had Ravizza come work with his team every season.

“He will be be sorely missed, and he was ahead of his time,” Buckley said. “There’s no seance to this. It wasn’t a ritual. It’s about being in control of yourself and understanding the mental side without getting too mental.”

Buckley has Ravizza catchphrases like “Control the controllables” and “Attitude is a decision” on his clipboard that he carries during games.

“We’re still grieving, but at the same time celebrating,” Buckley said. “He wasn’t just good for us on the baseball end, he was just a really good friend and a really good man. His energy was infectious, and he loved the locker room. He loved team.”

Maddon and the Cubs payed tribute to Ravizza last week by putting pictures of him on their scorecard with some of his advice like “Be where you need to be when you need to be there” and “You got to breathe man” written above them.

“To think that psychology is an indicator of weakness, truly is an ignorant statement,” Maddon told USA Today. “When people are fighting it, it’s only because they don’t understand it. It’s no different than your hitting coach, your pitching coach, your infield coach.”

Many MLB players took to Twitter to honor the late Ravizza, including Long Beach native Justin Turner.

“This morning the sports world lost one of the best mental game coaches to ever do it,” Turner tweeted. “There’s no doubt in my mind I would have never made it to the big leagues without @KenRavizza1. He always had a different perspective and I’ll never forget his voice! #YouWorkinIt RIP Kenny.”

Ravizza was a professor of kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton for almost 40 years, and focused on stress management and applied sports psychology. During his illustrious career, Ravizza also worked with several U.S. Olympians, NFL franchises as well as college baseball and football teams.

“He’s going to be around forever,” Buckley said. “I know physically he’s not here, but he’ll be with us forever.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.