Have you ever had a surprise birthday party thrown for you? Do you remember the excitement that filled your body as your beloved friends and family jumped out to yell, “Surprise!!” or “Happy Birthday!!”? Do you remember the thrill of that unexpected greeting? I bet you’re remembering one of the most memorable birthdays and/or special occasions in your life—Well hate to break it to you, but being surprised on the baseball field is one of the worst feelings you could experience. Elite athletes hate surprises, as a matter of fact, they prepare so well that they aren’t surprised once game day arrives.

You’re probably asking, “What do you mean by ‘surprised’?” I’m talking about walking up to the plate absolutely clueless on what the pitcher is throwing, or facing a hitter who has surprisingly quick hands, or not being prepared for a ground ball hit your way. I’m talking about those moments you should have prepared for but were (1) caught sleeping or (2) not willing to prepare for that moment.

As I have played, coached, or watched literally thousands of games I have seen players and teams alike experience unexpected surprises on the baseball field that could have been prevented, and rather than be the happy-feeling-in-the-core-of-your-body surprise, they experienced the I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened-to-me surprise. Here are a few tips on how to avoid those non-welcomed surprises:

On Deck”

Too many hitters are stepping to the plate with no idea what the pitcher is throwing, what his tendencies are, and what the situation is! This should be taken care of on deck. Make sure your on-deck at bat is a quality one. Make sure you have an idea of what he’s throwing, and make sure you have an idea of what your job is going to be for the at bat.

Pre-Inning Routine

Pitchers, make sure you are getting a good feel for your pitches in between innings. You get eight pitches, so don’t just go through the motions with those pitches and then act surprised when you realize that your curve ball isn’t working. You should have made those adjustments before the inning even started! Time and time again, I’ve seen pitchers use the first batter of the inning as their real warm up pitches, and it ends up being too late.

Infielders (especially youngsters), make sure you are fielding ground balls, and putting forth the proper effort to make the throw over to first base. It matters.

Watch the game

Some of my most cherished moments occurred in the dugout while the game is going on. It’s a chance to talk with friends, make adjustments, and learn about the game—so pay attention. You can learn from your teammates or the other team’s mistakes if you just pay attention to the game. As you do this, you will learn things that will not surprise you if you were put in the same situation.

Baseball is fun. Being surprised on the baseball field isn’t. Make sure you have quality practice and prepare yourself so that you won’t be caught off guard in situations that you could have been ready and waiting for.