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Inside Baseball

Developing the Triton Mind for scholar-athletes.

Triton baseball players raise Big West championship trophy in celebration.
Triton Baseball finished the season atop the conference standings with a 21-9 record to earn the university’s first Big West title in just the third season of membership. In addition, three players were chosen for the 17-member All Big West First Team, 16 players landed on the Big West Spring All-Academic Team and Coach Eric Newman was named the Big West Coach of the Year.

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This story was published in the Fall 2023 issue of UC San Diego Magazine.

It was one for the record books. In May 2023, UC San Diego baseball took home the Big West Championship trophy — becoming the first team in university history to capture a Big West title. It was a momentous occasion for Triton Baseball and the entire university community. However, end-of-season accomplishments are just one measure of success at UC San Diego Athletics. The mental health and wellness of its students is another. 

As part of UC San Diego’s transition to Division I classification in 2020, the Department of Athletics placed a renewed focus on the whole scholar-athlete by developing Triton Mind, a group within the department’s Athletic Performance Unit (APU).

Its mission: Assist each scholar-athlete to become more resilient so they can achieve their academic and athletic potential while learning how to be leaders on their teams, in their social groups and throughout their professional lives. Triton Mind includes licensed psychologists and performance consultants who focus on mental health and training needs. 

The pressure to maintain high levels of academic and athletic performance can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, substance use and other conditions that negatively impact a student’s well-being. The team of Triton Mind professionals are uniquely positioned to understand the academic rigors and intense cognitive demands of the university environment that makes UC San Diego one of the premier institutions in the world. 

“When working with scholar-athletes, I like to help them understand how to customize their use of mental skills such as breathing, self-talk, attention control cues, goal-setting, visualization, and reflective practices,” says Brian Alexander, a certified mental performance consultant (CMPC) employed by the athletics department. “Many of the stress management skills we use in the athletic arena can be applied to academics and other areas of a person’s life.” 

It’s certainly working on the field. The Triton baseball team has worked extensively with Triton Mind, and players have noticed results not just in the way they perform, but also in the way they feel.

“The visualization exercises helped me in critical moments and I was able to better focus on what was in front of me,” says graduating senior Michael Fuhrman, who led the team in runs (44) and steals (10), while also batting .287 with 11 doubles, three triples and eight home runs.  Fuhrman, who graduated in June 2023 with a degree in psychology, was also named the department’s outstanding male scholar-athlete.

“Slowing my heartbeat through breathing exercises paid off in big situations on the mound this season.”
Michael Mitchell, pitcher, UC San Diego baseball

Helping scholar-athletes bounce back from injury is another key area of focus for the APU. Representatives from Triton Mind, nutrition, strength training, physical training and the coaching staff all meet with the individual to help restore their strength and confidence. After a devastating and potentially career-ending elbow injury sidelined pitcher Michael Mitchell for the entire 2021-22 season, he returned  for 2022-23 stronger and more focused.

UC San Diego baseball player Michael Mitchell in motion on the pitcher's mound.
UC San Diego baseball pitcher, Michael Mitchell '23, used skills learned through Triton Mind to return from an injury and close out his college baseball career with a major win.

“Slowing my heartbeat through breathing exercises paid off in big situations on the mound this season,” says Mitchell, who closed out his college baseball career with a 4-1 win-loss record and finished with a 1.42 ERA over 44.1 innings with 42 strikeouts and just seven walks. 

In sports, like life, not every game results in victory, not every at-bat a home run, not every pitch a strike. But learning to be more resilient remains at the core of Triton Mind. 

Today, with one year to go before UC San Diego Athletics can take Big West conference wins to the national stage, Triton fans are eager to see the end of the mandatory four-year probationary period of NCAA Division I classification. 

For now, UC San Diego Baseball will take the win. 

Learn more about Triton Mind and UC San Diego Athletics at ucsdtritons.com

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