Where should I try to hit the ball?

Hitting Tips – Always approach the inside & top part of the ball. This will help the ball go where it should go. If it’s pitched inside you’ll pull the ball. If it’s away, you should go the other way with the ball. Approach the ball inside and on top and you’ll have a lot more line drives and ground balls – instead of line drives and fly balls.
Important: Make sure when you make contact that you have your top palm facing the sky!

Hitting Tips

Hitting Tips

Hitting Tips

What should I focus on mentally to try to increase my batting average?

  • Try to hit the ball through the fence, instead of over the fence.
  • Where the ball comes from, it goes back to.
  • Work line drive to down instead of the line drive to up. 80% of the balls hit into the air are outs.
  • Don’t worry so much about your average, think about how many times you hit the ball hard out of 10. Keep track of your hard hit balls during practice and games for a true measure of hitting success.

What’s the secret to hitting an off-speed pitch?
Off-speed pitches are designed to get you to commit your weight too soon; to get you off-balance and take your body out of the swing. In essence, an off-speed pitch makes you become an “arms only” hitter and your power and effectiveness can be severely hampered.

Aggressive hitters are generally very good at hitting the fastball but struggle with the off-speed pitch. Hitting the off-speed pitch requires discipline. Become great at recognizing the off-speed pitch and learn to react appropriately.

When trying to judge off-speed pitches…
Be on the lookout for off-speed pitches that start up in the zone. They will always look like a ball and then fall back into the strike zone. Focus on the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and determine if it’s an off-speed pitch or straight fastball. If you recognize it’s an off-speed pitch, and it looks like a strike from the start, then it’s probably going to fall out of the zone for a ball.

Hitting Tips – Pro Tip
Some of the greatest hitters have perfect mechanics and perfect swings all the time. Whether you go up to the plate 500 times a year or 50 times a year on your select teams…every swing has to be the same. Now that swing has to be the same in practice and in the game. That only happens when you do it mentally.

I want everyone to close your eyes right now…I want you to think of the best…most perfect hit you’ve ever had in your entire life. OK, open your eyes. Now what I want you to do is try to do that every single time that you hit.

How to Avoid a Late Swing

Swinging late is often a problem with young players.

One reason for swinging late involves the hitter not knowing where he is supposed to make contact with the ball. Many want to make contact over the plate instead of in front of it. Carrying the ball to the plate and having the hitter swing slowly, indicating where they want the bat to make contact with the ball, is an excellent way to show them to hit the ball out in front.

Hitting Tips

Hitting Tips

Also, they should be taught that the point of contact needs to be further out in front of the plate when the ball is pitched inside and closer to the plate when the ball is thrown outside.

Players also need to understand that they must swing at a smaller ball against a fast pitcher. They have to decide to swing a bit earlier and fire the hands at the ball when it is further from the plate than they are used to (the ball looks smaller further away from the plate).

The most important thing for the right timing, however, is to teach hitters to make adjustments with their stride foot.

If they are swinging late, they need to lift the front foot and begin the stride earlier. If they are swinging early, they need to raise the front foot and start the stride later.

Bunting is a huge part of the game of baseball

Bunting is a huge part of the game of baseball. And when a bunt is laid down the right way, it is tough to defend.

I have always been big on bunting and feel it can be taught at a young age. There are two types of bunts: the square bunt and the pivot bunt.

My preference is the pivot bunt because the players’ just pivot and do not have to lift their feet. Once in a playoff game, I had a player square bunt, and he put down a perfect bunt and beat it out, or we all thought. The only problem was when he lifted his leg and put it down in a different position, it was right on home plate, and he was called out.

The best way to teach bunting for the first time is to practice with a soft covered ball or a rag ball. With the rag balls or a soft coated ball, there is very little danger of getting hurt, and the players can pitch to each other. Once they seem confident, move on to a hardball with the coach pitching.

Many bunting strategies can be used in a game. My favorite is with less than two out and a runner on third, bunt to the third baseman with the base runner bouncing toward home. When the third baseman releases the ball, the man on third runs home, and he must slide. If it is a good bunt and the base runner breaks to home when he should, this is almost unstoppable.

Remember that youth baseball players can practice bunting at a very young age. Seek out your high school coach to teach the proper technique. Also, make sure your best bunters get a chance to swing away.

How to Prevent Stepping Out on the Pitch

Stepping out generally begins because of a fear of the ball and may continue later just because of habit. To help correct this habit, place a ball glove or something flat to the left of the hitter’s stride area (for right-handers), so they know when they are stepping out.

If the hitter realizes they are stepping out and continues doing it, they may have a balance problem. Have them lift their front heel off the ground during their stance and stride. This will help them keep their weight forward toward the plate.

Stepping out may also be due to the desire to pull the ball. Discourage strict pull-hitting. The hitter should develop the mental image of hitting the ball straight back at the pitcher and hitting to all fields.

If fear is a factor, it is crucial to convince the player that he is safer when striding straight at the pitcher than when bailing out.

Hitting Tips

Hitting Tips

 

The proper movement of the batter when a ball is thrown at him is to turn inward toward the plate and then toward the catcher (while dropping his head if the pitch is high). This protects his head and chest (the two dangerous places to get hit). Bailing out opens the hitter up and usually results in exposing the chest and head to the ball.

Also, I know several young players who have overcome their fear through on-deck prayer.

How to Take a Level Swing

There is a lot of controversy concerning the angle of the bat when hitting a pitched ball. Based on watching film of great hitters and what has proved successful for the kids I work with (and in line with Ted Williams’ approach to hitting), a level swing is not swinging the bat level with the ground.

A level swing also only refers to the path of the bat head through the hitting zone, not the initial part of the swing involving the hands coming down to the ball or the follow through after contact.

A level swing involves swinging the bat level with the path of the pitch. This is a slight upward swing (the degree to which depends on the pitcher). This increases the likelihood of hitting the ball squarely, even if contact is a little too late or too early.

When hitting down on the ball (which is popular among many coaches), the hardest hit balls will be grounders. Lines drives will flutter and only occur when slightly undercutting the ball.

Big uppercuts also produce weak line drives, and the only hard hit balls will be high fly balls (which are easier to catch than low fly balls).

Correcting for uppercuts and undercuts begins with the position of the hands when the stride foot is planted (launch position). Aside from the hands being over the rear foot at this point, their height is also important.

Uppercutting (more than what is required by the path of the pitch) often occurs because the hands start too low and usually by the ribs. Undercutters generally begin their hands too high, somewhere above their shoulder.

Ideally, the hands should be close to shoulder height. From the rear shoulder, the hands should bring the bat head down into the hitting zone and then up at the ball. When the bat head flies forward, it should go through the contact area level with the path of the ball.

Hitting Tips

Hitting Tips

Perfecting the Stride

Young players need to practice their stride (or the little step taken before they swing the bat). The stride should be:

  1. Straight
    Unless they are using an open or closed stance, the stride should be at the pitcher. When opened or closed, the stride should put them in a position where their shoulders make a line pointing at the pitcher.
  2. Short (especially for young players).
    Long strides make it challenging to keep the head relatively still and thus make it difficult to see the ball. Long strides also make timing more difficult, because long strides take more time than short strides.
  3. Soft
    The weight must be kept back during the stride. Remember that the swing doesn’t start until after the stride is complete. If the batter’s weight shifts forward during the stride, they will not be able to keep their hands back and will not be able to get their weight into the pitch when they swing. Weight should shift during the swing. Teaching players to turn their front knee in toward their body during the stride will help them to keep the stride soft.
  4. Flat
    At least for young hitters, the front foot should stay close to the ground during the stride. Some young players lift the front foot to the back of their thigh which makes a soft stride next to impossible.
  5. Closed
    Many young hitters point their front toe at the pitcher when they stride, usually because they want to start swinging the bat before their stride foot lands. The front foot should not be turned more than 45 degrees upon landing. Often the front foot will pivot somewhat during the swing (and may end up pointing at the pitcher), but this is okay as long as it lands closed.

Effective Two-Strike Hitting

The most successful pitchers can “turn it up a notch” when they have the hitter in a two-strike situation. Unfortunately, many hitters do not raise their level of competitiveness accordingly. Not only does a hitter need to make physical adjustments, but he must also turn up his mental focus to prepare for the upcoming confrontation. It should be “personal!” Here are some ideas in dealing with the two-strike situation:

I. MENTAL OUTLOOK
Imagine yourself backed into a corner of an alley. Someone confronts you and wants your last five dollars. You can either:
A. Submit and give up
B. Try and negotiate a settlement
C. Fight your way out of it

We want players to have the “C” mentality.

II. PHYSICAL ADJUSTMENTS
A. Choke up on the bat slightly. Bat control is important
B. Move somewhat closer to the plate. Take away the outside strike
C. Spread out slightly to ensure balance
D. Slightly crouch to shorten the strike zone. This adjustment helps in identifying and laying off the high pitch

III. MENTAL ADJUSTMENTS
Make it clear to the team that taking a third-called strike is unacceptable. There is no doubt that sometimes a hitter is fooled by a great pitch, and he cannot pull the trigger. However, this situation requires a feisty, competitive mode.
A. Look fastball and adjust
B. Look to go up the middle and opposite field. Protect outside to in
C. Foul off any borderline strikes
D. Fight off or block off inside strikes

IV. ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE
Putting the ball in play has so many possibilities. Keep the strikeouts down to find a correlation with run production. The difference between ten strikeouts and six strikeouts in a contest is enormous! The difference with those four contacts can result in any of the following:
A. Advanced runners
B. Forced errors
C. Bloop hits
D. Bad hops/lost in the sun
E. Frustrated pitcher

V. CONCLUSION

  • Effective two-strike hitting can be enhanced in practice settings.
  • Establish count settings in the cages or front toss drills.
  • Also, include this package in a batting practice scenario live on the field.
  • Players must understand the concepts and see the fruits of their labor.

Taking Back the Inside Part of the Plate

Coaches always look for any edge to win a game, and one way to do that is to control the inside part of home plate. Whoever controls the inside part of the plate wins the game, not only for the pitcher, but also for the hitter, and this philosophy makes better hitters.

Good pitchers need to come inside to keep hitters from extending too much and hitting the outside pitch. They can also jam hitters in critical situations, getting weak groundouts or pop flies. Pitchers can also take advantage by intimidating hitters, making their curveballs more effective. You can eliminate all of these advantages, plus teach hitters to protect themselves from an inside pitch.

Protection is the first concern. As the pitch is delivered, the batter shifts his weight back and draws his hands back. If it is a pitch he can hit, he is ready to swing. If the pitch is going to hit him, he is halfway to protecting himself.

Teach the hitter to turn his back to the ball. It is a natural move because the hitter should be following the ball into the plate anyway. This method protects the face since the back of the helmet extends down to protect the neck, so a high and tight fastball will hit the hitter in the helmet. Anything lower than the head will strike an area that is generally well protected by muscle.

Also, by lowering the bat and drawing it back, the hitter cannot accidentally hit the ball foul for a strike, or worse, fair — for an easy out.

Curveballs become more natural to hit because batters hang in longer, realizing that the curve is a slower pitch and will not hurt them if they are hit. The batter hangs in longer, giving himself a better chance of hitting it.

The first week of practice when the varsity and junior varsity work together may facilitate everyone understanding this procedure. Using Incredi-Balls, tennis balls or plastic whiffle balls, pitches are thrown inside, and the batter reacts. Pitches are also thrown for strikes to make sure batters are not thinking about getting hit by a pitch and are getting ready to hit the ball.

The action needed to turn away from an inside pitch is a natural one — the same motion batters use to cock back when a pitch is delivered. In other words, they are ready to hit, and being prepared is essential for power hitters who have the confidence to wait and hit the inside pitch over the fence.

While using this routine sounds dangerous, no injuries have occurred in four years. In our 1996 season, batters were hit 41 times, and there were no injuries. It is safer because the longer a hitter sees the pitch, the better his chance of hitting it.

Hitters no longer feel they have to bail out from an inside pitch, especially a curveball. If the curveball does not break, hitters get hit in a well-protected part of the body by a soft pitch and get a free base. By staying in, the hitter can take away the inside pitch and intimidate the pitcher.

Our players did just that in the playoffs a couple of years ago. The team was down by a couple of runs, but the other team’s pitcher was not able to consistently throw inside strikes and began hitting batters. The pitcher stopped throwing inside because all he was doing was putting runners on base and giving him something else to worry about. In other words, he only had half a plate to work with. He began to miss with his pitches. Those he did get over the plate were right down the middle, and our hitters began to tee off, and we won the game.

Teaching batters to protect themselves frustrates a pitcher because there is no way he can control the inside part of the plate. Therefore, batters either get a free base or a pitch to drive. Batters hit with confidence because they know a pitch cannot hurt them. Players can take advantage of these little edges, which become the most versatile screen for you and your team!