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  HITTING THE BASEBALL  


It is proven that hitting a baseball, a round object, with a round bat is the hardest thing to do in sports. Arguably one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, Ted Williams, said, "Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." So how do we get our Little Leaguers to become more successful? We need to work with them to instill the correct habits. Hitting is about muscle memory, not having to over think when they stop in the batter's box.

There are many different philosophies and schools of thought on how to develop better hitters. The following are some simple, basic building blocks for the stance, stride, swing and finish.

Step One: The Stance

  • Base- toes point are in a straight line with pitcher and feet spread more than shoulder width (1 ½  - 2 times)
  • Flex- knees bent for balance and on the balls of feet (puts you in athletic position)
  • Waist- slightly bent toward plate (helps make sure you are on balls of feet)
  • Front shoulder- pointed directly at pitcher and even with the back shoulder (airplane)
  • Head- up straight and both eyes on the pitcher (TV face)
  • Grip- bat held loosely in fingers for strength and quickness - door knocking knuckles lined up (holding a bird)
  • Hands- UP at the top of the strike zone, IN towards the body (3-5 inches away), BACK at or near the shoulder – must be comfortable
  • Elbow- 45 degree angle with a relaxed back shoulder (No chicken wing)
  • Bat Angle- 45 degree angle directly over back shoulder (Do not wrap)
  • Weight- even distributed from front to back (50/50) to stay balanced
  • Rhythm- Slight rock back and forth to stay loose and generate a sense of timing
     

Step Two: The Stride

  • The saying goes, “Hitting is about timing and pitching is about disrupting that timing." One of the biggest misconceptions about hitting is that power is generated from the stride.
  • Stride is for timing – not power!
  • Stride breaks down the swing more than anything else.
  • Stride is STRAIGHT (toward the pitcher), SQUARE (foot stays closed), SHORTSOFT(keeps weight back), and the SAME every time.
  • A proper stride will create a natural trigger or load
  • Stride TO swing, do not stride and swing – Stride and swing are separate movements
  • Stride foot must be down before the swing can start
  • Keep flex the same throughout stance and stride (and even the swing) so head stays quiet
  • Weight stays back and head stays still – Quiet head!!!
  • Losing weight forward causes loss of power, vision, and plate coverage
  • Weight should still be back when taking a pitch
  • If a hitter gets to the right place at the right time, it doesn’t matter what pitch is thrown or where it is thrown, a hitter can hit the ball and hit it hard.
  • This is what the stride is all about – getting to the right place at the right time!

Step Three: The Swing

  • Power comes from 2 things working together: hip explosion and bat speed (hips and hands)
  • Use hands to throw the bat, not the arms – increases bat speed and improves balance
  • Hands take bat to and through the hitting zone – “Playground slide”
  • First direction of the bat head should be straight to the ball (Do not let bat head drop)
  • Back hip drives into the ball (Hip explosion) as the hands approach the ball–explode together
  • Back leg remains strong – does not collapse
  • Back foot pivots to toe of foot as hips explode
  • Hips remain on same elevation from start to finish of swing
  • Bottom hand (Lead arm) leads bat to the ball (Direction hand)
  • Makes sure hands and bat head stay inside the ball
  • Lead arm extended at contact and not before
  • Top hand controls the bat head and takes bat to point of contact
  • Bat head must follow hands and explode to the ball when the hands are out front
  • Palm up, palm down with hands at contact
  • Hitter must be in strongest position possible at point of contact

Step Four: The Finish

  • Weight drives into the ball with back hip – should finish 50/50
  • Back shoulder replaces the front shoulder
  • Eyes remain down in front of the plate
  • Prevents poor vision and pulling off with front side
  • Hips should be open and facing the pitcher (Take picture of pitcher with belly button)
  • Front foot remains semi-closed for a firm front side
  • Allows maximum explosion of back hip and correct weight transfer
  • Never let your head get over or in front of your front foot
  • ON BALANCE – the second most important part of hitting behind seeing the ball

The Keys to Hitting

  • Always keep body under control – Never try to do too much or over swing
  • Stay soft and back/loaded on the stride
  • Keep a quiet head – must see the ball to hit it
  • Power is generated from hip explosion, bat speed, and weight transfer working together
  • Hit the pitch where it is thrown
  • Learn the strike zone
  • Be aggressive – get YOUR pitch to hit
  • Understand hitting situations and hitting counts!!!!

Drills

When performing drills, make sure every swing is like a game situation. Quantity does not count – Quality is everything! It is important to work on hitting different pitches: up & down, in & out. Move the tee as necessary. 

Fence Swing - Purpose is to make sure you are attacking the ball with your hands and not your arms
2 Types
1)  Touch one end of bat to stomach, other end to fence/net and swing without hitting fence
            Do not pull front shoulder off of the ball
2)  Stand with back shoulder about a foot from fence or net and swing without hitting fence
            If bat head loops or hands cast, bat will hit fence

Lead Arm/Top Hand Tee - Purpose is to get sense of what lead arm and top hand do during the swing
Lead arm is the direction hand and leads the bat to the ball
Top hand controls the bat head and takes the bat to the objective
Swing with one arm at a time taking normal swing (choke up on bat)
Do not worry about making consistent contact or hitting the ball hard
Do 3 with lead arm, 3 with top hand, and 3 together - then repeat
If not done correctly, this drill can cause bad habits


Hands to the Middle Drill - Purpose is to experience what it feels like to stay inside the ball during the swing
Hands take the bat directly to the ball – eliminates using the arms
After trigger and stride, take the hands in slow motion towards the ball
Pause once the hands get to the middle of the chest – launch from that position

High/Low Tee - Purpose is to take the bat directly to the hitting zone
Back tee should be even with front to allow bat to flatten out in the hitting zone
Prevents dropping back shoulder/bat head and arm swinging

Inside/Outside Tee - Purpose is to learn to properly hit the ball on the inside and outside parts of the plate
Stride directly back to pitcher; do not stride into the ball (Stride must be the same every time)
Place one tee on inside pitch and one tee on outside pitch
Hitter strides and then coach calls “inside” or “outside”

Split Tee - Purpose is to work on making adjustments in the swing and learn proper contact points
Split two tees 10 feet apart (or more) and try to knock ball off of front tee with other ball
Drill is about learning contact points and making adjustments


Double Tee - Purpose is get extension through the ball
Place one tee about 12 inches in front of another tee and put balls on both
Attempt to hit the back ball up the middle and let the bat continue toward the pitcher and hit other ball
If done correctly, the last tee will be hit – Don’t lean to hit other ball, make hands take bat to ball

High Tee - Purpose is to make a player use his hands in the swing
Place a tee on a chair so the ball is about shoulder high
Make sure player does not stand up when swinging
Drive ball straight or down into net with backspin

Soft Toss -  Purpose is to work on mechanics while developing hand-eye coordination
Show the hitter the ball, drop hand to allow for timing, and give firm flip at front thigh

One Knee Soft Toss/Tee - Purpose is to use the hands to swing the bat & use top hand to take bat head to the ball
Eliminates bottom half from the swing
Hitter gets on back knee with front leg extended straight toward pitcher
Feeder flips ball at brim of hat to make the hitter use his hands to take bat head to ball


Rear Soft Toss - Purpose is to make sure hitter uses hands to go to the ball and gets extended at contact
Feeder flips ball from behind hitter (where catcher would be) and flip is extremely firm
Make hitter catch up with the ball to hit it


Inside Soft Toss - Purpose is to make hitter stay short to the ball with hands and not arms
Feeder flips from directly in front of hitter (where pitcher would be) and flip is extremely firm
Hitter will turn on pitch and drive into a side net – make sure front shoulder isn’t doing the work


Front Toss//Live Cage - Purpose is to put everything together and to develop timing
Do not think while in the cage – Let muscle memory take over
Don’t have to throw from full distance – just let player see a ball coming from in front of them