By Jack Perconte
There is a difference between bat speed and bat quickness. I once did a study of bat speed at a local college. To make a long story short, the player who had the fastest bat speed was not a very good hitter and rarely played. Once he had the bat moving, his bat speed was fastest, but he lacked initial quickness to the ball. This player had great power which is the result of high bat speed, but rarely made good consistent contact. Think of a running race where a runner is slow out of the blocks but eventually surpasses the quicker runner as the race progresses. Unfortunately in hitting, there is no time to catch up because the whole sequence of the swing happens in less than a second. Usually, when a hitter lacks bat quickness his bat speed is useless, at least when they begin to face advanced level pitchers. To become an advanced hitter, one who can play into their varsity high school years, hitters need both bat speed and bat quickness.
Many people think that bat quickness and speed are dependent on overall strength. If this were true than all huge football players should be able to swing a baseball bat unbelievably fast. This is not true and big muscles may even slow down their quickness and speed.
This is not to say that increasing strength will not help bat speed and bat quickness, but how this strength is developed is what is important. As I have written about before, there is no substitute for good fundamentals, which includes the development of a compact swing. All good hitters are fundamentally sound and have a compact swing. Once a player is fundamentally sound, developing their fast twitch muscles will allow hitters to swing the bat quicker and faster. The good news is that good fundamentals, bat speed and bat quickness can be worked on in two ways. Obviously, the more practice time put into these two drills the more bat quickness and bat speed that will be developed.
1. Have hitters put their fielding mitt under their armpit closest to the pitcher and swing until their hands get tired. Hitters should allow the glove to fall out on their follow through with each swing. This drill will promote good swing fundamentals as well as build up the hand, wrist and forearm strength necessary to increase bat speed and bat quickness. Remember, players should stop swinging when their hands tire to avoid picking up any bad habits. Hitters will notice after awhile, that they are able to swing more times with each subsequent practice session, which is a sign of increased strength.
2. Have hitters develop a quicker back knee and back hip action with the following:
A. From their hitting stance, hitters will see how many times they can turn their back knee in a specified time span. Players can begin with a five second time span and increase it up to ten or fifteen seconds as their endurance and balance build up. Hitters should be sure to let their rear hip open with knee turn and have their weight shift slightly forward with each turn of knee. This will work on developing faster hip action for the swing rotation.
B. From hitting stance, hitters fire their back knee and hip forward when the coach yells "now." This will work on the hip quickness necessary. This drill can be done with player holding a bat regularly but not swinging, with no bat or with bat held behind them with both hands along their hips. This is the same hip and knee turn as previous drill but done for explosive quickness on the yelled command.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula, like weightlifting, to increase speed and quickness. Like anything, success only comes with correctly performing the desired skill over and over again. Developing strong hands and quick turns with these drills will increase bat speed and bat quickness.
Former major league baseball player, Jack Perconte gives baseball hitting tips and batting practice advice for ballplayers of all ages. His baseball hitting lessons advice can be found at http://www.baseballhittinglessons.com/baseball Jack is the author of two books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete - his parenting blog can be found at http://positiveparentinginsports.com
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