By Jim Bain
They say there are 35 individual items involved in hitting a baseball. I'm not a 100% sure that's correct, but I do know that's far too many things to teach a hitter in one season.
Let's reduce those numbers to a more manageable task of learning, what I believe to be the Top Seven basic skills a hitter must learn before advancing to inside out swings and etc.
(1.) A hitter must learn a balanced batting stance. Balance is the cornerstone to every starting position in every sport known to man, as it's the foundation on which the body uses initiate movement. Having the weight evenly distributed over the hips and feet properly positioned is the key to balance.
(2.) Keeping the body loose. The ability to be explosive, actually means having the ability to instantly react. In order to remain explosive the muscles can not become tensed and the best method to prevent that is movement. Keeping the body slightly swaying, hands moving or rotating the bat before the pitcher becomes set, is imperative.
Do you think a hockey goal tender or a tennis pro, standing still and erect can suddenly react and stop a puck traveling 100 mph or return a 98 mph serve? Nearly impossible.
Same situation with hitting. The key element here is to know when to become completely still, body and head, but that's another article.
(3.) Batters must learn not to let their front hip and shoulder open too soon, referred to as "Flying Open," which makes hitting a pitch on the outside portion of the plate nearly impossible because you can't reach the ball with the bat.
A simple trick to help correct this problem is instead of pointing the toes of your lead foot straight or square to the plate, cock them slightly, an inch and absolutely no farther back than 2", towards the catcher.
Because you must move your front foot back to the proper positioning, this will force you to keep your front hip and shoulder closed longer,
preventing opening up too soon.
(4.) This next skill can be difficult to comprehend because it appears to be one movement, but in reality is two. A hitter must have his bat loaded when his front foot hits the ground. Let's break it down.
(a.) As the pitch begins travel towards home plate, the batter will begin his foot Starting Mechanism, either by lifting the front foot and moving forward, simply lifting the foot and setting it back down, or some other slight variation.
(b.) When the front foot sets back down the bat should move out of the launch position, into a full swing.
(c.) Then the bat is swung or not swung at the ball.
This is a two step process, but because it occurs so quickly and fluidly, it appears to be one continuous movement. You've heard the saying "hitting off the front foot"? This means the timing is off between the foot plant and launching the bat to ball contact, which produces feeble ground balls because of lack of power.
(5.) This may sound quite elementary, but is actually a huge hitting problem. A hitter must stride (move) Directly towards the pitcher, as an inch or two to either side can greatly have a negative affect on the swing.
One must remember, subconsciously it's not natural for a person to move directly forward towards a traveling object which could hurt him.
One trick to verify you're stepping correctly is to:
Measure 1 inch off the end of the pitching rubber and drive a nail or stick in the ground.
Do the same at home plate, securing the stake or nail passed the back corner.
Tie a string taunt to each end, but not taunt enough to raise it off the ground.
After swinging at a pitch, stop immediately and see where you're front foot has landed. Contact with the string indicates a forward movement. Landing on either side of the string indicates an issue which may require addressing.
(6.) You've heard the saying "Keep your head on the ball," but do you realize this is intended to be performed exactly as stated. Your head is initially turned sideways watching the pitcher, picking up the ball and watching it to the bat. If you don't swing and your head is still sideways looking out toward the pitcher instead of turned looking at the catcher, we have a problem.
Whether hitting or fielding a ball your eyes should Never lose contact with ball!!
(7. )You've heard "Use the whole ball park," or "Hit the ball where it's pitched," which is simple logic, not a magical formula.
If you bat right handed and attempt to pull a pitch on the outside portion of the plate to left field, you've greatly reduced your chances of hitting safely and nearly completely eliminated hitting the ball with power. Why?
Without delving into mathematical equations which explains the physics of the issue, I'll simply say "The forced degree of angle" makes the difference.
*** A 98 mph fastball located on the outside portion of the plate, hit to the right side of the field, requires the line of travel, angle direction change, of the ball to change very little, thus losing very little of its velocity. Then add the ball's velocity with the speed and velocity of the bat striking it... The velocity and power in which the ball travels increases dramatically.
*** Using the same example, except attempting to pull the ball to the left side of the field. The 98 mph fastball must literally come to a screeching halt in order to drastically reverse the angle of travel, which means the speed and velocity of the bat is the main force powering the ball.
That situation would be bad enough, but in reality the baseball is using it's 98 mph velocity to actually resist the bat's attempt to change it's direction that radically.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: http://www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com
Be sure to check out his 2 books on Amazon, "The Pitch" and "Season of Pain". Great reading about baseball.
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