One of my favorite drills to improve bat speed is the 60 second drill which was taught to me through my uncle. What you do is, get someone to time the player for 60 seconds and make them swing as many times correctly as possible. While you are timing the player make sure each swing is done correctly.
Front Barrier Drill: Have the batter stand one bat length from a barrier (I prefer a net to prevent damage to the bat, but you can use a fence). Have her take her normal swing. If she hits the barrier, she is unlocking her elbows before her shoulders and getting wide on the swing.
Rear Barrier Drill: Place a barrier directly behind the batter and have her take her normal swing. If the bat hits the barrier, she is dropping her hands. You can use this barrier even when you are using a pitching machine or live pitching for instant feedback to the batter that she is dropping her hands.
This is a great drill for teaching follow-through. Get a couple of old basketballs and take most of the air out of them. Place them on one of those orange cones you see at construction sites. Have the batter take her normal swing and follow-through right through the basketball. HAVE THEM WEAR HELMETS!!! Use regular sized bats for this drill.
This week’s Tip of the Week will focus on some very good drills to correct some common problems with hitters.
1. Basketball Drill: This drill is great in correcting those players who do not swing “through the ball.” If there is a used sporting goods store in your area, find a couple of old basketballs, preferably one that does not hold air and make sure that most of the air is out of it. Now, drive by a road construction zone and see if you can find one of those orange cones that the city loves to “donate”. I have found that these places are more willing to “donate” these cones after the workers have gone home and nobody is looking. Cut off a portion of the top of the cone so that the mostly deflated basketball will sit on top of the cone. Place the cone and basketball in the contact zone and have a hitter and a basketball-placer at the station. MAKE SURE THAT BOTH PLAYERS WEAR HELMETS!! I want to stress this so I will repeat it. MAKE SURE BOTH PLAYERS WEAR HELMETS!!
Have the hitter take her normal batting stance and swing and have her drive the barrel of the bat “through the contact zone” so that the basketball will be knocked off the cone. The reason for the helmets is that if the hitter does not drive through the ball, the bat may bounce off the basketball and come back at the hitter or placer and hit them. NOTE: If it sounds like I am speaking from experience, I am. The first time I did this drill, I had a basketball that was about half inflated and did not drive through it and wound up with a nasty bump on my head, so again, MAKE SURE BOTH PLAYERS WEAR HELMETS!!! After the basketball has been hit of the cone, the placer positions another basketball atop the cone and the drill continues. I generally have the hitters work in front of a net or fence so that the placer does not have to go far to retrieve the balls.
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com
Here’s a drill you may find useful. Construct a batting beam with pieces of 2″ x 4″s. The main piece should be about 4′ long. Two cross pieces about 18″ should be nailed about 16″ from each end of main piece. Have player stand on this during soft toss. The player should remain on beam throughout swing.
The beam encourages the batter to be on the balls of the her feet and to maintain a balanced swing. It also helps the batter to take their timing step straight to the pitcher. The players don’t like this beam at first, but it does help.
I like to finish batting practice by having a contact drill. This drill only takes 7-10 minutes.
All players line up next to the dugout with their bat and helmet ready to hit. Each batter gets 1 pitch, regardless if it is a strike or not, and must make contact.
A foul ball is good, a bunted ball must stay in fair territory. Each player that swings and misses, grabs his/her glove and shags balls. The players that make contact return to the end of the line for there next chance. Keep going until you have 1 player left.
I use a pitching machine and usually have to crank the speed up towards the end. After all balls have been picked up, I usually have all the players except the winner of the contact drill sprint to the outfield fence and back. The 2nd place finisher only has to run half the distance.
This drill is the best I have found yet to increase bat speed and decrease the time it takes to get the bat into the contact zone. Once your players get adept at hitting regulation sized softballs, try using tennis balls or even black eyed peas and smaller diameter bats. We use this drill in warm ups before every game and have had some great results.
The drill consists of a dropper (coach or player) and a hitter. The hitter takes her normal batting stance facing a net or fence about 6-8 feet away from the net. The dropper (coach or player) stands about 1 1/2 steps to the plate side of the hitter and 1 1/2 steps in front of the hitter (toward the pitcher) so that the ball will drop directly into the contact zone which is slightly out in front of the hitter. The dropper drops the ball into the contact zone and the hitter must see the ball (she watches the dropper drop the ball) and hit it before it hits the ground with a level swing and proper stride, pivot and hands to the ball mechanics. If the hitter gets wide too early, she will never hit the ball except on an upward swing which must be corrected immediately. I like to start the dropping height as high as the dropper can reach and then as the hitters become more adept at hitting the ball, slowly drop the ball from lower heights until you are dropping the ball from the players shoulder height. If you have very small players, you may want to have them stand on a milk crate to drop the ball. Try this drill with your coaches before you do it in practice to get the droppers position correct. The players always think they are going to get hit by the bat, but I have been doing this drill for a long time and have never had anyone hit by the bat. Try this drill and I am sure it will help your hitting out greatly.
My favorite drill for teaching how to hit fast pitching is the “drop drill”. This drill will improve your bat speed and reaction time in very little time and is fun to do. The drill is executed as follows:
One player has a bat and is in her hitting position (hitter). Another player or coach stands to the plate side of the hitter (right side for a righty, left side for a lefty) and about 2-3 feet in front of the hitter, just out of reach of the bat. The second player or coach (the dropper) holds a ball up high in the air (if she is small, you may have to use a bucket for her to stand on). The hitter looks at the ball and when the dropper drops the ball, the hitter has to hit it before it hits the ground. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try it!
To make solid contact, the hitter must use proper hitting form and mechanics. This is why I like to use a coach or parent to drop the balls. This way the coach can instruct the hitter and correct any mechanical flaws in her swing. As the hitters get more comfortable and hit every ball dropped, slowly move your hand lower and lower until the ball is being dropped at the hitter’s shoulder height. When she can hit from this height, she is ready to hit off any pitcher.
Another variation I like to use is to get a small diameter bat and drop smaller objects than a softball. I use whiffle golf balls and my favorite is black eyed peas. I try to select a dimly lit section of the field for this drill to make the hitters concentrate on the ball more. If the players are having a problem hitting the black eyed peas, ask them to tell you which direction the black eye is facing. You will see a marked improvement in their ability to hit the pea.
I have explained this drill many times and I always seem to get some response like this. “I cannot understand where the dropper stands for this drill. If he/she stands to the plate side of the hitter and slightly in front of her, she will get hit by the bat.” What you coaches or parents must do is to try this drill out in your back yard or anywhere prior to practice to locate the spot where the dropper is to stand. The ball must be dropped into the contact zone. I have been using this drill for many years and have never gotten hit once nor have any of my players.
HANDS TO THE BALL DRILL
I know this drill is old as the hills but I’ve found it to be rather effective when teaching younger hitters to hit.
Have the batter set up approximately 3ft. from a fence in her batting stance just as she would at the plate. With one exception, have her bat resting on her shoulder. The coach then tosses a ball up to her, the batter must then attempt to hit the ball with only the butt (End cap on the handle) of the bat. Since I work with fairly young girls I have to remind them on a daily basis NO SWINGING ALLOWED! The coach can toss the ball in various locations (High, Low, Inside, Outside, etc.,…).
This drills teaches the girls to move there head/eyes (Or as I like to say keep there nose on the ball; Because if you can point your nose at something you have to keep both eyes on it.) to and with the ball and take there hands to the ball as opposed to just swinging and hoping for the best. Hope this helps.
In order to be a great hitter, it is always important to focus on fundamentals. Regardless of age or skill level, a hitter must learn to keep their eyes on the ball. The Hawk Eye drill can help in training a player’s eyes to follow the ball from the pitcher’s hand to the contact point where the ball meets the bat. It will serve to solidify the importance of keeping your eye on the ball at any level of play where pitchers are throwing various pitches.
Invite a number of players (who are not pitchers) out for pitching practice and have them bring their helmets. I tell them they will stand in as a live batter, so that they will be unaware of their task at hand. After the pitchers are warmed up and throwing their pitches for accuracy and movement, have a hitter step into the batter’s box without a bat, BUT WITH HER HELMET ON. Her only responsibility is to watch the rotation of the ball from the pitcher’s hand to my glove. The batter then has to tell me what the rotation of the ball was, what kind of pitch it was (based on the rotation), and if it was a ball or a strike. Each batter can read five pitches, and then move back into the line. If you have multiple pitchers and catchers, more than one batter can practice ‘seeing’ the ball at the same time, but a coach should be watching each set of players both for safety reasons and to ensure that the hitter’s are calling the pitches correctly.
Through this drill, this player has strengthened their vision’s muscle memory. Reading these pitches will enable her to watch the flight of the pitch, concentrate on the ball, and focus on the contact point. It can be a big help in developing the subconscious action of viewing and reacting to a quickly pitched ball.
This piece was written by eteamz online coach Mike Smothers. Coach Mike’s bio and other instruction can be found at www.eteamz.com/fastpitch/instruction/tips/category.cfm/Pitching
HITTING SPECIFIC STRENGTHENING DRILLS
This week’s Tip of the Week will focus on some targeted weight training using a weighted bat or your first baseman’s bat (she is generally the biggest player on the team, so she should swing the heaviest bat).
1. Windshield wipers: Have the hitter take a weighted bat or the heaviest one you have on the team and hold it in both her hands with the barrel pointing straight up toward the sky. Now using only the wrists, have her lower the barrel of the bat to her left to about waist high, then to her right and back to her left, etc. Do about 5-25 of these depending on the age of your players.
2. Chopping wood: Take the heavy bat again and have the hitter hold it directly over her head with the barrel pointing up toward the sky. Now, in a chopping motion, have her bring the barrel of the bat first backward until it is pointing down at the ground behind her and the bat has touched her back lightly. Now bring the barrel back up to the start position and continue forward and downward down to lightly touch the ground in front of her (this motion is like chopping wood). Have her raise the bat slowly to about waist high and have her bring it slowly to the ground again, then back up to the start position. This constitutes one rep. Have the player at this station do 5-20 reps depending on the age of your players.
3. Strike zone: This drill again uses a heavy bat. Have the hitter take a normal batting stance and have her swing into the contact zone. As she reaches the far limits of the contact zone, have her use her wrists to wiggle the barrel of the bat back and forth as she counts the wiggles to 5. Then bring the bat back to the normal batting position. This is one rep. Have the hitter do 5-20 reps depending on the age of your players.
4. Circles: The final drill again uses the heavy bat. Have the hitter hold the bat out in front of her with the barrel pointing straight away from her body. Her arms should be straight out with maybe just a slight break in her elbows (I mean very slight break). Now the hitter makes small circles with the barrel of the bat by moving her wrists in a kind of circle. First, have the hitters do 5-15 circles clockwise and then the same number of circles counter clockwise. This will strengthen the wrists and make then quicker. I use these weight-training drills in practice at stations. Most of the time, you may have a couple of players waiting to get into the batting cage or go on live pitching. Since I feel “standing around time” is wasted time, I have these players do these drills instead of talking to their team-mates about class yesterday (yes I do know what they are really talking about and it is not softball or class).
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com/
KNEE HITTING DRILL
Set up a net with a mat in front of it. Place a medium size orange cone on the mat. Have the hitter kneel on their back knee. The front leg should be straight out in front towards the net. Place a ball on the cone and have them hit. This allows them to concentrate on the proper hand and arm movement without worrying about the legs.
I have one player hit and the other feed the balls. This allows me to concentrate on the hitter and keeps the players involved.
Milk jug: This drill again teaches follow through and hitting through the ball, but it also strengthens the muscles needed to do this. Take an empty gallon milk jug or something similar (I used an old punching bag and it worked great) and fill it almost to the top with sand and replace the cap. Hang this jug by a rope through the handle from a branch or any protruding pole that will allow it to hang down and away from the fence or wall (I tied ours to an “On Deck Hitter”). MAKE SURE THE HITTER WEARS HER HELMET!!!!!!!
Have the hitter take a fairly slow swing and when her bat hits the milk jug, it will stop dead. Now the hitter must force her bat through the contact zone, using her wrists and arms, moving the milk jug with sand until the bat slides under the jug. This drill strengthens the muscles needed to drive through the ball and creating a powerful swing and line drives. With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com
It’s an old drill…but one I find very effective. You need a softball, some thick garden gloves and some rope about 12 feet long. Drill a hole through the softball and insert the rope. Tie a knot on both sides of the hole.
Put the batter in her regular stance, and stand opposite her. Start swinging the ball on the rope, through her strike zone. Hang on tight cause if they get a hold of it the balls takes off (thus the gloves).
I find this is great because you can vary the speed of the ball and the location. It’s especially useful when you’ve got a variety of kids working on tees, in a cage etc. and there’s some one on one time.
SEEING THE BALL AND CONSISTENCY
If your team is having a problem hitting the ball, chances are, they are having a problem in a couple of different areas:
a. Seeing the ball
b. recognizing the pitch
c. making consistent contact
d. following through and hitting “through the ball”
The following drills can help this. To help your team “see” the ball better and recognize the pitches, there are a couple of things you can do.
The first thing is to have some of your players come out on pitching practice evenings. If your team has additional practices for pitchers than for the entire team, ask some of the position players to attend these practices. After the pitchers get loose and start to work on their pitches and locations, have one of the position players put on a helmet and stand in the batter’s box just watching pitches. Have them tell you how the ball is rotating. If they cannot see this at first, tell them to keep concentrating on the ball and they soon will be able to tell you how the ball is rotating. Have the pitching coach explain the rotations of different pitches so that they will be able to see the rotations and be able to identify the drops, riseballs, curves, etc. This will help your team see the ball better and be able to know where it is going. It will also teach them to follow the ball all the way to contact with the bat.
To help your team make more consistent contact on the ball try the following drill. Get a bat, a few tennis balls, a few practice whiffle golf balls and a bag of black eyed peas. If you can, get a “ThunderStick” or make one out of a smaller diameter piece of round wood with grips and a little weight in the end to make the bat weight about 22-24 ounces. The main thing here is that you want the “bat” to be a smaller diameter and length than a regulation bat. Start out with the regulation bat. Soft-toss regulation balls at the hitters (have them hit into a net). Then start going smaller with the balls. Soft-toss some of the tennis balls and when they can hit those, soft-toss the whiffle balls. When they can hit the whiffle balls, start soft-tossing the black eyed peas. When your team can hit those, the regulation sized softballs will look like beach balls. If you can get a ThunderStick or something similar, try the same drill with the smaller diameter bat. This will fine tune the hand-eye coordination of your hitters and make them deadly hitters.
I need to say something about the toss of soft-toss. The toss is not some big old high arcing, ugly, slow pitch thing. It is a crisp toss to the stride thigh of the hitter. You want them to hit the ball out in front so adjust your toss accordingly. I do not like my players to soft-toss to other players because the tosses usually get really ugly and you lose all benefits of this drill, but that is just my opinion.
Finally, on follow through…there are 2 drills that can help. The first one involves having a sandbag or old punching bag (you can get one from a used sporting goods store). Place some sand in the bag until it is full and tie it to a pole, allowing enough room for a hitter to be able to hit the bag. When the hitter hits the bag (very slow swing) have them follow all the way through until the bat passes under the punching bag. Make sure the rope holding the bag is adjustable for the height of all of your players.
Another drill you can do is the basketball drill. Take an old basketball that will not hold air and place it on a cone (old construction cones work great and if you ask the foreman of a construction crew, they will probably give you an old one). You may have to cut off the top part of the cone to allow the ball to sit atop the cone without falling. Now have one player place the ball on the cone and one hit the ball off the cone. BOTH PLAYER MUST WEAR HELMETS. MAKE SURE THAT 90% OF THE AIR IS OUT OF THE BALL. The reason for the helmets is that the bat may bounce off the ball if not hit hard enough. Have the hitter drive through the ball after the initial contact has been made. Both of these drills teach follow through.
Try these drills and your team will be better at “seeing” ball and making consistent contact with it. In a later tip, we will focus on mechanics and timing of the stride.
Whether your team is just starting a new season or you and a friend want to brush up on your hitting skills, “Soft Toss” is a great tool to ensure proper hitting mechanics are being used, sharpen the hitting eye and have some fun all at the same time. Here’s how!
Soft-Toss: A player or coach (I prefer a coach) sits on a bucket slightly in front and to the plate side of the hitter. The coach should be 3-4 feet away from her so as not to get hit by the bat. He/she tosses a ball into the contact with a smart snap. This toss is not one of those “old man, slow pitch, arching things.” Instead, it is a smart toss into the contact zone to allow the hitter to hit the ball out in front of the plate. To begin with, I use standard size softballs and standard bats.
When a short warm-up period has been completed (about 5-8 balls), I switch to practice whiffle golf balls. These are harder to hit and the player must concentrate to hit them. A lot of times, the hitters “cheat” and begin their swing as they see may arm go up. To prevent this and add a bit of fun, I take 3 balls in my hands and sort of juggle them in a figure 8 and release one of them at random. The hitter must be alert to hit the ball before it hits the ground. I also stand up a lot when I do soft toss. The reason for this is that the hitters will become accustomed to hitting pitches in a certain location if you sit on a bucket all the time.
After about 10-15 whiffle balls, I switch to a bat I made that has a 1 1/2″ diameter and a steel rod through the middle for proper weight. We continue to hit the whiffle balls during this stage. Now the players really have to concentrate to make contact. Finally, I take some black-eyed peas and soft toss those at the hitters. At first, this is difficult, so I ask the players to tell me which direction the “black eye” is pointing. When they do this, they must really focus on the “target” and will generally hit 8 out of 10 peas.
NOTES: The coach or player must always keep an eye on the mechanics of the hitter and make corrections if they break down. I use a portable net when employing these drills. Also, if there is an area that is dimly lit for a night practice, I use this area for my hitting drills. It just makes the hitters concentrate more. I have used these drills for the past 12 years in practice and in pre-game warm-ups and have had some excellent results. Imagine what the regulation sized softball looks like to the hitter after she has just hit 50 or so small objects with a very small diameter bat. Try it!!
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill. This drill and many more can be found in our extensive library of drills on eteamz.com/
We rarely use a full size “bat” or a full size “ball” when doing soft-toss. This is done to intensify the drill and the skill being taught. Position your self to the batting side (right for right handed batters) and ahead of the batter. Toss the “ball” at the hip of the batter. You want them to impact the ball in front of their body. This is the “contact point”. The toss is important!! You do not want an arching, ugly type of thing, unless you are playing the old man’s game of “slo-pitch”, if so, you are on the wrong home-page. The toss should be crisp, but not too fast and out in front of the batter. Practice this to get it correct.
We use soft-toss to teach and reinforce the proper mechanics of the swing. Make sure your batters are 1.) pivoting correctly and early enough. 2.) rotating their hips with an explosion toward the ball 3.) unlocking their shoulders, elbows and wrists in sequence while throwing their hands straight to the ball (watch for hands dropping and correct this). 4.) Watching the ball all the way to the “bat” and continuing to watch the “contact point” after the “ball” has been hit.
The proper stance is essential. It should be a balanced stance with 60% of the weight on the back foot, eyes level, bat in launch position (not rapped behind the head), knees slightly bent, and door-knocking knuckles lined up. The stride should be a short, smooth lift and move type of stride. At impact with the ball and at follow-through, the body should be in a slightly curved position toward the ball (inward “c”), this insures that all the weight and power went in to impacting the ball.
We have used many things for “balls” and “bats”. To increase concentration on the ball, try using tennis balls, practice whiffle golf balls, coffee can lids (plastic ones like frisbees), but my favorite (and the players favorite) is to use black-eyes peas. We start hitting them with a full size bat, but quickly move to using a “thunder-stick” or a home-made “bat” I made which is about the same size as a “thunder-stick” but with less weight inserted in the end. I feel we are trying to teach muscle memory and too much weight teaches a slower swing, but others think diferently. During warm-ups before games, I always hit the peas and them some LOUD, regular sized softballs. These are the hard ones and they sure turn some heads! The girls love the looks on the opposing teams faces when they hit these loud balls. We hit into a portable backstop so there is no time lost chasing balls.
One of my favorite drills is the “High-Low” drill with the practice golf balls. I hold 2 balls in my hand and toss them into the “contact zone” and call out either “high” or “low”. The player must hit the corresponding ball. I tried it once with the black-eyed peas and was quite successful.
If the batters start to “cheat” on soft-toss drills, I hold 1 ball in either hand and rotate them (like juggling) and toss one up. This way they do not know when the ball is coming. They all hate this, but it works!!
Stride Box: This is a device that I carry around with me in my coach’s bag along with a myriad of other gadgets and my 60′ tape measure, glasses repair kit, glove restringing kit, rosin, Second Skin for the pitchers’ blisters and a lot of other necessary things. There is a variation to the original “stride box” that will be mentioned later.
A “stride box” is merely a couple of 2X4’s secured together to form a right angle. The sides are about a foot long each. I stand the 2x4s on end so that if the player does happen to over-stride her foot will be stopped by the front of the stride box and not allowed to step on the side of the stride box causing a twisted ankle. Have your hitter step into the batter’s box and take up her normal stance. Now place the stride box with one side of it at the point where the lead or stride foot should land (no more than 6-8 inches from her normal stance). The other side of the stride box should be near the plate. This forms a figure “7” when viewed from the batter’s box looking at the pitcher. I drilled a couple of holes in each side of the stride box and have 4 long bolts to secure it to the ground.
When the player takes her normal swing and stride, the side of the stride box toward the pitcher will prevent her from over striding and will give instant feedback to the hitter. I use this a lot in hitting practice both in machine pitching and also live pitchers. It works great!!
Variation: I have seen some pretty elaborate stride boxes in my time. One that was really useful was mounted on a piece of plywood and had a couple of 1X1’s at the back of the “batter’s box” where the hitter placed her heels (heels on top of the 1x1s). This made her get up on the balls of her feet, which is the proper position to hit. It also had the 2X4’s nailed down to the plywood and the entire thing was placed in the batter’s box. I liked this idea a lot, but asked one of my assistants to be in charge of getting it to and from the fields for practices and he quickly declined, so I decided not to make one. It just seemed very bulky and heavy unless you can store your equipment near the field. Make sure you have one of these stride boxes in your equipment bag. You will never regret it!!
With all of these drills, try this out in the backyard or with your assistant coaches BEFORE going the field so that you can instruct the players in the proper mechanics of the drill.
We use tennis balls a lot in practice. I toss them from the normal position a lot to make certain the mechanics are correct. I also toss them from behind the batter. This makes the batter watch the ball all the way to inpact and teaches a quick, compact swing. I also like to bounce the ball into the “contact zone.”
Another drill I like to use is the walking-tossing drill. Using tennis balls, I walk slightly in front and to the side of the batter and bounce a tennis ball into her “contact zone.” The batter must load up and swing while walking. I bounce 3 or 4 balls as we walk. This is tough, but the players love it once they can hit the balls. For beginners, I recommend bouncing the tennis balls and hitting them with a regular bat, but then move to a smaller bat.
There are many types of Tee Drills, but the ones we use the most are the:
1. Hip turn: Place a ball on the tee at hip height. Have the batter hold a bat behind her hips and take a normal batting stance. Have her pivot and knock the ball off the tee. This teaches proper hip rotation and explosion.
2. Locate the tee at the proper impact point for inside pitches and then outside pitches. Place the balls on the tee and have the batter hit from a normal stance. This teaches the proper technique for hitting these pitches.
TENNIS CAN LIDS
Server about 15 feet away flips tennis can lids frisbee-style. Server varies which edge is up (for curve, screwball). Use regular bat or Thunderstick. Keeps players weight back and encourages snap and eye tracking.
Although I will post it, be careful with it. Younger players tend to concentrate on hitting every ball tossed and mechanics may break down if used a lot.
Just an enhancement of the traditional soft toss drill. I find that, especially with young hitters, they will get on information overload.
Sometimes you have to force them to use what they have learned…without thinking about it.
Merely put two or even three “tossers” into the mix when doing the soft toss drill. Time the tosses so that the batter has only enough time to pull the hands back, reset their balance and swing. I find that this gives them a true feel for the swing….without getting too bogged down with information.
I’m not sure what this game is called, but it is a lot of fun.
The players arrange on the field (just anywhere) and 1 player bats. If the batter hits a fly ball and if someone catches it then that person who caught it gets to bat, BUT if the batter hits a grounder and a player fields it then the batter lays the bat on the ground, the fielder has to stay in the same spot where they fielded the ball and rolls the ball on the ground and trys to hit the bat. If she hits the bat then she gets to bat.
EYE ON THE BALL
If your players batting mechanics are good, and they’re still not hitting the ball, they are probably not seeing it correctly, or perhaps not following it right to the bat. Here are a few drills that are designed to really keep your eye on the ball
BALLS AND STRIKES DRILL:
Have the pitchers throw pitches and the batters just watch the ball into the glove and call balls and strikes. You’ll be amazed at what batters think are balls. The best thing for good eyes are just seeing live pitching…lots of it, even if it is just being a batter while your pitcher is doing a workout. You can learn to read different pitches, and the pitcher gets better practice when there is a batter in the box.
HITTING DIFFERENT OBJECT:
Try golf whiffle balls, small coffee can lids (thrown like frisbees), pinto beans, etc, anything that has them concentrating on a smaller than usual target and hitting something that moves, rather than moving in a straight line. This will improve their concentration and teach them to follow the ball all the way in.
Use a series of three pitches to teach them to watch the ball. The first pitch, the batter swings over the ball. The second pitch, swings under the ball. The third pitch the batter hits the ball. Repeat this drill until they can do it every time. After that, you can really fine tune this: Pitch 1- just nick the top of the ball. Pitch 2-Just nick the battom of the ball. Pitch 3- Hit it right in the middle of the ball.
TWO-BALL SOFT TOSS:
Get two different color whiffle balls (say red & white) or mark half of the balls with a different color dot. Works better with whiffle baseballs or even golf whiffle balls. Its easier to toss s maller balls plus helps hitters in focus and coordination. Toss the two balls at the same time (from same hand) and ask the player to hit one of them, either red or white. This helps players to coordinate, focus and react ti=o hit the correct color ball.
PICK A NUMBER:
Take 3 or 4 balls, write a number on each ball. The players job is to see the ball well enough to tell you which number is on the pitched ball.
THE SHRINKING/EXPANDING STRIKE ZONE
Sure the strike zone in fastpitch has dimensions. Some are stretched and shrunk by some umpires but the strike zone is still defined from rule book to rule book as being the same. As a batter, you can help yourself tremendously by applying the strike zone “box” vision in your at-bat.
For example, when you first enter the batter’s box, the count is 0-0, no balls and no strikes. After the first pitch and you are still there, the count will be either 0-1 or 1-0 on you. Now the strike zone “box” should begin to change for you. As I go on you’ll better understand. If, after the second pitch you are still there batting, your count should be either 0-2, 2-0, or 1-1. If the count is 0-2, your vision of the strike zone has made the “box” greater in size because the next pitch can strike you out if you don’t swing at it and it’s close. If the count was 2-0, then the strike zone has made your “box” much smaller and you should only swing at the pitch if it is thrown in your vision “box”, your select spot. If the count was 1-1, then your “box” is back to being a normal size strike zone.
The key points of these examples are that if you have a 2-0 or 3-0 count on you, look at swinging only at a specific pitch you like in a specific small zone or “box”. Perhaps only a fastball right down the middle. If your count was 0-1 or 0-2, then the pitcher is in control of the situation and you must expand your vision of the strike zone so as not to be called out on strikes. Be prepared to swing at pitches you may not find as sweet as you prefer.
ALL PURPOSE TENNIS BALLS
While practising with my three girls at home I found it fun to pitch them tennis balls. You can pitch them very hard, they don’t hurt if the batter gets hit, and a solid contact really jumps off the bat. Tennis balls are excellent aids for kids who develop a fear of the ball. I pitch tennis balls to them and about every third or fourth pitch, throw at them. Because they don’t fear the tennis ball so much, they stay in better, and also don’t seem to have any problem avoiding the ones that come at them. I point out to them that I haven’t been able to hit them, and I was actually trying! It’s a confidence builder.
A couple of our fields have home run fences set up well inside the regular fences. I set a temporary plate fairly close to the fence, close enough that a decent swing will send the tennis ball over, and let everybody “swing for the fences.” Even the timid kids, with a close and reachable target, light up. They beg to play it every practice. Great fun!
Probably ever since you have started batting, you were told to watch the ball all the way through the arm motion, right? Try this test. Focus on an object, any object for 10 seconds. What happens? The object comes in and out of focus, right? Is this what you want to have happen when you are just about to swing at the ball? I do not think so.
I have my batters focus on the shoulder or some other part of the pitchers upper body until the ball has reached the pitcher’s hip. Then you focus on the ball as it comes and makes contact with the bat. This way, you will not lose focus on the ball when it is critical that you see it.
If you have a problem picking up the ball at this point, you can pick it up a little earlier, but try not to focus in too early. This should allow you to keep a sharp focus on the ball all the way to the plate.
I picked this tip up from a Higher Ground hitting video.
The majority of information received by our brains is gathered through our eyes. As a hitter, it is crucial that the head, and therefore the eyes, be in the proper position. With your athletes in a semi-circle around you, and approximately the distance from homeplate to the mound away, hold a ball at the release point. have them point a finger directly at the ball with both eyes open. Holding their finger as steady as possible, alternately close each eye. The opened eye that causes the ball to “move” the least is their strong eye.
Now have your players take a batting stance relative to you as the pitcher. Using only the strong eye, they should rotate their head, keeping it level, to the point where the ball is perfectly focused. This the position their head should be in when batting.
FROM CIRCLE TO BOX
Emphasize to your girls that getting mentally as well as physically prepared to hit must be done not only before the game but before your at-bat as well.
Your at-bat begins when you step into the on-deck circle. Get your intensity level,aggressive attitude and swing mechanics properly prepared in the circle,then carry them with you into the box. Intensity and aggressiveness must be practiced!
HAND POSITION FOR HITTING
I explain and demonstrate to my players that the top hand pretty much controls your swing. If the palm faces up on the swing, chances are you’ll under-cut the ball or hit a fly ball. If the palm faces down on the swing, chances are you hit down in front of you and the ball dribbles. And if you sweep or shake hands with the pitcher on the swing, chances are you hit a line drive.
The girls seem to have a good understanding and really respond well. I hope this is a good tip that you’ll share.
There are several products on the market that do essentially the same thing, they are called “On Deck” hitters. They are basically a ball on a rope, that is tied to a swivel and then secured to a pole or rod and that is mounted to the fence either by bolts (U-bolts to mount to the fence pole) or springs (to mount to the fence directly). The on deck (we use “in the hole hitter”) batter goes behind the fence and takes swings at the “on deck”device before she goes to bat. It is a great warm-up tool and we take ours to every game we play. I like to have a coach out there with the batter to make sure she is using proper fundamentals and intensity!!
POINT OF CONTACT
I am certain, by now, all of you have seen a picture of Mark McGwire hitting one of his towering home runs, right? But have you really “seen” it? If you can pull one off the internet, look closely at his eyes. They are focused on the ball. In some pictures, the ball has already left the frame of the picture, but he is still focused on the point of contact. This is what every hitter must do in order to avoid hitting little grounders to the infield. You must focus on the point of contact even after you have hit the ball. If you lift your eyes to watch where the ball goes, you will lift you shoulders and consequently will hit the ball on the top, resulting in a grounder with little speed on it.
To demonstrate this to yourself, get in front of a mirror and watch your shoulders as you take your normal swing, with eyes looking at the point of contact.(you will have to stop in mid-swing to see this) Now take another swing watching the path of the ball that was just hit. Notice that your lead shoulder has lifted along with your eyes. Your trail shoulder has dropped and your swing has become a “down to up” cut, with your hands way below the ball. This will cause you to swing higher than you want to and you will top the ball. To correct this, watch the impact with the ball even after it has left your bat.
I have found that the best time to check out this flaw is when we are doing “soft-toss drills”. Watch their eyes.
Coaches, to reinforce this concept, I used to ask a player that has just singled, “Wow, what a hit. Did you see where it went?” If she answered, “Yeah It was a little blooper to left field”. I gave her a lap or two to have her think about watching the point of contact. This usually put an end to this mechanical flaw.
This is a great weapon for left-hand batters. By positioning yourself towards the back of the batters box, you approach the pitcher during delivery with many choices. Dink a little bunt in front of the plate or towards third-base, drag bunt the ball towards first base, or even slap it through the charging defensive infielders.
Another great weapon is to slash hard at the ball with an inside-out swing. Being careful to reach an outside pitch, this slash bunt will usually produce a soft tailing hit over the third-basemen’s head falling near the grass and heading towards foul territory. Most quick lefties can get a double out of this type hit. Also, when this movement produces a ground ball, a left hand batter gets a great jump towards beating out the play.
TOP OF THE BALL
A quick and simple tip to correct improper or direct proper bat swings is for the batter to exaggerate hitting the top of the ball. If the batter misses the ball, it is preferred that they miss above the ball as opposed to under it. The reasoning is quite simple. A fastpitch ball is delivered at a lower point than it is received at the plate. The plane of the ball is usually upwards. If you swing to hit the center of the ball, you probably hit the bottom of it causing a fly-out or pop-up. If you swing for the top of the ball, you are more likely to hit it dead center with it rising. If you miss and do hit the top as you tried, you’ll get a hard grounder which increases your chances of reaching base.
My tip for underloading is:
Take a few large dowels (hardware or building store) and get some pipe insulation (black styrafoam like) and duct tape. Cut the dowels to the appropriate length and put pipe insulation on the hitting end of the dowel, cover the insulation with duct tape. Lastly, put some sort of tape on the end the player will hold.
These “bats” are great with all sizes of whiffle balls…we soft- toss rear and side, and also hit off of tees.
Another tip is to use little league bats for underloading. You’ll be surprised how many are in garages not being used! Make sure you sand the ends!!
A hitting drill that our kids do is called the “4 Corners Drill”, actually for bunting.
Our players divide up into 4 groups of how ever many. They gather around each of the bases and the plate of our diamond. A player uses the plate or base as a home plate and stands ready to drag, squeeze, or sacrifice bunt with another player pitching from his knee about 10 feet away. There is also a catcher, and the other players field with bare hands.
Each player bunts the ball 5 times and then everyone rotates until all three types of bunts are laid down correctly, making sure that fundamentals are being done, with a coach at each station.
A great drill we use for hitting is to use badminton birdies. Simply have a coach stand 10-15 feet from the batter and throw the birdies into the strike zone. This drill enables batters to take LOTS of swings in a relatively short period of time. It also allows the coach to place the “pitch” exactly where he wants it, thus enabling the batter to work on weak areas of their swing.
Another drill we use is a variation on the traditional “soft toss”; rather than baseballs, we toss mini marshmallows so the batter is forced to fine tune his swing for the smaller target. You wouldn’t believe how big a baseball looks after this.
Put a weighted doughnut on your regular baseball bat and hit eight baseballs.(overload)
Hit eight baseballs with a fungo bat.(underload)
Hit eight baseballs with your regular bat.
I conduct this drill in a soft toss situation and do 2 sets 2-3 times a week. Over the course of 4 to 6 weeks you should see a positive increase in bat speed.
Make a couple of bats from broomsticks about 30″ for little league. Purchase practice plastic golf balls at any sporting goods store. Have players break up into two groups of four, one player pitching, one hitting and two others for retrieval. At first players will have difficulty making contact but with concentration on point of contact they will begin hitting consistently.
Purpose: To improve players bunting technique.
Procedure: A protective screen is in the middle of the pitching area. The drill has two pitchers and two catchers. Pitcher one is in front of the protective screen and throws to home plate. Pitcher two is behind the protective screen and throws to second base. Each pitcher has a bucket of baseballs and each catcher has an empty bucket. The hitters are divided into two groups, with one group at home plate and the second group at second base.
Hitter 1 bunts a specific bunt and runs to first base, while at the same time, hitter 2 bunts a specific bunt and runs to third base. Then the hitters jog to the ends of the opposite lines. For time efficiency, the balls not contacted by the hitter are placed in the catcher’s ball bucket, thereby allowing the pitcher to prepare for the next pitch.
Paint several baseballs with different bright colors (solids, of course) and place in a bucket behind mound. Have assistant place ball in glove of pitching coach (ball hidden from batter). Pitcher checks color of ball then calls out any color or the actual color of ball in glove. The batter can only swing at the ball that matches the color the coach called out, and if the pitch is in the hitting zone.
Soft toss two balls at once. Just before tossing, coach tells batter which color to hit.
If you only have white baseballs – tell batter to hit top or bottom ball.
Purpose: Development of quicker hips and the relationship of hip speed to the entire swing.
Procedure: Place a bat behind the waist, horizontal to the ground, and use a glove as home plate. While holding the ends of the bat in the hands, assume a normal batting stance and watch an imaginary pitch being delivered. Execute a stride and quick turn using the bat to help turn the hips faster. Finish in the proper contact point position.
HIT OR DIE!!
HIT OR DIE!!
That’s what I call my latest drill to catch their interest before they know what it’s all about. Ever get tired of telling the hitter he needs to stay back and wait in order to hit the outside pitch? When they go the “other way” the whole swing changes, they loose their hips or twist their torso to inside out the ball?) and watch for proper reaction. Repeat this drill until the hitter’s natural reaction is to turn away. Good Luck!
TRY THIS: Turn the hitter sideways in the tunnel as if you were to do flip ups into the net right in front of him. Now stand directly to the side of him so that you are facing directly at his chest. Give him a few soft tosses right at him and make keep his same swing. After a couple now back off to about twenty/twenty-five feet and pitch overhanded directly at his belt buckle. Obviously, you are not throwing your hardest, but keep the speed up so the ball isn’t arcing, a moderate pitch. Now when he strides, he must keep his hands back or the ball hits him. I’m not nuts guys, believe me, they hit the ball AND they stay back.
They can now say they survived HIT OR DIE!
Remember, when a batter has a good swing, any kind of hitting drill is good for him. Variety is the spice of life doing drills also.
HITTING TO ALL FIELDS
I have found this drill will help younger players learn to hit inside and outside pitches and learn “their pitch”.
Split your team into 2 equal teams talent wise. Set a line of cones or other suitable separaters directly down center field.
Play “over the line” and alternate between left field and right field. Have a coach pitch from the mound or regulation distance.
We will play a 4 inning game, closing the right side the first inning, then closing the left side the next. It is imperitive that your coach that is pitching is accurate. For right handers, when left field is closed your pitcher must pitch to the outside so they can “go with the pitch” and have a chance to hit to right.When right field is closed and left is open, your pitcher must give “middle-in” pitches. We give our hitters 3 strikes. All other “over the line rules that you deem fit apply. Of course another benefit is defensive glovework.
This game forces your hitters to hit the outside pitch that they will inevitably see when they are behind in the count. It also allows them to attack “their pitch” (for most hitters, the middle in pitch)
HITTING TO THE OPPOSITE FIELD
A drill that I have found very effective and easy to do is to set up for batting practice regularly. Then have the pitcher throw the ball from a shortened distance and from the opposite field side ( i.e. for a right handed hitter, the pitcher throws from between the mound and 1b). This creates the angle to make the hitter “stay behind” the ball and hit the other way.
We tell our guys they have to get out if they hit the ball to the “pull” side of the mound. Also, make sure the batter faces the regular mound and does not turn towards the new mound.
LEAD AND FOLLOW HAND SWINGS
Purpose: The lead hand swings allow a hitter to establish proper timing and power with the lead side of the body, giving the hitter proper contact with the ball. The follow hand swings establish the feeling of throwing the bat at the ball.
Procedure: Hit off a tee, imaginary ball, or soft-toss. When executing swings with the lead hand, you should concentrate on keep the hand above the plane of the ball. If the lead hand drops under a pop out, strike out, or fly out will usually occur. The hitter must also turn the hips quickly for proper timing and power. The lead elbow should not extend fully before contact with the ball, since that will promote a slow bat due to an excess of arm arc in the swing. By concentrating on keeping the lead hand on top of the ball and turning the hips quickly, a hitter can establish proper timing and power with the lead side of the body. The lead hand/follow hand action creates timing and power. Both hands should snap straight into the ball precisely the same instant. This will help you establish proper bat speed and control.
HULA HOOP BUNTING
In order to develop proper bunting skills, coaches should teach the fundamentals of bat control. To begin, take three hula hoops and place them in front of home plate in three different bunting areas (first base line, directly in front of home plate, and third base line). Assign each of the areas a number, and instruct the kids to aim at a respective hula hoop while practicing their bunting (if possible, use three different colored hoops).
Run the drill by throwing an equal number of batting practice pitches to each bunter, with a consistent number of attempts at each hoop. For example, you could throw each player twelve pitches, and have them bunt four pitches at each hoop respectively. Keep track of how many bunts actually stop in the hula hoop, and total that number for each player. You can run a competition with the winner being the player who successfully bunts the most pitches into the correct hula hoop.
LOW OUTSIDE TEE
This drill will make players aware of the clubhead’s position and the importance of keeping your eyes on the ball.
Simply use a tee and a youth bat, about 28 inches long. Set the tee like a low outside pitch and have the players hit a ball off it. This should be done at first with large groups because everybody will get a good laugh to see their teammates swing wildly in the air. After a while they learn to aim the clubhead at the ball instead of merely swinging the bat through the strike zone.
ONE HANDED BUNTING
One Handed Bunting–Players get into groups of 3 or 4 for max bunts. The drill is to grip the bat with the top hand at the balance point of the bat, then bunt that way. All the things you try to teach such as grip, bat angle, ‘catch the ball with the bat’, etc. happen naturally just by bunting one handed. It is a simple finishing job to add the bottom hand to steer the ball, and leads easily into drag and push bunts.
A few minutes of practice gives lots of skill and leaves that much more time to HIT.
The timid batter always seems to assume that backing out or stepping out toward third base will automatically prevent him from being hit by the pitch. You might notice that he starts his getaway before he has any notion of where the pitch is really headed. I have had some success against this tendency by throwing behind the timid batter’s back. After all, he will get plenty of these pitches at the little league level, and you don’t want him backing into them, getting hurt, and becoming even more afraid.
If the habit is deeply ingrained, you might want to start out with tennis balls. You can also start by throwing a lot of pitches behind him, and then gradually decrease the frequency of these pitches as he starts to break the habit. Soon he will realize that he had better not back up until he sees where the ball is really going. This will make him much safer at the plate, which will appeal to the timid batter right away. And while he’s watching the ball more closely, he’s going to realize that he doesn’t have to hide from the good pitches, but can stay put and hit them instead. I have seen it work!
Another simple drill I use with these hitters is to have them stand-in at the plate and take short practice steps in the proper direction (toward the pitcher), over and over again. If he’s very timid, tell him to think about stepping toward the second baseman (or the shortstop, for lefties). In his fear, he will adjust his step back to the middle, which is where you wanted it in the first place. After 15 or 20 reps, we resume pitching to him. Admittedly, this won’t work miracles in the worst cases, but sometimes it’s enough of a push to get a player hitting.
Another thing: Sometimes you’re using a drill for a pitcher and a catcher, and you just need a batter to stand in without swinging (maybe you’re getting a new pitcher gradually used to the idea of pitching to a batter, or getting a new catcher used to the idea of having that bat swinging around in his peripheral vision). At these times, choose one of your more timid kids to stand in, and have him concentrate on watching the pitch closely all the way. This gives him a chance to practice this without the pressure of trying to hit the ball.
ROLL AWAY – FENCE
Fear of the baseball is often one of the biggest obstacles to good hitting. It can lead to “stepping in the bucket”, poor balance and “pulling the head” (or pulling off the ball). Although it’s normal to have a healthy respect for the baseball, abnormal fear of being hit by the ball can cripple an otherwise good hitter. Any player who has trouble rolling away from a pitch thrown at him (i.e., turning toward the catcher so the ball will hit him on the backside) needs to practice this drill until it becomes natural.
Here’s how it goes:
First explain the importance of rolling away from a pitched ball. Ask the players if they would rather be hit in the face, throat, stomach, groin or back. Most will say back, others can take a lap. Demonstrate how to roll away, then proceed with the drill.
Find a fence or backstop the hitter can stand behind. It must be high and wide enough so he cannot be hit with a ball thrown from the other side. The hitter stands behind the fence with a bat. The pitcher stands pitching distance away on the other side of the fence (the fence separates the 2). Place a glove or portable base down (on the batter’s side) to act as home plate while making sure to leave enough room for the batter to take a full swing. The pitcher throws to the plate and the batter swings normally (if the pitch is a strike). Of course he won’t make contact with the ball because it will be stopped by the fence before it reaches him. Throw a few strikes initially then randomly throw directly at the fence in front of the hitter. Don’t let up, let it fly.
Vary the location and be sure to mix it up so the hitter doesn’t get into a habit of turning away every time (make sure he continues to swing at strikes). Throw at different parts of the body (including just behind the head) and watch for proper reaction. Repeat this drill until the hitter’s natural reaction is to turn away. Good Luck!
We station a tosser seated behind an L-screen approximately 30 feet away from the hitter (tosser should wear helmet and stay well behind the screen.) The tosser can pinpoint the corners and move the ball up and down throwing a high percentage of strikes from this distance. The hitter is forced to react quickly.
To further the effectiveness of the drill we have the tosser shout a count just before delivering the ball (i.e. 3-0, or 1-2, etc.). This forces the hitter to think about the type of hitting situation that he is confronted with before offering. For example, in a 3 ball situation the hitter may decide to take a questionable pitch for ball 4 whereas in a 2 strike situation they must guard the dish. Also we will vary the situational hitting by having the tosser shout out where runners are as well as out count. This further reinforces the concept of productive at bats while giving a mental focus to what can otherwise become a repetitive drill.
One drill we use is with whiffle balls and badminton birdies. The main purpose of the drill is to teach the players to “stay back” on off speed pitches. When the whiffle ball is thrown you will get a simulated fastball. When a birdie is thrown it starts at the same speed as the wiffle ball, but will die down and drop. Players need to learn to wait for the birdie to get there.
Another drill we use is set up like soft toss. The feeder bounces the ball in front of the batter. He then says “fastball” or “curve.” If he says fastball, the batter should swing at the ball on the way up from its bounce. If the feeder says curve, the batter must wait for the ball to come down from its apex.
You will need to pair off your players for this drill .To set up this drill, put the batting tee on top of home plate. Using home plate will allow your player to get a comfortable feel for being at the plate and not the tee. One player puts the ball on the tee the other hits it. It is a good idea to move the tee around home plate so that your players get used to hitting the ball from different pitches. This drill helps develop the skill for good contact with the ball. Make sure the hitters concentrate on contact and watch the ball as they swing.
TWO-BALL SOFT TOSS COUNT DRILL
This drill is performed just like most two ball soft-toss drills. A second person tosses two balls and calls which ball the batter should hit. This drill is a little different variation.
The batter is tossed two balls. The batter counts 1001 & 1002 very quickly and then hits the top ball if it has not left the strike zone. This drill teaches young and older players to stay back, to see the ball and trust their hand speed.
Let’s define separation to begin with. Separation is any distance of your hands away from your body as you rest and start your swing. We want to accomplish two things in our swing. The first is to make the distance from the start of the swing to contact as short as possible. The second is that we want our hands to stay inside the baseball.
I like to see my players have their hands resting somewhere right behind the chin area. This alleviates any separation from the head with the hands. It also allows me to see if the hands begin to cast or come away from the head. If they do, then I know that the bat will not travel in the quickest line to the baseball. Most kids have a tendency to separate their hands at the start and during their swing. If the hands start from the chin/head area and we take the knob of the bat to the ball, keeping our hands inside the baseball, we will be successful in creating a short, crisp swing through the zone.
A. SITUATIONS: Emphasize hitting fast ball.
(0-0, 1-0, 1-1): hit only fast ball you like (in your “zone”)
(2-0, 3-1): zone fast ball you hit best
(2-1): most cases …. zone fast ball
HOWEVER … take into account pitcher’s ability and previous 3 pitch selections; may have to look curve or change
(3-0): take unless in your zone (the pitch you came to the park to hit) if swinging …. don’t jump on just any pitch but rather look for a pitch in your zone
(0-1): no change in attitude …. get a fast ball
(2 strikes): attitude changes …. always look fast ball but react to curve and change
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!! strike zone is widened to black of the plate THE FURTHER AHEAD IN THE COUNT YOU GET, THE SMALLER YOUR STRIKE ZONE BECOMES; THE FURTHER BEHIND IN THE COUNT YOU GET, THE BIGGER YOUR STRIKE ZONE BECOMES.
B. DRILLS (do at every practice with Hitting Vest!!!)
1. Tees (100): 33 high, 34 middle, 33 low — alternate hitting to left, center, right
2. Toss (100): alternate hitting to left, center, right
3. Backside flips (25): reverse toss drills, emphasis on waiting to hit curve and change
4. Weak-side swings (25): hitting one-handed with non-throwing hand
5. Turns (25): bat behind back, emphasis on hitting with hips
C. GAME-DAY DRILLS (do before every game!!!)
1. Tees (50)
2. Toss (50)
3. Backside flips (15)
4. Turns (15)
5. Short toss (10-10-5): pitcher throws from 30-40 feet with tennis balls or IncrediBalls (20 swings, 5 bunts)
1. Watch front shoulder of pitcher.
2. Move vision to release point just as ball is released.
3. Study pitcher to find release point.
4. Read pitcher’s arm release to see where ball is going.
5. Track ball into your hitting zone.
6. Hand release shows where ball is going (high/low, in/out).
7. If at release point ball is level with hand — fast ball.
8. If at release point ball is above hand — curve or change.
This past year I’ve been conducting trials using the PRO CUT. It is a new device that weighs12 oz. and attaches to the handle of the bat and allows the bat to be swung comfortably. With the weight on the handle, as the swing begins to the inside and forward, the weight assists in bringing the hands in and forward as opposed to away from the body that weight from a donut does. The weighted handle makes the bat feel balanced and not top heavy.
All hitting drills can be done with it on; tee work, soft toss, short toss and all winter I used it extensively doing regular sets of dry swings with excellent results. Its amazing but even adding 40 to 55 % more weight to the bat, it actually facilitates the swing. A test group in our academy over a six week period increased their bat speed from 3mph to 17 mph! Of coarse we also improved their mechanics by working with them each week.
The Procut can also be used in the on deck circle instead of donuts. I look forward to seeing decent swings in the on-deck circle (one of my pet peeves) instead of donut assisted loops.
These are brand new and cannot be found in many stores outside the Chicago area. Ron Lefebvre loves it and several universities have started using them having gotten them at the coach’s convention in Nashville this year.
You can get a brochure on it from TIPM INC. by calling 847-838-6116 and tell them you picked it up on the internet from Coach Erickson. Soon you can see a picture and get a brief description of one on my own page, Palatine Travelers.
SOFT TOSS DRILLS
In my lessons I use four soft toss drills to focus on some key elements of hitting.
I usually use regular soft toss to warm the hitter up: 30 reps. First, I rotate my hands holding two balls and toss them in an inconsistent sporadic pattern. This develops bat speed upon eye contact. Eventually the more experienced hitter could be tossed fakes as well. While the tosser is spinning the ball he actually fakes twice and then releases one. The next he just tosses. 30 reps.
The second drill is motor skills and awareness. I hold two balls in one hand with two fingers separating the the two. I want to hold the balls as if they were stacked upon each other. Before I toss the balls I call out top or bottom. This forces the hitter to actually think about which ball to hit upon a command . This will also fine tune their concentration.30 reps.
The third is the most difficult and possibly the best. The tosser should stand up close to the plate but just out of bat distance. The tosser holds the ball high in the air above the front part of the plate and drops the ball. The batter depending on his eyes to initiate the swing has to hit the ball before the ball touches the ground. His technique is critical in this drill. Make sure his step, hips, balance, and head are all in correct form. 30 reps.
The last is where the tosser stands behind the hitter tossing the ball from his knee through the hitters strike zone. The batter has to accelerate his bat after the ball. This develops pull arm strength and overall power.15 reps.
P.S. Fatigue develops bad habits so make sure the hitter rests twice the amount of time spent hitting.
1) Top hand should hold bottom thumb to simulate holding a bat. Top hand should also hold a ball. Throw the ball into a net for all direction of hits (pull, middle, opposite field). The throw causes arms to extend and rolls wrist to attain a down and in or out swing.
2) The “Slap” technique involves two players. Have one player kneel in front of batter with a hand outstretched in the strike zone. The batter then swings at the outstretched hand and slaps it with both hands. This keeps the front shoulder in.
3) For a player that sweeps, stick a batting glove under the front arm pit to ensure that the swing stays closed and the batter doesn’t fly open.
Station 2 (Make sure that on these drills, the batter is in his full stride, but weight is back)
1) Rapid Fire: Use three balls and soft toss them immediately upon contact, one right after the other. This develops quick hands.
2) Drop ball: Have a batter and tosser stand parallel with eachother with the left foot in line with the left foot of each. The tosser drops the ball from eye level and from a knee. You may think that the players may be too close to eachother, and that is a legitimate thought. If the batter doesn’t swing correctly, he will hit the tosser. A little encouragement for the batter.
3) Fastball Drill: It is soft toss but from a distance and with more speed. Tosser stands to the side of batter and about 10 feet away and tosses underhand with a little bit more on the ball.
4) Back feed Extension: It is soft toss from behind the batter. Stand about 5 feet directly behind the batter and toss ball into strike zone. The batter can look at the tosser the first few times, but then must do it blindly. Develops quick hands.
1) Batter kneels and tosser throws ball to bill of cap to emphasize that the batter chops down at the ball.
2) Batter stands and same drill as above, except tosser throws to nose level and out in front.
3) Use two “T’s.” Place a ball on the front “T” about two inches lower than back “T.” Swing to hit ball on front “T.”
BETTER VISION AT THE PLATE
Too often times young players are encouraged to close their stance at the plate (i.e. placing their front foot closer to the plate than their rear foot) thus limiting their vision of the ball. Usually this results in their “pulling off” or away from the pitch when striding.
I try to encourage more kids to “open” their stance by placing their front foot further from the plate and encouraging them to stride in towards the ball. This allows them better vision of the pitch and an easier feeling of getting away from the pitch inside, potentially at them.
CORRECTING STEP OUT
Many young players will take their front foot and step away from a pitch as they swing, thus pulling them off the ball. A coach can lay face down and holding the players ankles, keep his step in line with the pitch. The player begins to adapt to the foot placement. I recommend that the coach wear a helmet while doing this.
Once the player starts making contact with the ball, he has demonstrated to himself that he can hit when he doesn’t back away. Depending on the age and experience of the player, this can take anywhere from 10 minutes and up.
I have had great success with kids when I’ve done this, and with little time involved.
The player stands with a bat facing a fence. He should then take the bat and put the end against the fence lightly. The end of the handle should make slight contact with the player’s mid-section. He can now take his normal batting stance at that distance from the fence and take about ten or fifteen swings. If the bat is making more than light contact with the fence, the batter is not bringing his hands through first, which he should be. To get a player to bring his hands first, have him take his normal step as if to swing, only have him “throw” the end of the handle of the handle towards the ball. If he continues to do this, it will increase his bat speed and he will probably hit the ball harder.
HANGING WIFFLE BALL
My son was 7 year old and a first year player.I hung a wiffle ball on a string from the rafters in the basement. he practiced hitting it. The ball moved around a lot, so it was more difficult to hit than off a tee. His first year of coach pitch he finished the year with a .677 batting average. I was so proud.
At the college level, just like at the little league and above level, we are constantly looking for ways to decrease the length of the batter’s stroke. I have found 2 ways that I feel will work to help do this with ANY age player.
The first way is to have them “pinch” their elbows together and hit the ball in this position. What this does is eliminate that long front or “lead” arm before the swing. It emphasizes the hands more during the swing which will help shorten the stroke. Try it first off of a tee or soft toss to get the player comfortable.
Also, we have the player’s hit off of a tee and place a tall cone or short chair right behind the tee. The idea is to get something that is about up to the hitter’s waist or slightly above and make them swing “down” to hit the ball off the tee and not swing “up” and try to “pick” the ball off of the tee. It is really quite challenging and will be immediately rewarding to the hitter. Also, the feedback is instant if they do “loop” and hit the object behind the tee.
Try both of these and I think you will see benefits.
YOUTH HITTING TECHNIQUE
I am a ex-minor league baseball player, and am currently an administrator in the public school setting. I have coached high school and college baseball, however, I have really begun to break down the hitting of the young baseball player since working with my young son, who now is 8 years old.
My tip/technique deals with young players and stepping out or away from flight of ball.
Stepping out seems to be a major problem with young players, and it prevents the bat from being in the hitting zone long enough to make consistent contact or inhibits proper plate coverage. The technique that has been successful in my teachings, is to have the young hitter raise the back heel so only the balls of the feet and toes are in contact with ground. It is really difficult mechanically to step out when the hitters back foot is raised. In addition to being virtually impossible to step out, this technique allows the you hitter to accomplish several other necessary hitting musts:
- Makes pivoting the back foot much easier, thus allowing the hips to explode on the ball.
- Weight transfer tends to remain in center of the stance instead of overcompensating one way or the other.
- Shortens the stride
- The hitter focuses on pivoting and rotating on the center of gravity axis, instead of lunging.
This has worked for my son and several of my younger players. My son was 7 last season, and was hitting ball in excess of 150 feet.
Another important factor in teaching the young hitter making the transition from T-Ball to Minor league is teach that the swing begins in the downward plane before leveling off and ending high. T-Ball creates a swing that make young hitter begin swing in the upward plane. Kids want to see the ball fly off the tee, so therefore, they naturally swing up to get the desired results. Kids must be taught to start down, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and most hittable pitches are down in the zone. T-Ball leagues should buy tees that promote the downward arc swing, for example, the Ken Griffey batting tee.
In summary, the two major problems I have seen in young hitters is stepping out, and swinging in the upward plane. When these problems are rectified, the hitter has more success making contact, and thus has better baseball experience. After all, the goals of youth leagues is for kids to have a great experience, so they will develop a love for the game. Excessive K’s will not develop a love for the game, but will drive the youth away.