In all of sports hitting a round ball with a rounded bat is said to be toughest thing to do. It might be true, it might not, but I can tell you that the difference in Major League Baseball between $2 million per year and pumping gas at a Texaco station could be as little as 30 more hits a year. So, it sure is not easy!
Think about that for a second…
500 at bats and 150 hits, and you are hitting .300.
500 at bats and 120 hits, and you are hitting .240 and maybe out of baseball!
So what’s my point? THE GAME ELIMINATES US ALL (see the related article of this same title). Some way, some how and some day we are all out of the game. Sometimes it’s injury, but more frequently, it’s on-field performance. And hitting is the one skill that will keep a position player in the game longest! Whether it is breaking into the starting line-up, the clean-up spot, a travel or High School team, or even a Major League roster, hitters have a way of staying in the game longest! (Remember, there still is a DH for poor-fielding wall-bangers in Big League ball).
Focus Plus Quality Repetitions Equals Success
Can you find ways to make better, solid and more frequent contact with the talent you now possess? You bet you can. It’s easier than you think and can be done right in your backyard! Hit a small ball…first with a bat, then with a smaller bat, then do it again and again. It’s a simple idea. I hope most readers will agree that this makes sense. … But lets dig deeper into how and why this works.
I will tell you that it is a baseball truth that if you learn the proper swing mechanics and then simply do it again and again… You become better…period!
Here’s Why It Works
1st - Players of all ages can do this though we will be making some adjustments based on age and skill level.
2nd – Hitting requires timing and balance. This is achieved through repetition of proper swing mechanics done again and again.
3rd – Focus heightens when a player is challenged – a smaller ball perhaps struck with a smaller bat will create an even greater amount of focus. Do this again and again…you will see results almost immediately!
4th – Hitting is fun!
Here’s How It Works
Your local K Mart or Wal Mart sells golfball sized whiffle balls by the dozen. They also sell broom handles. Get the picture? It stands to reason that if a player can hit a small ball, he certainly can hit a regulation-sized baseball. The same is true with a smaller bat. Start with 2-3 dozen balls and a bat. Throw from 15 to 20 feet depending on the hitter’s age and skill level. Even if he struggles in the beginning, watch what happens when he starts connecting. The eyes narrow, the “this is no fun” attitude disappears. In short order, he’s taken 50 – 150 swings! This is where progress begins to happen.
Note - If you do this three times or more during the first week especially the day of or the day before a game, you have just raised the hitter’s timing and confidence levels tremendously! But if you do it one time only, you or your player may not be motivated enough at this time in the player’s development to become a more skilled player or coach. I say this simply because this exercise requires less effort and time than most skill-building exercises that I could possibly invent or teach!
Coaching Tips & Variations
For Younger or Less-Skilled Players – Buy what used to be known as a Fat Albert Bat. It’s plastic and about 3 times the diameter of a regulation-sized bat. Cost is less than $5. and is available at a K Mart or Wal Mart type store. It’s a great way to build confidence. Players get a kick out of how far they can hit the ball too! Eventually, let them advance to their own game bat.
The Soft Toss Drill – This should be a staple for any team. Simply stated, the “pitcher” kneels about 5 – 7 feet diagonally (a 45 degree angle) to the front side of the hitter and tosses underhanded toward the front hip or thigh area in a small-to-no arc path. This is a great way to get alot of swings without all the bad throws that happen when pitching from longer distances. It saves on the pitching arm as well. The batter takes a minimum of 15-25 cuts. Take a break to retrieve balls when the player’s swing begins to get sloppy or his breathing becomes labored.
Note: Pitcher must allow time between pitches for the player to get his bat back to the set position. This is extremely important for his timing as too fast will eventually equal lousy swings and may allow bad habits to invade.
Make It A Challenge & Make It A Game – Look for the fun in any drill. Why be bored or feel like you are working when you don’t have to. Here’s a few quick , fun ideas…
Batting Average Game - Each player (or if one player, each rack of 20 swings) keeps track of how many good hits during each round of 20. Play it in 6 or 9 “innings”
Total Hits Game – Make each round a continuous total. Again play it in “innings”.
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