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HITTING KEYS #1
Mechanics is the first area of hitting that we will address. The tee is great for working on mechanics.
Hitting off a tee is used at all levels of baseball. In fact, major league hitters hit off a tee much more than you might expect. Although it is very easy to hit a ball sitting on a tee, it takes concentration to do it properly and get the benefit of hitting off a tee.
When hitting off a tee, make sure you:
1. Put the ball in the proper contact zone.
2. Don't start your swing as your foot is coming down. Stride then swing.
3. Drive through the inside of the ball.
4. Hit the ball with relaxed shoulders.
5. Hit the ball with backspin.
MSA coaches use very simple yet effective drills to get hitters to feel how their body should work in the swing. These are all natural movements that the hitter can easily work on at home.
HITTING KEYS #2
Hitting can be broken down into three areas: mechanics, timing, and vision. Our first key (see below) focused on mechanics. Today we will look at timing.
There are two points in timing: 1) Timing the release of the pitch. 2) Timing the arrival of the ball into the hitting zone.
Timing the release of the pitch is done with the hitters approach. The approach is the load and stride. This is where the hitter must get in rhythm with the pitcher. To put it simply, when the pitcher's arm is reaching back the hitter is going back into his load. When the pitcher's hand is coming up to release the hitter is into his stride.
The timing of the ball is done with the hitter's back hip, which is where the swing is triggered.
At MSA we use some verbal and physical drills to get hitters to learn the skill of timing. It is the key to being able to hit the good fastball and adjust to off-speed pitches. Once this skill is learned the hitter becomes much more confident and successful.
HITTING KEYS #3
Vision is the final hitting key (see below for the first two). We are not talking here about 20/20 vision, but about having our eyes in the right place at the right time. The easiest way to teach young hitters this skill is to have them stand in the batter's box in their stance, but with their glove on instead of a bat in their hands. Have them catch balls thrown to them and then ask where their eyes were looking during the pitcher's motion and at the pitcher's release. Most of them will not be able to tell you where they were looking during the motion and that is good. This is because during the motion they were seeing the "whole picture" - this is what some coaches call "soft focus." During the motion the eyes should not "hard focus" on any area. At release the eyes then naturally move to release and "hard focus."
Many young hitters "hard focus" too soon in the release area or on the pitcher's face, etc. and so actually do not pick up the ball when it comes out of the pitcher's hand. The second part of vision is staying with the ball. Catch also helps the hitter realize this because his eyes will track the ball into the glove (not start to look up like many hitters do in their swing).
Besides "hitter's catch" MSA has other vision training drills that we take our students through at the academy.
The Most Important Thing to Know to be a Good Hitter
Want to know the secret of all good hitters? They think HIT every pitch. They KNOW they are getting a pitch to hit and here is the key: GOOD HITTERS HAVE TO STOP THEIR SWING, POOR HITTERS HAVE TO START THEIR SWING.
Hitters that worry about their mechanics (stride length, hand position, good pivot, etc.), not swinging at a bad pitch, only swinging at a good pitch, or any other thought other than hitting the ball hard will not hit to their potential.
Coaches: This means that you need to set the tone by what you tell your hitters during the game. Are you giving them the freedom to attack every pitch? or do your instructions to them during the game turn their thinking to mechanics or not failing (swinging at bad pitches) instead of attacking each pitch.
A comment from the dugout such as: "Don't swing at the curveball in the dirt," moves the goal from hitting the ball to not hitting the ball. The hitter wants to please his coach so he is more concerned with not swinging at the curveball than attacking the ball (in other words he has to start his swing instead of stop his swing). If the hitter gets a good pitch to hit he will be just a little late to react -- he may still hit it, but will not really drive the ball because that was not his primary goal.
It has been shown that hitters that think "hit" every pitch actually swing at fewer bad pitches. But the most important thing is that young hitters will have a lot more FUN when they are allowed to think attack on every pitch.
It is important during the Winter to start getting your arm in shape. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and read "Throwing Keys." Even if you are playing a winter sport, you must take a little time in January and February to play catch. Players that don't do this risk hurting their arms in their first team practices and setting themselves back weeks in their preparation for the season.
FIND A WALL: If you have a wall and a ball you have all you need to work on your defense. You can work on backhands, forehands, trap hops, double play footwork etc. If you come to MSA we can show you drills that are fun and will improve your defense.
SWING WITH A PURPOSE: Most hitters do a lot of tee work in the winter. Scroll up and read "Hitting Keys #1" to make sure that you are using the tee properly. Remember: "Practice doesn't make perfect, it makes Permanent."