Would you believe it if you were told, “If you take proper measures in caring of your baseball bat care it would should and could repay you by helping you be a better hitter?”
Sort of like being in the military once you are issued your rifle the drill sergeant will tell you flat out, “This is your Rifle treat it like a friend for if you take care of it –it will take care of you.”
A little special attention to your bat will keep that sweet spot smooth and clean so you can continue swinging for the fences. The sweet spot is the fat part of the bat barrel where you want the ball and the bat to meet.
Every bat seems to almost have a life of its own. The relationship of a hitter with his bat is something only realized by the hitter alone. Hitting a baseball solid and square at or in the sweet spot of a bat has a feel which only the hitter alone knows.
The choices of a bat which is “just right” now in our todays modern era of baseball could be a controversy of Aluminum vs Wood.
The pride you show in providing baseball bat protection for your favorite bat will have a tendency to make you a better hitter in that you have a penchant for caring and paying attention to details which matter.
Baseball bats care is nothing beyond plain common sense. The highest performance action for any piece of baseball equipment is to keep it clean and in the case of your bat make sure the barrel of your bat stays smooth and slick.
By golly you now are armed with the real truth of the matter about your baseball bat care. Make every effort at your disposal to ensure your bat barrel is always CLEAN AND SMOOTH. Here are some Do Not Notes:
- Do not store your bat in extreme hot or cold temperature areas, such as in a car trunk or garage.
- Do not clean or knock the dirt from your spikes or cleats with the barrel of your bat.If at the plate hitting and you feel compelled to knock dirt from your spikes. Do not use the barrel end of the bat flip your bat catch it at the barrel end and then tap the handle end of your bat against the sides of your spikes.
- Do not allow burrs or nicks to remain on the barrel of your bat. Smooth the barrel down often with something unobtrusive which will not further the damage of the bat surface.Learning about baseball we were taught, in high school baseball, to use an old glass Coca Cola bottle to smooth and polish the barrels of our then wood bats.
- Do not and I mean “Do Not” ever throw your bat onto the ground and into the dirt. It shows your poor sportsmanship and it will nick and booger up the barrel of your bat.Earlier on this page you were told if you took care of your bat someday it may repay the kindness. Here is how the bat repays you for your care:
A baseball is round and your baseball bat barrel is round. Stay with me on this one.
If the barrel of the bat has a small nick or burr and you fail to hit the incoming ball squarely, bat and ball making solid contact, and the ball touches at that burr or nick point the ball will tend to pop up into the air. However, if your bat did not have that nick or burr the ball would have a tendency to slip over or under and continue to the rear of the plate flying on the line instead of popping up into the air.
Now you know if you do diligent baseball bat care then at just the right time your bat takes care of you. Remember what was mentioned about the soldier and his rifle.
A baseball/softball player’s diet is a very important part of his training program. Poor nutritional habits can prevent a pitcher from reaching his full potential on the mound.
There are three parts to a complete baseball pitcher’s training program: workouts, nutrition, and rest. Each of these components has equal importance. A pitcher cannot train at maximum intensity if he is not properly fueled or properly rested.
Proper nutrition is essential for competing at the highest level and performing at the highest level. Sure you’ve heard stories of great baseball players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle who paid little attention to their health and wellness while playing. The fact is, had they maintained a proper diet and trained correctly they would have been even better.
In today’s competative atmosphere an athlete needs to maintain a healthy edge which means eating right. Baseball is a combination of balance, agility, and concentration with bursts of physical activity. For power, speed, and good reaction time, what and when one eats can improve or worsen performance. If we add in the length of games, weather conditions, and long season, the player who is best nourished will be the one who finishes strong, and healthy!
The nutrition goals for baseball are designed to optimize performance. Food choices, adequate fluid intake, frequency of meals, and timing of meals to activity can provide the edge in practice, games, and recovery. Many athletes are interested in losing body fat, or adding mass, but every player can benefit from a boost in energy, being optimally hydrated, and having the fuel for mental concentration and physical activity.
Every baseball player should make it a point to do the following daily:
Consume plenty of fluids
Determine fluid loss during practices and games by weighing before exercise begins and again after exercise has finished. This gives a good estimate of how much fluid is lost during physical activity, and lets you know how much fluid you need to replace! Monitor urine output. See your pee. The goal is light in color and a large volume, especially in the first void of the day. Drink enough fluid. The guidelines are as follows: Weight ( pounds) x 0.67 = number of ounces of fluid required daily
Recommended fluid intake
Drink 2 cups of fluid 2 hours before a game or practice.
Drink 6-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes during games or practices.
Drink 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during practices or games.
Best fluids for pitchers?
BEFORE: Water or sports drink.
DURING: Water, sports drink.
AFTER: Sports drink, water.
Worst fluids for pitchers?
Juices may cause stomach upset during exercise.
Carbonated beverages can cause bloating, and can cause fullness before fluid needs are met.
Caffeine-containing beverages may have a slight diuretic, or fluid-losing effect.
Alcohol can affect reaction time and is also a diuretic, causing valuable fluid loss. In addition, alcohol after exercise, before the body is optimally refueled will delay the body’s recovery from activity and may decrease performance!
Eat something within 1 hour of waking up to jumpstart your body. Good choices are: Bagel with peanut butter, bowl of cereal, eggs and toast, waffles with syrup and fruit, a vegetable omelet.
Try to eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours to give your body an energy boost. Make it a point to eat something within 15 minutes after the end of a practice or game. Good choices are: Sports drink, granola and cereal bars, trail mix of cereal, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, pretzels and orange juice, banana, bagel.
Meal-time food choices
The body uses carbohydrate as the primary fuel source for baseball, so each meal and snack should include carbohydrate-containing foods such as: rice, pasta, bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, tortillas, fruits, veggies, sports drinks, corn, potatoes.
Protein and fat-containing foods are not used as much by the body during practices or games, so they don’t have to be used in large quantities. In addition, pre-game or practice meals should be lower in fat, since high fat foods stay in the stomach longer and may cause an upset stomach. Some high-protein foods are: beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish, shellfish, milk, cheese, eggs, poultry, yogurt, nut butters, nuts, dried beans, soy, tofu.
Before games, try to limit the use of the following foods, which are higher in fat and may not sit well in the stomach.
Late-night food choices
Since many baseball games end late, and the stomach is crying out for food, here are some ideas that won’t keep you up all night, but still help you to refuel: grilled chicken sandwich, roast beef sandwich, turkey sub, ham sub, cereal, pancakes and waffles, eggs and toast, fruit smoothies, cheese pizza.
Nutrition should be part of your play book. Eat at regular intervals to keep your body energized all day long. Being well hydrated boosts performance and decreases the risk of injury. Make sure that every eating episode has a mix of foods with an emphasis on grains, fruits and vegetables. Try to wait until exercise is done to eat higher fat food. And remember, eating well translates to a quick mind and a strong, fast, lean and healthy body.
Eat well to play well. Work on it.
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
In 1977, MLB Hall of Famer Bob Lemon said, “I don’t care how long you’ve been around; you’ll never see it all.” This is one of the many beauties of the game of baseball. There is no telling what we will see this season. In preparation for the upcoming MLB games, we wanted to take this chance to share some of the best follows on Twitter for each of your teams. Following your team’s Twitter account and a few of the beat writers allows you to stay up to the minute on games and players all over the majors. Although Lemon is right and we can’t see it all, we can at least have better insight through the marvel of Twitter.
Check the blog next week for Twitter handles in the National League!
Team-by-Team Information – American League
Baltimore Orioles @Orioles
Dan Connolly @danconnollysun (Baltimore Sun Orioles/national baseball writer.)
Eduardo A. Encina @EddieInTheYard (The Baltimore Sun’s Baltimore Orioles beat writer.)
Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox @whitesox
Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales (White Sox’s beat writer for the Chicago Tribune.)
Daryl Van Schouwen @CST_soxvan (White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times.)
Cleveland Indians @Indians
Paul Hoynes @hoynsie (Cleveland Indians Beat Writer for The Plain Dealer.)
Tom Withers @twithersAP (AP Sports Writer covering Cleveland Browns, Indians, Cavaliers, whatever else might be breaking.)
Detroit Tigers @tigers
Tom Gage @Tom_Gage (Longtime baseball beat writer for the Detroit News.)
Chris Lott @Chris_Iott (Detroit Tigers beat writer for http://MLive.com.)
Houston Astros @astros
Brian McTaggart @brianmctaggart (Astros beat writer since 2004 (since 2009 for http://MLB.com.)
Brian T. Smith @ChronAstros (Houston Astros beat writer for the Houston Chronicle.)
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals @Royals
Bob Dutton @Royals_Report (Royals beat writer for The Kansas City Star.)
Joel Goldberg @goldbergkc (Royals Live host on Fox Sports Kansas City.)
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels @Angels
Mike DiGiovanna @MikeDiGiovanna (Los Angeles Angels beat writer for Los Angeles Times.)
Eric Denton LAAI @LAANGELSINSIDER (LA Angels coverage from the locker room to the press-box and everywhere in between.)
Minnesota Twins @Twins
Mike Berardino @MikeBerardino (Minnesota Twins beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)
AJ Mansour @AjKFAN (Lead Writer for KFAN.com & KFAN 100.3FM. Covering Minnesota Vikings, Twins, Wolves, Wild & Golden Gopher Athletics.)
New York Yankees
New York Yankees @Yankees
YANKEES 24/7 @yankeenews (All New York Yankees news, 24/7.)
YES Network @YESNetwork (Home of the 27-time World Series champion New York Yankees and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.)
Oakland Athletics @Athletics
Kevin Mendez @kjmendez3 (Staff Writer at SwinginAs.com and a Journalism Major at the SRJC.)
Alan @cuppingmaster (Oakland A’s/SJ Sharks fan in LA. Writer/mod at Athletics Nation. 90% baseball tweets.)
Seattle Mariners @Mariners
Ryan Divish @RyanDivish (Seattle Mariners beat writer the Tacoma News Tribune.)
710 ESPN Seattle @710ESPNSeattle (710 ESPN Seattle is the radio home of the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners & Washington State Cougars.)
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays @RaysBaseball
Marc Topkin @TBTimes_Rays (Marc Topkin has covered the Rays for the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times) and tampabay.com since, well, forever.)
Joe Smith @TBTimesRays2 (Joe Smith has covered the Tampa Bay Rays since 2008.)
Texas Rangers @Rangers
TR Sullivan @Sullivan_Ranger (Baseball writer who graduated from the University of San Francisco and covers the Texas Rangers for MLB.com.)
Joakim Soria @joakimsoria (Official Twitter of the Texas Rangers.)
Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays-Official @BlueJays
Brendan Kennedy @BKennedyStar (Toronto Star sports reporter, covering baseball and the Blue Jays.)
Oh yea… and don’t forget to follow us as well. @swingawaysports
Rolling the wrists upon making contact with the ball comes naturally to many hitters, but it is a bad habit that should be corrected. Wrist rolling can rob the swing of its power, resulting most often in grounders. Jack Mankin of batspeed.com tracked 26 major leaguers who had this flaw in their swing and calculated a batting average of .224 for this group. A follow-up three years later found only four of these players still were in the majors. The earlier you identify this flaw in your swing, the better your chances of correcting it with a few simple drills.
The Rolly-Polly Drill
The Rolly-Polly drill will not only allow you to develop proper wrist motion with your swing, it will show you the best way to hit different pitches according to location–outside, inside or right up the middle. To perform this drill, you will need a fence or an L-screen to protect the pitcher. The pitcher should get behind the screen, which should be placed about 10 feet from the batter and roll the ball right toward the center of the batter’s strike zone. You, the batter, must be on your knees–this will allow you to focus on your hands and arms, not your lower body. Use your bottom hand to point the knob of the bat toward the ball as it begins to roll, then use your top hand to direct the head of the bat to make contact with the ball once it reaches the strike zone.
If your bat hits the ground before it hits the ball, this means you’re leveling out too soon, a flaw which can lead to pop-ups. If you strike the ball but it bounces or rolls along the ground, you’ve struck the top of the ball. Adjust your top hand until you are able to hit the center of the ball and get a line drive that is raised slightly off the ground and is headed straight toward the pitcher. If you can achieve this result consistently, you’re curbing your tendency towards wrist rolling.
Top Hand/Bottom Hand Drill
The top hand/bottom hand drill will help to isolate the action each hand needs to be performing when you swing. As proper hand action leads to proper wrist action, this drill also will be effective in curing any improper wrist motion you may be making in your swing. To perform this drill, you’ll need a light bat, a ball and a tee. Hold the bat with your top hand only, in correct hitting position. Cross your other hand over your chest. Swing the bat down to the ball on the tee, taking care not to roll over your wrist. Then keep your fingers in sight while you flip your wrist just enough to bring the bat barrel down right at point of impact.
Next, take the bat and hold it just with your bottom hand in the correct hitting position. Bring the knob of the bat straight to the ball on the tee, looking right at your thumb knuckle. Complete the motion by rolling the wrist and forearm, continuing the follow-through up and over your shoulder. Note that in both instances you move the bat to the ball without rolling your wrists–wrists are only rolled at, not before, contact is made. Do this slowly and repeatedly until it becomes routine for you.
Land The Plane Drill
It might help you to remember how to use your hands (and wrists) in your swing by thinking of your bat as an airplane. The bottom hand is the one that lands (directs) the plane (bat). The top hand is the one that crashes the plane. Okay, not so good if it’s an actual airplane, but when it’s a bat hitting a ball, you want to “crash” (or crush) it with all your might. This drill will help you to do just that.
Start with your bottom hand at your shoulder with your palm open and facing down. You should be in the correct hitting stance, except for keeping your other hand on your hip. Lift your front heel, then rotate your hips to face where the pitch would be coming, moving your bottom hand from your shoulder in a straight line to the front of your body where it would be when the bat hits the ball. Keep your palm facing down as you “land the plane.” Repeat this part of the drill several times, each time starting with your hand back at your shoulder, in your batting stance position.
Next, move your top hand up to your shoulder, also in your correct batting stance, but this time keep your palm open, facing up and forward. Rotate your hips to where the pitch would be again, moving your top hand to the front of your body where you’d be hitting the ball, just like you did with your bottom hand. With the top hand, though, keep your palm facing up as you “crash the plane.” Repeat this part of the drill several times.
Finish the drill by putting both hands together, and using the bat. Start with your hands and bat at your shoulder, then move the bat to where it would be hitting the ball, making sure your hands are in the same position as they were before. Open your hands when they reach the position at which you’d contact the ball. Your top hand should be open under the bat, palm up. Your bottom hand should also be open over the bat, palm down.
As you complete your swing, your top hand continues under the bat as you make contact with the ball and on through your first extension. You roll your wrists (and the bat) as you come to the second extension, just before you complete your swing.
This drill will allow you to practice proper hand action and teach you not to swing to contact, but to snap at the point of contact. Doing so will increase your bat speed and allow you to make better contact with the ball.
Via: By Maria Scinto, eHow Contributor
Gripping The Baseball Bat
Tension is Your Enemy
Tension is your worst enemy when it comes to a fluid baseball swing. Tension throughout the body is often the direct result of gripping the baseball bat incorrectly. A player with a relaxed grip on the baseball bat will be able to react faster and wait longer on a pitch than a player with a death grip on the bat. You want to be relaxed in the batter’s box; this starts when you pick up the bat.
You’ll see various types of grips at all levels of baseball and you’ll also read or see some people who believe there is only one way to grip the bat. If this were true you’d see all major league players using the same grip. The variables with the grip are how far out on the fingers or deep in the palm a player will hold the bat, how the upper and lower hands aligns on the bat, how tight to hold the baseball bat, and whether to choke up or not.
Fingers or Palm or Somewhere in Between
With young players I will show them how to grip the bat and I start them out with middle knuckles approximately lined up and I try to get them to get the bat out of the palm and into the fingers where they will have better control. Younger players have an easier time relaxing their hands when they don’t have the bat buried in the palm of their hands. One quick way to check a player is to have him hold the bat out in front and look to see if there is a gap between the bat handle and the spot between the thumb and index finger .
As players develop they will often adjust their grip and sometimes bring the grip back closer to the pad in one or both hands. The grip needs to be comfortable and it must provide the player with the ability to have a relaxed grip. Remember, tension is the enemy.
Knuckles, Knuckles, Knuckles
In the end you want players hands to align somewhere from the middle knuckles lining up and the middle knuckles of the lower hand lining up with the top knuckles on the upper hand. Anywhere in that zone that is comfortable for the baseball player should work as long as they don’t get the bat too far in the palms of their hands.
How Firm Should You Grip the Bat?
The best answer is to grip it as firm as you’d like as long as the grip is relaxed. The grip has to allow a player to take a natural swing. One of the keys to having a quick bat is the ability for the top hand to snap the wrists forward just before contact. “Bat lag” is a term to describe the relationship of the bat head to the hands as the swing progresses towards contact. As the hands come forward into the zone the bat head which is trailing behind is whipped by the wrists forward to contact to generate a tremendous amount of bat speed. Bat lag is not to be confused with bat drag. Bat drag has a negative impact on the swing and is a common problem with young hitters. Bat drag is fairly easy to pick out as the hitter will look like he is having a difficult time getting the bat head to the ball and through the zone. It can be caused by a player using a bat that is too heavy and also by poor mechanics in general. Improper grip as shown in Image g4 can be one cause of bat drag because the grip inhibits the ability of the wrists to snap the bat forward. Gripping the bat too tight with a proper grip can also contribute to the bat drag.
Choking up is when a hitter will move his hands off the knob of the bat and place them higher on the bat where there will be handle showing between the knob and the bottom hand. Many young hitters don’t want to try choking up on the bat and I believe their cheating themselves of a technique that can benefit their hitting in a number of situations. Two strike hitting is a perfect example of when choking up can be a real benefit. By choking up on the bat, you’ve effectively made it shorter and more balanced. This will give you better bat control and make you quicker. With two strikes this can help you stay alive by fouling off tough pitches that you may have missed otherwise. Another situation where choking up can help is against a pitcher that can really throw hard. If you’re having a difficult time catching up to a fastball, choke up and stay relaxed. Often young players tense up when facing a fast pitcher and as a result make their reactions slower.
Remember relaxed muscles will react quicker than tense muscles. So if you want to have a quick bat, relax those hands which in turn will help you relax at the plate.
My son struggled at the 16 year old JV level this season. The bottom line is he just doesn’t pick up the ball consistently. The zone he has the most problem with is that first zone, leaving the pitcher’s hand to the first 10-12 feet. He fights off a lot of pitches because they get on top of him, sees it too late. He can’t ever attack it out in front of the plate. When he sees it early and likes it, he most of the time jumps at it and gets out on his front foot, either topping the ball or getting under it. I have Harvey’s Vision Training, have used it a bit, he’s into his Legion Ball now for the summer and I want to help him NOW ! That’s where you come in, Dave. It’s not as easy as saying “See it coming out of the pitcher’s hand”. What now !!????
The first action that needs to take place is that when his stride foot comes down, the hands have to go back. This will get him into a good position of power and allow him to see the ball. It sounds like he usually starts too late, and gets beat on balls, or he starts too early and all his weight comes forward. I would rather him start too early then too late, if he starts too late he will get beat on balls every time.
However, he can start as early as he wants if he gets into the position of power. Once he is in the position of power, don’t have him thinkn about seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, have him only think about seeing the ball. If a hitter thinks about seeing the ball out of the hand he might follow the hand instead of the ball. Have him start early, and only think about seeing the ball. Good luck with the season.
My 11 year old son hits much better in the more competitive AAU than in LL. In AAU, he really drives the ball. Line drive extra base hits. His mechanics are good. quick hands, uses legs, stays down on the ball. In LL, he doesn’t use his legs, swings at bad pitches, doesn’t drive the ball. I know its a mental thing. He says he is tense. I think its a holdover from last year. His first year in LL majors, he did not hit well then either. (partly because he got hit on the elbow.) He works really hard, takes extra BP. But this is primarily mental. How can I help him overcome this psychological barrier.
It’s true when people say that this game is more mental then physical. You talked about him taking extra batting practice, which is very good, however how muck time is he spending creating good mental habits. As much time as he spends in the cage he should spend visualising himself having success. Let him go over mentally all the success he has had in his AAU league. Have him go up to the plate with nothing on his mind except him knowing that he going to have success in that at bat. With this attitude he will always dominate.
The last time I went to a high school baseball game I saw 5-6 men in the stands behind home-plate. They were armed with radar guns, charts, and stop watches. You couldn’t miss them -scouts. These are the guys parents dream and players long to have show up for their games.
The scouts you see at high school games are more than likely either area scouts, part-time scouts, or associate scouts. Every Major League Organization employs 20-40 full time area scouts. Depending on the organization an area scout may have as many as 8 states to cover. The area scout sees a prospect approximately 10-15 times over a 4 year span. Their primary responsibility is to find and report on prospects. A scouting report on individual hitting prospects includes some of the following:
• Running speed
• Hitting for average
• Power potential
• Hands – Defense
• Throwing arm
• Proper hitting mechanics
• Ability to make adjustments
• Mental make-up
• How much money the player should sign for
• Ability to make consistent contact
These tools are graded not only for their present ability but also for their future potential. Most organizations grade on a major league scale. For example a present hitting ability for a high school player might be a 3. This could equate to a .230 Major League Hitter at present time. However this same scout may project this same hitter’s future potential as a 6, which could be a .300 Major League Hitter. The 3 is a below average major league hitter, a 6 is an above aver-age major league hitter. This scale goes up to 8 for the superstar. Very few are rated as such because this is so hard to project.
A five tool player is one that ranks above average in every area listed (1-5). Keep in mind that the Major Leagues are filled with players with less than 5 tools, you really only need 1 great tool to get to the major leagues, or 2-3 average tools to be a good Major League Player.
Despite the fact of that this country is loaded with scouts looking for talent, there seems to be some talent that is always missed. Look at the list below to see who was almost missed.
• Mike Piazza 61st round
• Bobby Bonilla undrafted
• Darryl Kile 30th round
• Frank White undrafted
• Don Mattingly 19th round
• Tom Candiotti undrafted
• Nolan Ryan 10th round
• Ryne Sandberg 17th round
• Jose Canseco 15th round
• Dave Parker 14th round
It’s important to take note that no matter how elaborate a scouting system is, someone may be missed for one reason or another. As Bob Didier stated in his interview with us, the one thing that no scout has ever been able to do is to cut someone open and look at the size of his heart and his determination. These are 2 of the main ingredients that it takes to succeed with just marginal talent. However there are only a few willing to pay the price.
Under the area scouts are the part time scouts as well as the associate scouts. Part time scouts are basically more eyes for the area scout. Part time scouts draw either a small salary or travel expenses. Although their pay is minimal, they can be a valuable tool for an area scout covering a large territory. The part time scout usually scouts the area where he lives. If he is impressed with a player, he will tip off the area scout with the player’s profile.
Associate scouts do not get any compensation for their work. They basically work to try to get their foot in the door of a Major League Organization, they are better known as “bird dogs.” Bird dogs submit reports to the part time scout who in turn reports to the area scout. Associates may be coaches from different schools but occasionally one might be an older, retired gentleman with years of baseball experience.
You never know who may be in the stands, so always play hard and give 100%. Scouts will be initially drawn to you by talent but it is how you play the game and how you present yourself that will catch their eye. Let me give you a for instance. It is late in the game, nobody out, runner on 2nd base. Perhaps the game is tied.
You, as a hitter have a decision to make. Should you swing for a base hit and make either the headlines or an out? Or do you try to get the runner over to 3rd with less than 2 outs? Most scouts would take notice if you drove the ball to right field to get the runner over as opposed to pulling the ball, even if you got a base hit and scored the winning run.
The first scenario shows a selfish player – the other shows a team player. I tell my hitters to make sure they get the runner over. If they hit a line drive to right field, they may not only get the runner over, they may possibly get the runner in. These are the things that show scouts that you know how to play the game.
This segment has covered the associate scout, part-time scout and the area scout. In future issues we will advance on the scouting hierarchy and cover the regional scout, national cross checkers, and the scouting director. Your goal is to have the scouting director show up at your game to watch you!
You want to train yourself to become a complete hitter. Part of being a complete hitter is being able to hit the ball to all parts of the field. This is important because when you are capable of using the whole field, the pitcher is not able to pitch you in one particular way. In other words he will have to work harder to keep you off the bases. Additionally, the defense can not shade you to one particular area in the field.
In the 1996 World Series, you might have noticed how the Atlanta Braves defense was playing Darryl Strawberry. The defense shifted to the right side of the field, except for the third baseman, Chipper Jones, who moved to the shortstop position. This left the whole left side of the infield open. The reason for this was because:
• Darryl was basically a pull hitter.
• They were trying to get him out by pitching him on the inside part of the plate.
This is what can happen to a pull hitter – they can be easily defensed. Darryl was basically a pull hitter, but he had a lot more success when he used the whole field.
HITTING THE BALL TO THE OPPOSITE FIELD
To hit the ball to the opposite field:
• Get a pitch on the outside part of the plate
• Hit the ball deeper in the contact zone
• Keep the barrel of the bat above your hands
• Stay inside the ball
Most young hitters have the ability to pull the ball. However, to be a complete hitter and on your way to being a master hitter, you must develop the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. One of the reasons that young hitters have a difficult time hitting the ball to the opposite field is that coaches are always telling them to pull the ball and to hit the ball way out in front. In order to handle the ball on the outside part of the plate, you must wait for the ball to get deeper into the zone. Contact for the outside pitch should be made even with the front foot or slightly deeper. You will find that this will help you to hit the curve ball as well.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Your stance may show the pitcher where your strengths and weaknesses are. For example
a right handed hitter that stands off the plate in a closed stance and strides towards the plate is going to handle the ball on the outside part of the plate better than the inside pitch. His weakness would be the inside part of the plate. This is opposed to a right handed hitter who has an open stance, and stays open on his stride – his strength will be the inside pitch. His weakness will be the ball on the outside part of the plate. This holds for left handed hitters as well. This is why I recommend that no matter how you stand at the plate, when your stride foot comes down, you should be at a parallel stance. Some hitters have to use the open or closed stance because of flaws in their approach. If you are one of these hitters, make sure that you are disciplined enough to swing at the pitches you can handle (your strengths) and do not swing at the ball in your weak area until you get two strikes.
AREAS OF THE ZONE
Let’s examine areas of the zone that you may be pitched. If you are being pitched inside, and you are looking inside, you will want to hit this particular pitch to the pull side of the field. f you are being pitched middle away, look to go to the opposite field.
A key point here, and many Major League hitters do this, is to look for the pitch down the middle. By doing this, it is easier for you to adjust off the ball down the middle, than it is looking on the extreme outside or the extreme inside. There will be times when you will look inside or outside. For example, if a pitcher consistently throws you on the outside part of the plate, it is to your advantage to look on the outside part of the plate and hit the ball to the opposite field. If this is the case, you need to let the pitch on the extreme inside go.
If you feel the pitcher is trying to work you outside, then look outside. Do the same with inside.
Many youth league pitchers do not have great control yet, so it is best to look middle. However, at the high school level or above, the pitchers are starting to gain better control.
A point to remember is that you can look outside and still have a chance to hit the inside pitch, but if you look inside, you will have virtually no chance to hit the outside pitch. This may sound complicated and as if it were for advanced hitters only, however, all young hitters should start to learn how to use the whole field and to look for pitches in different areas. The chart picture illustrates the areas of the strike zone. Take note of where the high averages are. Find the area that you hit best.
Once you do have your hitting fundamentally correct, to set yourself above your competition, not merely resting on your laurels and thinking that your current success will be enough, you need to concentrate on the other factors, here are three of the most important below:
What is your work ethic like? Are you the first to come and the last to leave? If you are not doing more than your coach asks, it’s not enough.
Ability to make adjustments
Don’t wait 2 weeks to make an adjustment. Adjustments should be made game to game – at bat to at bat-pitch to pitch. I used Jordan’s at bats as an example. Learn to make the adjustments necessary to get you past your present difficulties. Believe me, the difficulties will come. The sooner you make the adjustment the shorter the duration and severity of the difficulty.
Not being afraid to fail
Sorry but I have to jump to another sport to illustrate this point. Tiger Woods will possibly go down in history as the greatest golfer ever. What did he do after he had so much success including winning the Masters at his young age, something no one had ever done before? He changed his swing. His critics thought he was crazy. Having had so much success, why would he change? We frequently hear the saying, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I disagree. Just because it’s not broken, doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. Tiger obviously agrees. He wasn’t afraid to change – to make himself better. He wasn’t afraid to fail. The results speak for themselves. You will only improve when change takes place. You’ve heard me say this before, you either will get better or worse, you won’t stay the same.