Making Your Batting Practice Count
As a player, I loved batting practice. It didn’t matter if it was tee work, soft toss, pregame, whatever. If I had a bat in my hands, I was happy. From a young age, I was told I had a “sweet swing,” which I could only figure was somehow correlated to how natural it felt to stand in the box and take a solid hack. I could run that timber from sun up to sun down if you let me.
Learn To Make BP Fun & Get Better… Even Faster!
But as fun as it was to swing until I was blue in the face, my favorite was the dozen or so you get at the end of practice, when you’re beat up, worn out, and hopefully a little dirty. Generally, three rounds of six or something comparable, split into bunting, hit-and-run, opposite field, & swinging away.
Most of the guys I played ball with hated this kind of BP. They wanted to get in there, hang on tight, and take a big cut (chicks dig the long ball, after all). Hitting one or two over the fence just to duff the rest wasn’t my idea of fun.
However, I sure did love setting a bunt down, right on the chalk, followed by slapping a stand-up double opposite-field with my signature left-handed draw. Throw a dinger or a shot off the right field wall on top of that, and I’d call it a solid round of batting practice.
So what’s the big deal with a few sloppy swings at the end of the day? As it turns out, quite a bit. It wasn’t until years later that I fully understood the concept of focused repetition. It didn’t take long to look back at seasons past and see the positive consequences of good habit and focus. And all under the guise of having fun and playing a game.
And great news: it doesn’t hurt the ‘W’ column, either. Nine guys who can take the ball the other way or put a bunt down on command? Yes, please. Those are the guys who can find a spot in every lineup.
Poor Aristotle… Never Could Hit A Curve Ball!
Time and again, I find that all the old axioms hold mostly true: if you practice like you play, practice really will lead to perfection. Aristotle is attributed with saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” But, repetition is not enough. Those reps have to be done properly, with intention and purpose. Almost two-thousand years after Aristotle made that keen observation, neuroscience is providing the physiological data to show that as we perform a motor task over and over, our neurons continuously try to find shorter and faster paths to complete that task, translating to performing a task, in this case, a baseball swing, quicker, more efficiently, and with less conscious attention, freeing up space for your brain to pick up the seams of that dirty slider headed for the back corner of the plate.
Like anything else in our toolbox, we have to train our focus before we will see the positive results. If you don’t take thousands of routine ground balls, how are you going to make a play in the hole to hold off the big inning when it really counts?
Sometimes You Simply Need To Focus On Focusing
Learning to focus can be as simple as sitting quietly for a few minutes a day, listening to your breath or visualizing your next AB. Some people go for a long walk. Some do yoga. Some listen to music. The options are endless. Find your focus and exercise it.
On the field, it means staying present and doing everything with intention. Simply redirecting your train of thought when it strays and keeping the haphazard reps out of your practice will yield enormous dividends.
- Focused Swings Lead To Quality At Bats!
- Quality At Bats Lead To Baseball Excellence!
Sure, I know that tee drills can be boring. Do it anyway! And do it right! All the great ones do!
Get good or get gone!