Build a house or build a swing…it all starts with a good foundation.
You will play as good as you practice!
Writing a single article on something so complex that it causes sleepless nights for the best trained and paid talents in the world is daunting…at least to this coach.
Styles vs. Absolutes
First – I cannot and will not debate hitting styles, though I certainly have my opinion. The reality is that half of the Hall of Fame has an unconventional swing. I will leave this area to you in hopes that you will stay on the straight and narrow and will continue gaining the knowledge it takes to help ALL your players season after season.
Here’s a hint
Anything resembling the teachings of Ted Williams or The Mike Schmidt Hitting Study will keep you on the right road.
For every bad swing a hitter practices…it may take three swings to correct!
Here’s where I’ve chosen to start…by making one assumption.
(Be brutally honest with yourself before incorporating the steps below!)
I will assume that your player(s) have a basic working knowledge of good swing mechanics. Players who practice incorrectly not only waste time, but tend to go backwards to the point that it can affect their future success and love of the game. The baseball road is littered with talented players who have been eliminated from the game prematurely when poor youth baseball swing mechanics become overmatched by superior pitching and the improvement of their own teammates.
Let’s Get to the Point…And to the Progression
The following are six (6) areas that can simplify this building block process…
many which can be incorporated into a basement, garage or your own backyard.
Mirror Station – Simply put…if a player visually sees what he’s doing incorrectly, he will make the adjustments necessary to improve.
I recommend swinging in front of a full-length mirror beginning at 50% power, then 75%, progressing to game speed and maybe even a few swings beyond 100% power.
Be logical about the number of swings depending on the player’s age and strength…taking breaks in between. Focus on fewer great swings…less is more!
(yes… take extra precautions when working indoors)
Tee Station – Simply put, you never grow out of hitting off the tee. It is the one station where players can focus on every aspect of the swing…without having to track a moving object. This is critical! Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn said something like, “I do nothing but tee work until January.” I wish I could remember the exact quote, but you get the point.
Check out our Mickey’s Snap Back Tee and our excellent Solo Hitter (endorsed by Gwynn) as well as our assortment of portable catch nets if you already have a batting tee.
Toss Station – Also known as soft toss or flip drills, this is a basic drill generally done with two players. Balls are hit into a net after being tossed underhand in a short arc and at a 45° angle on the open side of the hitter from a distance of around 6 feet. These consistent tosses (aimed at the hitter’s front thigh or hip for straight-away hitting and adjusted for hitting to various areas of the field) incorporate the lessons learned from tee work, adding the skill it takes to hit a moving ball.
This important station allows players to get tons of swings in a short period of time and in a small area. To make this a solo player station, please check out our Wheeler Dealer Automated Soft Toss Machine. This is the absolute best toss machine I have used and is one of my personal favorites for travel or backyard. I still have mine…going on seven years…and it just keeps chugging along.
Hitters get tired quickly when the tosser doesn’t allow time between swings. Be patient!
Front Toss & Short Toss – This is another important building block in the progression. A coach or player will sit on a bucketbehind a screen and toss pitches from directly in front of the player; usually in a cage or on a baseball field. This can be done from a distance of 15 to 20 feet and then from a 35 foot distance. Pitches should be thrown consistently and to particular zones, allowing the player to duplicate each swing as precisely as possible.
Make sure your screen is in place and not in need of repair! Players and coaches should all be cautioned and taught to focus on staying completely behind the protective screen during every pitch.
When utilizing short toss drills from shorter distances of 15 to 20 feet, balls should be tossed underhand so that the pitch will come in to the hitter at an angle more resembling that of a live pitch. This eliminates the “loopy” throws which encourage the poor mechanics of an uppercut swing. Need a good screen or batting cage?..click here
Dead BP – (Batting Practice) – Dead batting practice is simply the batting practice you see on every field and at every level. You will see great examples of this when you go to a college or pro game two hours before the first pitch. It is thrown from 55 feet (not the official pitcher-to-hitter distance of 60′ 6″), generally from a platform or portable mound. Pitches are thrown straight at around 55 to 65 mph…into particular hitting zones. These consistent pitches are designed for the hitter to repeat his swings over and over with consistency; hitting balls hard and to particular areas of the field.
A ball field and a batting cage with or without a pitching machine is all that is needed.
Live BP – (Batting Practice) – Take dead BP and add the battle of pitcher (coaches or pitchers doing the throwing) versus hitter, preferably in game conditions. In a team practice, I find maximum benefit when all defenders are also playing this as a real game.
The backyard version of live BP incorporates a batting cage andpitching machine with an auto feeder for single player practices or a batting cage with a live pitcher behind a protective L-Screen.