Importance of a Step by Step Hitting Guide
Teaching hitting is a long process of ups and downs, but with persistent and consistent coaching, players will improve. The following baseball hitting tips give your young ballplayer a step by step hitting guide, so they have a great chance at a successful hitting season. When I say successful, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will lead the team in hitting. It means the player will show enough improvement to want to keep playing the season long and the following year. That is a success to me, especially with the most demanding sport of all – baseball. Failing to perform any of the steps can lead to dysfunctional hitting, at least when the pitching gets more challenging. Many young players get by on athletic talent but that is not enough at the advanced levels of baseball.
The best avenue to hitting achievement may be to have players work with a well-respected coach for some hitting instruction, but that can get expensive and not necessary when people know what they are doing. Knowledge of a few baseball drills can get one’s baseball training off to a great start, one that builds confidence in young hitters, a key to it all. Many of the following tips may seem obvious to the advanced hitter, but they should not take these things for granted, either. Failing any little hitting fundamental or incorrect practice habits may lead to missing the ball or a batting slump. One of my favorite sayings no matter who I am teaching is, “The fundamentals don’t change for the little leaguer or the big leaguer.”
Knowledge of the mechanics and the baseball hitting drills that I outline below sets the stage for success for every player who is willing to practice. I warn players that days one and two may seem a little slow, as I tend to talk, explain and demonstrate a lot. From then on, the players do the work, and the coaches sit back, analyze and correct.
Step by step hitting Guide – Day 1
The first stage of teaching players how to hit a baseball deals with the four essential concepts that I want players to understand. I try to keep this instruction as simple as possible, but I do not want players to leave that day without learning the hitting basics. Even before I help players get into a workable batting stance, I want them to know these four essentials.
- The knob of the bat must begin the swing from a down position, preferably with it aimed at the catcher’s feet. In that position, the bat barrel should line up over the batters rear shoulder and angled right through their ear. With young players, it is best to start them in this position, rather than having them load to this spot, as more experienced hitters often do.
- Aiming to the inside back of the ball helps players lead with the knob and the back knee. This coordinated action of the upper and lower body is the beginning of the mandatory hip rotation that provides the ability to square the hips and hands at contact.
- A complete hip rotation is best, which comes from finishing the swing to the middle of the back with the ability to see the bat come around to that point. This move ensures the head staying on the ball and over the rear leg.
- Performing all of the above as hard as one can swing, but with total balance, is the fourth thing I want players to know.
Teaching the four concepts above require a lot of questions to players, ones that have to be asked continually for many until they, at the least, can answer them correctly, which doesn’t mean they can automatically do them. I am always asking, “Where should the bat barrel be when beginning the swing?” “Which part of the ball do you want to hit?” “Where should the bat barrel be upon finishing the swing?” “Where’s your balance?”
Step by step hitting Guide – Day 2
The next phase of teaching hitting goes back to some of the tedious things that take time for kids to figure out. Once again, the experienced hitter does these naturally by now, but the young hitters must stay on top of them after every swing. These areas of concentration begin with:
- The grip of the bat in the upper palms, so the fingers have control, especially with the top hand on the bat.
- Establishing the correct distance from home plate which means the fat part of the bat will be over home plate when the hips open.
- An even stance that is a little wider than shoulder width, with the feet the same distance from home plate and parallel to the pitcher, is the ideal.
- A slight leaning of the head towards home plate which puts their weight on the balls of the feet.
All of the above should help players swing their hardest under balance by controlling the vital body parts – the hands, hips, and head.
Use of the batting tee is mandatory to get the amount of repetitions needed to groove the correct swing. Most of all, the batting tee give players the time to focus on the hitting mechanics without worrying about trying to hit a pitched ball. One fact I pass on to young players is this, “In all of my twenty-eight years of coaching hitting, I’ve never run into a hitter who couldn’t hit consistent line drives on a batting tee but could do so in games.” Setting up the batting tee and the batter correctly to get the critical swing feedback is crucial. One can read about correct batting tee use here. Consistent backspin line drives are the result coaches, and players are looking off the batting tee. Once players can hit more good shots than bad ones, they can move on to the next step.
Step by step hitting Guide – Day 4
Short flipped ball baseball training is the next key. This hitting practice is best from straight on, but when that is not doable with a protective screen unavailable, side flips suffice. With flipped balls, coaches should watch for the following:
- Staying back – coaches want to make sure batters do not lunge or step and swing at the same time. They can do that by faking the flip from time to time to see how the batter
- Bat position – in the same manner mentioned above, faking the flip will show if batters are keeping the bat in the correct position to begin the swing or are losing that critical bat positioning.
- The direction of batted ball. It is important that players hit balls in the direction of where the ball was flipped. This result reinforces the idea of hitting the inside of the ball with the correct hip rotation. Additionally, this is the first step of developing good timing. Failing to hit balls where pitched with flipped balls is the sign of a wrong bat path and/or hip turn.
Step by step hitting Guide – Day 5
Finally, players are ready to take live batting practice. Although coaches want to challenge batters, it is best to begin with slow pitching. Nothing is more important to good hitting fundamentals than waiting on the ball, and the slow pitches will make them wait. After players have shown they can wait, the ball speed should gradually increase until close to game speeds. As with flipped balls, coaches should insist players try to hit balls in the direction of the pitched balls – outside pitches to the opposite field, center cut ones to center field and inside strikes to their pull side. Players must learn that location determines where a ball should go, not speed, at least in batting practice. The concept of “strikes” is important as swinging at only them in batting practice is crucial to develop plate discipline in games.
Batters are now ready for the challenge of game type speeds, off-speed pitches, and situational hitting. A few of my favorite baseball drills for hitting are:
- Putting players in game situations in practice and seeing how they do. This method prepares them for games and the more times they have been in the tight spots the more relaxed and confident they will feel in games. Giving players a game situation and counts add a little pressure in practice that pays off in games.
- The next batting practice procedure I like is the every other ball speed technique. The first pitch I lob to players and have them try to hit the ball through the middle, and the next pitch comes at a game like speed with the intention of batters making good contact when it is a strike.
- Next, I like to help hitters learn to hit curveballs by not having them hit them? Yes, the first drill I employ is having them not swing every time I throw a curve. In this manner, players learn to recognize the pitch, which is the key to hitting it.
- Another effective batting practice routine has the pitcher throwing a three-speed A slow pitch, then a faster one and followed by a very fast one. This technique is an excellent way to help players learn to time the ball and hit all rates of speed.
Step by step hitting Guide – Day 7
As the good book says, day seven is for resting. Players need time to clear the mind and rest the body, so they are ready to begin the hitting process all over again.
As the season progresses, players and coaches tend to get away from the early steps above. That failure often leads to batting slumps and bad hitting mechanics.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.