Challenge Baseball Hitters Correctly in Batting Practice
Whenever I tell baseball coaches that they need to challenge baseball hitters more than they are, they immediately think that they have to throw harder to batters. That is true in some cases, but multiple ways exist to challenge hitters that are just as, or more important, than just throwing harder.
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Hitting a ball is all about timing, with the correct baseball swing mechanics having a big role in that timing of the baseball pitch. The good news is that it is generally easy to tell when batters are early or late on balls, which is the first ingredient to consider when preparing to challenge them correctly. Also good news is that challenging hitters correctly helps both the timing for batters as well as for developing a better fundamental swing. Although it is difficult to make drastic muscle memory, swing changes with only live batting practice, as batting tee and flip drills are often necessary for big swing changes, challenging batting practice techniques help develop better swing mechanics, too.
The coach’s first objective is determining when timing issues exist for baseball hitters, so they challenge them correctly. Every pitcher throws different speeds and it is often those different speeds that throw hitters off and not just the real fast pitchers. Following are some of the many ways that coaches can and should challenge players so improved hitting results, with the understanding that no speed is too fast or too slow, within reason, for that age group. When in doubt, mixing up various batting practice challenge methods is good.
Various Ways to Challenge Baseball Hitters during Batting Practice
Batting practice pitchers should:
- Constantly change speeds of pitches – helps timing of all pitchers
- Move closer to batters for faster speeds for late swinging batters and further away for players who can’t wait for balls
- Have players attempt to hit all balls to a designated field – opposite field for example
- Have players attempt to hit all ground balls or fly balls, when not getting one or the other
- Have players yell out the speeds of pitches as they come to them – i.e. fast, medium, slow – or fastball, curve ball, change up – or have them not swing anytime they see and off speed pitch.
- Use counts on batters and have them hit appropriately by learning to look for specific pitches in those counts
- Have batters try score runs in the least amount of at bats by having them get a hit, move them over, and drive them home
- Have batters see how many pitches they can go without swinging at a bad pitch, but swinging at the strikes
- Have players take pitches but yell out ball or strike or as soon as they recognize the pitch location
- Have a scoring system where players get points depending on how well they hit balls. For example, every hard hit ball is worth so many points, with line drives and long shots worth the most.
Hitting contest possibilities are endless, as with the last point above and are fun ways to challenge baseball hitters. Finally, when not having to work on any specific hitting problem, having players hit balls in the direction of the pitched ball is always important for effective batting practice.