Following are key baseball drills youth should do as often as possible to reach their full potential.
One thing I tell my hitting students is that I guarantee them that every time I swing; my chin and back shoulder will meet at ball contact. This took years of practice on my path to the major leagues but, as I tell them, I never wanted my reason for inconsistent contact to be because I took my eyes off the ball. The point is that there is no better habit for batters than keeping their eye on the ball all the way to contact and that is best accomplished by keeping the head in and down as the ball approaches the hitting zone.
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Of course, every time hitters swing and miss, everyone thinks they took their eye off it. That is not always the case and simply telling batters to, “Keep your eye on the ball” rarely solves the problem. However, just as every part of the swing, players must condition their head and eyes when hitting to have consistent good contact. As a bonus, simply controlling the head and eyes throughout the swing helps all hitting fundamentals. It is important to note that keeping the eye on the ball and pulling the head out when swinging is the same thing, usually.
Baseball Drills Youth and Coaches Need to Know
1. Number flash for batting tee, dropped balls, and short flip work – coach flashes a number down at their side, in line with the contact area and has players look at and call the number before looking for the batted balls.
2. Behind the hitter flips – the coach, kneeling down a safe distance behind the hitter, where the catcher usually sits, flips balls forward into the hitting zone. Batters begin with their eyes toward the pitcher but look back after their stride and before the coach flip of the ball. With the ball coming from behind, hitters have no reason to pull their head away.
3. Colored dots or written numbers on batting practice balls – hitters call out the colors or numbers they saw after hitting the ball.
4. Hitting on a balance beam or similar balancing object – body balance begins with head control, so hitting on a balancing object helps keep the head and eyes steady.
*Taking regular batting practice is not a good idea on a balance beam, though, as batters’ ability to get out of the way is compromised.
5. Object to the opposite side of home plate in line with hitter’s eyes at contact – during batting practice hitters are required to look at an object, such as a glove, before following the batted ball.
6. Tracking the ball drill – coaches set a few objects along the path from batting practice pitcher to home plate and hitters watch the ball pass over each object. Many hitters only watch the ball two-thirds of the way, first part or last part, so this helps them concentrate on the entire path to home.
7. Breaking ball drill – during batting practice, hitters do not swing at any off speed pitches. This drill tells the coach and hitter that they are noticing off speed pitches, which means they are not fooled and are seeing the ball well.
8. Ball or strike calls – batters watch pitches during batting practice or while standing in (with helmet on) during pitcher’s practice without swinging and call out ball or strike as soon as that is determined.
Finally, many hitters pull their head off the ball because of incorrect hip turns or long swings, so correct swing mechanics must be practiced and improved upon.