Importance of Rhythm and Load Hitting Drills
Arriving at hitting position too early or too late, gives players bad timing and inconsistent hitting. Because of the importance of that timing, developing a fluid, backward movement along with a balanced, well-timed stride takes continual practice.
The best hitters have a sense of rhythm with an easy flow of getting back and ready to swing. Preparing the bat to swing must become natural and instinctive so hitters do not have to think about it. Any thought that takes the mind off the ball is counter-productive when hitting. All hitters need to find their own way of preparing to swing because things in motion are quicker than swinging from a dead stop, but not one-way of preparation suits all hitters.
Preparing to swing and having rhythm comes naturally for some hitters but takes a long time to develop for others. Helping hitters develop rhythm and preparation is often a difficult task for hitting coaches because many players lack a sense of rhythm or lose good hitting position when they prepare to swing.
The keys to having great rhythm are threefold – when to start the movement of the weight to the backside, making sure the bat gets to ideal hitting position on time and when the stride foot should land.
One -When the pitcher begins their movement towards home, batters begin a slight inward turn of the front shoulder and shift of weight to the backside.
Two – the hands and bat should arrive at correct hitting position right before the stride foot lands and three, the stride foot should be down a fraction of a second before a fastball reaches the hitting zone. Ideally, there is a continual flow back before swinging or checking the swing, and then forward with no stopping of the hitters momentum.
Best Rhythm and Load Hitting Drills
Following are different rhythm and load drills that I use to help hitters develop a smooth, rhythmic flow to prepare the bat to swing.
This first drill begins with the batter in bunting position, but with the hands together as in a normal grip. As the pitcher begins their movement towards home plate the batter smoothly takes their bat and weight back to the rear leg and into hitting position.
The second drill has the hitter simply resting the bat on their shoulder until time to get the bat back and ready.
A more extreme way of preparing the bat but just as effective is seen here where hitters begin by holding the bat completely out of good bat hitting position before loading the bat to the correct position. This method is usually only employed by advanced hitters as it is difficult for inexperienced hitters to load the bat to correct hitting position from the incorrect position.
The last two drills have hitters begin with the bat in the correct bat position, with the load of the swing coming from the lower body movements. The first drill has the hitter hop forward and then back before striding and swinging. This is an exaggerated method for batting practice but can be employed in games with an easy rocking of the hitter’s weight back and forth before taking the stride.
With the knee tuck drill hitters shift their weight back by lifting the stride foot knee back towards the catcher and putting the foot down in a bout the same spot they began. This method is great for hitters who have a tendency to lunge at the ball or over stride but the timing of this method can be difficult if the knee lift is too high.
It is important that hitters keep a relaxed grip on the bat so little tension exists in the upper body – less tension leads to better flow and rhythm. . As mentioned, coaches should keep in mind that hitters have to find the rhythm and load method that they are most comfortable with – Using the wrong method will upset hitters timing.