Learning to Hit with the Count
Young hitters should expect every pitch to be a good one and swing at pitches they deem good, without being too selective. A time comes though, when players must learn to hit according to the count. Following is a creative way to help players and teams learn to hit with the count, “zone in,” and develop a plan for batting success.
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First, coaches cut up a few cardboard home plates. Along with a regulation 17 inch plate, coaches make a 20, 14, 11 and 9 inch wide plate.
Coaches mark the plates with all possible counts, with the smaller ones for when hitters are ahead in the count and the widest one for any two strike count.
The first use of these extra plates is with setting each home plate in line out front of the regulation plate. After each pitch, coaches give players a hitting count and players simply look down for the plate with that count to know what they should look for on the next pitch. For example, with a 0 & 0, or 1 & 0 count, players zone in on the 11 inch plate. When they fall behind a strike, batters think of hitting the next pitch if it is over the 13 inch plate. As players get ahead in the count to 2 and 0 or 3 and 1, batters narrow their hitting down to pitches over the 9 inch plate. Of course, with two strikes, players must protect over the 20 inch wide plate, so they are not called out on a close but hittable pitch.
Drills to Hit with the Count
Next, players take batting practice by setting the appropriate size plate over home after each pitch, based on the count. I like to have the plate set out front of batters for this batting practice, so players have a better feel of where the ball is passing into the contact zone. At some point, coaches can turn the plates over so players cannot see the counts written on the plates and have batters set the correct size plate down after each pitch.
Most batters are best with pitches in the middle of home plate, but as players learn their personal strengths and weaknesses, they can place the portable plates over the portion of home they hit best so they learn to lay off their tough to hit pitches. For example, players, who struggle with outside pitches can set all the plates over the inner section of home until the all-inclusive two strike count. When players want to practice one specific count, they simply set that particular plate down and swing only when balls go over that size plate. Of course, with all drills, coaches help players decide if they swing at the right pitches for the zone they were looking.
Before long players have a hitting plan, learn to zone in on the baseball and understand how to hit with the count.