Developing a Hitter at Ages 3 and 4
Parents can begin developing a hitter at a young age. The earlier a player gets the thrill of hitting the ball helps develop a love of the game. It is a memorable moment for parents and child when they first wallop that ball. The sound of the crack of the bat, the ping of the metal or the thud of the whiffle ball bat are exhilarating moments for a young hitter. Whatever the sound, hitting a ball and running the bases begins the fun that baseball for the little guy/girl should be. It is never too early to start smacking a baseball, and even 2, 3, or 4-year-olds are not too young when they show some baseball interest.
First, before allowing the little ones to swing, safety is a priority. Keeping everyone and surroundings out of danger is crucial. A whiffle ball and whiffle ball bat are the best tools for the beginner and safety. The big barrel whiffle bat is ideal for producing contact, as long as the weight of the big barrel does not overwhelm the little one. Tennis or other soft balls are sufficient when more room is available. Whenever using a hard baseball bat, the first teaching point is to make sure the youngster doesn’t throw the bat with the swing or when going to run the bases after hitting the ball.
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With the safety side taken care of, the following are ways to begin the making of a hitter at a young age.
Developing a Hitter Best Practice Tips
- A batting tee to place the ball on is a good start, as long as the placement of the tee is correct. The tee should be out front of hitter in the direction of the pitcher. As with experienced players, it’s never a bad idea to set a home plate down first, teaching the player how to line up with it, and then setting the batting tee in position.
- Pitching a ball to the hitter is the next step, also when done correctly.
- Having more than one ball is a good idea, especially when there is not a catcher. Also, batters should be up close to a backstop, so the player doesn’t get bored and tired of chasing and picking up the missed balls. Boredom and frustration are the biggest enemies to avoid when teaching the beginner baseball.
- Underhand from close range is best. That short distance puts the pitcher in danger when a hard ball is the object hit, so the softer ball safety is for both the hitter and pitcher. It is important to note that nothing develops bad habits quicker than pitching balls from an adult height position and putting a big arc on the ball. When throwing overhand, the parent should be on one or two knees. An arc of the ball creates a big uppercut swing that will be a detriment when players begin to face real pitchers in the future.
Developing a Hitter and Love of the Game Advice
- Unlike with older players, the pitcher should try to hit the players bat by watching the arc of their swing. Beginners need confidence and not frustration, so that is the best plan initially.
- Adults should show enormous excitement whenever contact comes.
- Setting up a short distance base for them to run to after hitting the ball adds fun to the exercise. I play a game with young ones where they have to run to the base and back before I can retrieve the ball and tag them out. I never ran into a player yet who did not like to play that little game.
- When players hit the ball consistently, adults should stop trying to hit their bat to challenge them more. Adding speed is good at that point, too, and there is nothing wrong with the occasional slow ball to work on timing.
- Providing basic instruction like feet alignment and distance from home is OK. It never hurts to remind hitters to watch the ball the whole way to contact, too. Any other instruction is unnecessary or productive for the youngest of players. Allowing them to figure things out and just have fun is the best plan.
- When parents notice frustration setting with the youngster, they may want to move back to the batting tee for a while.
- Flips from the side of the hitter is another good way to give players some confidence, and it forces them to watch the ball to contact.
- A few basic hitting drills to begin the process of teaching the correct hitting fundamentals are OK once players gain some consistency and show a desire to get better.
- It’s important to teach the young players the importance of the batting tee, even when they grow out of the tee-ball.
- Adults should have positive, optimistic demeanor in actions and words, with the most significant coaching trait being patience with young ballplayers.
- It’s crucial that adults only play as long as the beginner players are interested. Forcing them to keep playing when they no longer want to may be the beginning of the end of their love of the game. Yes, many a ballplayer became disenchanted with overzealous parents.
Developing a hitter takes years of practice and dedication. Hitting comes easier when players have a love of hearing that crack of the bat from an early age.
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.