Teaching opportunities to take advantage of
Sometimes it is best just to let players try and work things out for themselves in batting practice. But most often, many batting practice coaching tips are necessary for developing players. As a batting coach, I feel it is my job to instruct, so remaining quiet for long is not my idea of coaching. Of course, it takes a trained eye to notice some of the finer hitting fundamentals. But, that should not excuse coaches of missing these teaching opportunities during batting practice.
Following are typical statements and baseball coaching tips I use during batting practice. Some of these coaching points are instructions often missed by hitting coaches.
Missed teaching point # 1 – Bunt bat angle
““Notice your bat angle. That is how it will look when hitting the ball to left (right) field.” Having players bunt the first few balls is a good way to let players get a feel for the pitching speed along with practicing their bunting. But an often missed coaching point is pointing out the batter’s bat angle to bunt down the baselines. This bat angle is the same as when making contact to hit balls to right and left fields. Bunting practice is a good way to help players learn bat angles at contact for various pitch locations when swinging.
Missed teaching point # 2 – Batting stance change
“Check your setup,” or “Check your distance from home.” Stance consistency is mandatory for perfect practice. Players’ position in the batter’s box usually changes after every swing, but most hitters do not reset. In no time, they are standing in the wrong position. Coaches are responsible for teaching hitters to check their alignment after every swing. That coaching process is a tedious but necessary thing with young baseball players.
Missed teaching point # 3 – Allowing players to hit balls to the same field
“Location of the pitch determines where balls go, not the speed.” Most coaches praise hard hit balls no matter what in batting practice. That is fine because praise builds confidence. But, experienced coaches realize that things players get away with in practice are not things that work for games. Good coaches point out the direction balls should go. Hitting balls in one direction only, no matter how hard hit, is not a good sign and suggests every pitch is in the same spot, which is rare. Once coaches see balls going in the same field, they should challenge batters to hit some in the other direction.
Missed teaching point # 4 – Failing to work on situation hitting
“Runner on third, one out.”
Situation hitting gives players game experience and helps to increase focus. Forgetting to have hitters work on hit and runs, get them overs, and sacrifice fly hitting is a common flaw with inexperienced coaches. Players often work out their problems simply by having situation hitting. When batters are hitting only fly balls, the hit and run swing helps them change their fly ball swing. Also, when hitting only ground balls, trying to hit sacrifice flies can help improve lifting balls. As mentioned, players often learn to make adjustments when under some pressure to do so.
Missed teaching Opportunities # 5 – Throwing the same speed pitches, pitch after pitch
“No such thing as too fast or too slow.”
When a coach’s goal is to build player confidence, throwing the same speed every pitch is the way to go. When a coach’s goal is to develop a hitter and help them long term, they should change speeds during batting practice. From a young age, it is necessary that players understand timing and the ability to stay back and wait. Those things only come from facing pitches that have speed variations. One of my favorite things is lobbing balls with the challenge of hitting line drives in the air at the pitching screen. Once players can hit balls up the middle and on the line on slow pitches, they are well on their way to having success. Hitting flaws often show up more with slow pitching than fast. Slow pitching also gives players time to feel their bat position while waiting for the ball.
Making the most of these teaching opportunities during batting practice will develop better and smarter baseball hitters.