In this third baseball hitting class, I discuss the setup position I try to get players into before taking a stride. If you missed the first two classes, check them out so you know ways of creating the incentive for practice and for how to use the batting tee for the most benefit. Jack’s Book – The Making of a Hitter is now $5 – buy it on this website.
Of course, each player has their own style and comfort position, but with youth players, coaches must be very careful. It is an awful lot to ask of inexperienced hitters to begin out of the best swing position and expect them to load to the exact right spot. I say exact right position for a reason, as it is crucial for the actions that follow. . Believe it or not, the so-called cookie cutter approach is best with most young hitters. Starting the bat from the wrong position at stride landing leads to most other hitting flaws that will be difficult to change in the future.
Some hitting experts do not think each player has to swing from the same position at stride landing, but every inch the bat has to travel further to the ball, can make a big difference with timing and squaring the ball up, especially with youth players. Some major league hitters may be able to overcome extra distance to the ball, but most youth cannot. The more batters are out of the ideal hitting position, the more holes they will have in their swing, which means a low batting average and even lower confidence levels. The simpler the batter’s setup, the better. At a more advanced stage of player’s careers, they can experiment with loading the bat from a different beginning position. Additionally, over time, the correct setup develops the strength needed in the hands and forearm muscles.
The first thing coaches should emphasize is the placement of the bat in the upper palm of the hands, where the bat is controlled by the fingers and the grip is not a death grip. Something as minor as the incorrect bat grip can lead to swing flaws.
Baseball Hitting Class for Youth Coaches
Next I want hitters to understand the ideal balance position to swing from. To do that, I have them jump real high, as their landing position is usually the perfect balance distance. I have them measure the distance between their feet with their bat upon landing. That is the position of greatest balance and the position they should swing the bat from after their stride. Once that is set, players back their front foot up to their comfort level. Setting a block down at their ideal balance distance is a good idea at first. Once batters get set in this comfortable position, I have them bounce a little up and down and back and forth to feel their weight and to stay loose. Coaches can test their balance with a little push in each direction.
An even stance where both feet are in line with the pitcher and parallel to home plate is best. Players should be able to touch an inch or two beyond the outside corner of home plate. The even stance gives players the best opportunity to square their hips on the swing.
As for the upper half, I have players set the bat an inch or two back of their shoulder and at shoulder height, within a hands distance away from their body. The angle of the bat should be with the knob of the bat pointed at the catchers’ feet, as this is the best position to swing the bat from with little exception. The barrel of the bat should angle through the batters ear with the bat angled slightly towards their head. The back elbow can be slightly higher or even with the front elbow, but not below, but not angled above the back shoulder.
Baseball Hitting Class – Upper Body Setup
A good way to ensure this position and for players to get it right is for them to begin with the hips open as seen here before rolling the bat back. In this way, they can see and get a feel for the correct spot to swing the bat from. This method also helps players learn to close off the front shoulder to get the upper body closed to the pitcher. Another option is to have batters hold the bat with one arm or the other, before grabbing it with both hands. Most players will place the bat at the ideal bat angle because the bat will feel light in the correct hitting position. One other drill that may work is this pinch the shirt drill where players hold their shirt as far back near their shoulder as possible.
In a later hitting class, I will discuss the usual negative effects of beginning the bat from a less than ideal hitting position.
In my next video, I give ways for loading the bat and keeping players in correct hitting position as they stride to the ball.
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 at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos