T Ball is for players of all ages
One of my most used statements to hitting students is, “If you cannot hit consistent line drives when the ball is sitting on a tee, how do you expect to hit a pitched ball consistently well.” There is a misconception that a batting tee is only for little kids. Of course, young kids play T ball games, but batting tee use is necessary for hitters of all ages. Allow me to repeat, t ball is not only for young aged players but for pony league, high school, college and professional baseball players, too. Ask any pro player of former professional for proof of this.
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T ball Hitting Drills for Kids
Of course, youth baseball coaches have the responsibility of impressing upon their players the importance of using a batting tee to improve their swings. A baseball-batting tee is the best hitting aid there is because it allows hitters to see the actual flight and spin of the balls when hit, when most other hitting aids do not allow this. Of course, the reasons kids do not want to use it are twofold. One, most players do not know how to use it correctly for correct swing analysis and two, they do not know a variety of hitting drills to avoid the boredom of hitting the ball off a tee. With that in mind, following are ways to use a batting tee correctly and drills that helps avoid boredom of t ball use.
Methods of using t ball correctly for correct analysis of swing
1. Set batting tee as far from backstop target as possible. Often, it is set very close to the screen or net so they do not have to go far to pick up balls, but this can inhibit a good analysis of the ball flight and swing correctness.
2. Stand the same distance from the tee base as they stand from a regular home plate, as in a game, to make the t ball use realistic.
3. Set the tee correctly in relationship to the hitter and home plate, depending on which pitch location the hitter is working on – out front of hitter towards the pitcher is always necessary, with just a few inches in front on outside pitches and progressively further out as the ball is moved to the inner half of home.
4. Hit knee-high pitches, set in the middle of the plate, through the middle and on a line – this gives a great analysis of the swing, making sure the hitter’s hands and hips square up at contact. When hips and hands square correctly, up the middle hit balls are the result.
5. Hit chest high pitches on the tee, without popping up, to promote a compact swing without upper cutting.
6. Hit line drives or long flies that have backspin – this is the goal on all pitch locations. Greater swing analysis is done when working on knee high and chest high pitches than tee locations set at waist or thigh high.
7. Move tee locations (inside, outside, high, low) to practice pitches of different locations, with more emphasis on low pitches for hitters who hit a lot of ground balls and high pitches for hitters who hit a lot of pop ups.
Once hitters have worked on the basics of the baseball swing with the previous methods, they can move to the following drills to refine the swing and avoid any boredom.
Advanced T Ball Hitting Drills Hitters should:
1. Place the tee behind them and waist-high – this will correct an upper-cutting or long swing. This drill works for live batting practice, flipped or dropped balls hitting. This drill does not guarantee the correct swing but, often, hitters have to exaggerate an action to create a new opposite habit – in this case to prevent a huge upper cut swing.
2. Place the tee just off the outside corner – hitters swing and miss the tee to avoid casting the bat. This promotes the correct “inside the ball” swing.
3. Set the tee an exaggerated distance in front of home and have hitter swing and hit the ball into fair territory without lunging to help hitters work on swing extension.
T Ball Hitting Drills with Two Batting Tees:Hitters should:
1. Set one on the inside corner (out front) and one on the outside corner (back towards hitter) and alternate hitting a ball on each tee. This helps hitters learn to understand where contact is on different pitch locations and how to hit the ball to all fields.
2. Set balls on both tees that are about a foot apart and both in line with the pitcher – hitting both balls in fair territory is the goal. This drill is great for developing swing extension, keeping front shoulder and head in on the ball, and for opening of hips .
3. Set a ball on both with the ball closest to the pitcher about a balls width higher on the tee. Hitters should hit the back ball and continue upward to the front ball to develop a launch angle swing, thereby getting balls into the air with carry and power. When players miss the back ball they may be too steep on their approach. Of course, for players with little power, missing the back ball and keeping the ball out of the air may be best. Every player has different strengths and weaknesses, so coaches should use the drill that best suits each kid.
Other Batting t ball drills – the following are a little more advanced but serve a great purpose.
- Inside tee to opposite field – goal is ball into air at least through the middle. This is a great way to start because it gets batters swing coming from the inside. Additionally, if they are not in good hitting position when stride foot lands, they won’t be able to even see this ball and definitely not be able to get to it squarely.
- After some consistency with above move tee out front about 5 inches and pull the ball. With the same initial inside swing as above, player should be able to pull the ball and keep the ball fair and driven in the air.
- Three quarters open stance – everything in air back through middle is the goal. This drill enforces many of the correct hitting mechanics. First, it will have hitters swinging from behind the ball as they are not stepping, so no lunging is possible. The swing will come from the backside and lower half when done correctly. Second, it will help them stay flexible in the lower half to maintain posture. Third, to hit balls back through the middle, the lead elbow will begin the swing to a palm up palm down position. The lead elbow will begin the swing when done right, and if hitters fail to do this or lose posture on the way to the ball, their arms straighten, and they will most likely roll over on the pitch.
- Inflatable ball under rear arm on low tee – ball releases forward after contact. Key drill to avoid the rear elbow from coming through at the wrong angle and for extension with swing, as ball drops out eventually.
- Inflatable ball under front arm on high and inside pitches – ball releases out front. This drill promotes the lead elbow lead and extension, so batters do not cast the bat or throw their hands at the ball.
- Balls under both arms any height pitches – both balls fall after contact. Combining the above two drills will promote the initial core turn and extension of the swing. Hips will have to be quick upon opening to get sweet spot to ball.
- High and outside tee – alternate pull and opposite field. Good bat control drill that will help players feel the barrel position at contact. When pulling it, the top hand will have to activate and when going with the pitch, players will have to transfer weight more. Hands will have to remain up on all for consistent contact.
Finally, I am constantly encouraging youth baseball coaches of all age players to occasionally play t ball games, even high school age players, to encourage the use of a batting tee. These t ball games move along very quickly and help kids learn that hitting a ball solidly off the tee still requires a good swing and placement to get hits. There is no bunting in these games, of course.