This post was written by: Lou Proietti. Coach Proietti is the assistant baseball coach at Rider University.
Gone are the days when simply making contact or hitting seeing eyed singles through the infield are acceptable at the next level.
Coaches are looking for players who can get themselves into scoring position either by reaching first and having the speed to steal second or have the ability to drive the baseball for an extra base hit.
You must ask yourself, what type of player are you?
If you have the ability to get to second base without your team having to sacrifice an out through bunting, attempted steals or hit and runs, you give your team a significantly better chance to score in that inning.
A runner’s scoring percentage from 2nd base with 0 outs is 60% compared to 43% at 1st base.
For the most part, it is difficult to teach speed, however, anyone regardless of their size can drive the ball if they learn to use their legs.
In order to consistently drive the baseball, young hitters need to learn how to incorporate their lower half and gain the leverage necessary to create a line drive trajectory in order to drive the baseball to the outfield.
The lower half is the foundation of our swing. I often tell our hitters “Start balanced, finish balanced”. In order to do this, our legs must be a bat length apart with a bend in the knees as hitters must be ready to hit in an athletic position.
In order to do this, one must learn to concentrate on driving the inside part of their back knee cap down and through towards their front legs’ calf.
The front leg needs to stiffen up for two reasons.
- A firm front aside allows you to have something to fight against to get your hands through the zone and also keeps you behind the point of contact making it more difficult to drift or lunge forward.
- The front foot can’t spin; it must remain in place at a 45-degree angle. This is an issue I have observed in most young hitters.
The lower half also involves creating torque with our hips.
Hitters use their entire body to hit and must be cognisant that they are firing their hips and back leg in sync rather than simply rotating them.
The movement must be explosive.
In terms of using one’s hips, the front hip creates the path that the back hip fires through. The belly button should face the pitcher at the completion of the swing.
Be aware of over rotation, this typically means the hitter is coming off the ball and their barrel is not staying through the hitting zone. The back foot must rotate and can come off the ground if enough force is created.
The common tendency for hitters is to come up and out of their legs rather than creating a down and through motion in order to maintain athleticism.
It is clear when hitters get out of their legs as they top balls into the ground when using the tee. Have them stay athletic through their swing and they will create more of a line drive swing path.
A good drill to reinforce using ones leg is the low tee drill. Put the tee at knee level or in most cases as low as it goes and ask them to create a line drive trajectory into the tunnel of the cage.
The goal is to hit the back of the cage in the air on a line.
Hitters will be forced to stay into their legs and begin to reinforce the habit of syncing up their body to create as much force as possible to drive the baseball.
Be aware of stride length and direction. Young hitters tend to step out or “in the bucket.”
Not only does this make it difficult to cover the outer half of the plate, it takes the barrel out of the hitting zone for pitches down the middle as well.
There are multiple reasons hitters step out, most of the time it involves being afraid of getting hit by the pitch.
In order to help overcome this fear, mix in poly soft balls into the BP bucket and throw them at the players while they are hitting. They will not know when it is coming and they will learn the proper technique on how to get hit by a pitch.
This should help alleviate some of the fear and help with foot direction.
As coaches, if we can minimize a hitters stride length and height, it will help our hitters be on time. A stride’s only purpose is timing. It does not help us generate more bat speed or get our hands through the hitting zone any faster.
It can be difficult for hitters with high leg kicks as not only do they have to worry about timing the leg kick, but also have to try and track the baseball with their front foot in the air.
Considering this is no easy task for professional hitters, it is next to impossible to consistently be on time and track a ball with this style. When it comes to strides, think of the concept “less is more”.
As is the case with hitting in general, there is no secret formula or one set way to hit effectively.
There are certain checkpoints that all good hitters get to that allow them to be as consistent as possible each at bat.
Understanding that creating power in our swing works from the ground up will help hitters stay behind the baseball, use their legs to generate force and help them stay balanced throughout the duration of the swing.
For hitters who have trouble staying back, there are times when I will have our hitters tuck their back toe in towards home plate.
This starts the process of driving the back knee and makes it more difficult for the hitter to lunge forward.
If you notice you are chopping balls into the ground and are unable to drive the baseball into the outfield, the solution is not to swing harder, take a look at your legs and make sure you are exploding rather than simply rotating. You will notice an immediate change in the way the ball comes off your bat.