Hitting Drills (Ancaster Baseball)

PrintHitting Drills
Written by Dave Robb 

One-Hand Hitting Drill 

1.Eye-hand coordination 
2.Shortness of stroke 
3.Pulling the bat through the hitting zone 
4."Getting close" 
5.Use of upper body

The One-Handed Drill is done in three phases. For the first two steps the hitter uses a small bat. The third step uses his normal bat. 

STEP 1. The hitter assumes a spread stance position, prepared to drive the ball into the wall. The tosser aligns to the side even with the hitter's front foot. 

The toss is made to pitch in the middle of the plate, knee high. It is important that the tosser tries to make the ball bounce on the inside corner of the hitting area, for then it will pass the middle of the hitting area in the desired location. 

The hitter is required to "STOP" the bat at the point of contact. 

In order to drive the ball successfully, the hitter will lean toward the ball slightly with his hips and upper body. This simulated the "closeness" the hitter must practice in order to effectively drive the pitch on the middle and outer half of the hitting area. In other words, the closer the hitter can get to the pitch, the more force he can apply to the pitched ball. 

This is not any different than hitting an inside pitch. The path of the inside pitch passes closer to the hitter than the path of the outside pitch. 

The hitter can get closer to the outside pitch by putting more weight from the knees to the shoulders over the toes and slightly leaning over toward the pitch. 

By doing this, the hitter will better utilize the bigger muscles in applying force to the outside pitch, and will, in turn, drive the ball better. 

Getting closer will cause the hitter to lose balance and possibly fall toward home plate. This should not be a concern, rather an indication that the hitter is in good position. As long as the hitter tries to maintain balance and still lean in from the knees up, his "imbalance" is okay. 

Sometimes hitters will lean too far and hit "off balanced". So, it is important to stress that he should hit to stay on balance even though he may be out of balance after contact. A small step usually with the rear foot is an indication to the coach or observer that the hitter is getting "closeness" and now has an opportunity to maximize the body in driving the pitched ball. 

"Stopping" will probably result in an exaggerated fall over the plate. Again, there is no concern if the intention is to be on balance. 

STEP 2. The second stage of the One-handed Drill has the hitter in a normal, relaxed stance, and striding to the hitting stance. 

The tosser remains in the same position and tosses the ball over the middle of the hitting area, knee high. 

The hitter holds the bat loosely in the fingers of his lead hand, in front of his lead hip or leg. 

As the tosser draws the ball back to toss, the hitter strides and draws the bat back to a "launching" position. The "launching" position is the point from where the hitter will start the forward stroking action of the bat towards the pitched (tossed) ball. 

As the toss is made the hitter begins the stroking action forward. The hips and upper body should lean towards the ball and the front hand should pull the bat to the contact point (as in STEP 1, the STOP DRILL). 

Once contact is made, the hitter will continue to pull the bat through and around the body for the follow through. 

The approach and contact should be identical to the STOP DRILL. 

The hitter learns that the stroke is a downward approach of the bat to contact the pitch. The feet position and hips provide a strong athletic base. 

The follow through is included so as not to decrease the speed of the bat travelling through the hitting zone, rather to maintain it. 

The Birdie Toss Drill

The "Birdie" Drill works the same as the Simulated BP Drill; only we use badminton birdies. It's an effective drill for work on off-speed pitches and for emphasizing concentration on the ball, not the arm. 

The set up is like Simulated BP. As shown, the tosser kneels in front of the hitter, approximately 15 feet away. (In some cases the tosser may be able to stand). 

From the kneeling position, the tosser delivers the birdie as if throwing a ball. It will require a strong throw for the birdie to reach the hitter which means the tosser will have good arm speed, while the birdie comes out fast at first, and more slowly the farther it travels. 

The hitter should naturally stride and ready himself as the speed of the arm indicates. However, the hitter will have to remain in the hitting position for a moment longer than a pitched ball. The birdie will evenually arrive, but the hitter msut learn to time the arrival of the pitch. 

This requires concentration. The concentration has to be on the object to be hit (birdie), not the arm action of the tosser. It can be an excellent drill to use on a daily basis. 

An expansion of this drill would be to use balls in a Simulated BP situation, and throw "change-ups" to the hitter. This is more realistic for the hitter, but more difficult for the tosser.

Stop Drill 

The most often used to emphasize positive hip and shoulder action is the "STOP" drill. WE do this initially with the inside toss. From the spread position the hitter will try to stop the stroke (stop the bat) at the point of contact. The "STOP" drill is difficult at first but it can be a valuable tool for hitters to use. This drill practices the essence of the stroke and is particularly good when the hitter is experiencing a slump. In fact, this drill has been and can be used in games. 

As pictured the hitter actually stops the bat at the point of contact. The hitter stays in the spread position (without striding). 

The purpose of stopping the ball is, as the hitter becomes more familiar with the drill, he starts to utilize the hips and the back shoulder in the stroke and application of power. 

This means the hitter concentrates on a controlled stroking action, and does not need to be concerned with bat speed. The drive from the rear shoulder is often overlooked. The bigger muscles from the back and shoulders must be included in maximizing the force to the ball. Try this: 

With your arms and hands, "swing" a bat, breaking your wrists but without turning your shoulders. If a tire is available, seing the bat against it. Swing the bat as hard as possible. Note the impact of the swinging in this manner. 

Now, stroke the bat against the tire. Turn the hips and upper body, your wrists remaining in a locked position, your arms bent. Do not straighten your arms or break you wrists. Feel the impact of this action. Feel the power you can generate by turning and utilizing your entire body. Note, also, that the speed at which the bat travels to the point of contact is no greater with the stroke as it is in the above swing. 

Keep in mind that the hips and shoulder drive is toward the pitched ball, and that the emphasis should be on the rear shoulder doing most of the work. 

In other words, once the hitter has made the commitment to hit a selected pitch, he begins the stroking action, and the hands start pulling the bat. The front shoulder will start to open or rotate as the hands pull. (Mechanically, this is the only way one can hit, for the shoulders do not operate independently. However, as you will see, it is important for hitters to concentrate on the rear shoulder during the drills.) 

The rear shoulder and hips take over. 

The approach from the hips and rear shoulder is forward. 

It is not merely a turning action, for without the forward motion, there is no energy gain from the body in the application of force to the pitched ball. 

This hitter demonstrates a premature open front side. The hitter will continue to turn the body, but without the authority to drive the ball. 

The Back Toss Drill

This is a drill used mainly for timing. The set up is opposite the "inside-toss". That is, the toss is made from behind the hitter. The toss should be low and out in front of the hitter. The hitter can watch the toss and he will stride with the toss. He must time the toss so that he swings as the ball is crossing in front of him The hitter contacts the ball in front, and tries to direct it into the screen in front of him. 

Timing is crucial and hitters soon find that although they may stride early, they must wait with their hands in the "launch" position. This is a sign of a good hitter. The longer the hitter can keep his hands in the "launch" position after striding, the better hitter he becomes. The hitter must wait for the ball to reach a comfortable and hittable point in front of him. 

If the hitter swings too soon he will hit the ball too deep. This will be uncomfortable and result in either hitting the ball towards the ground or to the "opposite field" direction. 

If the hitter swings too late, he risks missing it, or is too far out in front, or pulls it to the screen. 

Hitting either too soon or too late results in loss of power. 

A secondary or latent objective is that in order for the hitter to make good contact with the barrel of the bat and in order to hit the ball directly into the screen, he must draw his hands inside the plane of the toss or "inside the ball" 

This is a safe drill as one can see by the set-up. The tosser kneels behind the hitter.

Short Screen Batting Practice 

Short screen batting practice is an extremely useful tool for working with hitters. Short screen means that during batting practice the pitching screen is between 20 and 30 feet from the hitter. This means that the pitcher is between 25 and 35 feet from the hitter. The distance offers many opportunities. Opportunity;; because batting practice moves along faster with more strikes being thrown.. The closer the pitcher is, the more often the strikes are thrown. Opportunity;; for a longer batting practice. Pitches aren't thrown as hard from the shorter distance, therefore the pitcher does not tire as quickly. Opportunity; to change speeds effectively. This is the essence of this drill. Opportunity; to help hitters gear for upcoming, opposing pitchers who do have velocity. The closer the pitcher, the less time it takes for the pitch to arrive, thus the more batting practice can simulate game-like conditions. 

The short screen batting practice offers a variety of different practices. It is said that batting or hitting consumes about 30% of a practice or about 45 minutes per day. Multiplying 45 minutes by 5 days (assuming that there are games to play), means that a team practices hitting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours per week. Divide that by 12 - 15 players and the result is 15 to 20 minutes of practice per player, per week! Therefore, terms like "quantity", "quality", "game-like", are used when discussing types of batting practice. 

Two of the more popular types of "BP" are 1) Changing speeds for each round, and 2) changing speeds during each round. 

Changing speeds during batting practice prepares hitters for the reality of games. Besides mechanics, timing is most important to hitters. Pitchers try to upset the timing of hitters. The more hitters can work on timing with their mechanics, the better they understand the importance of timing, and the better hitters they will be. 

1.  Changing speeds each round is the first type of short screen BP offered. Hitters normally get between 5 and 15 cuts per round of live batting practice. The coach or batting practice pitcher changes speeds for each round, explaining that each round signifies either a change of pitchers, or a pitcher becoming tired during the course of a game. At first the hitters are told of the change of speeds in order that they make a conscious change in their stride (their timing). During the season, the practice plan may include short screen BP with changing speeds for each round, but the hitter must learn to recognize the change of speeds and respond accordingly, without being told. The idea is that the timing device, the stride, may or probably will change during a game or, at least, from game to game. Hitters must realize this, concentrate on this during a game, and practice this as often as possible between games.. 

2.  Changing speeds during each round resembles the game-like situation of each at-bat. One method of changing speeds during a round of hitting might include the pitcher throwing two consecutive fastballs, then two consecutive change-ups (or a slightly slower fastball), The "2-Fast, 2-Change" concept helps the hitter work on his "stride fastball, adjust change". Remember, as the hitter strides, the hands go to a launch position, a point from where the next movement will be forward. The longer the hitter can keep his hands back after the stride, the better the hitter will be. The hitter must stride for the pitcher's fastest pitch, and wait in that "launch" position as he identifies the pitch and decides to swing. If the pitch is an off-speed pitch, the hitter must wait longer in the "launch" position. 

The Fence Drill 

The Fence Drill, a beginning drill for children of any age, actually practices two aspects of the inside-out stroke: 1) the rear foot turn; and, 2) the direction and path of the hands when pulling or stroking. The stroke is dependent on the "turn". 

Standing at arm's length from a fence or wall, with feet spread far apart, the object is to swing the bat without hitting the wall. The fact is, you can't. The trick is; we don't swing, we stroke the bat, remember! As the rear foot begins to turn, the hands will lead the bat toward the wall. The hands will remain in a cocked position throughout the stroke. 

It can be done on your own, but the first time it would be wise to have an observer to check for proper turn of the rear foot. 

The observer could also tell you if your weight was over your toes, toward the fence. This will ensure that you don't lean back to help get the bat by the wall. Rather, you should be concentrating on the "turn" and the hands leading the way. 

The path of the hands is another key. They must take a direct line from their position at the back shoulder to a point out in front of the body. The "turn" allows the hands to come first between the wall and the body, and to the spot in front of the body. 

The hands and the knob of the bat are pulled between the fence and the body. 

The hands (and bat) will run parallel to the fence until the pulling hands cross in front of the body. 

This brings the barrel of the bat perpendicular to the fence; to the hitting position. 

If you can picture the fence as being the path of the inside pitch, you can see how the stroking action stays "inside" the ball. 

For the young hitter, the Fence Drill can be performed without a bat. Have the player stand close to the wall, palms flat against the wall, and elbows bent at 90 degrees. The stroking action would be the same as illustrated above, only the observer (coach) should emphasize the rear foot turn. The younger hitter (aged 5 or 6) can better concentrate on the turn without thinking of the bat hitting the wall.

The Inside Toss 

The INSIDE-TOSS DRILL is an aid to practicing the "turn" of the rear foot. The hitter stands diagonally to the fence or screen, and facing the tosser (like the tosser is the pitcher). The tosser kneels with his back to the fence. The hitter spreads his stance so that he is unable to stride. This eliminates the hitter adjusting his stride to hit the ball. 

The stride is eliminated in the early drills as it acts as a hindrance. The hitter should be concentrating on specific actions or parts of the body. The stride is unnecessary to do the early drills, and can take away the hitter's concentration. 

The toss is made to the hitter's front knee. 

The hitter will pivot and drive the ball DOWN into the fence. 

The emphasis on the turn is somewhat exaggerated; but not so excessively that it jeopardizes other movements. 

There is no danger in this drill if the toss is made at the front knee! 

The Inside-Toss Drill also serves another purpose. Hitting, it is said, is at least 50% physical and 50% mental. Arguing aside, the mental part of hitting is important and harder to learn than the physical mechanics. The Inside-Toss helps the hitter to focus on a specific area or "hitting zone (the low and inside pitch). So, the hitter is working not solely on the mechanics of hitting a pitch at a location, but he is mentally "zoning" or focusing on an area and seeing the pitch in that location many times. In fact, from this drill we could put the hitter in a live batting practice situation and tell him to hit only the pitches that come near his front knee. 

The development of zoning and discipline early in hitting can facilitate understanding at later stages when hitters are looking pitch location in game situations. 

The Spread Stance 

The "Spread Stance" is used in the early drills for three reasons. 

First, in order for the hitter to incorporate his body into the stroke, he/she must first turn or pivot the rear foot. In an exaggerated spread stance this becomes evident. Hitters will not be able to perform any of the drills if they cannot "turn". 

Secondly, the spread stance is used initially when working with the inside pitch. While in the spread stance it is difficult to stride or step away from the inside pitch to hit it. The hitter must learn to turn the rear foot and hit the inside pitch in front of his front foot (and not step away to hit). 

Thirdly, we normally work first with pitches below the waist. Whit the hitter's feet apart and turning from the rear foot, the rear knee will come very close to the ground. Furthermore, the hips and the rest of the body will lower, thus bringing the "power of the body", closer to the low pitch. 

The body's power parts are the hips and upper body. These are the parts of the body where the largest muscles are located. The most underrated power producers are the muscles of the upper body. Ted Williams said, "hips lead the way", the "hips provide the punch." It is in truth the hips and upper body in concert that generates maximum power to the pitched ball. 

The pulling action from the latissimus dorsi (lead hand), and the pushing from the trapezius muscle (top hand), the spinning action and proximity contribute to power. How close one can get to the ball means the closer the powerful hips and upper body can play a role in hitting. 

That means the feet must be far apart. The farther apart the feet, the lower the body is to the ground (or pitch, in this case). 

Another point to be made here in support to the lower center of power is, where do pitchers learn to pitch? AT THE KNEES. It is therefore logical for hitters to learn to hit the pitch at the knees, and learn to hit that pitch on a line drive. 

The Zoning Drill 

The "zoning" drill can be used with hitters of any age, but is probably more effective with older hitters, age 15 and up. 

The purpose is to emphasize looking for (zoning), anticipating and getting ready to hit only pitches in a particular zone, inside or outside. 

As players get older and face pitchers that throw harder, they must learn that they can't hit both sides of the plate. That is, hitters can't react to hit both inside and outside pitches at the same time. 

In order to hit inside pitches, hitters must make contact out in front of their front foot. With the outside pitch, the contact zone is deeper. If a hitter were to "look" for a pitch to pull, for instance an inside pitch, and were to swing at a pitch on the outer part of the plate, the contact would be too far away to apply any substantial force to a pitch. 

Conversely, should a hitter try to hit a pitch to the opposite field using a pitch on the outer half, swinging at a pitch in the inside part of the plate would result in hitting the ball too deep in the contact zone. 

The inside pitch is contacted earlier in its path toward the plate than the pitch down the middle. 

The pitch down the middle is contacted earlier in its path toward the plate than the outside pitch. 

So, in order to maximize contact, the outside pitch must travel farther to the hitter than the inside pitch. 

Not only that, but the inside pitch is 15 to 17 inches closer to the hitter than the outside pitch. 

This makes it even more difficult to hit an inside pitch with the barrel of the bat, as the ball is closer to the hitter, closer to the handle, and farther from the barrel. 

Hopefully, the point is clear that hitters must learn to "zone" for pitches, either on the inside half or the outside half of the plate. 

The Short Screen BP - Zoning Drill utilizes the theory just discussed. 

The Short Screen Toss set-up is used in this drill. 

The difference in this drill is that half to three-quarters of the plate is covered with an object, like a throwdown base, cloth, mitt, etc. 

The hitter is told to zone to the covered part of the plate. For example the covered part is the middle to outside part of the plate. The hitter would then try to hit pitches that would pass over the covered part - the big part, and take the uncovered part. 

We have used orange colored throwdown bases. We tell the hitters that they must "zone orange" today. They must practice seeing the ball coming at them on a path to the outside part of the plate. Continued practice will increase their ability to zone. 

The covered part of the plate varies from practice to practice.
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Printed from ancasterbaseball.ca on Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 10:05 AM