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It has been said that hitting a baseball well is the single most difficult sports skill to master. Even in the pro's, the best hitters only get a hit 3 out of every 10 at bats.
One definite thing about hitting is that
to do it well requires knowing the proper mechanics involved
Some general principals of hitting are to:
Learn the game - practice matters
Hustle - how you practice is how you play
Be competitive - play to win
Respect and support each other - the golden rule
Respect yourself - no foul language or personal remarks
Play with poise - the game DOES start over with every pitch
Enjoy the game - and have fun being a part of it
Take pride in what you do - never be content with mediocrity
Baseball is a team sport but demands individual effort
Remember that playing time works itself out over the course of the season
Proper bat selection is a key part of the hitting procedure. As a young ball player or even a pro, the single most factor that will affect your hitting quality will rely on how comfortable you are swinging the bat. With that in mind:
1.You should always choose a bat that you can handle quite easily. One that you feel comfortable swinging and does not slow you down at all.
2.Bigger players use bigger bats, smaller players use smaller bats!!! You don't see Rickey Henderson going to the plate with Mark McGwire's bat!!!
The bat you use should be proportional to your size, weight, agility, and power.
A good test to determine if a bat is too heavy is to grab the handle of the bat with one hand and hold it straight out to the side, parallel to the ground. If it starts to shake or the bat head starts to drop in less then 12-20 seconds, then the bat is too big.
In order to hit you must stay in the box at a distance from the plate from which you can hit any pitch in the strike zone. If you fear the ball you will "bail out" or "step in the bucket," pulling your body and bat away from the plate and making it impossible to reach a strike.
matter how big or "mean" that pitcher looks, as soon as he
lets go of that ball, it's YOUR ball. He can't do anything else to
it. He's OUT OF THE PICTURE! Plus, the ball is ALWAYS the same size,
and ALWAYS has to be in the strike zone. YOU HAVE THE BAT!
you want something to worry about when you're in the batter's box,
The grip on the bat should be comfortable in the hand, ideally the middle knuckles on each hand would line up. This helps in executing the proper swing. The grip should be fairly loose up until you 'load' particularly with your top hand. Don't choke the bat with such a tight grip that it tenses up all the muscles in your arms and shoulders.
The term "batting stance" refers to the position of the body and bat while awaiting a pitch.
Step into the batter's box with your body facing home plate. Usually for younger players the Parallel or Squared stance is recommended. This means that the batter has both feet equal distance from home plate.
The batter's feet should start a little more then shoulder width apart.
The batter should be close enough to the plate that he can comfortably reach down and touch the outside edge of the plate with his bat. This will insure that he can reach the outside pitch as well.
At this point weight should be equally balanced between the front and back legs.
Bat & Body Position
Let comfort dictate your choice, but the bat should be no less than 5 inches and no more than 7 inches from your torso.
Holding your hands near your body keeps you on the inside of the
ball. If you hold the bat out farther than that, your swing has too
large an arc; you'll lose leverage and find it difficult to
coordinate your hip and arm into your swing.
Hold your hands somewhere between the letters on your uniform front
and your shoulders.
Taking Your Stance in the Batter's Box
When you come up to home plate to hit in the game of baseball, the first thing you must decide is where to stand in the batter's box. This is a matter of personal preference, and any number of combinations is possible. To discover what serves you best, hit from various positions in the box against live pitching.
The benefits of being up front
When you stand at the front of the box (see below), your stride brings you in front of home plate. Anything you hit in front of the plate has a better chance of staying fair. Standing in front also helps you against sinkerball and breaking ball pitchers; you can hit the ball before it drops below your swing.
Standing at the front of the box also enables you to hit the curveball before it fully breaks. Even knuckleballs are easier to hit from this location; they have less time to dance.
Fastballs provide your up-front stance with its ultimate test. The closer you are to the pitching mound, the faster pitches reach you at the plate. If you can't handle fastballs from the front of the batter's box, you need to step back.
To develop bat speed and strength, Joe Morgan swung a lead bat only with his front (right) arm. This exercise strengthens your front side, which pulls the bat through the hitting zone. He did this 50 times a day during the off-season and 10 times before a game. Your daily regimen should also include 25 full swings with a bat that's heavier than the one you normally use in a game.
Stuck in the middle
Some batters take their swing from the middle of the box (see below). Hitting from the middle gives you a little more time to catch up with the fastball but curveballs, sinkers, and knucklers also have more time to break. If you have only medium bat speed (something a coach can tell you), this is the place for you (at least until you develop a faster bat).
Tales from the deep
Obviously, standing deep in the box allows you the maximum time to cope with the fastball. But you have to be a great breaking ball hitter to consistently succeed in this location; you're giving the curve, sinker, and knuckler their best opportunity to work their magic.
Because you'll be hitting balls on the plate and the angle of your bat is toward foul territory, their trajectory may carry more of them into foul territory. If you stand deep in the box and far from the plate, you may find it difficult to hit outside pitches (see below).
Positioning your body
The knees must be slightly bent. The amount of bend in the knees can vary according to the batter's preference.
The hitter should be positioned so that there is a slight bend at the waist.
The toughest pitch to hit is the ball out and away from you. After getting in the batter's box, swing your bat to make sure you have full plate coverage. Stand close enough to home to reach pitches 4 inches off the outside corner.
When you're close to the plate, the outside part of it becomes your middle, and you take away strength from the pitcher. Sure, the pitcher can throw even farther outside, but if you're a disciplined batter you can take those pitches for balls.
Hitters can choose from three basic stances:
·The open stance:
Your back foot is closer to the plate than your front foot.
or square stance: Both feet are equal distant from the plate.
·The closed stance:
Your front foot is closer to the plate than your back foot.
Only hitters who can't rotate their hips
out of the way properly need a somewhat open stance. (Your coach can
tell you whether you have the right hip action.)
·The open stance frees your upper torso and automatically opens your hips, allowing you to drive your body and hands through the hitting zone while generating bat speed.
·The open stance also lets you turn your head so that it faces the pitcher, which enables you to use both eyes simultaneously.
Everybody rotates away from the ball in
order to hit. Open-stance hitters are already a half step away from
the plate. They must, therefore, remind themselves not to pull off
the pitch or they won't be able to hit the ball with any authority.
Novice hitters should start with an even stance. It helps you keep your weight distributed evenly on the balls of both feet. (Now you know how the stance got its name.) As you gradually develop balance, reduce your stance an inch at a time until you find the closed stance that generates the most power.
Your shoulders are slightly closed in a closed stance and more squared in the even or open versions. No matter which stance you choose, point your face toward the pitcher's mound so that you can see the pitcher with both eyes.
Young hitters often make the mistake of looking out of only one eye. Sometimes they slightly cock their heads to the side so that one eye is closer to the pitcher than the other. This stance alters your depth perception. You need both eyes on a parallel plane if you are going to read the ball's spin and speed as quickly as possible. Tucking your chin behind your shoulder also limits your vision.
Keep your head square and still throughout your stride and swing. You may hear broadcasters discuss how a hitter keeps his head down throughout his swing. That's always good policy. Keeping your head down keeps your eyes on the ball. Move your head, and your body follows - and your swing suffers.
When taking your stance, bend your knees
slightly to allow greater freedom of movement. An erect stance
restricts your lower body's maneuverability. How far you spread your
legs apart is a matter of personal preference.
"Batting stances vary widely, and all players develop their own styles. Combine these basic elements with what feels comfortable for you."
Many young hitters swing the bat after the ball is past them, and many times this happens because they don't get into the load position in time. Load position refers to the position that the body and bat need to be in just prior to the swing. The loading phase refers to striding and the positioning of the bat. This phase is important because, if done properly, it can help the hitter make solid contact with the baseball on a more consistent basis.
Positioning The Bat
Once the pitcher begins his movement forward with the pitch, the batter should then 'load'. What this involves is a slight movement inward and backwards (about 2 inches) of the batters hands, shoulders, hips and knees. The batter's weight shifts from a 50/50 to a 40/60 front to back ratio. During this load it is important to not move the head and to keep your eyes on the ball.
Notice how weight is about 40/60.
The stride consists of a short (5-7 inches) step with the front foot either directly towards the pitcher or at a slight angle towards home plate. You want to lead with heel and land on the ball of your foot. You still want to keep your front shoulder in and your hands and weight back during your stride. Picture it as stepping on thin ice. It is important to not swing until your front foot has landed, as you want to hit against a firm front leg.
Stride refers to the movement of the front foot during the loading phase.
Around the time that the pitcher lifts the knee, the batter should lift the front knee up and back towards the catcher (Knee height varies from hitter to hitter). The body weight should be shifted towards the back leg.
Four Keys to a Correct Stride
Getting The Barrel To The Ball
The batter should swing the barrel of the bat directly at the ball and should try to hit the ball with the sweet spot on the bat. The sweet spot is generally the area between 2 and 6 inches from the top end of the bat.
The batter's arms should be extended right before contact is made with the baseball.
Turning The Hips
If lower body strength and bat speed are to be maximized, it is essential that the hips be turned during the swing.
In order to turn the hips during the swing, the hitter should pivot on the ball of the back foot.
Keeping The Eyes On The Ball
Hitters should keep their eyes on the baseball until contact is made.
The hitter's head should not follow the body when it turns.
After contact is made with the ball, the barrel of the bat should maintain a smooth, slightly upward path, which ends with the hands rolling over.
The handle of the bat should stop around the left shoulder for a right-handed batter and around the right shoulder for a left-handed batter.
After the batter has completed his load
and stride, and upon picking up the pitchers release point and
picking up the ball and has concluded that the pitch coming at him is
a strike, the batter then initiates his swing. The swing involves
rotating up on the ball of your back foot (this is known as squishing
the bug). The hips begin to rotate and the hands (bat knob) go
towards the ball (As shown below in this Derek Jeter Photo)
When facing a very fast pitcher, you may want to place your stance further back in the batter's box to give you more reaction time. You may also want to start your load and stride a little earlier then usual. It is important to learn to hit to all fields, for against a very fast pitcher, you will probably be looking to hit balls to center and right fields.
Hitting the Curve, firstly involves recognizing that it is a curve. Study the pitcher when he warms up and when he faces other batters to see if he has one and if so, does he throw it any differently then his fastball (lower arm slot, cocked wrist, etc.) The curve ball has a different spin then a fastball; so the earlier you pick up the spin of the ball the better. If you keep your hands and weight back properly you should still be in a good position to hit the curve. Also, quite often at the younger age, it is very difficult for the younger pitcher to throw the curve for a strike, so you may want to lay off of it until you fall behind in the count.
Bunting has become a lost art. At each level up the ladder, runs become harder and harder to generate and sometimes teams must 'manufacture' runs. Bunting is a great tool in manufacturing runs. Sometimes you may want to bunt for a hit, sacrifice a runner over into scoring position or 'squeeze' a run in through bunting. When bunting, you will want to move up in the batter's box towards the pitcher. This will keep your bat in fair territory and also assist you in bunting any breaking balls before they break. Generally when bunting for either a sacrifice or Squeeze lay you will want to square around. This means turning your feet and shoulders so that you are facing the pitcher. Don't step on the plate or you'll be called out if you get the bunt down. The top hand should slide down the bat somewhere around the mid point and 'cradle the bat' with your thumb on the top with the fingers underneath. To protect your fingers from getting hit, don't wrap your top hand fingers around the bat. You want to hold your bat at the top of the strike zone with the bat angled up and out in front of you. You want to have your arms extended with a slight bend at the elbows. Since your bat is already at the top of the strike zone, if the pitch is higher then your bat, let it go (unless it is a squeeze play). If the pitch is lower, then bend at the knees to bunt the ball and try to avoid dipping the bat head as this will increase the chances for a popup and could result in a double play. The batter simply wants to 'catch' the ball with the bat and wants to avoid slapping at it.
The best bunts are those down the lines about 20-30 feet.
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