Friday, August 19, 2005
As a high school 3rd base coach nothing can be more annoying than dodging foul balls from a right handed hitter, especially when they are belted right down the line. “Why the heck can’t you straighten that out?” These words are often echoed in my head as foul balls are screaming pass. Last year, our team struggled with this problem. So this off-season, I really wanted to find drills that promoted good inside-out hitting techniques. I wanted these drills to be creative, so players could get excited about these movements
It seems like plenty of young hitters have a problem with pulling the ball. Every coach reads and hears professional hitting instructors say,” Just throw your hands at the ball.” As high school players shake their head,” Yes” to this statement, many are asking inside,” What the heck does that mean?”
After examining a lot of information, I began to wonder weather “throwing your hands” is even the right terminology to use with hitters. If you really look at a hitter’s swing in slow motion, are they really throwing you hands? Or is the hitter snapping an extended lead arm forward? From looking at these swings, I concluded by instructing lead arm extension and back elbow positioning the hitter gains more valuable advice rather than hearing “throw your hands” at the pitch.
I created three drills that promote aggressive bat lag, with lead arm extension, for young hitters (it’s not the fence drill either). Below, three hitting drills are listed and explained in natural sequence, going from bottom hand, to top hand, to both hands.
Drill #1 Lead Arm Standing Fungo Drill
Fungo or light bat, ball, a net or open area
The hitter stands, in proper batting stance facing his target, with bottom hand solely gripping the bat and top hand holding the ball. As the hitter rests the bat on their back shoulder, there center of gravity is in a straight line with chin and belly button. With the ball in their top hand, the hitter will slightly lower the hand to signal their weight shift back, replicating the load phase of the swing. Lasting only an instant, the hitter’s weight shift will begin to move forward, entering the stride phase of the swing. The weight shift forward will feel like a controlled fall. The landing of the stride foot should be 5-7 inches in front of the original position of the front foot. The weight shift forward should cause the hitter’s lead arm to become extended. The hitter’s bottom hand has not moved to cause this extension. This extension was caused by forward body weight bracing on the hitter’s front flexed leg. The hitter should glance down at his bottom arm to make sure it has become extended. After checking, the hitter flips the ball out front of their body and swings; making sure the stride leg also has become locked out during the swing. By checking his arm before flipping the ball, the hitter insures himself lead arm extension to start the swing. This drill just targets the lead arm. Drill #2 will focus exclusively on the top hand.
Drill #2 Scraping Back Elbow Drill
Tee or partner, bat, ball, a net or open area
This drill can be performed on a tee or with a soft toss partner. The hitter will start this drill in a post stride position. This means the hitter must start with weight already transferred to their stride leg. The stride leg must contain some flexion; it should not be locked out. This drill tries to isolate the swing stage where the back elbow is initially activated and follows it through finish. Since the drill is started post-stride, the hitter’s first movement will be locking out their front leg. Simultaneously, with just their top hand holding the bat, the hitter brings their back elbow downward toward the ribcage as the swing is started. As the hitter feels the back elbow touch, they should orally say,” Scrap” and swing the bat with game-like intensity. The hitter must make sure that his palm is always facing up during contact. The inside positioning of the elbow will reinforce a straight line hitting approach and help hitters “feel” the difference.
Drill # 3 Cross Legged Tee Drill
Tee or partner, bat, ball, a net or open area
This drill can be performed on a tee or with a soft toss partner. The hitter will have their tee or partner out in front of them. The tee placement can range from 7-10 inches in front of the stride leg. With the hitter adjusting the side to side placement of the tee, hitting the ball to all fields can be worked on during this drill. Bringing their lead leg back, the hitter will cross his back leg with it, making their legs appear in an “X”. The majority of the hitter’s weight should be on the back leg. The hitter should let his body fall out in front, while releasing the front leg from the crossed position. The hitter’s stride leg should land 5-6 inches in front of the original front leg position, just like a normal stride, except the hitter’s center of gravity has moved forward. As soon as this stride movement is completed, the hitter should check their lead arm for extension. After checking for extension, the hitter will initiate their swing at the ball locking out their stride leg. By Drill #3, hopefully, the back elbow and lead arm has experienced the proper reinforcement to produce the accurate swing mechanics from Drills #1 and #2. If this drill is done as a soft toss activity, the hitter’s partner can trigger movements with oral cues in the following sequence,” Stance, cross, fall, and hit”. Furthermore, if the hitter has a partner on the tee, these oral cues can be incorporated as well.
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