Most kids make the biggest hitting mistake before they even get to the plate. Choosing the correct bat is vital to developing good hitting technique and enjoying successful results. Most players, at all ages and level of play, use a bat that is somewhat bigger or heavier than it should be.
Bat control and bat speed are the two key elements that are shared by good, consistent hitters. Most kids feel that the ball will go farther when making ball contact while using a bigger or heavier bat. That may be partially true. However, you first have to make contact with the ball. Without control of the bat, making consistent contact with the ball becomes harder. A bat that is heavier or larger will make it harder to create leverage when actual contact with the ball is made.
Using a bat that is too big or heavy prohibits the wrist and hands from successfully completing the swing. As a result, a player uses more of the larger arm muscles and has less control of the bat than he or she would with a lighter bat.
Many parents buy a bat that a player will "grow into." This is definitely a big mistake. Especially in the formative years of a player's development. When choosing a bat, consider what is light and comfortable this year, not years to come.
If you look at great hitters over the years, they usually have one thing in common. They have total control of the bat.
Most people would be surprised to know the size and weight of bats used by Major League Baseball's biggest hitters. Consistent hitters like Tony Gwynn or Pete Rose used bats that were light for maximum control. Power hitters like Jose Canseco and Mark Mcgwire use light bats for extreme bat speed.
One of the greatest hitters of all-time, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (Detroit Tigers) use to make this point all the time. When asked about being a good hitter, his basic "tip" was to use a smaller, lighter bat than you normally would choose. Your batting average AND your power will increase. In fact, you will become a better hitter almost overnight.
In either case, for consistent singles hitters or strong power hitters, using a lighter bat will create greater consistency and power. During a player's formative years, developing good consistent swing habits will create greater success. Being a good hitter starts will before the player gets to the plate. Choose the "right" bat!
As a college and professional baseball player, I learned that good hitters do far more than simply take "batting practice." Hitting is a collection of many things, in addition to what goes on when you are actually in the batter's box.
To become the hitter that you want to be, it is vital that every aspect of your hitting process become repetitive and consistent. As you get ready to hit, it is important that you perform the same mental process and checklist before and as you walk to the plate. Practicing your mental preparation will result in greater success as a hitter.
The following are things that should be part of your mental preparation and checklist.
The pitcher is Left or Right handed (The ball is likely to come in or away from me)
The pitchers motion is "jerky" or smooth
The pace (speed) of the pitcher's fastball
The wind is blowing in which direction
The sun (if any) may be in which fielder's eyes (left or right)
How is the ground (firm or soft) in the batter's box? I find the most firm ground
How are the fielders positioned in the field
What is the game situation? (ie. Outs, Runners on base, score)
In addition to the mental checklist, once you are in the batter's box, the "conscious" thinking time is over! It is now time to let your repetitive mental preparation and muscle memory take over. In short, RELAX and concentrate on the pitcher's windup and delivery rhythm.
The physical act of taking batting practice develops what is called "Muscle Memory." This is what allows your body and muscles to react quickly, depending on the speed and location of the pitch. When you become tense or "out-think" yourself, you lessen your muscle memory's ability to react as it has in practice situations. Have you ever heard a coach yell to a player who is going to bat "just like in practice!"
Have confidence in yourself, no matter how "good or fast" you think the pitcher is. Don't be intimidated. In circumstances when you are facing the "best pitcher in your league," simply concentrate on driving the ball hard, right up the middle. Allow your muscles' memory to do the rest. Don't underestimate yourself and the skills you have developed during repetitive batting practices.
As a power hitter in college and professional baseball, I seldom hit a home run when I was trying to. In fact, most of my long, most solid home runs came when I was simply trying to make good contact. Trust yourself. Do the same correct things over and over again. Develop the muscle memory. Then... let it rip!
This is a simple drill that increases wrist strength and enhances hand-eye coordination. This drill uses plastic (practice) golf balls and a heavier bat than the hitter normally uses.
The pitcher gets on one knee from approx. 15 feet in front of the hitter. The pitcher simply throws (at various speeds depending on the hitter's skill level) the balls to the hitter. The hitter wants to make sure that he/she rolls his/her wrist through impact while keeping his/her "top" hand on top.
When a hitter's "top" hand falls below or under the "bottom" hand is when you see a hitter pop up, hit a lot of foul balls or swing late (not getting the barrel of the bat through the swing). The idea is to stay on top of the ball so that solid contact is made with the ball. Have the hitter focus on hitting the ball straight up the middle during this drill.
After completing this drill, the hitter then switches to his/her regular bad (instead of the heavier bat) for regular batting practice. During regular batting practice you should see the hitter's faster bat speed and more consistent contact.
This drill involves every player on your team working on either offensive or defensive skill development. You put your regular defensive lineup on the field. Your other players are the hitters. Each hitter tosses the ball up and hits the ball (fungo) in play and runs the bases when the ball is hit. Fielders play the ball as they would in a "game situation."
The goal of the defense is to hold the hitters to no runs. The goal of the offense is to get base-hits by hitting the ball hard enough to get on base with a hit or error. The offense is allowed 3 outs before you "clear" the bases. The drill is over when the offense scores 5 runs of the defense records 18 outs.
A variation of this drill is to evenly divide the players into two teams. Designate a specific number of innings (3 is ideal) to play. At the end of a game, the losing team "pays" the penalty by running extra laps, bases or other such "penalty."
I have found that you get a very different game when allowing players to use a fungo bat instead of their regular bat. For various reasons, I prefer each player to use their regular bat.
Players usually love this game and enjoy playing a game against their teammates.
This drill can be used with either baseball or softball. This drill is actually a good hitting and fielding game that allows players to build skills, learn to perform under pressure, develops quick response and hand-eye coordination.
The batter stands approximately 20 feet from the fence or wall. The fielder/pitcher stands approx. 4 feet from the fence or wall and with his/her back to the fence/wall.
The game requires a fence (backstop), wall or sections of a fence. The fence or wall should have a "top line" that represents the top of the scoring zone. A hit ball that hits the fence or wall above the "top line" is an "out." A hit ball that gets by the fielder and hits the fence below the "top line" is a single. Keep verbal track on each imaginary runner on base and as they score, count the number of runs. If the fielder catches a hit ball before it reaches the fence or wall, it is an "out."
If there is a lower, middle and upper section of a fence or backstop, you may designate the lower portion of the fence as a "single", the middle section as a "double" and the upper section as a "triple." A hit ball that gets by the fielder and hits one of those sections counts as that (single, double, triple) type of hit.
This game is an advanced form of "pepper" that is a fun and super game to teach and/or play.