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Monday, March 30, 2009
Baseball Hitting Mechanics - Stride and Swing
By Kenny Buford
Each player has a preference about how big or small of a stride to take on the swing. Batters should do what is most comfortable for them, provided that they do not step on the line of the batter's box, as this will cause them to be called out.
When helping players determine how big of a stride to take, encourage them to experiment. A shorter stride is usually better than a longer one for control purposes, because it keeps the player over their body and does not allow things to get out of rhythm. As speed is a necessary part of batting, a short stride is desirable because it helps batters move to their next element, the swing, sooner.
As the batter is about to bring their hands forward to start the swinging motion, the striding leg should come forward toward the pitcher. The stride should be toward the area in front of home plate to help the batter get into better position.
During the swing, there are also small adjustments that players can make to ensure that they get the best swing possible. When working on hitting mechanics, even the smallest details count.
Throughout the swing, players should keep their back elbow up and close to the body. This allows the hands and the barrel of the bat to swing through completely. Finally, and perhaps most importantly when going through the swing, is to keep the head still. Keeping the head still ensures that you keep proper balance throughout the swing, which is otherwise hard to do because the batter is moving nearly every other part to connect with the ball.
Maintaining a still head also helps with creating a rhythm. If the batter's body has one still part that does not move or change during the swing, that batter will have a better idea of what part of their swing needs work or what part is not synchronized with the rest of the body. Whether in practice or in play, keeping a steady head is extremely important.
As the ball is pitched, batters should bring their hands to meet the ball. This mental picture will help players get the bat in contact with the ball in exactly the right place. At the same time that batters are bringing their hands to the ball, they should be keeping those hands level and still, so that the bat slices through the air on an even plane. A swing with any type of loop or wiggle can cause a dangerous pop-up, which can be detrimental to the team.
Just because a batter has been batting for years does not mean that they will maintain good form. In fact, more experience can lead to poor form because players become complacent and pay less attention to their form than when they were first learning it.
Every so often, at the discretion of the coach, players should go back and work on hitting basics. This means starting from a tee, using a whiffle ball. While some players may grumble about starting at such a fundamental level, you must show them the importance of being able to hit a whiffle ball off a tee, perfectly, every time. If players cannot hit a ball where they want it to go when it is sitting right in front of them, how are they going to be able to hit a ball moving toward them at 50 miles an hour or more?
When players hit a whiffle ball correctly from a tee, it acts like a knuckleball. When players hit is incorrectly, it spins uncontrollably and goes awry. Because of the air going through the ball, players will be able to see their mistakes easier and make adjustments as necessary.
After players become comfortable again with hitting from a tee, remove the tee and have them practice with regular pitches again. They will notice a difference in the way they hold themselves and approach the ball, and you will a difference in their effectiveness.
Kenny Buford is a baseball coach with over 20 years of experience and a founding member of Baseball Inner Circle. Discover the ultimate source for baseball drills, videos, and coaching tips that will immediately improve your players' skills and win more games for your team:
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