A common trait among those who are not used to playing baseball, or are new to it, is the practice of bailing out of the batter’s box. Sometimes, the batter will even begin to bail out, without even knowing where the pitch is going to be going. This is an awful way to play and can even result in an injury.
To combat this, there are things you can do in practice drills to prevent the batter from bailing out. This won’t be a fix-all, but it will get them on the track to staying in the batter’s box.
First, begin by using a tennis ball and have the batter get into the box. Begin throwing pitches behind the batter. This is why you use a tennis ball because the batter may naturally want to bail out, and bailing out will mean getting hit by a tennis ball. It is better this happens because they may bail out in a game and get hit by the pitch. By doing this, the hitter will begin to focus directly on the ball and they will gain confidence and comfort at the plate.
You need to throw a lot of pitches to get them used to it. The batter will then begin to notice they hit better when they focus on the ball, or don’t duck down because they are scared of getting hit.
Another good way to combat this is to have the batter actually stay in the batter’s box while the warm up between the pitcher and catcher is happening. Tell the batter to follow the pitch, from the pitcher’s hand all the way to the batter’s glove. As they begin to concentrate more on where the pitch is going, they will become a better pitcher as a result. You don’t want your player being afraid of the ball. The more afraid they are, the more likely they are to not get a hit, or even get hurt.
You should never make the player feel embarrassed by what they are doing in the batter’s box. You are there to teach them to hit properly and safely, and this drill will do that. Yes, they may feel undue attention is on them, but the point is to make the batter a better hitter. Just be understanding and kind and that will go a long way.
In baseball, it is all about the stance. At an early age, it is important that you teach your players that balance is the key to power. Balance not only helps players get those good hits, but it also helps them direct the hit exactly where they want it to go.
You want to teach your players to hit up the middle and if you can teach them to do that, you can teach them to hit the ball anywhere that they like.
As a coach, it is important that you teach them they have to balance everything when they are at the plate. The body must move, but it must move in a certain way, with the head remaining still, the body moving and the bat connecting.
Concentration is a huge part of this and a player needs to walk up to the plate thinking that they are going to hit the ball. They need to be in the same rhythm as the pitcher, watching as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, comes to the plate, so the player can swing in one fluid motion, with the body in complete balance.
If arms are too tight, there is no wrist action, the swing is off and the power is lost. Everything in the body needs to be in balance.
It may seem like we are talking about being in balance, in terms of the feet planted and the body balanced along a vertical plane. This isn’t the case, we are talking about everything from the mind’s positive thinking going to the plate, to the swing itself, being in perfect balance and harmony.
This comes down to teaching your players properly when they are having batting practice. Teach them that they need to hit the pitch to the opposite field and tell them to concentrate on that. This is to prepare for those situations in games when the hit needs to go where the batter wants it to go.
Hitting is not an easy skill. Remember, the greatest baseball players in history only hit the ball 40 per cent of the time, the rest of the time they are out. That means teaching your players that even if they go three for 10, they still have a pretty good average. That positive thinking will translate in the next at-bat, when they are in balance emotionally and physically, allowing them to get that next hit that helps win the game.
Practice is very important if a player wants to find any success with baseball, or anything for that matter. You want your team to play the same way that they practice. When they are in a game, tired and behind in the score, you want them to play at the same level that you have been coaching them at.
You want to cover everything in practice, from footwork to batting in a clutch situation, because those same skills are going to come forward when they are playing in a difficult game. You need to give them the skills that they can fall back on.
You should never neglect anything when you are hosting a practice. It may be tempting to focus more on offense than defense, but by doing so your team is going to be hurt defensively in games. How your team performs is going to be based heavily on what you focus on during your practices. If your team is letting a lot of grounders go through their legs, you can’t be mad if you have not been focusing on how to properly fielding grounders.
Your coaching style is based heavily on your personality, but you are a builder of baseball players, and you need to encourage your players through proper practices, and not get mad when they don’t do what you want them to in games, despite not teaching them to do it.
In your practice, you want to plan ahead. You should also keep your practices changing, so that you never fall into a pattern where you are teaching the same thing over and over. By keeping the practices changing, your players will not become bored. You also help to keep them concentrated on what you are trying to teach them. This makes the overall practice a more productive experience, and that makes games much more productive as well.
This all comes down to pre-planning.
Pre-planning can begin as early as winter. You should sit down with your other coaches and begin planning what you want to accomplish in your upcoming spring practices. If you are practicing indoors, you can begin practicing in the winter. So, starting early with planning is very important. If you are having practices indoors, you are going to need to plan practices that are right for indoor environments. Taking a grounder off the grass is one thing. Taking a grounder in an indoor area off a rubbery track is a completely different situation. Hence, the importance of planning in all scenarios.
For each practice, you should also have a planned scenario in place. What if it is very sunny, slightly rainy, even windy, all of these will dictate the type of practice you have.
Regardless of where the practice is, how long it runs, or even the weather, the best practice is one that uses player stations. The reason for this is it keeps children in groups of two to three, which keeps them from horsing around, keeps them interactive with other players who are not friends or siblings and it helps them focus on the drills themselves.
Player stations can be grouped together for skill levels and even playing styles and batting stances.
Even in the winter, get planning your practices for the spring and summer and your season will be more organized and more successful.
One of the greatest privileges you can have is being a coach in youth baseball. You are helping children not only become better baseball players, but you are teaching them about teamwork and hard work. Those examples will stay with them for the rest of their life.
In youth baseball, nearly everyone wants to be the pitcher. The pitcher is the focal point on the field and they tend to get to do the most of any player apart from the catcher. It can feel great for a player when they strike out batters, and that is a huge boost to their confidence. In many ways, it is very rewarding to be a pitcher, but it can also be humbling. When you start losing a game, or you can’t strike out players, it can be tough and your players will feel that.
For some players, being taken out of a game can feel like they were screamed at by you in front of everyone.
In the early years, pitchers are going to be learning more about just getting the ball over the plate but as they move through youth baseball, they will begin learning about the variety of pitches and how to strike a better out.
The sooner you begin working with a pitcher to learn how to change the speed and location of a pitch, the sooner they will become a better pitcher. In your role as a coach, you need to be able to present options to your pitchers in regards to throwing motions. First, stress balance with your pitchers, then move on to arm position, rotation of the hips and more. You can begin teaching the follow-through, and everything else as you go.
For pitches, begin teaching the pitchers about the change-up first. Many coaches teach the breaking ball first, but this can do long-term damage to a young pitcher’s arm if not done right. In addition, teach your pitchers about warming up for half-an-hour before pitching. If you don’t start teaching them that at a young age, they are not going to be in the habit and they can seriously injure themselves later in their youth baseball career.
As a coach, your first responsibility is player safety, and that includes the pitcher’s arm. You should not teach your pitchers to only throw fast and overextend themselves. You should teach them about location, and getting the ball where the batter will go for it and miss. That way, the pitch count is lower, the pitcher has a healthy arm and everyone has a fun time on the field.
You don’t always have a lot of time to get through everything in a practice, and teaching children the fundamentals of baseball is best done through actual games. Practices are too short to do a game between players, but you can use this amazing system to teach kids about baseball fundamentals, and all it takes is 90 minutes.
The other great thing about this system is it also allows you to see the capabilities of the players, quickly and easily, which works great if you are having tryouts and need to get through them quickly. Tryouts can include dozens of kids, so you need to keep things moving and this system is great for that.
The system runs as such:
- Each individual has two grounders hit towards them while they are ready in the position of the shortstop. The individual will pick up each grounder and throw to First.
- Each individual is hit two pop flies, around the area of left-center field, but in a shallow area. Both pop flies are caught, or fielded, and thrown to second base, then thrown to third base by the second base player.
- Each individual will also go to the batting circle. Each individual is thrown seven total pitches from a machine. The first two pitches must be bunted, and the rest will be pitches the batter has to swing at. While the batter is doing this, four other batters will be waiting for their turn. The rest of the players will be in the field to catch the ball hit towards them. After the last pitch from the pitching machine, the batter will run the bases, regardless if they have hit the ball or not.
If you use this method in tryouts, don’t just do it on one day. You should actually try and do it on multiple days because some kids are going to have bad days. They could be great players but if their dog just died, they are not going to have their mind on baseball. Everyone deserves a couple chances to show that they can do it.
This system gives you excellent results, without the need for a workout that runs past two hours. It will allow you to see what kids excel, what kids do not, and where kids can improve. An efficient, and excellent system you can begin using immediately.
Many may feel that T-ball isn’t about hitting. They will look at the fact that the children are hitting the ball off of a pole and believe that there is little to learn about hitting from that. Those people would be wrong. T-ball is where a great deal is learned about hitting. The basics and the fundamentals all come from here, and those who learn to hit at the T-ball level, will be better baseball players overall down the road.
As a coach, it is up to you to provide the children with good T-ball drills that will teach them a proper baseball swing. What you teach them now will stick with them throughout their baseball career.
Here are some excellent Tee-Ball hitting drills to try.
- Start things off by teaching the children to hit off the tee itself. You can show them how to handle a proper baseball swing, without worry about watching to hit the ball. Just have the children bat into the backstop or the fence.
- Once the children are beginning to handle hitting of the tee, stand about five feet away from the batter and begin tossing the ball to them so that they can try hitting it out of the air. This is important to develop their hand-eye coordination.
- Take a larger ball than a baseball, even a child’s soccer ball, and toss it to the batter so they can hit it out of the air. This again is not so much about hitting the ball far, but about a proper baseball swing through T-ball swings.
- Surprisingly, when coaches teach T-ball hitting drills, they don’t always teach what to do with the bat. Many just assume the child will know what to do with the bat. An important part of any hitting drill is to teach the children not to throw the bat, nor run with it. Instead, they should be taught to place it on the ground. If you tell them to toss the bat, they are going to let that bat fly without even realizing it. In many leagues, the batter will be called out for this because it is very dangerous.
- Without the tee, or any ball, have the children practice swinging the bat in a level way. Have them to do it slowly, so you can watch and see if they are keeping the bat level. It is a simple drill and it goes a long way into teaching the child to hit the ball with a proper baseball swing.
- Lastly, you can use something as simple as a shortened broom handle and have the children try to hit the ball with that. Use a tennis ball or foam ball rather than a baseball. This will really enhance the child’s hand-eye coordination and it will absolutely make them better hitters as a result.
A proper hitting stance, teaching not to step out of the bucket, and more can be taught at a young age, in T-Ball. As the coach, take the time to do these drills so the children have the proper foundations going into the next level of baseball.
Understanding the proper hitter’s stance can help anyone become a better baseball player. Coaches will try and teach how to properly hit the ball, and a proper hitting stance, but the truth is that every single player is different. For some, stepping in the bucket helps them hit better, but for others it can cause them to miss every pitch.
Why are we talking about stepping in the bucket when we are focusing on the stance right now? The stance you take will dictate the swing you make.
What is the anatomy of the hitter’s stance then? As with anything, it is broken down into various parts. Since you are not moving while in the stance, we will focus on how the body should be within the stance. A good stance can create a proper baseball swing, without stepping in the bucket.
The majority of ball players are right-handed, hence we will focus on right-handed batters.
As with anything, how a person stands will vary based on the person, but this is a general overview of baseball hitting tips to create a proper hitting stance.
- The batter should have their feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. This wider stance than usual will create more power for the player, but also more stability with the baseball swing. Feet close together will not be able to create the baseball swing the batter will want.
- The grip on the bat should be firm, and the hands should be together with the knuckles lined up. How high the batter holds the bat depends on preference, but generally there will only be a couple of inches of space between the knob of the bat and the edge of the hand. The hands should be about 10 to 12 inches in front of the body, at shoulder length.
- The batter should lean slightly forward, with the knees bent slightly and the hips flexed out.
In this position, the shoulders and hips are level for most players.
There will be some varying among players, but the most important thing with the baseball swing is that the player is comfortable with how they are standing. Some players will prefer to crouch deep down to get more power in their upswing, while other players will prefer to keep the bat on their shoulder as the pitcher winds up for the throw.
Players should try different stances to see what is the most comfortable. This isn’t just about proper baseball swings, or preventing players from stepping in the bucket, it is also about safety. Some players may overexert themselves from an improper stance, and that can lead to injury from pushing the body past where it wants to be. If a player leans too far in, they are at risk from being hit by the pitch, with less time to react to get away from the ball.
As a coach, allow players to fine tune their swing but you can give them the basics by teaching a proper hitting stance. That proper hitting stance will lead them to proper hitting and a successful career in baseball.
For those who are not versed in the game of baseball, it can appear to be a very complicated game. It doesn’t help that the terminology used in the game can be complicated, misleading and, well, just plain strange. For anyone who wants to learn a proper baseball swing, or is starting out in T-ball drills, not understanding what “choking up” means can lead to improper swings, and less chance of success in baseball.
To help everyone understand what is meant by “choking up” or “stepping in the bucket”, here is a brief list of some of the most common bits of baseball terminology in baseball. This is by no means a complete list.
- 4-Bagger: A home-run, called so because the batter must touch all four bags for the home-run to count.
- Ahead in the Count: If the pitcher has thrown more strikes than balls, they are ahead in the count. Alternatively, if the pitcher has thrown more balls than strikes, the batter is ahead in the count.
- Airmail: An errant throw from a fielder that goes over the head of the player the throw was intended for.
- Around the horn: When infielders throw the ball to each other, after recording an out, when there are no runners on base.
- At the letters: If a pitch goes across the plate at the height of the letters spelling out the team on the batter’s jersey.
- Banjo hitter: this is a hitter who lacks power because they hit singles that go just past the infield dirt.
- Blooper: A weak fly ball that falls in for a single between the infield and the outfield.
- Batting Around The Order: An inning when all the hitters on one team come to the plate before three outs are made.
- Brush back pitch: This is a pitch that forces the player to back off the plate.
- Caught looking: When the batter is called on a third strike without swinging.
- Climbing the ladder: When the fastballs from a pitcher go higher and higher in the strike zone.
- Holding the runner: When a baserunner stays close to a base because the pitcher is watching them closely.
- In the hole: The area where the shortstop is found.
- Off the fists: This is a pitch that is high enough on the hitter’s bat that it is near the hands of the hitter.
- Painting the corners: A pitcher who puts his pitches to the edges of the strike-zone.
- Quiet swing: A batter who stands very still while waiting for the pitch.
- Soft hands: A fielder who is able to cradle the ball in his glove and rarely drops it when he catches the ball.
- Squeeze play: When a hitter bunts so that the runner at third base can run home and score a run. There is also the safety squeeze, when the runner waits to see where the bunt goes, and a suicide squeeze, in which the batter runs as the ball is being pitched.
- Stepping in the bucket: When a hitter’s leading foot is aligned away from the plate when they swing.
- Toe the slab: When the pitcher puts their toe on the rubber.
- Through the wickets: When the ball, having just been hit, goes through the legs of a player in the field.
For those terminologies that are not listed here, please refer to wikipedia’s list.
It could be argued that the most common phrase uttered by a coach in softball and baseball is “Keep your eye on the ball.” Taking your eye off the ball, even for a second, can result in a missed pitch, a called strike-three, a lost game. You always want to keep your eye on the ball, but some have trouble with this.
As a coach, you can practice several drills to ensure your players do keep their eye on the ball.
Fungo is an easy game to play and it is better than most games for teaching a player to watch the ball. It can be played for baseball players and softball players because the whole point is improving the baseball swing and softball swing.
With Fungo, you need a broom stock and a tennis ball or foam ball. A foam ball the size of a softball would work great.
Then, as the coach, all you need to do is throw that ball in the air like a softball pitch and have your hitter try to make contact. It is not as easy as you would think. The Fungo bat is much smaller than a regular bat and it takes a lot of getting used to in order to make contact. This exercise really teaches the player to keep their eye on the ball at all times.
With this exercise, you have a tosser and a hitter. The tosser stands 15 feet in front of the hitter and tosses foam softballs at the hitter. The hitter uses a hitting disk instead of the bat. The hitter gets into the stance, no different than in a real game as the tosser underhands the ball. The hitter then swings and throws the hitting disk in an attempt to make contact with the ball.
This is a fantastic drill because it will show the batter whether or not they are too slow or too fast with their swing. Your hitters will really struggle with this at first but as time goes on and with more practice, they will find their rhythm and see how important it is to keep their eye on the ball at all times. This is an excellent hitting drill that works wonders in softball for improving the baseball swing.
Some other softball hitting drills to train the batter to keep their eye on the ball include:
- Write numbers on the balls and then toss them as if you are pitching. The batter doesn’t hit the balls, but they need to tell you what number was written on the ball.
- On that same note, toss the ball but don’t have the hitter hit the ball. Instead, have them call whether it is a ball or a strike.
- Take two different colored foam balls, mark half the balls with a different color dot. Toss both at batter and tell them to hit the one with the dot on it.
Arguably the best hitter in baseball, and possibly one of the greatest hitters ever, it is impossible to narrow down the stance of Cabrera. Winning the American Triple Crown, the first person to do so since the 1960s, his stance is constantly changing. His stance has been described it as a stance that defies everything. There is one consistency though, and it is in his launch position. Cabrera’s body will move forward, a millisecond just before the bag begins to move forward as well. Cabrera will even alter his stance, between at-bats, and even between pitches. He has become famous for hitting home runs on pitches that are so far inside they look like they will hit his thigh.
That being said, his stance is one of split-second change. If he isn’t comfortable at the plate, he may not stride, he may keep his front toe in contact with the ground while he is swinging. With good contact, he lets go of the bat with his upper hand, allowing for a better follow-through. Of course, if he doesn’t make good contact, he holds onto the bat with both hands to give it more power. He has even been known to be stepping in the bucket. There really is no way to describe his stance.
Mauer’s stance is typically sweeping the dirt front to back and front to back with his right foot. His swing is described as a closed stance swing, and he has found great success with his baseball swing.
The stance of Trout is balanced and quite simple. He keeps his weight distributed evenly, and his hands are level with his eyes. The stance that he takes, which is compact, allows his to have an explosive amount of power with his baseball swing. He also has a high leg kick, which could be described as stepping in the bucket, that allows him to maintain his overall balance.
He will stand with his front foot planted, and his hands remain at his back foot as his hips begins to turn. then, as he begins his swing, his lower body stays in good position, while his front leg straightens out, giving him balance and power.
One batter who does tend to be stepping in the bucket is Johnson, whose foot gets down early as he has a tendency to come up and out of his swing. He does this to ensure that he stays inside of the ball, which allows him to have a big part of the field to hit towards.
There are three main stances in baseball, the open, closed and straight stance. All of these are used by various hitters in their baseball swing, but beyond these there are hundreds of individual stances that take a bit from each main stance. There really is no way to categorize some of the top hitters because they have found their own unique stance that they work with.