First Hitting Lesson of the Summer

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Dec 11, 2010
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Today, we used a Hack Attack and hit real balls off of it.
You are going to end up loving that thing. Maybe try leather cover slow pitch balls. Lower seams. (I have only used Baden dimple balls in mine so my suggestion is pretty hypothetical!)

Awesome lesson. Those players are lucky.
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,822
113
Our lesson today:

First, my hitter got there early and helped me set up. That shows me a lot. This hitter has been tearing it up. However, last week, she felt she didn't have as much success as the previous two tournaments. She said that she was disappointed since this was a local tournament and the pitching was not the quality of the previous tournaments. I asked her how she got out. She said that she thought that she rolled over on a few balls to shortstop. What we concluded was that she was trying to overpower the ball since she knew that the pitcher could not strike her out. IMO, these types of discussions are really important. Our session today went past an hour and it was starting to get pretty hot. This hitter was rolling with sweat. I like knowing that sweat is the result of hard work.

The focus of today's lessons was "the hands are along for the ride" and ground reaction forces. The concept of "hands along for the ride" is a concept from Steve Englishbey. As some of you might remember, it was very controversial back in the day. Not to speak for Steve but his point was that the hands can't think and can only react to what the rest of the body does. The ground reaction forces, IMO, are part of an effect some back in the day equated with a sense of "connection" from the load and throughout the swing.

Instead of breaking down the entire lesson, I'll briefly describe a couple of drills we did. For reference, one of the cues I use is to point the knob and deliver the barrel.

First drill:

My hitter set up with her feet spread and slightly behind the tip of the plate. She was to take a 4-inch step forward with that back foot keeping her back toe turned slightly inward. When that foot hit, she lifted that front foot in a stride and drove the ball into the net. She was to focus both on what she felt from that 4-inch step and realize that if she pushed her hands forward, she couldn't drive the ball up the middle. Once she did this a few times, I asked her about her pelvic tilt to lateral tilt and where her nose was when she could turn on the ball. She did the action of this drill without a ball and noticed that her nose was over the black of the plate. She had mentioned that in her last tournament, she found herself flying out like she used to do. I asked her if she could fly out to do this drill. Her answer was no and that she had to be more efficient with her hands so she was not spinning.

Next drill:

Some of you have seen the drill that Coach Lotief does with the lacrosse sticks. We did this drill using TCB whiffle balls. The hitter is to use a stop swing letting the ball travel and then explode catching that ball in a "stop swing." At first, my hitter could not do this. She wanted to push her hands. Eventually, she "got it." Again, the hands are along for the ride and have to reach with the body. One she understood about connection and the hands riding that connection and then coming off, she could catch that ball on a stop swing. She had a lot of fun trying to do this drill and was pretty competitive with it. Just for fun, I asked her to hit a few with that lacrosse stick to wrap up.

Next drill:

I saw that someone posted a drill of three tees placed in a row with the ball at different heights. We have been doing a similar drill for years that involves the principles of our progression drill. We place 3 plates each with their own tees and at different heights but the difference is that the first tee is up and in with the tee about 5 inches in front of the inside corner of the plate. The second tee is belt high and the tee is on the front edge of the plate. The 3rd tee is on the outside edge of the plate and almost middle of that outside edge. We then do a version of Happy Gilmore but we ask the hitter to really plant that back foot "hard" and drive the ball. We want them to be dynamic but not fast. Going fast will ruin the drill. We had the hitter start with her game bat and do a couple of rounds until she understood the drill. Then, we had her go to the heavy wooden bat. If she were to push swing with that wooden bat, she would drop her hands and hit the tee. Then, we had her finish with her game bat.

Some other thoughts. Back in the day when my dd was playing in HS, we started a video library of drills. We continued that as she went to college. Over time, we have several examples of our HS hitters doing all of these drills. IMO, that is a great idea. We can reference a drill and send video of the drill to our hitters to view.
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,822
113
Today's Lesson:

First, the forecast was for rain. I got to the cage early to set up as I always do. My hitter showed up 15 minutes early today. One of the things I preach is, "If you're 5 minutes early, you're 10 minutes late." We started the lesson early. The two focus for us today were a "fall back swing" and "hips and hands are better together." The saying, "hips and hands are better together" was from back in the day and I didn't like it. I asked the person who used it to explain what they meant since I didn't think it was a good cue. That person, who I won't name, said that they leave out the word, "working." IMO, that word is needed. As we always do, we covered this past weekend's games. My hitter hit over .400 for the tournament but said that she felt she could have done so much better. I asked her why. She said that she was too aggressive and chased some pitches that she should have taken. I asked her where she hits in the lineup. She said that she hits #4 and saw that the first 3 in the lineup were getting started with fastballs in her first two games so she chased changeups and balls out of the zone. She said her second three games she had better discipline and drove the ball. Right away we talked about zone hitting and looking for balls middle in or middle out and that most teams will throw #4 middle out with whatever pitch. Few come in on that first at-bat since they haven't seen the hitter.

My hitter has now purchased a wood composite bat. I really believe that my kid hit so well because she grew up hitting with heavy wooden bats. My hitter did our routine to get loose. Then the real work began.

I placed a ball on a tee 25 feet away and my hitter was asked to feel what her body did it tossing a ball up and trying to hit a line drive to knock off the ball on the tee. I like drills like this. On the first one, my hitter really pulled the ball. I asked why. Her shoulder was flying out. By the time she was done, she was coming up on her back toe, dragging it about 4 inches and smashing line drive. I bet she missed that ball by 4 inches or less 10 times at the end of that drill. More importantly, she could explain X-stretch and the relationship between hips and her shoulders.

Ninji Drill -- We have a 6-foot dowel rod that we hit tennis balls with. In our Ninji Drill, the hitter faces toward the backstop and out of the box. They swing the dowel rod two times working on having a strong top and making the bat make a swoosh sound. They then turn around and "charge" forward to hit a tennis ball off of a tee. This is a dynamic and fast movement. The goal then is for the hitter to realize how to be dynamic without spinning that front shoulder flying out. We changed the tennis ball out for a softball and the dowel rod for our heavy bat. She was amazed at how she was driving the ball. At one point, she said that the heavy bat no longer seems heavy. I asked why. She said that she has learned out of hit with her core and not her arms. Great answer. Then we finished with her real bat.

Halfway Home Drill - Don't confuse this with what others call halfway home. For my drill, my hitter hits a ball off of a tee. Her bat is in lag with the knob pointed at the ball. Her front hip is slightly beyond halfway open. IOWs, the position a hitter is in when they hard check a swing. I love this drill. The focus, again, was the relationship of hips and hands. We did this with both her game bat and heavy bat. Next, we removed the tee and she began her swing freezing at this halfway home position. When she paused, I bounced a tennis ball off of the ground. At one point, she asked me if this is what she should do when hitting a change. I asked her where she was driving the ball. She said up the middle. She smiled and said, WOW. As I have constantly said, you have to have a running dialogue with the hitter. You can't just say good swing. The hitter needs to be asked questions and they need to be able to ask questions.

The second part of today's lesson was "fall back swing." I've mentioned this before and Scott Sarginson (Ssarge) was the first I heard promote this. (BTW, it was really getting dark as a thunderstorm was approaching.) The hitter places the barrel of the bat on her shoulder. The back elbow is up but relaxed. The hitter is slightly open. The hitter will not stride. At a given point in the windup of the pitcher, the hitter will take their front knee and rotate it slightly backward toward the back knee. The heel of the hitter will come up and rotate so that the pitcher can see a portion of the hitter's heel. At the same time the front knee makes it move, the hitter lifts the bat off of the shoulder. How high? I don't know. The hitter will naturally figure that out. The bat will be at an angle and not parallel to the ground.

The Fall Back Swing is used when a hitter is really struggling and needs to take all of the, "noise" out of the swing. My daughter's last two collegiate home runs were hit doing this. I asked my hitter if this was something she should do all of the time. Her answer was that she felt that the way she swings now is so comfortable that she liked doing that. I said great. She said she did see how this would help her get back to basics and that is the point of this strategy.

We were working on this when all heck broke loose. I poured. End of lesson. I don't know if these posts help or not. It is what I do and, as I have said many times, I understand that some will look at these lessons and laugh at how silly they are.

Edited to add:

I forgot to add that for most of our hitters, nationals are starting. What I do for my hitters or hitter this year is that on Thursday, I am offering a free hitting session where my hitter(s) can bring a friend and hit for 45 minutes. I am not going to coach the other hitter but they can participate as much as they want. For my hitter, this will be a session where I throw a lot and let them get swings in with both the heavy bat and their bat. In the past, my hitters have had a lot of fun with this and bringing a friend makes it easier when they are taking front toss and BP swings from me.
 
Last edited:

BigSkyHi

All I know is I don't know
Jan 13, 2020
1,385
113
Today's Lesson:

First, the forecast was for rain. I got to the cage early to set up as I always do. My hitter showed up 15 minutes early today. One of the things I preach is, "If you're 5 minutes early, you're 10 minutes late." We started the lesson early. The two focus for us today were a "fall back swing" and "hips and hands are better together." The saying, "hips and hands are better together" was from back in the day and I didn't like it. I asked the person who used it to explain what they meant since I didn't think it was a good cue. That person, who I won't name, said that they leave out the word, "working." IMO, that word is needed. As we always do, we covered this past weekend's games. My hitter hit over .400 for the tournament but said that she felt she could have done so much better. I asked her why. She said that she was too aggressive and chased some pitches that she should have taken. I asked her where she hits in the lineup. She said that she hits #4 and saw that the first 3 in the lineup were getting started with fastballs in her first two games so she chased changeups and balls out of the zone. She said her second three games she had better discipline and drove the ball. Right away we talked about zone hitting and looking for balls middle in or middle out and that most teams will throw #4 middle out with whatever pitch. Few come in on that first at-bat since they haven't seen the hitter.

My hitter has now purchased a wood composite bat. I really believe that my kid hit so well because she grew up hitting with heavy wooden bats. My hitter did our routine to get loose. Then the real work began.

I placed a ball on a tee 25 feet away and my hitter was asked to feel what her body did it tossing a ball up and trying to hit a line drive to knock off the ball on the tee. I like drills like this. On the first one, my hitter really pulled the ball. I asked why. Her shoulder was flying out. By the time she was done, she was coming up on her back toe, dragging it about 4 inches and smashing line drive. I bet she missed that ball by 4 inches or less 10 times at the end of that drill. More importantly, she could explain X-stretch and the relationship between hips and her shoulders.

Ninji Drill -- We have a 6-foot dowel rod that we hit tennis balls with. In our Ninji Drill, the hitter faces toward the backstop and out of the box. They swing the dowel rod two times working on having a strong top and making the bat make a swoosh sound. They then turn around and "charge" forward to hit a tennis ball off of a tee. This is a dynamic and fast movement. The goal then is for the hitter to realize how to be dynamic without spinning that front shoulder flying out. We changed the tennis ball out for a softball and the dowel rod for our heavy bat. She was amazed at how she was driving the ball. At one point, she said that the heavy bat no longer seems heavy. I asked why. She said that she has learned out of hit with her core and not her arms. Great answer. Then we finished with her real bat.

Halfway Home Drill - Don't confuse this with what others call halfway home. For my drill, my hitter hits a ball off of a tee. Her bat is in lag with the knob pointed at the ball. Her front hip is slightly beyond halfway open. IOWs, the position a hitter is in when they hard check a swing. I love this drill. The focus, again, was the relationship of hips and hands. We did this with both her game bat and heavy bat. Next, we removed the tee and she began her swing freezing at this halfway home position. When she paused, I bounced a tennis ball off of the ground. At one point, she asked me if this is what she should do when hitting a change. I asked her where she was driving the ball. She said up the middle. She smiled and said, WOW. As I have constantly said, you have to have a running dialogue with the hitter. You can't just say good swing. The hitter needs to be asked questions and they need to be able to ask questions.

The second part of today's lesson was "fall back swing." I've mentioned this before and Scott Sarginson (Ssarge) was the first I heard promote this. (BTW, it was really getting dark as a thunderstorm was approaching.) The hitter places the barrel of the bat on her shoulder. The back elbow is up but relaxed. The hitter is slightly open. The hitter will not stride. At a given point in the windup of the pitcher, the hitter will take their front knee and rotate it slightly backward toward the back knee. The heel of the hitter will come up and rotate so that the pitcher can see a portion of the hitter's heel. At the same time the front knee makes it move, the hitter lifts the bat off of the shoulder. How high? I don't know. The hitter will naturally figure that out. The bat will be at an angle and not parallel to the ground.

The Fall Back Swing is used when a hitter is really struggling and needs to take all of the, "noise" out of the swing. My daughter's last two collegiate home runs were hit doing this. I asked my hitter if this was something she should do all of the time. Her answer was that she felt that the way she swings now is so comfortable that she liked doing that. I said great. She said she did see how this would help her get back to basics and that is the point of this strategy.

We were working on this when all heck broke loose. I poured. End of lesson. I don't know if these posts help or not. It is what I do and, as I have said many times, I understand that some will look at these lessons and laugh at how silly they are.

Edited to add:

I forgot to add that for most of our hitters, nationals are starting. What I do for my hitters or hitter this year is that on Thursday, I am offering a free hitting session where my hitter(s) can bring a friend and hit for 45 minutes. I am not going to coach the other hitter but they can participate as much as they want. For my hitter, this will be a session where I throw a lot and let them get swings in with both the heavy bat and their bat. In the past, my hitters have had a lot of fun with this and bringing a friend makes it easier when they are taking front toss and BP swings from me.
Thanks coach!
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,822
113
Do you look at video from their game ABs? I like that you discuss approach with them.
Yes, if their parents take it. Typically, the parent uses the player's phone to record but sometimes parents come to the hitting sessions. Some questions that I ask are:

  • How did you do this weekend?
  • How did you get out?
  • What was the level of pitching that you faced?
  • Did your TB Coach notice anything about your swing or approach and make suggestions?
  • Walk through some at-bats.
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,822
113
I was asked if I could share my/our video library. I can not. I am sure some of you can understand why. We ask parents if it is ok to video their kids and we have them sign an agreement that says that we will only share video that is drill related with other players on our team. Any game video is only shown to the player we video. We do use still shots as well. These players range from freshmen to seniors when we video them and so, we don't want a legal mess on our hands if we share the videos.
 

Cannonball

Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
4,822
113
Most likely, this will be the last lesson entry in this thread. I hope that someone found decent content in it.

Today was the free lesson for my hitter who was told that they could invite a friend to hit. Today was to be more of a tuneup for nationals. I had everything set up. We were going to do front toss, the progression drill and wrap up with me throwing. I had everything set up and the hitters showed up. Before we could get started, it opened up and poured on us. It is still raining hard after more than an hour. Ironically, I checked the weather app I have and it has these storms going west and south of us. LOL We could not hit. I did want to share our progression drill though I have I shared it before.

The front toss station is set up about 15 - 20 feet in front of the hitter. I set up 3 cones (Those flat "cones") as a guide to where I am going to throw the ball. One cone is set up in front of the inside part of the plate about 4-5 inches. The second cone is set up dead center middle of the front of the plate. The last cone is set up outside and where the plate angles toward the back point. I throw inside, middle, and out. The hitter is expected to pull the ball, drive it up the middle, and hit it oppo as I throw the progression. I do not lob these balls. Any toss that has an arc regardless of the drill makes the drill a waste of time.

For the BP, I typically throw between 5 and 8 pitches and then situational hitting where the hitter and I talk through the at-bat. Then, the other hitter steps in and we repeat. You can use your imagination in thinking about what situations you want your hitter to practice.

Though we didn't get to hit due to the rain, I called my hitter and briefly went through why we have done what we have done these last few weeks. I ended that conversation like I end important practices and/or begin the state playoffs. I say, "The hay is in the barn." IOWs, if you (the player) have worked hard and paid attention to detail, you're ready for the upcoming challenge.
 

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