How to PROPERLY use the Token-Operated Batting Cages

January 20, 2011

By: Chris Welch, General Manager & Private Instructor

From the day RBI Baseball Academy in Foxboro first opened we have had thousands of baseball and softball players utilize the four token operated machines.   These cages can be a tremendous asset to anyone trying to improve their swing.  However, the vast majority of players that I see utilizing the token area never use it properly.

            One of the major components of hitting that is discussed daily here is how so many baseball/softball players don’t swing a bat to DRIVE the ball.  Most hitters simply settle for making contact.  While proper contact is vital to a hitter, it is important to always remember that hitters need to DRIVE the ball and not just settle for contact.  In my 26 years of baseball I’ve never given a player a high five in the dugout for grounding out to the pitcher.  Yes, they made contact… but did they really accomplish anything?

            Players that are coming to RBI Baseball Academy to work on their swing in our token operated machines need to start thinking more aggressively in our batter’s boxes.  Too often a player “Tests” themselves to see how fast they can hit a ball instead of truly working on their swing.  Yes, we have 4 different speed levels in each of our 4 cages, but just because someone can make “contact” with our 70mph cages does not mean they are truly hitting/driving the ball.  Putting a token in and selecting the highest speed possible and proceeding to take 22 bad swings is a complete waste of your time.  So here are some suggestions on what to do next time you are at RBI.

1.)    If you are a player age 12 or under, start at 40mph.  If you are a player 13 and over, start at 50mph.

2.)    Set yourself in the cage and don’t time your swing on the red light, time your swing on the ball.  The lights are there and can be a help, but concentrate more on the ball and not the light.

3.)    Stay on the same speed until you can do the following:

a.)    Maintain balance throughout the ENTIRE swing

b.)    Get your front foot down without lunging forwards

c.)    DRIVE the baseball to the opposite field by being patient and staying on the ball longer.  The best hitters in the game can hit the ball with power to the opposite field, if you can’t do that.. now is the time to start working on it!  Anyone can pull a baseball, but in order to be great you need to be able to have enough bat control and patience to drive the ball to the opposite field. 

d.)    Drive at least 12 of the 22 pitches hard up the middle of to the opposite field (LINE DRIVES)

4.)    Once you can do all of the previously listed things change speeds to the following:

a.)    If you are 12 and under, move up to 50 mph and see if you can do everything listed in step 3.

b.)    If you are 13 and over, move DOWN to 40 mph and see if you can do everything listed in step 3.  Can you still balance???  Can you still drive the ball???  Or are you off balance and pulling everything on the ground?  Once you hit 13 years old, pitchers start getting better and can throw changeups, curveballs, sliders, etc.  If you can’t hit 40 mph with power in this cage, you won’t be successful when it comes time to drive something off-speed.  I promise you that. 

5.)    Once you’ve completed step 4.  Then adjust your speed further, go up or down in speed.  But try not to change speeds unless you are confident you can do everything listed in step 3.  And once you attain the necessary confidence, try to adjust the speeds (up or down) after every token to keep you on your toes (literally).

            The cages at RBI can be a tremendous asset to your workouts, but always remember that just practicing doesn’t count.  You need to PRACTICE PERFECTLY in order to improve.  Many players that walk through our doors will never improve because every swing they take is to their detriment and not helping them move forward. 

            Also remember that a pitching machine is a tool to help feed the ball to you, it’s not meant to replicate a pitching motion.  There’s a reason we don’t have these machines set to pitch at 90mph.  The only way of truly replicating that is to have someone pitch to you at 90mph, and good luck finding that.  True hitters know that if they work hard at balancing and improving their bat speed, it doesn’t matter what the speed of the pitch is… they’ll drive it.   If you utilize it as a great way of feeding you the ball automatically you can get a lot out of it.  At RBI we don’t want you to just be happy with contact, we want you to be aggressive and DRIVE every ball you hit.  Practice Perfectly!

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New Year’s Eve Clinic draws 80+ Prospects

January 5, 2011

Over 80 prospects from the classes of 2011, 2012 & 2013 filled the RBI facility on New Year’s Eve to take part in a clinic/showcase that featured a professional and collegiate staff.  Players took part in instructional drills with professional scouts and college coaches while receiving individual feedback on their performance.  Each player, depending on position, showcased their skills in a variety of measured drills including:

60 yard dash

Catcher pop times

Infield cross-diamond arm strength

Outfield arm strength

Pitcher’s velocity

Coaches in attendance included: Ray Fagnant, Boston Red Sox ~ Jim Bretz, San Diego Padres ~ Brian Nichols, Seattle Mariners ~ Jared Barnes, Milwaukee Brewers ~ Art Pantarelli, New York Mets ~ Edwin Thompson, Duke University ~ Kristaps Aldins, Harvard University ~ Jeff Kane, Holy Cross ~ Jeff Vigurs, Northeastern ~ Mike Gedman, Bryant University ~ Idris Liasu, University of Rhode Island ~ Jad Prachniak, College of William & Mary ~ Pat Boen, Stonehill College ~ Coley Lyons, Stonehill College ~ Jay King, Franklin Pierce University ~ Mike Hill, Bentley University ~ Ray Ricker, Post University ~ Dirk Baker, Worcester State University ~ Joe Teixeira, Nichols College ~ Anthony Lauretto, Newbury College ~ Travis Turgeon, Washington College (MD) ~ Josh White, Curry College ~ Greg Harjula, LaSell College ~ Evan Ruddock, New England College ~ Nick Marsh, American International College (AIC) ~ Matt Moyen, Wentworth Institute of Technology

Here are the Top 5 Performances in each showcase drill:

60-YARD DASH SPEED

1. Reed Turgeon, Franklin High School – 6.44 sec.

2. Kyle Jackson, Cumberland (RI) High School – 6.66 sec.

3. Hunter Granville, The Bromfield School – 6.72 sec.

4. Sean Goldman, Whitman-Hanson High School – 6.84 sec.

5. Paul DiMascio, Bishop Feehan High School – 6.87 sec.

CATCHER POP TIMES

1. Victor Duran, Riverside High School – 1.81 sec.

2. Bryan Rocha, Dighton-Rehoboth High School – 1.84 sec.

3. Brandon Hoyle, Bridgewater-Raynham High School – 1.91 sec.

4. Reed Turgeon, Franklin High School – 2.04 sec.

5. Alex Person, Xaverian Brothers High School – 2.05 sec.

INFIELD X-DIAMOND ARM STRENGTH

1. Austin DeCarr, Xaverian Brothers High School – 85 MPH

2. Jordan Picini, North Attleboro High School – 79 MPH

T3. Skip Flanagan, Bishop Feehan High School & Andrew Bukuras, Mansfield High School – 78 MPH

4. Matt Paola, Pomperaug High School (CT) – 77 MPH

OUTFIELD ARM STRENGTH TEST:

T1. Kyle Jackson, Cumberland (RI) High School & Vincent Nardone, Weston High School – 78 MPH

T2. Hunter Granville, The Bromfield School & Zach Littman, Abington High School – 76 MPH

3. Troy Richardson, North Attleboro High School – 76 MPH

PITCHER’S TOP VELOCITIES

RHP’S

1. Austin DeCarr, Xaverian Brothers HS – 86 MPH

T2. John Nicklas, St. Sebastian’s & Charlie Butler, Nashoba Regional HS- 85 MPH

T3. Jordan Picini, North Attleboro HS, Brian Crafton, King Philip Regional HS & Cato Lacroix, Holliston HS – 84 MPH

LHP’S

1. Troy Richardson, North Attleboro HS – 84 MPH

2. Ben Bowden, Lynn English HS – 82 MPH

3. Skip Flanagan, Bishop Feehan HS – 81 MPH

4. Zach Perry, Tabor Academy – 78 MPH

5. David Silletti, King Philip Regional HS – 76 MPH