How to PROPERLY use the Token-Operated Batting Cages

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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