Chris Welch, General Manager, RBI Baseball Academy
This morning I was at the Booth Complex in Foxboro to see Paul’s team play (the mighty Red Sox). Many of the players on the field (9 and 10 year olds) were players that I see at RBI all the time hitting and some were players I’ve worked with myself. One thing that stuck out to me this morning is how SO many hitters at younger ages (and many at older) swing to simply make contact. Players weren’t at the plate with the goal of hitting the ball HARD, they were at the plate with the goal of hitting the ball.
Now I’m certainly not suggesting that contact isn’t crucial, but contact without any form of power is almost always a recipe for a walk back to the bench at the end of your at bat. As I’ve mentioned before, how hard you hit the ball (force) is a combination of three things:
2.) Bat Speed
By only focusing on contact you are forgetting about two very critical parts of the force driving the ball. Mass is something that you can control when you’re in the box. Obviously it’s tough to gain weight between the on deck circle and the batter’s box, but by controlling your balance you can help maximize how much of your mass goes into the ball. Bat speed is something that can certainly be maximized on every single swing by taking a proper (direct) bat path to the ball, being flexible, being balanced, and having a proper grip (amongst many other things). Proper contact is also something that can help maximize your force behind the ball, but without any form of the other two what does it get you? I’ve been playing baseball for a long time and I don’t remember a time where the bench exploded in excitement when their hitter grounded out to the pitcher. But he sure made contact!
In our lessons, clinics, and programs we will dive into many ways of becoming a better hitter. We’ll talk about countless ways of improving your stance, your grip, your balance, your flexibility, your timing, etc. But let’s not forget that when you get into the batter’s box SWING HARD!!!
Swinging HARD can get you on base even when you don’t make great contact. Especially at younger ages when defensive players aren’t as sure handed as when you get older. At 12 years old and younger, when you hit a ball hard your odds of getting on base are extremely high. Even if it’s a groundball.
Players should also never confuse swinging hard and aggressively with swinging “wildly and out of control”. Creating a great swing takes a lot of practice. Training the muscles to do the right thing is difficult as a hitter, but once you have trained yourself with proper muscle memory it’s time to concentrate on mentally having an aggressive approach to the ball.
As a coach/parent trying to help a player out of a hitting slump try to get a general sense of their swings while they’re at the plate. Are they swinging to “make contact” or are they swinging to drive the ball? If you feel as though they’re swinging to simply make contact explain to them that they should have a goal in mind of hitting the ball hard. Make their at-bats easier by telling them to not think about anything but hitting the ball hard. I am willing to bet that simple mental adjustment will pay off for them.
If you have any questions on this, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and always remember to practice perfectly!