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Baseball Hitting Drills That Really Work
I have used baseball hitting drills to make myself a better hitter since I was a kid. Which is a long time ago. One thing I had that maybe not everyone has, was the benefit of great coaching. From my dad to little league through high school and American Legion Baseball and then to the Minor Leagues.
Oftentimes little league coaches are well-meaning parents who have kids on the team. But they might not know what makes a good hitter. You must know the proper mechanics of a good baseball swing before you can practice them. Otherwise, you will practice bad mechanics.
Rocky Balboa vs. The Russian
Remember in the movie Rocky 4 when Rocky trained for the fight with the Russian? There was the Russian training on all this high-tech equipment and what was Rocky doing? He was out in the snow pulling a sled full of rocks and split firewood! The point is that you don’t need to invest a lot of money in all kinds of expensive training aids.
Here are some easy drills to learn baseball hitting that will not only improve your swing, but cost little if any money. And most of them you can do yourself.
I taught early on about muscle memory. A quick example of muscle memory is tying your shoes. Try it now. See how fast you can tie your shoes. You do it without really thinking about it. It’s because you’ve done it so many times that your brain and muscles almost do it for you. That is muscle memory.
I still play baseball in what is called the Men’s Senior Baseball League. It’s a league for us adults who still want to play but can’t compete with the youth anymore.
I’m not bragging when I say I’m one of the best hitters in the league.
But it’s not because I’m more skilled or talented than anyone else. That’s because I tirelessly practice the proper mechanics of a good baseball swing.
The goal is to train your body to swing well without thinking about it so that in a game you only have to focus on hitting the baseball. You can’t think about staying balanced, staying behind, short stride, etc.
Practice the proper mechanics and muscle memory will take care of this for you.
Visualization is becoming a popular training aid. We did it 35 years ago. With all the baseball hitting drills I did, visualization was used all the time. Another word that describes visualization is pretend. See yourself in your mind hit drive line. Pretend scenarios and live them out in your head as you practice your baseball hitting drills.
Pretend you have a 3 and 1 count and the pitcher is hanging a curve ball. Watch yourself, as you swing, drive the ball over the 375-foot marker in right-center field. This actually helps with muscle memory and makes these exercises more fun.
If I had to teach a young hitter from scratch, and I have, about the proper swing, the first thing we would talk about would be back. I have seen a lot of young batsmen hit the ball when they swing. It’s like they can’t wait for the ball to get to them so they go ahead and hit the ball.
We used to do a simple drill in the minor leagues that helped me learn to stay behind. Our coach would have us set up in our batting position. He told us to pretend that there was a steel rod that went through the top of our head, down our body and out of our butt. Then this steel rod was anchored in the ground so that we could not move forward.
Then he would make us step and swing. The goal here is to step with the front foot, but not allow your body to move forward. When doing this exercise, think of your step as a reach toward the pitcher. Now, for this exercise to be effective, you must practice it several times a day. Especially if you were a lunger before. Do not go forward to hit the ball. Be patient and let the baseball come to you.
You can add to this exercise by practicing self-discipline. Your head should be down to the baseball when you swing. Your body will follow you. So if you pull yourself out when you swing, your front shoulder will follow and open up quickly which will totally screw up your swing.
Practice your balance with this exercise. When you swing, you should swing. Don’t swing so hard that you fall into the batters box.
Practice all of these with this exercise but take them one at a time. Don’t try to work on three things at once. Work on staying back for a few swings, then focus on swings and so on.
We all have a dominant eye even if we don’t realize it. Try this.
Take the index finger and thumb of your left hand and make a V. Do the same with the index finger and thumb of your right hand. Now touch your two index fingers and two thumbs together to form a triangle. Select an object on the wall and look at it through the triangle. Then close your right eye. Can you still see the object? If not, close your left eye. Can you see it now? The eye you can see the object with is your dominant eye. So when you set up in the batter’s box, make sure you’re seeing the pitcher with your dominant eye.
If you are a right handed hitter but you are right eye dominant, you might have to turn your head a little more to make sure you can see the pitcher with your right eye.
Ball on a string
Here’s another cool exercise you can do on your own. And you can do this exercise all day. Take a baseball and an eye hook. An eye hook is small and looks like a screw on the bottom and has a loop on top. Look for them at any hardware store for a few cents.
Push the end of the screw against the baseball and turn it in as far as you can. If you have to, put a screwdriver in the loop to help turn it.
Grab some string and hang the baseball from your garage ceiling.
I hang myself from the railing to open my automatic door or put a small nail in a rafter in the basement and tie the string to it.
Use enough string so that the ball is about thigh high. Swing the baseball away from you. When he comes back hit him with your stick. Now don’t smack the daylights out of it with a full swing. Just tap it with the stick. Make contact. Play pepper with it.
This is a hand-eye-coordination exercise. You are not all that concerned about mechanics here. At first it will seem difficult to even make contact. But the more you do this exercise, the better you will get. Focus on watching the bat hit the ball. Type it back into the imaginary jar.
You can add to this exercise. I was visiting a local sports store and found some small training baseballs. They look and feel exactly like a regulation size baseball but smaller. Using this smaller ball will improve your hand eye coordination even more.
You can also replace your rod with a piece of wooden rod from your local hardware store. Or use an old broom handle. Make sure it’s at least as long as your stick. Saw some cuts if you have too. Now with a smaller stick and smaller ball you can really work on your hand, eye coordination.
After you get good at this exercise, change the height of the baseball. Hang it higher or lower and keep practicing.
When I was a kid, my brother and I played this game all the time. I think we all know what pepper is. A guy with a stick and several fields. The fielders throw the ball to the batsman and he taps the ball back into the fields. Since it’s just my brother and I we did it a little differently. Stand about twenty feet apart. The object of the pitching guy is to get the ball into the strike zone. For the batter, the object is to hit a line drive right back to the pitcher. Again, you don’t take a full swing. Just hit the ball back to the pitcher.
The twist we put on this drill was that the batter gets hit as long as he hits the ball so the pitcher can catch it on a line. If the batter hits the ball on the ground, over the pitcher’s head, or far enough away from him to catch it, the batter and pitcher switch places.
At first this will be difficult. But you will improve. My brother and I have been doing this exercise for hours on end and had a blast doing it. It’s gotten to the point where we rarely miss.
This drill forces you to look at the ball and focus on making square contact. What happened to my swing was that in one game I would hit a smoke line drive to center and right center field. It’s a great exercise.
Back when I played American Legion Baseball we used wooden bats. During one game, I crushed my favorite, Roberto Clemente, Louisville Slugger. My father glued the handle. Then he made holes in the barrel and filled them with lead. The lead made the rod very heavy. I would stand in front of our basement wall and put a shop light behind me so I could see my shadow on the wall. Then I would swing that heavy stick over and over.
You can replace lead with one of these weighted donuts. Practice your mechanics while swinging this heavy club. Make sure you stay back. Look at the pitcher in your head and pretend to hit different pitches. Make a game out of it and see yourself driving the ball over the opposite field fence or pulling a curve ball out of the park.
One thing to focus on while doing this exercise is balance. The heavy stick will tend to pull you off balance. Don’t let him. Normal swing but not real hard swing. Make sure you keep the right balance in your follow through. What you will find after doing this exercise for a while is that your batting speed will increase dramatically. And that is what produces power. Swing faster, not harder
Do reverse swing exercises
I read somewhere a long time ago that practicing your swing backwards helps build muscle memory. My article said that Japanese players do this exercise all the time. So burned with the goal of becoming the best hitter that I could be, I practiced my backswing many times, that here it is almost 35 years later and I can still do it.
A good way to prepare for this exercise is to have someone video tape your swing. Then watch your swing back and forth, over and over until it’s in your head so to speak.
If you don’t have someone to tape you, that’s OK. You can always do this exercise. I always do this exercise in slow motion. Enter your position. Slowly go through your swing. At the end of your follow through, just reverse the sequence until you are back in your stance. It’s like pressing the rewind button on your swing.
This is actually a fun exercise to do and as I said, it helps build muscle memory.
Download the game Tennis racket exercise
Here’s one I’ll bet you can’t do. But once you master it, you will most likely be the only player on your team who can do it.
I’m sure you’ve seen tennis players bounce the tennis ball up and down on their racket. Do this with a bat and a baseball. This is a great hand, eye coordination exercise. I guarantee you won’t be able to do this at first. This exercise will show you how good or bad your hand-eye coordination is.
After doing this for a couple of minutes every day, you will be surprised at your progress. Doing this with a tennis racket is easy. Do it with a round stick and a round ball is not.
These are some of the exercises I used to do and still do. When I was a kid and decided that baseball was what I wanted to do for a living, I practiced these exercises almost until my arm fell off. These exercises worked and worked dramatically. But a lot of time was spent perfecting my swing.
There will be times when you would rather watch TV or play video games. Go ahead, but then do not expect to be hit by the best around. Your physical talent has something to do with it. But these exercises will make anyone a better hitter.
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