5 Biggest Hitting Mistakes In Baseball
One thing I learned in my 25 years coaching youth baseball is
that there is no perfect way to coach hitters. I never considered
myself an expert at teaching young 7-12 year-old ballplayers the
most refined hitting techniques. The most success I’ve had with
improving hitters’ techniques is when I didn’t over coach them.
I’ve attended my share of baseball conventions and hitting
clinics. Sometimes I came away more confused than when I went
in. The hitting coaches I enjoy the most are the ones that simplify
not just the hitting technique itself, but the explanation so young
players will understand it. Most of the speakers at these clinics
have incredible knowledge about hitting, but I believe many
should work on targeting their lessons to younger players. With
that said, I would like to share the five biggest mistakes I see
young players make year in and year out and what I do to correct
Mistake #1 is a batter stepping towards third base with his
front foot. For lefty hitters it would be stepping toward first. For
young players, this might be the most common hitting mistake I
see. Instead of stepping toward the pitcher or even just lifting the
front foot and putting it down, many players step toward third.
This can also throw off the whole rhythm of the player’s swing
and also reduce the amount of power the player can put into the
swing. If the batter does make contact and hits the ball fair, the
ball usually is a grounder to the right side of the infield. This
hitting flaw is easy to recognize. To correct it can take time. What
I do is take two pieces of 2x4 wood, each about 36” long. Putting
them on each side of the player’s feet during batting practice will
force his front foot from stepping to the side. Very rarely do
players actually step into the wood while batting. Coaches should
have the batter practice stepping without even swinging for a few
pitches. One session alone will usually not solve the problem, but
over a period of time this can work more often than not with
most young players. You can also use two bats, but I prefer wood
because the bats can roll.
Mistake #2 is when the batter takes too big a step forward
toward the pitcher. Many hitting coaches teach that batters need
to limit excessive movement of the head. Some hitting coaches
are even teaching their hitters that they do not have to step
forward as long as they lift their front foot up and put it down
when transferring their weight. When a player takes an extra big
step, his head can drop a good 4-6” or more. Plus, stepping too
far forward can limit the batter’s hip rotation and power. To help
curb this, I will take a flat piece of wood, like a piece of ¼”
plywood 4”x36” long. This would have to be cut to size. I put it
about 6-8” in front of the player’s front foot. He has to avoid
stepping on it. Again, the coach or parent must give the player
numerous repetitions to reinforce the muscle memory of the act.
Mistake #3 is when players lift their head too soon. Everyone
who ever hit a baseball or a softball wants to see the result of
their effort. At the youth level, batters will sometimes move their
heads prematurely, losing sight of the pitched ball. This is almost
equivalent to a batter closing his eyes and trying to hit the ball.
Young players tend to do the same thing when hitting off a
batting tee. First, I have the player hit off the batting tee, and he
must yell “hit” upon contact. This forces them to focus more and
they will tend to keep their head and eye on the ball. The second
technique is to color code a few balls. I usually use blue painter’s
tape on some, yellow duct tape on others, and keep some
unmarked. We have blue, yellow, and white balls. Do not over
mark the balls with the tape. One small slice about two inches on
each side is sufficient. A coach will throw the balls and the batter
must track or follow the baseball into the catcher’s glove. He will
then call out the color of the pitched balls once he recognizes the
tape on it. The next step in this drill is to have the batter hit and
yell out the color after swinging and making contact. I’ve had
pretty good results with these two drills.
Mistake #4 is when a player stops his swing. I can’t tell you
how many young players I’ve seen who have a tendency to not
swing through the baseball. This happens when a player makes
contact with the ball. His swing all of a sudden slows down. We
all know the importance of the follow through. Again, the batting
tee has given me the best results. I stand next to the hitter and
just tell him to swing through the ball. This is a process that can
take a while. Having the batter take numerous practice swings is
also a good idea.
Mistake #5 is the upper cut. To help solve this, I use the
“Chair Drill.” I set up a batting tee with a chair just behind it.
When the batter swings, the bat must go past the highest part of
the chair first.
When swinging and trying to hit the ball off the tee, the batter
must avoid hitting the back of the chair.
I like to use the term swinging “high to low.” The player
understands this and knows what he has to do in this drill. In
batting practice, I also ask my players to try hitting only grounders
without chopping down on the baseball. This also helps solve the
upper cut issue.
For these remedies to work, repetition is the key. With young
players, keep it simple. My own “Hitting 101” lesson is the soft
toss drill 6-10 feet from a fence or a wall with rag balls (rags
wrapped in masking tape). I then tell the hitter he must try to hit
the ball so it lands at eye level or lower. I have no scientific proof,
but when the hitter does hit the ball at eye level or lower, it seems
the batter is doing more things correct than not.
Hitting instructors are incredibly knowledgeable. They must
convey their theories so both the hitter and the layman coach, like
me, can understand the common nuances of this great skill. We
all have to keep it simple and supplement all instruction with
relevant hitting drills.
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