As young hitters watch many different hitting styles in the Major Leagues, they will inevitably pick up some ideas for hitting stances, loads, and swings that might work for them. Many fundamentals of hitting are the same across all of these styles, however, and it is not always so easy to see these constants when watching a game on TV. An example of one of these tough-to-spot constants that any good hitter must always practice is keeping the front foot down on contact.
While this is not thought of as a big problem like “stepping in the bucket” or bailing out during the swing, rest assured that many young hitters lift the front foot off of the ground during contact and immediately afterwards.
To test and see if your young hitter suffers from this issue, just throw them some brief batting practice and look for the front foot to raise up at contact. Sometimes it will just involve the toe raising off of the ground, and other times it will result in the hitter completely moving the front foot to another position right at or just after impact.
Why is this bad? It is impossible to drive your weight into your “frontside” if that frontside is lifting off of the ground.This weight transfer into a firm “frontside” is required for a swing to have maximum speed and power. If the front foot lifts off the ground and lands in another spot during contact, you know that there is no weight whatsoever being transferred into the frontside. If the front toe elevates off of the ground, most young hitters are doing so by shifting weight to the back leg at contact. (Note: some professional hitters lift their front toe at contact, but do so without shifting weight to the back leg. This involves serious strength and most any young hitter cannot replicate this)
So, for any hitter that is suffering from this swing flaw, there are a few things that can be done to address it immediately:
* Have the hitter take a practice load and stride. When the stride lands, stop the hitter and mark where the front foot hits on the ground. Use a piece of tape, a mark in the dirt, or whatever you can to indicate where that landing point is.
* Using the tee or soft toss, have your hitter take some swings with the sole intention of keeping the front foot on top of that mark every single time at contact. Emphasize that the entire foot must be down, including the toe. Forcing the front foot to stay down during swings might cause the hitter to put too much weight ‘over’ his front leg instead of ‘against’ the front leg. For the purposes of this drill and the hitter’s development, this is okay as you would rather have the hitter end up with a little too much weight over the front leg then no weight transfer into the front leg at all.
* Another drill that can be used in conjunction with the above instructions is the Swing & Hold Drill. A hitter can do this while actually hitting or just with dry swings. The main point is this – they cannot hold the finish of the swing if they are moving the front foot or fall away from the front foot. By forcing the hitter to hold the finish, you will see that the hitter naturally keeps the front foot down during the swing.
Filed under Hitting (11-14 Years Old), Lesson of the Week, baseball
Tags: baseball, Free Baseball Instruction, Hitting Instruction, Youth Hitting Instruction
March 11, 2009
Lesson of the Week: Top Hand Release
Types: Tee, Front Toss, Soft Toss, Live Batting Practice
* Have hitter assume normal stance and position batter’s box.
* Instruct hitter to aim to hit ball on a line directly back through the middle of the field. Err on the side of oppo. side with contact.
* Hitter should approach ball to hit at (game speed – 10%).
* Hitter should strive for contact with two hands on each swing, regardless of live, toss or tee.
* After contact, the top hand should focus on releasing for the finish.
* Hitter should focus on allowing bat to extend through the zone with bottom hand after contact – bottom hand and bat should “release” with no stress or force making the swing stop.
* Bat should finished extended out and behind body at approximately shoulder level. Avoid low or very high finish positions which inhibit smooth, efficient release of the bat head straight through the ball.
* Feel the hands release and extend through the zone on each swing – avoid ‘muscling’ or ‘jerking’ the bat.
* Promote fluidity.
* Keep the barrel from leaving the zone too early due to too much “top hand” in the swing.
* Prevent the “rolling over” of the top hand at contact.
* More consistent line drive contact through promotion of these hitting concepts.