The best hitters in the game use a variety of hitting drills to improve hand-eye coordination, bat speed, and power. These drills will have you or your players hit the ball more consistently and with more power, with the ability to hit shots more effectively. The result will be higher average production and better execution in just a week or two of practice.
1. Ball in cone or tee: Hand-eye coordination is the key to a good shot, in any game and at all levels. Improving your ability to match what your eyes see to the trajectory of your swing creates the type of contact that produces more line drives and, over time, more power. Hitting legend Ted Williams used to practice using a cue to hit bottle caps. Not a bad idea, but these exercises will do the trick too.
Ball in a Cone – Place a traffic cone on the floor 3 feet from a carpet. Kneel, or have your players kneel, on the mat. Put balls in the cone and have the players focus on hitting a line drive. Hit 15 to 25 balls in each session, more if time permits; the more the better. The exercise emphasizes contact using only the arms and upper body, which is essential for hitting the ball consistently.
T-Ball: Kids start t-ball for a reason: They learn to make contact, plain and simple. Since solid contact is the key to all good things when striking, contact exercises never go out of style. Professional, college, and top amateur teams continue to use batting tees to warm up and find the hitting tag, especially after layoffs. Get started hitting with a round of tee drills to emphasize ball control, with an added feature being a boost in confidence. When pitch speed is added, the improvement will be noticeable. When the game starts, a harder hit will lead to more base runners and more RBIs. VARIATIONS: Tee the inside, middle and outside of the plate to encourage batters to follow the pitch, to learn how to drive balls to all fields. Most hitters try to throw everything, and this will help break that habit.
2. Wiffle Ball: This drill emphasizes bat speed and a compact, powerful swing. Using a pitching machine or live pitcher, stand 20 feet in front of the plate and use waffle balls for added safety. Adjust the machine to about 40 mph or measure your pitch speed accordingly. Batters have to swing the bat quickly. The drill will expose swings that are too long, the kind of swings that keep pro players in the minors. On the plus side, it encourages increased bat speed to be able to move around the fields and a shorter, more compact swing that is the foundation of power.
3. Wait and explode: Many hitters develop a bad habit of starting their swing too early. The results are all bad. For example, the batter will often enter the field too early and then have to hold his upper body waiting for the ball. Time and hand-eye coordination are lost, and if contact is made, only the upper body is involved. The powerful movement of the legs is eliminated. The result is glitches, weak rolls, and lazy highs. This is how this exercise works. Have the batter stand in the box and teach him not to move until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Keep it up until the hitter learns to be patient, reserving his energy until he can complete the swing with one powerful swing. Hitters with good contact skills but low power will start to hit the ball much harder with this drill.
Another way to encourage a “wait and explode” approach is to use tennis balls and bounce balls to the plate. The batter should not move a muscle until the ball bounces, 6 to 8 feet in front of plate. Patience is learned and hand-eye coordination is also improved. The result will be a short, compact and energetic swing.
4. The Barrier Drill: This drill will teach you good mechanics. Have the players stand behind their backs from a barrier, such as a net or rope, and take their cut. If they hit the barrier with the bat, they are swinging too long, unlocking the elbows before the shoulders are fully engaged. Point out what’s happening and see if they can make the correction, which will produce a compact and powerful cut.
5. Reward or race: There is nothing like the possibility of a little physical exercise for the players to focus. Using a pitching machine, or a reliable batting practice pitcher, feed each batter 15 pitches. On strikes only (make the swing on a bad pitch an out, regardless of whether it was hit or not), count well-hit balls versus misses or weak hits. If the dough has 8 or more good cuts, reward them in some way. If 8 or more bad changes occur, it’s time to run! As the season progresses and the players improve, hit your best hitters with 10 or 11 quality hits to avoid running. Tailor the exercise to stretch for each player and achieve the best.
Each of these exercises is used by many professional, college, and top amateur teams each year. Use them on your team and start to see immediate results in terms of contact and power. You will enjoy better production execution from first time to order!