Re: Where to start
> I am trying to help my 8 year old get rid of his bat drag and teach him rotational mechanics.
> Should I start with the lower body movment first, then to the shoulders. I don't think he can grasp BHT and THT yet. Heck it's confusing to me. :)
> Do the hips pull the shoulders around or is there a conscious effort to move the left shoulder back?
I have a very recently turned 120 pound 12YO that has been hitting this way since he was about 6 or 7. He crushes the ball (batspeed is in low 70's) and hits for high average. The easiest way to get him to hit this way is have him hit a punching bag with the bat and slot his back elbow into an L against his ribs with his back hand palm up at contact against the bag. When he hits off a tee have him hit the center to inside of the baseball and he will automatically "keep his hands inside the ball" on most every pitch except for the extreme inside pitch which needs to be pulled out in front of the plate. Backspin on the baseball will improve as he gets older and he will get a lot better lift on the ball. Off the tee have him hit gap to gap (left center to right center) never going too much to the extreme (higher percentage of hits are going to fall). Every hit off the tee needs to be a line drive and constantly encouraged so that muscle memory becomes ingrained and more likely to hit line drives off the pitch. We constantly work on "early" batspeed so this means having him hit the punching bag and tee work deep in the stance so that he really has to try and generate early speed and power. Your teaching has to be in an orderly manner so start from the ground up at the feet. Step directly toward the pitcher regardless of pitch location. Feet first (I prefer the front foot 3/4 to fully closed) depending on pitch location. The 3/4 to closed front foot helps to prevent the front side from flying open and also requires him to generate bat speed earlier. It is OK if it pops open after contact but at contact should be nearly closed. Most great hitters are closed at contact and Jeter for example pops open after contact. I don't like to see the rear foot over rotated (squashing the bug too far) because it weakens firmness of the back hip which reduces or hampers rotational power.
As much as Lau is criticized and rightly so regarding hand motion, I like how he says go back then forward with your weight because this does help with timing because pitch identification and timing are improved on the weight shift back.
To answer your question regarding the hips, great hitters get their hips out of the way first and then slot the back elbow with palm facing up (this prevents wrist roll at contact and numerous ground balls). The hips bring the abdomen around through the shoulders and the hands go along for the ride. The rear slotted elbow against the ribs with backside palm facing up at contact is the link that ties the bat to the stronger leg, butt, abdomen, and back muscles. Having him hit the puching bag with the bat will strengthen the hands and reduce secondary vibration of the bat when it makes contact with the ball. A lot of people say to have loose hands but Babe Ruth said hold onto the bat tight at contact and swing hard. Don't ever tell him to swing level. Most guys say swing level and they think this means swinging level with the ground. You swing level to the trajectory of the pitch coming from high to low. This means you swing slightly up from the ground which is often level to the pitch. The rear shoulder should dip to get on trajectory with the ball.
A lot of this has to do with body flexibility too because when you unwind on the ball you are rotating hard, fast, and short with the swing. Your upper body has to be able to turn because you are rotating so hard through the zone. You'll have to teach him to have balance when he finishes too and control through the swing for good contact. For a kid the bat is pretty heavy and more able to throw him off balance.
In addition to this web site look at some pictures of great hitters on the Internet when they are making contact. Ramirez, Rodriguez, Mantle, Williams, Bonds, Soriano, Jeter, Utley. You can also go to mlb.com and watch the great hitters videos.
Your biggest challenge will be the coaches who don't know how to hit which is most coaches and almost all hitting instructors. My goal has always been to ingrain muscle memory firmly into place and also to politely let coaches know that I am his hitting instructor. Over time, you have to decide on your hitting philosophy and which road your son walks down because linear and rotational hitting are two divergent techniques and you can't effectively walk down both.
I grew up hitting right handed and pretty much ingrained linear hitting and don't have nearly the pop I have left handed after teaching myself as an adult to hit left handed using rotational. I hit almost 30% further rotationally left handed.
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