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Re: Re: Re: Where to start

Posted by: Torque (roscoethewestie@comcast.net) on Tue Jan 6 12:56:08 2009

> > > 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?

> > >
> > > Thanks
> >
> > 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.
> Thanks for the reponse. When doing this tee and bag work you say to put them back some in the stance to promote early speed?
> So working from the ground up then I just do as above and the shoulders will come along for the ride? I assume if you can keep the right arm in an L along your side you are rotating correctly?

I put the ball even with the instep of the front foot to 4 or 5 inches inside the front foot. Spending a lot of time hitting to center and right center. He has gotten to the point where he can hit an inside corner pitch as line drive to right or left center field which is very difficult to do. Outside pitches go to right field and hitting this pitch is all about early pitch recognition to adjust and practice. Bag placement is the same. If the bag is deep in the stance I want to see him hit more of the inside of the bag like he is driving a ball to right center field to develop opposite field power.

Yes. Everything should follow from the ground up. With young kids, the communication has to be kept simple with maybe combining the swing into preferably only a couple of verbal ques or instruction. I like to break the swing down into feet (weight shift back then forward, front foot closed to 3/4 closed at contact, then hips turning) and leverage (circular hand path and then tucking the back elbow with palm up, finish the swing 3 inches below the shoulder to a couple inches over the shoulder depending how high or low the pitch). The key constant word is leverage or torque. Everytime we hit he hears the word torque. As he has gotten older, leverage is easier for me to explain so we use this word some now.

The circular hand path and some of these words are too difficult to explain to a child. The best way I can describe the circular hand path to a kid or anybody else is for the hands to go back and form an imaginary U path with the open end of the U facing the pitcher. The top of the horizontal U is formed first as the hands go back and then circles back around along the bottom back to the pitcher. The back elbow begins to tuck into the ribs as the U drawing starts to circle around back to the pitcher. (U pattern is drawn primarily with the top hand and the bottom hand starts pulling back towards the abdomen as the rear elbow tucks and drives toward the pitcher).

The back shoulder should begin to drop naturally as the hands circle around and the back elbow is tucked at or near the ribs with palm facing up at contact.

So when we talk, we talk orderly about first seeing the ball very well out of the hand and all the way to the plate and we have weight shift (back and then forward -not for power but for timing and pitch identification) and then we have leverage.

As he has gotten older we really only talk about seeing and torquing the center to inside of the baseball. If I notice he isn't being aggressive with his hips turning I'll tell him to be a little more aggressive with his weight shift. His front leg can't be a noodle leg because he may keep drifting forward. It needs to be firm enough to force the front side hip back as the back side hip is being driven forward (rotation of the hips). The goal is to be somewhat like a figure skater and keep the axis of rotation from the nose down to the belly button to the ground. The axis of rotation doesn't begin until the front foot hits the ground firms up and the back hip is driven forward in a circular path. The lead leg acts something like a break while the back leg keeps on accelerating the rear hip.

We always stress hitting the ball hard. I don't ever believe in changing a swing intensity. I have always told him he needs to be able to hit everything at 90% to 95% intensity. As you get older, you have to be able to hit the ball hard if you want to get on base or get extra base hits.

You also will hear the term slow feet fast hands. There is truth to this. A slower step towards the pitcher with the lead foot gives the hands time enough to circle around the U and for the elbow to tuck into the L with palm up. I've never had to worry about my son rushing his step or lunging forward but I have seen a few kids whose front foot is just too fast and it rushes everything else in the swing. I'm really talking about rushing the front foot and this is rare. Sometimes being to eager to generate power or maybe impatience.

I also don't care if he hits a lot of foul balls backwards. It can be a little frustrating when you are the pitcher and you've been throwing him a bunch of BP and you are just tired of throwing. I especially like to see him hit a bunch of pitchers pitches fouled backwards in a game. If a pitcher is throwing low and away and he keeps fouling back or if fouls pitches that are a little too high backwards it becomes irritating to the pitcher and most pitchers will try and locate more towards the center of the zone so you get better pitches to hit. I've seen him hit a bunch of foul balls and then the pitcher and coach get frustrated so they go off speed and he hits a double and the pitcher looks at the coach like it was the coaches fault for calling off speed.

I also like for him to be selective and to spend a lot of time hitting when he is young with 2 strikes on him because the more pitches he sees from a pitcher the more he picks up on ball speed and trajectory so when he does hit he is more dialed in on the ball. As he gets older he sees fewer and fewer pitches because pitchers become more accurate.

The punching bag he hits with his bat has a piece of duct tape circling the bottom of the bag at the knees and a piece circling the top of the bag at the letters. When he swings he is only working within his strike zone because you really want him to develop his swing in the strike zone and fow his muscles to know where his strike zone is.

Obviously, we don't get into all this explanation because you really don't need to be thinking about all of this as a hitter. I just want his muscles and mind to respond to the pitch.

He also swings a well balanced bat not an end loaded bat when he is young. The Rawlings Liquid Metal bats, the Prodigy and some of those easy to dent bats are good bats because the balance is centered. As he gets older and the pitchers throw faster he is hitting some with the Louisville Sluggers which are more end loaded. I believe you get better swing mechanics when they are young for the first 3 or 4 years with the balanced bats. The Rawlings one piece Liquid Metals are very good and relatively inexpensive. The wood when they are young isn't cut well enough and is a little heavy. At somewhere between 13 and 14 they should probably spend more time using maple. Ash and Bamboo don't hit as well.

Also, as he hits when he is facing slower pitchers he is going to hit more ground balls swinging slightly over the ball and this is fine. As the pitchers start speeding up and the ball doesn't drop 2 feet from the pitcher to the plate, then he will start hitting more line drives. You really don't want him practicing hitting balls way up in the air off a 9 year old pitcher throwing slow because the upward swing is just too exagerated. A major league home run only really has about a 30 degree upward angle at contact so if your son is swinging up too much he can develop some bad habits this way. So I guess hitting ground balls off the pitch is normal when he is young and line drives come later as ball trajectory diminishes some with faster pitchers. I prefer the ground balls be gap to gap though.

Most importantly pitch recognition (seeing the ball), hitting the center to inside of the ball, and getting leverage will cure most all ills for a hitter.

This is like teaching karate. Lots of organized patience and it takes a while so think in terms of years not days or weeks. As he starts getting good and the gains start coming slower encourage him to get just a little better each time. He will have fun hitting the ball, getting results, and obtaining a sense of accomplishment. They learn it is fun to be the man who can swing a bat. I've never seen a good hitter that didn't enjoy being a good hitter.

When you play catch with him then throw with good mechanics because they copy exactly how you throw whether you realize it or not.

Hope this helps. This is about everything I know except how to hit a curve or a slider. Hit the dot on a slider and recognize a curve ball early. Curve ball hits further than any other pitch because the rotation is working in your favor for more backspin off the bat. I always remind my son how much fun it is to send a curve ball a mile.


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