What to expect in your first Lesson

There  are several key movements in a baseball swing. Setup, negative movement  (or load) w/ stride, toe touch, linear movement, heal plant,  connection, rotation, contact and finish are all keys to a great swing.  To make consistent solid contact each part of the swing is important.  That is to say, to be successful through each phase the hitter must  perform the preceding action to a level that allows for success.

Here is an overview of lesson one. 

Setup

Step  into the batters box; put the bat in your left hand. Touch the middle  of the plate – slight lean in. We touch the middle of the plate to check  and make sure we are balanced, and the proper distance away from the  plate. If the hitter is too close to the plate or too far from the plate  the young hitter may not have good plate coverage when in the “contact”  position. 

Feet in setup

Make  sure your feet are about shoulder width (or a little wider) apart. Make  sure your feet are square. Do not have one or both feet pointing in or  out, but straight ahead. Make sure your feet are inline with the  pitcher. This is what you would call an even stance. If I was giving a  first time hitting lesson in the middle of the season I would allow some  leeway in having a little bit of a closed or open stance. I would allow  this till I got to know the hitter a little better, or until I  determined that a variation in the stance was the cause or result of  some other problem with their swing. 

Hands in slot

After  touching the plate the hitter should then hold the bat with both hands  in the slot. This “slot” area is an area in front of your back shoulder –  not too close to your body and not too far away. The hands should be in  a nice comfortable position getting ready to “load”. 

Grip and position of back elbow

I  call the positions of the back elbow and, now after years of careful  thought, the grip a non teach.  Let me explain. I grew up with my father  preaching that I should line up my knocking knuckles. After I became  successful in High School and then made a college team this grip became a  consistent part of my approach. But, then somewhere along the way my  dad gave me Charlie Lau’s book The Art of Hitting .300 and I learned a  different view. After reading it several times over the years, I have  now seen that there are several variations on the grip, from the “hit  for power” grip to the “hit for average” grip. And those hitters can be  successful in any one of a number of grips as long as the hitter is able  to get into proper contact position (palm up – palm down) and then  achieve good extension on the way to a high finish. 

As  you will learn later when studying the parts of the swing, the back  elbow will have to come down and connect to the side rib cage in order  to swing. If you start with your elbow too high, you create a longer  distance that the elbow needs to travel in order to connect. If you  start with your elbow too low then you make your negative movement or  load movement too rigid or robotic and awkward. I like a nice  comfortable position in between these two allowing a nice smooth  transition from setup to load. 

Head and Eyes Set/ Shoulder alignment

After  you get your feet set and hands in the slot, the hitter needs to square  the shoulders, get the head set, and turn the head so that both eyes  can see the ball. If the hitter sets the shoulders square he/she will be  more likely to develop and demonstrate discipline throughout the whole  swing. Feet set and shoulders square sets the tone for good balance. If  the shoulders are in good alignment early in the swing it will be much  easier to maintain good balance (Refer to problems when hitter stands  too close to the plate). The hitter needs to have his head up and turned  so that he is in good position to see and track the ball with both  eyes. The young hitter does not sit on the couch at home and watch a  movie with his/her head cocked sideways and tilted so that he/she can  only see the TV with one eye. And, his father or mother did not drive to  the hitting lesson that way. No, you want to be able to watch the movie  with both eyes and see the road and drive safely. 

Remember  your eyes are your camera. Your camera needs to be steady. If your  shoulders are turning or if your knees are bending then your camera is  moving. Think of your body as a tripod for your camera and get set in  your proper stance. 

Lastly open your mouth slightly – it relaxes the body. 

Rhythm

Whenever  I think of rhythm and how to teach it, I think of two things. First, I  like to tell a story my mom used to tell. She used to say that if I had  no number on my uniform she could still pick me out by the way I stood  in the box. Secondly, I like to ask young hitters to look at the top of a  pine tree far away. You can see it sway from side to side.

A  hitter needs to establish a little movement forward and back called  rhythm. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Hitters who start out in  motion are able to time the pitch much better. This rhythm is a natural  segue to the load or negative movement and should be as a gentle  sway. Be careful not to bounce back and forth too much as this could  cause you to load too late! 

Balance

Getting  into a good athletic position is important in every sport. When was the  last time you saw an athlete who was consistently successful while  being off balance. Balance is a vital part of the stance and  swing. Teachers who don’t emphasize this do not understand it. Balance  is the foundation that makes all the other absolutes possible. It makes  it easier to develop rhythm and good weight shift, stride and linear  movement. Balance starts with the feet. I start by placing the feet just  a little wider than shoulder width apart and your weight slightly on  the balls of your feet. Knees should be set inside your feet to allow  weight to be supported by the inside leg muscles. 

The  Key thing is to find a position that allows you to be completely  balanced and to shift your weight easily back toward the catcher and  forward toward the pitcher as you swing. Guard against making your  stance too wide. The wider the stance the more difficult it is to  transfer your weight during the swing. 

Next you are ready to start working on your load / stride and linear movement in lesson two.

All hitters will have a different looks. I do not to use a cookie cutter approach to create and recreate hitters!

MH



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