Hitting – “By The Time You Know What To Do, You’re Too Old To Do It” – Ted Williams
Hitting a baseball has been said to be the hardest thing to do in all of the sports. Trying to hit a sphere with a rounded bat does seem to be extremely difficult to do. Not to mention the fact that the ball is being thrown at different speeds, with different movements… in different locations. Then, you throw in the verbal cues coming out of the dugout and from the stands…….
- “Keep your eye on the ball!”
- “Stay back!”
- “You’re dropping your hands!”
- “Get your foot down early!”
- “He’s calling the outside corner!”
- “You’re stepping out!”
- “Watch out for the curve ball!”
- “Stay off the high ones!”
- “Stay off the low ones!”
- “What do you want for dinner tonight?”
It seems like it is almost a miracle that anyone actually puts the bat on the ball at all! You can go on the internet and find, probably, a million “experts” on the art of hitting. I believe that this only complicates matters even more. Who are you to believe? Who is right and who is…..not so right?
I like to take the approach to hit like this… Keep it simple! (I left out the “stupid” so as not to offend anyone!). Don’t get me wrong, there are a few things that must be in order to become an efficient hitter but, athleticism and comfort play a big part in how a player performs. We want our players to be athletes, not robots. Each player is different so, therefore, each player’ swing will be different.
Just to emphasize my point, I had a conversation this past August with former New York Yankee Ron Bloomberg. For those of you that don’t know him, he played in the MLB for 8 seasons. He was a designated hitter (the first player in MLB history to make a plate appearance at this position.), first baseman and right fielder. Ron Bloomberg was a professional hitter. He got paid to hit. So, we were talking about all the modern hitting metrics, ideas, methods, etc. He asked me my opinion regarding all of this, and I said that It is all too much and I like to keep it simple. I tell my players to just hit it hard, somewhere, and good things will happen. He laughed and said…. ‘that is refreshing to hear from a youth coach. In my day, we just saw the ball and hit the ball’. They relied on their athleticism. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!
Don’t get me wrong, all the analytics and metrics have a place in the process, and they need to be used to identify issues that need to be resolved but they are tools to be used, mostly, on more experienced hitters.
Hitting is mostly a mental challenge for all players. I feel that this is the area that needs a lot of attention. Players will go through “hot” streaks and slumps. Those slumps will really wreak havoc on a hitter’s mind. During these times young hitters will start tweaking things, looking for a fix when, quite possibly, no fix is needed. Now the hitter is all screwed up! In times like these, the hitter needs to get back to the basics. He needs to know what works and continue to reinforce those movements. He doesn’t necessarily need to change anything. He needs to stay mentally tough.
Here is another story regarding a players, and their parents, state of mind from Brian Cain. Brian Cain is one of the world’s foremost authorities on mental performance. His mental performance training strategies have been used by thousands of elite performers and top athletes worldwide. It goes like this… A player’s first at bat…. hits a bullet line drive right at the second basemen. 0 for 1. Second at bat… gets to a 3-2 count, fouls off 4 pitches, fly’s out to CF. 0-2. Third at bat… runners on second and third, less than 2 outs, ground ball to the right side, runners move up, RBI. 0-3. On the way home dad says… ” You had a bad day today. You were 0-3. We better get back in the cages and get some work done to fix this.” What dad doesn’t understand is that the player did his job. He was the best damn hitter on the field that day!
Another of my favorite, mental side of hitting, coaches is Steve Springer. There are few quotes from Steve that I love……
- “…I realized one thing about baseball. Hitting is so mental its mind-blowing.”
- “Your kid is playing the most self-esteem destroying game in the world”
- “As coaches, we need to build players up, break them down to build them up again.”
Springer believes that the batting average stat is a trap. Quality at-bats are so much more important. I could not agree more. Players cannot control, in most instances, where they hit the ball, but they can battle in every at-bat to achieve the best outcome. That outcome is not necessarily a hit. In the example from Brian Cain, the player had 3 quality at-bats in that game. He was successful that day, but his batting average went down. Players, coaches and parents need to understand these types of situations and praise the player for a job well done.
I bet you thought I was going to talk about the mechanics of hitting a baseball. Where your feet should be. Where your hands should be. Where your head should be. Your hips. Your knees. Your shoulders. There is a lot to work on with young hitters and I will say, don’t cloud their minds with too much information at once. Keep it simple and work on one aspect at a time but here is the most important thing…. always work on the mental side of hitting because like the late, great Yogi Berra said……”Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical” and “Slump? I ain’t in no slump….. I just ain’t hitting” and I’ll leave you with… ” How can you think and hit at the same time?”
If you have any comments or would like to discuss further, you can email Coach Filingeri at Cadets.Coachfilingeri@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts.