I've been using baseball hitting drills to make myself a better hitter ever since I was a kid. Which is a long time ago. One thing I had that maybe not everyone has,
was the benefit of great coaching. From my Dad in little League up through high school and American Legion Baseball and then in the Minor Leagues.
I played two seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system.
Before I got there I was a good hitter. But I certainly learned a lot about hitting in those two seasons.
Often times little league coaches are well intentioned parents who have kids on the team. But they might not know what makes a good hitter. You have to know the proper mechanics of a good baseball swing before you can practice them. Otherwise, you will be practicing improper mechanics.
Rocky Balboa vs The Russian
Remember in the movie Rocky 4 when Rocky was training for the fight with the Russian? There was the Russian training on all that high tech equipment and what was Rocky doing? Out in the snow pulling a sled full of rocks and splitting firewood! The point is that you don't have to invest a lot of money in all kinds of expensive training aids.
Here are some easy to learn baseball hitting drills that will not only improve your swing, but cost little if any money. And most of them you can do by yourself.
I was taught early about muscle memory. One quick example of muscle memory is tying your shoes. Try it right now. See how fast you can tie your shoes. You do it without really thinking about it. That's because you have done it so many times that your brain and muscles almost do it for you. That's muscle memory.
I still play baseball in what's called the Men's Senior Baseball League.
It's a league for us old guys who still want to play but aren't up to competing with the young guys anymore. I'm not bragging when I say that I'm one of the best hitters in the league. But it's not because I have more skill or talent than anyone else. It's because I relentlessly practice the proper mechanics of a good baseball swing.
The goal is to train your body to swing properly without thinking about it so that in a game you only have to concentrate on hitting the baseball. You can't be thinking about staying balanced, staying back, short stride, etc. Muscle Memory will take care of this for you.
Visualization is becoming a popular training aid. We were doing it 35 years ago. With all of the baseball hitting drills I did, visualization was used. Another word that describes visualization is "pretending". I guess when I was a kid, that would describe what was taking place. "See" yourself in your mind hitting line drives. Make pretend scenarios and live them through your mind while practicing your baseball hitting drills. Pretend that you have a 3 and 1 count and the pitcher hangs a curve ball. See yourself, as you swing, driving the ball off the 375 foot sign in right center field. This actually helps with muscle memory and makes these baseball hitting drills more fun!
If I had to teach a young hitter from scratch (and I have) about the proper swing, the first thing we would talk about would be staying back. I have seen so many young hitters "lunge" at the ball when they swing. It's like they can't wait for the ball to get to them so they go forward to hit the ball.
We used to do a simple drill in the minor leagues that helped me to learn to stay back.
Our coach would have us set up in our batting stance. He told us to pretend that there was a steel rod that went through the top of our head, down through our body and came out our butt. This steel rod was then anchored into the ground so that we could not move forward.
Then he would have us step and swing. The goal here is to step with the front foot, but not allow your body to move forward.
When doing this drill, think of your step as a reach towards the pitcher. Now, for this drill to be effective, you have to practice it many times every day. Especially if you were a "lunger" before. Don't go front to hit the ball. Be patient and let the baseball come to you.
You can add to this drill by practicing your head discipline. Your head should go down to the baseball when you swing. Your body will follow your head. So if you are "pulling your head" when you swing, your front shoulder will follow and open to quickly which will totally screw up your swing.
Practice your balance with this drill. When you swing, you should be balanced. Don't swing so hard that you fall around in the batters box. Practice all of these things with this drill but take them one at a time. Don't try to work on three things at the same time. Work on staying back for a few swings, then concentrate on balance and so on.
We all have a dominant eye even though we don't realize it. Try this. Take the index finger and thumb of your left hand and make a "V". Do the same thing with the index finger and thumb of your right hand. Now touch your two index fingers and two thumbs together to form a triangle. Pick out an object on the wall and look at it through the triangle. Then, close your right eye. Can you still see the object? If not, close your left eye. Can you see it now? The eye that you can see the object with is your dominant eye. So when you set up in the batter's box, make darn sure you are seeing the pitcher with your dominant eye. If you are a right handed hitter and you are right eye dominant, you might have to turn your head a little more to make sure you can see the pitcher with your right eye.
You can purchase a batting tee at any sporting goods store along with a few baseballs. You'll want to invest in some netting or a tarp to hit the baseballs into. Set the batting tee a few feet in front of the net and hit the ball. Make sure you are practicing your proper mechanic while you do this.
Ball On A String
Here's another cool drill you can do by yourself. And you can do this drill all day! Take a baseball and an "eye hook". An eye hook is small and looks like a screw on the bottom and has a loop on top. Look for them at any hardware store for a few cents.
Push the screw end against the baseball and turn it in as far as you can. If you have to, put a screw driver through the "loop" to help turn it in.
The take some string and hang the baseball from your garage ceiling. I hang mine from the railing for my automatic door opener (or put a small nail in a rafter in the basement and tie the string to it). Use enough string so that the ball is about thigh high.
Swing the baseball out away from you. When it comes back hit it with your bat. Now, don't smack the daylights out of it with a full swing. Just tap it with the bat. Make contact. Play "pepper" with it.
This is a hand-eye-coordination drill. You aren't all that concerned about mechanics here. At first it will seem hard to even make contact. But the longer you do this drill, the better you'll get. Concentrate on watching the bat hit the ball. Tap it right back at the imaginary pitcher.
You can add to this drill. I was visiting a local Sports Authority sporting good store and found some small, training baseballs. They look and feel exactly like a regulation sized baseball but are smaller. Using this smaller ball will hone your eye even more.
A golf ball works even better because it's smaller.
You can also replace your bat with a piece of "dowling rod" from your local hardware store. Get a piece that's 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Make sure it's at least as long as your bat. Saw some off if you have too. Now with a smaller bat and smaller ball you can really work on your hand-eye-coordination.
After you get good at this drill, change the height of the baseball. Hang it higher or lower and keep practicing.
When I was a kid, my brother and I played this game(drill) constantly. I think
you all know what "pepper" is. One guy with a bat and several fielders. The fielders toss the ball to the batter and he taps the ball back to the fielders. Since it was just my brother and me, we did it a little different. Stand about twenty feet apart. The object for the guy pitching is to get the ball in the strike zone. For the batter, the object is to hit a "line drive" right back to the pitcher. Again, you are not taking a full swing. Just "tap" the ball back at the pitcher.
The spin we put on this drill was that the batter gets to hit as long as he hits the ball so that the pitcher can catch it on a line. If the batter hits the ball on the ground, over the pitcher's head or far enough away from him that he can't catch it, the batter and pitcher switch places.
At first this will be difficult. But you'll improve. My brother and I did this drill for hours on end and had a blast doing it. It got to the point where we seldom "missed".
This drill forces you to watch the ball and concentrate on making square contact. What happened to my swing was that in a game I would hit smoking line drives to center and right center field. It's a great drill.
Back when I played American Legion Baseball we used wooden bats. During a game, I broke my favorite, Roberto Clemente, Louisville Slugger. My Dad taped up the handle. Then he drilled big holes in the barrel and filled them with lead! The lead made the bat pretty heavy. I would stand in front of our basement wall and put a "shop light" behind me so I could see my shadow on the wall. Then I'd swing that heavy bat over and over again.
You can substitute lead with one of those weighted "donuts". Practice your mechanics while swinging this heavy bat. Make sure you are "staying back". "See" the pitcher in your mind and pretend to hit different pitches. Make a game out of it and see yourself driving the ball off the opposite field fence or pulling a curve ball out of the park.
One thing to concentrate on while doing this drill is balance. The heavy bat will tend to "pull you" off balance. Don't let it. Swing normal but don't swing real hard. Make sure you keep good balance right into your follow through. What you'll find after doing this drill for awhile is that your bat speed will increase dramatically. And that's what produces power. Swing faster, not harder!
Reverse Swing Drill
I read somewhere a long time ago that practicing your swing backwards helps build Muscle Memory. The article I read said that Japanese players do this drill all the time. So, being consumed with the goal of becoming the best hitter that I could be, I practiced my swing in reverse so many times, that here it is almost 35 years later and I can still do it!
A good way to prepare for this drill is to have someone video tape your swing. Then watch your swing forward and backwards, over and over again until it's in your head so to speak.
If you don't have someone to video tape you, it's ok. You can still do this drill. I always did this drill in "slow motion". Get into your stance. Slowly go through your swing. At the end of your follow through, just reverse the sequence until you are back in your stance. It's like pressing the rewind button on your swing.
This is actually a fun drill to do and as I said, it helps build Muscle Memory.
Tennis Racket Drill
Here's one I'll bet you can't do. But once you master it, you'll most likely be the only player on your team that can do it.
I'm sure you have seen tennis players bouncing the tennis ball up and down off of their racket. Or maybe you had one of those rubber balls attached to a paddle with a rubber band. Do this with a bat and a baseball!
This is a great hand-eye-coordination drill. I guarantee you won't be able to do this at first. This drill will show you just how good(or bad) your hand-eye-coordination is. After doing this for a couple of minutes each day, you be surprised at your progress. Doing this with a tennis racket is easy. Doing it with a round bat and a round ball isn't.
These are a few of the drills I used to do and still do. When I was a kid and decided that baseball was what I wanted to do for a living, I practiced these drills almost until my arms fell off.
In my Junior year in high school, I was an average hitter. Over the winter, I used these drills and in my Senior year in high school I led the league with a .516 batting average. That summer in Legion ball I led the league in batting average, RBIs, Home Runs and just about every other offensive category. Then the dream started. The Phillies signed me to a minor league contract. A knee injury took me out of pro baseball, but the fact is that these drills worked and worked dramatically. But a lot of time was spent perfecting my swing.
There will be times when you would rather watch TV or play video games. Go ahead, but then don't expect to be the best hitter around. Your physical talent does have something to do with it. But these drills will make anyone a better hitter.
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