Tone .Are

ToneAre’s Animated Instruction: Hitting A Baseball

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

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Time will tell if baseball remains the traditional, time honoring game it has been over the past century. Ask a young teenager on the diamond: who is the greatest hitter to ever step to the plate? And he might give you a response favoring someone the likes of Alberto Pujols. The Machine, as sports journalists have taken to calling him, is far from a poor candidate for such universal appraisal, but, neither is Pujols the name followers of the game have been associating with that distinction for 50 years. Even in the 1990’s, when I was in my little league prime, consensus for the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. or Barry Bonds was fractured by a peer or two, prepared to join in my automated response for Ted Williams.

The history and the culture of the sport is one thing though; the fundamentals on playing is quite another. Hitting a baseball will always be the sweet science it has always been. One might encounter disagreement however, while instructing a young novice on their mechanics. It is typical for t-ballers to exhibit resistance to dropping emulation of their favorite player, up until the stage that has them swinging a 32 inch bat (some habits are hard to break). The host of problems born out of such stubbornness start as soon as their impressionable eyes register a glamorous at-bat on the television. My generation for example, struggled through early years channeling Griffey Jr. with what we perceived was a smooth uppercut swing. Because we didn’t have the twenty years it took his cut to evolve, behind ours, what we brought to each game were slow, effortless, strikeouts and pop-flys.

A guided intervention can gain commitment from your little Josh Hamilton, that practicing a quick, compact swing will take precedence over imitation from here on out. Still, as if drawing their attention to a focus on balance and coordination weren’t difficult enough, successful results rest on one’s ability to have that instruction translate effectively for them. Doing so requires coaches and mentoring parents to bare a facility for language that can conjure the imagination typical of the youngster. For, just because he/she has heard and followed through on the direction you’ve provided, it doesn’t mean they’ve internalized the information in muscle memory. In Theater it’s called indicating. If he/she does not ‘get it’ and ‘own it’, he/she may wind up having made the transition from posturing after a professional, to imitating you; and without the dynamic results.

Here is a roll call of pointers which may prove valuable to make, from behind the batting cage:
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Align All Joints & Settle In

Align All Joints
• Fingers:
It is most common for hitters, even in the major leagues, to align so that the knuckles of the bottom hand are lined up with the finger joints of the top hand. Encourage however, an attempt at getting comfortable lining the finger joints of the top hand with the fingers’ joints of the bottom hand. Some of the professions’ most elite hitters utilize this technique, as it allows more flexibility for enabling the wrists to play a impactful role in the swing.

• Elbows & Knees:
Yes you had Jeff Bagwell, who batted with his elbows inside of his bottom stance, and adversely, Julio Franco, who framed both elbows behind and above him. And yea, they had success, but such unorthodox styles are highly dis-encouraged for learners. It’s all about distributing balance. The strike zone is quite literally a box, and ought to be imagined so. Having one picture him/herself conforming their body to harbor that box, will set them in a simple, closed stance, in which their elbows and knees square up to project the space in which their bat will meet the ball.

And Settle In…
• GRIP: Firm but relaxed bottom hand, looser top hand.
• PIVOT: Feet planted with toes pointing forward with weight leaning towards the balls of the feet; toes smudged.
• SHOULDERS: Squared up over feet, relaxed. *front shoulder nestles the chin.
• KNEES: Bent to a degree which feels comfortable enough to spring off of. Gentle.

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Watch For The Ball
Focus on the shoulder of the pitchers throwing arm. Wait for his release point; see his hand.

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Wind The Axe – Flick Your Hip

Wind The Axe
• Step Apart From Your Hands:
Upon picking up the pitcher’s release, generate motion by stepping forth (while) cranking your hands back. From this quick subtle point the force of your swing will follow.

Flick Your Hip
• On an Egg, Squish The Bug:
So that the front foot doesn’t drag too much weight forward (no lunging!), set it forth quick yet gingerly. The timing of when the front foot sets down is crucial. It should be in place by the time the pitcher’s arm is down * no sooner, not much later. The step is a trigger to then “squish the bug”, with the back foot. The back ankle twists, JUST AS you flick your back hip towards the pitcher; explode forward.

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Head Down
It is crucial that one doesn’t pull their head with the motion of the swing. This will almost certainly result in weaker contact, as power gives loose. We want to keep a compact swing.

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Punch The Ball – Wrap Around

Punch The Ball
• Swinging:
I’ve heard the swing described in an array of descriptive manners which can prove effective in conveying the form necessary to maximize the potential for contact and power. A level, coordinated swing can be likened to swinging an axe down on a tree, or initiating a basketball chest pass. Ultimately, it cannot have too much top or bottom hand. Too much bottom hand will result in a lazy swing. Too much top hand might result in too aggressive a swing. Aim to shoot the ball up the middle by punching at it.

Wrap Around
• Follow Through:
Being primed to finish a swing before starting one, will ensure that all of the mechanics I’ve mentioned follow suit all the way through. A complete swing constitutes moving the bat, and all of the nuances of the swing, from shoulder to shoulder. The chin should rest on the front shoulder when the swing sets into motion; the chin should rest on the back shoulder at the swings completion. Both hands ought to remain on the bat.

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The language I’ve recommended is figurative and subjective to the imagination of whomever it will apply. Codifying your own set of directions will be just as effective, so long as the language used encompasses the basic tenants of hitting a baseball, and can make sense for the learner. Film of major leaguers can be utilized to then reinforce the points I’ve run you through. I recommend you use YouTube to your advantage. In fact, I absolutely endorse using Albert Pujols as a model of good mechanics. Neither would it hurt to take your youngster out to the local library for a browse through Ted Williams’ book, “The Science of Hitting”, which presents intricate instruction fit along with visual diagrams.

Bat speed dictates the authority with which a ball is hit. Form, vision, and timing determine the probability of contact. Having command over how to direct the ball where one wants the bat to send it is dependent upon adjusting the posture of the stance mid-swing, so as to angle the bat properly. Accelerating a quick, compact swing is the basic goal you want any prospective hitter to master. Have your little slugger take on the assignment of taking 100 swings a day. Monitor as he/she carries out the assignment, and stop them whenever you see a need to have them distinguish a flaw, or if you wish to encourage an adjustment. Use the points I’ve provided above as a frame of reference. Keep what works, throw away what doesn’t.

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And good luck!
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-Tone

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