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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Be a Better Baseball Hitter

By Chris Moheno

Knowing how to be a better baseball hitter begins with an understanding of what you are setting out to accomplish. There is more to it than meets the eye when it comes to baseball hitting. Your mind and body have to work in unison to achieve the better hitting results. You need sharp eyes, perfect timing, sufficient bat speed, and excellent mind/eye/body/bat coordination. Throughout your training you will be seeking to: improve the mobility of your hips and your thoracic spine; increase the loading and explosive power of your hips; and increase the ability of your body to coil up with potential energy.
Since you striving to be a better a baseball hitter, you will want to outfit yourself with the best tools that you can. This means that you want to carefully select a bat size and your cleats. If you aren't wearing the right hitting shoes (cleats) you will be prone to slipping when you take a swing. As far as choosing the right bat, this will take a little bit of time. Swing different sized bats and see how comfortable each one feels to you. See if you can easily move the bat all the way through from your hitting stance to the point where you hit (or would hit) the ball. You want to have a "quick bat" when you are a hitter. You want to generate as much power as possible as well, but not all baseball hitters are power hitters. Bat speed is therefore more important.
Your batting stance is very, very important. The bat needs to be cocked back behind your back ear, but not resting on your shoulder. Never bat "cross-armed" as some new baseball players try to do; your front arm hand grips the bat beneath your rear arm hand--always. You lean forward somewhat and bend at the knees so that you store kinetic energy in your body. These are the basics of all batting stances, but from this point on every baseball hitter is different. Your batting stance will probably evolve over time, and you may try out many different stances before you discover the right combination for yourself. This is where it is very important that you have a hitting instructor. He will be able to objectively see what works for you and what different things you could try to get more hits or generate more power based on your personal capabilities and what makes you comfortable at the plate. For instance, if you are not a power hitter, maybe you'll start choking up on the bat; that is, gripping it farther up the handle instead of all the way down by the knob at the bottom. Choking up costs you some power, but it increases your bat quickness and bat control, meaning it's easier for you to make contact with the ball in the first place and get more hits. Power hitters grip the bat all the way down at the bottom because that is where the most power-leverage is generated, but this also makes it easier to strike out because of a diminished control over the bat.
Form and timing are essential to understanding how to be a better baseball hitter. From your comfortable stance, keep your eyes on the pitcher's pitching hand, and try to pick up the ball from the earliest possible point of his delivery. Watch the ball all the way in to your bat, so that if you hit the ball you will see it launch off the bat and your eyes will naturally follow its path before you put your head down and start running. When you swing, never take your head off the ball; you eyes remain on the ball all the way from pitch to trajectory off your bat. As the pitch is coming in to you, take a timing step forward with your front leg and feel coiled up energy in your back leg. "Pull" the bat "into" and "through" the ball. When you hit it, hit through it--follow through completely with your swing, snapping your hips and driving the bat all the way around in an arc so that before you put it down to run you're holding it somewhere above your forward ear. You are always hitting through the ball, never hitting "at" it. Some hitters have strong wrists and will snap their wrists at the point of contact to get more power; this was the home run hitting secret of Hank Aaron.
The biggest secret to how to be a better baseball hitter is to practice, practice, practice. If you need more practice than others can help you with, use a pitching machine in a batting cage. Listen to your hitting coach, but find a hitting stance that you are comfortable with above all else.
Chris Moheno has a long time passion for sports in general and for baseball coaching more specifically.
His goal is to spread the word about effective non-fluff baseball training techniques for both more experienced and young baseball players, to help them perform better during the game.
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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick