Low Liners Blog provides the insider perspective of professional baseball players into the game of baseball – including the right way to play the game, MLB events, game-changing plays, and more.
About the Author: Doug Bernier
Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 11 years. After hitting .361 with the New York Yankees this 2012 spring training where he relieved Derek Jeter at shortstop, Doug spent the 2012 season with the Yankees’ triple A team. Click here to get personal, one-on-one instruction with Doug Bernier
Should young athletes play multiple sports or specialize in baseball at a young age?
Is youth sport specialization going to give you or your child the best shot at playing baseball in the major leagues? You’ve heard the debates about over-use injuries and youth burnout, but there is one thing you might not have thought about.
Improving on your baseball hitting mechanics is a process that will never end. No matter how good or how crisp your swing is, there is always something that can be improved upon. That is the great thing and the frustrating thing about baseball.
I was talking to one of my teammates today about how most of the kids on his high school team only played baseball. You’ve probably heard that youth sports specialization is happening earlier and earlier, with youth specializing in baseball perhaps being one of the most common and intense.
Focusing on baseball at an early age can create positive habits and allow for technically sound baseball swings. That sounds great at first, BUT could it actually harm your child’s athletic development?
In my humble opinion, baseball is a skill sport that doesn’t produce overall athleticism like basketball, football, or soccer.
Specializing too early and missing out on opportunities to play other sports may take away from the development of a youth’s overall athleticism. Even though baseball is a skill, being athletic is an essential part of playing baseball at the highest levels.
We have all seen the kid who has a beautiful swing and can repeat it over and over on a tee. Get to batting practice and it looks even better. However, once the game begins the speed of the game is too much and his body awareness, hand eye coordination, and strength are off just a bit. This could be a case of where athleticism may help to make a hitter more well rounded.
And really, all that focus on mechanics has the potential to backfire…
The more you learn about hitting, the more the mechanics can pollute your mind. Every time you base the quality of your day on how many hits you get or how you feel, you may be heading down a dangerous path. There is always a mechanical flaw to work on and once your swing gets too mechanical, you might find yourself mechanically locked up at the plate when it counts. Let me tell you from experience that in the game is the last place you want to be worried about where your hands are, the length of your stride, or proper rotation, the list could go on and on. It is difficult enough to hit a baseball squarely and if you have multiple thoughts in your head, forget about it.
Once you get into the game, it is necessary to have one thought. Leave all mechanics in the dugout (trusting that all your preparation for that moment will pay off) and go up to the plate looking for a specific pitch or spot you want to hit.
Once you step in the batters box leave that thought outside the box and look for the ball. Your mind subconsciously will be able to hold onto your last thought of where or what you want to hit.
Having a clear mind will give you the best chance to stay relaxed, see the ball, and react. This sounds much easier than it really is. This is what separates big leaguers from everyone else, their ability to lock in.
Getting to this point is difficult. But with practice it can be achieved. Now with a clear mind you will be able to use your athleticism and feel your swing. Mechanical thoughts are useful for batting cage work and working on flaws in your swing.
In a game it is important to shut off the thoughts of hitting mechanics and focus on whatever swing you have that day. Feel your swing, have rhythm or flow. Focus on competing and battling against the pitcher and beating him. This is a one-on-one duel. How can you win a strategic duel if you are too busy thinking about what your hands or leg kick are doing? Focusing on mechanics won’t get it done. This is where your athleticism takes over and helps you compete to win.
It is important to know when to focus on mechanics and when to shut it off and trust what you have been working on. Playing other sports that develop and cultivate athleticism go a long way toward navigating that mental hurdle and learning to trust yourself during those crucial moments at the plate. When you have put your body in less than perfect position and you still find a way to kick a ball, block a shot, or escape a tackle, you tend to trust your body more. That trust comes from experience, and that experience from other sports can translate over to hitting a baseball.
I believe you can’t be successful as a hitter without both aspects. When athleticism and mechanics work together that’s when you will achieve maximum results.
I hope this article on youth sport specialization can help you or your child decide if specializing in baseball at a young age is the right move for your situation. Whatever you decide, keep playing hard! - Doug
Practical tips for hitting the inside pitch, plus 3 common mistakes and how to avoid them.
I hear coaches tell kids,”pull the ball the right way.” That’s great, but most of the time there is no explanation on HOW to pull the baseball correctly.
We all know that great feeling when you hit a line drive in the left center gap, and the not-so-happy feeling when you end up with the grounder to short. But what makes the difference? Here are few tips for hitting the inside pitch – to help you cut down on the roll overs and increase our line drives in the pull gap.
Common mistakes to avoid when hitting the inside pitch
These are some common problems that turn that potential line drive into a ground-out.
Common Mistake #1 – Too much weight on the back leg (this common mistake is exaggerated for clarity)
Common Mistake #1 – Too much weight on the back leg.
When this happens there is a tendency to “spin off” the ball. This means we are rotating instead of driving through the ball.
To square the ball on the barrel you have to come around the baseball which makes contact too far out in front. If you do hit it squarely most likely it will result in a ground ball or a severe hooking line drive.
What this means for hitting the inside pitch:
Make sure our weight distribution is 50/50 between our front and back leg as we start rotation.
Posture is especially important on inside pitches. The more upright our head is, the easier it is to rotate.
Common Mistake #2 – Not fully rotating your back leg.
Failing to rotate fully makes the path to the ball longer, and since your swing has to be quicker and contact is further out in front than a pitch that is outside, you may have to cheat or just not hit the ball well consistently.
What this means for hitting the inside pitch:
We must clear our back hip by fully rotating our back hip through the ball. This creates a shorter path for our hands to get to the baseball. It also allows our hands to stay tight to our body which keeps them inside the baseball.
By attacking the ball in this manner we can now work through the baseball (with our legs and hands) instead of around the ball. This will allow us to drive the ball with backspin and not a hooking spin.
Common Mistake #3 – Not driving through the ball with your legs.
The same swing you take on a pitch right down the middle is the same swing you want to take on an inside pitch. The only difference is that your path needs to be a little shorter and quicker.
What this means for hitting the inside pitch:
Since your hands follow your legs, using your legs to drive in a straight path through the baseball means your arms and bat will follow.
A firm front leg is important for this. If you spin off your front heel, it’s easy to rotate around the ball instead of driving through it. This is an easy habit to fall into because the natural tendency is to try to create more space for yourself by opening up. Opening up your front foot starts a chain reaction that causes your entire front side to open up too quickly – which creates a slower, circular path to the baseball instead of the direct, straight line that is needed to reach the inside pitch in time.
Be sure your back hip goes to the ball.
Most pitches you will see are on the outer portion of the plate so that is what you should really work on, but when a pitcher makes a mistake over the inner half of the plate, it is time to make him pay.
If you apply these 3 tips for how to hit the inside pitch you will accomplish a shorter and quicker swing that is capable of correctly hitting an inside pitch. If you can incorporate these tips into your swing, you’ll avoid some of the common problems most people have when hitting an inside pitch, turning your pulled ground ball outs into line drives in the pull gap.
Other free baseball tips from Pro Baseball Insider:
Pro recommendations for the best cold weather gear for baseball players.
April is usually cold in most baseball cities around the country. Having spring training in Florida or Arizona where temps can easily be in the 90′s before we leave to our cities makes the transition to 30 and 40 degree temps even more difficult. Here are a few cold weather essentials that I or my teammates use to stay warm and help us perform our best in cold weather baseball games.
Under Armour long sleeves
1. Best Baseball Long Sleeves
In cold weather baseball, long sleeves are a must. The cold weather long sleeve undershirts are thicker than regular sleeves Inside they have a fleece type layer that touches the skin to give you extra warmth.
Options for fit:
Crew or mock turtle neck
Compression, fitted or loose fit.Compression is designed to actually squeeze the muscles and is supposed to help keep them warm and loose, and even aid recovery time. ”Fitted” means a streamlined fit but no squeeze. Which is best is really more of a personal preference. Some guys like and prefer compression, while others feel restricted when their clothing is too tight and prefer the loose fit.
There are cold weather sleeves which can be thick and heavy. I actually prefer to wear 2 thin long sleeve shirts. It keeps me warm and I don’t feel restricted by a bulky undershirt.
The best long sleeves for baseball are Under Armour‘s Cold Gear and Nike’s long sleeve called Hyperwarm. (Under Armour also has cold weather baseball sleeves for youth size, too).
Realistically, most professional baseball players are wearing one of these two brands.
2. Best Cold weather leggings
Under Armour Cold Gear compression leggings
Baseball leggings for cold weather come in compression or fitted. I prefer compression, and here’s why - Sitting in the dugout or waiting for a play in the field to come your way, it’s very easy for your muscles to get tight in the middle of a cold weather baseball game. The last thing anyone needs is an injury, and compression tights help keep your muscles warm and ready for sudden athletic movements.
The long compression pants are thin and have a fleece-like lining. When worn under your baseball pants and socks they are not visible. When the temps drop and that cold wind picks up, you’ll be VERY glad to have them on.
Under Armour has the ColdGear leggings in compression or fitted. They’re very good quality – moisture wicking (dri-fit), light but warm, and anti odor.
Nike has Element Shieldfitted running tights that are good quality (dri-fit tech and water resistant lower half), but don’t offer compression.
3. Hand warmer
When your hands get cold, throwing a baseball very difficult and errors happen more often. Keeping a hand warmer in your back pocket allows you to hold it between pitches in order to keep your throwing hand warm. This makes throwing so much easier, and helps you feel warmer in general. I’ve noticed that once my hands get cold, the rest of my body tends to follow. Keeping your throwing hand warm is essential in cold weather baseball.
4. Stay warm in the dugout.
These are the extra cold weather baseball pieces that may make your night a little more bearable, and help keep your body warm and loose.
Gloves – It’s also nice to havecold weather gloves thatwill keep your hands warm in between innings or on the bench. When your hands and feet get cold, the rest of your body is sure to follow. Under Armour has some ColdGear Side Line gloves that are made for athletes – grippy, easy to move in, and quick to get on and off.
Beanie- keeping your head warm keeps the rest of your body warm.
Jacket- bundle up in between innings and stay warm.
Facemask- in real cold weather a facemask can be warn under your hat. It can cover your ears, mouth, and sometimes nose. Its helpful on windy cold days.
5. Cold weather batting gloves.
These batting gloves are a little thicker than regular batting gloves, but the big difference is that they have a neoprene back that keeps your hands warm. There is nothing worse than having cold hands when you are at the plate. These gloves will keep your hands warm. I really like Franklin’s cold weather pro batting gloves. They’re durable, not to bulky and keep your hands warm.
Even though I grew up and now live in warm weather locations I have played many Aprils in the midwest, Colorado, and all over the north east. Hopefully this information can be helpful so you can be prepared when playing cold weather baseball.
I hope this quick rundown on whats the best cold weather baseball gear has been helpful. For pro recommendations for baseball in regular weather, see our Baseball Clothing page.
As always, you are invited to add your opinion or ask any questions in the comments section below. Play Hard ! – Doug
Yogi Berra once said “Baseball is 90% mental – the other half is physical.” That statement seems a little comical at first but the longer I play this game the more I believe him. He is giving us wisdom mixed in with a little comedy. Mental toughness in baseball is something that separates the greats from the talented guys who never panned out.
This is something I wish I would have made a priority when I signed my first professional contract in 2002.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of mental toughness
Even though the Colorado Rockies had a mental skills coach, I didn’t give it the same attention I gave to hitting, fielding, or throwing. That was my mistake. Mental toughness is an aspect of your game that is just as important as everything you do to physically prepare.
After one of our spring training workouts I was asking a few guys their opinion on what gives someone mental toughness in baseball. Most of the guys I play with now were really good in high school and college. But these guys have either not made it to the big leagues or had a cup of coffee up there but hadn’t stuck with anyone. Were they more mentally tough back then than they are now?
I thought this was interesting because I hear often, that most players skills are similar (excluding the superstars) but the separator is mental toughness to bring about consistency in their play. At times I wonder if this the classic conundrum - “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Is someone so good mentally that they get all out of their ability or is someone so good physically that they seem mentally tough?
Mental toughness in baseball is a skill that develops with intentional training and practice
From experience, baseball can play tricks on your mind. It’s easy to think about mechanics and consistently try to analyze my swing and baseball situations. Anyone can agree that no matter what level sport you have played in your life, when you were at your best everything seemed easy – almost as if you weren’t thinking about anything. You reacted and things just happened, this feeling may have only lasted a short time.
When you lose that effortless feeling it’s easy to over work and to over think as you try to get back that simple, smooth feeling. It seems the harder you try and the more you want it, the quicker that feeling slips away.
In golf, it’s easy to hit perfect drives on the driving range. But once you step to the first tee box, your group is announced and 10 people are watching your tee shot. Suddenly nerves kick in, you start thinking a little more, and it usually becomes a little more difficult to find the fairway.
In baseball every person has one aspect of the game that comes easier to them than another. For me I have always felt comfortable with my throwing accuracy. It’s funny because this is the part of my game I think about the least, it just happens. I practice a lot but I don’t think about it come game time.
However, my hitting is something I think about constantly. I am trying to work on every mechanical flaw in my swing and its a never ending process. That is the aspect of my game that is inconsistent. I know other players that can fall out of bed and hit. They don’t think about it, they seem like they were born to hit. Yet the same player goes through every mechanical throwing motion in the book and still has trouble making an accurate throw. Speaking only from experience, it seems to me that our mind gets in the way and trips us up.
The million dollar question is….. How do we direct our minds so our thoughts don’t interfere with our play?
I don’t have a simple answer. First I believe some players can “get locked in” naturally and some people need to work on mental toughness with same dedication they apply to their other baseball skills like hitting and fielding.
I have read many mental skill books but haven’t really applied them to my baseball career. My thought was always if I work hard my skills will be good enough to get me to the next level. But the longer I play this game the more I realize that if you don’t think correctly, everything you practice won’t translate into the game because at some point there becomes a mental block.
This spring I’ve been speaking with AJ Pettersen, a young minor league player who trying to move up the ranks and get to the big leagues. He takes the mental side seriously and uses techniques to get the most out of his playing ability. He recommended “The 7 secrets of world class athletes” by Steven Yellin and Buddy Biancalana to me. I am only a few chapters in but it’s changing the way I think about competing on the baseball field and more importantly in the batters box.
I found in most of these books they tell you what you need to change but they don’t tell you how. For example, I know I need to be relaxed when the bases are loaded in the 9th inning with the winning run on 2nd. But how do I relax? I don’t know if this book answers this question, but I am taking this subject much more seriously than I did in the past. As I find good mental resources, I’ll be sure to pass on that info to you guys.
I believe mental success isn’t a cookie-cutter solution for everyone, and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know this:
Understanding what you are thinking about and if it will help or hurt your physical performance is something to start working on now.
It’s never too early to start working on your mental toughness in baseball. This is something I wish I would have made a priority when I signed my first professional contract in 2002. Even though the Colorado Rockies had a mental skills coach, I didn’t give it the same attention I gave to hitting, fielding, or throwing. This is another aspect of your game that is just as important as everything you do to physically prepare.
I hope this opens your eyes to this subject and through my experience I hope you are able to work on aspects that can give you a mental edge over your opponent as well as get the most out of your physical abilities.
How to sign a baseball – tips for signing a team baseball, where is the “sweet spot” for signing a baseball, where to ask a player to sign for the most value, and more pro tips for giving and getting baseball autographs.
I was 10 years old and we just finished our baseball season. I was sitting at our local pizza parlor waiting for our team trophy presentation when our coach passed around a box of baseballs. Every player would sign each baseball and a team signed baseball would be given with a trophy as a reminder of our year.
I was so excited to sign a baseball. This was my first time and I wanted to make it perfect. Should I print my name? Should I scribble something no one could read? First name only or should I write my whole name? Ok I was ready to sign. I grabbed a baseball and signed “Doug B”, I repeated this until every baseball was signed.
Fast forward to high school and I stumble across this signed ball in my room and I see how unorganized the signatures were and how 10 names barely fit on the baseball. Our high school coach played in the big leagues and he showed us how to correctly sign a team baseball. I was fortunate to learn this early in my career because I still play with players that don’t know the proper etiquette in signing a baseball.
How to sign a team baseball
This is simple but not often taught, there are a few rules to follow.
This is not a free for all. Understand that 24 other players need to fit their names on the ball as well. Don’t make your name too big.
Turn the ball so the horseshoe is pointing down. From this position make the first signature as close as possible to the top of the horseshoe signing from seam to seam. The following signatures should follow just beneath, so they will be stacked on top of each other in an orderly row. Keep your signature close to the one above yours.
Leave the sweet spot for the manager. As the signatures move down the baseball the seams start to get closer together. Where the seams are the closest is the “sweet spot”. There is only one, this is reserved for the manager. The other sweet spot area can’t be signed because it is printed with the type of ball you are using. The manager will sign across the sweet spot. This is the opposite direction from every other signature on the baseball.
How to sign a baseball – If you are the only person signing the baseball, you can sign in the “sweet spot”
As you work down the baseball it will get more difficult to get your name on the ball because the seams get closer together. Give it a little extra attention and you should be able to fit it in the small area.
My hope is to provide you with a blue print on how to sign a baseball correctly. It’s a little embarrassing not knowing how to sign a team ball when everyone on the team knows. Be the teammate that can help others do it correctly. It shows some baseball savvy, especially at a young age.
In my opinion
I believe its respectful to make your autographs legible. If you have problems with your penmanship at least incorporate your uniform number into the autograph. I know if many people want an autograph it’s easy to want to scribble and move on your way. It doesn’t take much extra time to make it legible, the fans will appreciate it when your name is the only one they can read the next day.
Extra Tip for getting valuable autographs
(Also use these tips as guidelines for how to sign a baseball if you are the only player signing it)
If you want a player to sign a baseball for you and you intend for his name to be the only one on the baseball ask for him to sign it on the “sweet spot”. This does two things.
It makes the ball look nicer when displayed on a shelf or ball holder.
It adds value. The “sweet spot” is the desired autograph spot for autograph seekers.
This is article is about bunting strategy – recognizing a pitcher’s weakness and exploiting it for more bunt hits.
Bunting for a hit is an extremely valuable skill, and can even be the deciding factor in a close game when hits and runs are scarce.
Baseball players are creatures of habit
Most people – and pitchers in particular – are creatures of habit. You can use this to your advantage.
How many times have you seen a ground ball hit back to the pitcher? He usually reacts in one of two ways: Take his time and make a nice throw to first base for the out, or secure the ball start running over to first base and give an underhand flip. As insignificant as this play seems it may tell us a few things about the pitcher and his mindset. This can be extremely important if you can and are willing to bunt.
Typically pitchers work on bunt plays where the baseball is bunted right back to them or towards third base where they can pick it up and throw it to first base. The whole thing becomes very instinctive and doesn’t require much thought or variation on the pitcher’s part.
So how can this help you out?
This can tell you if you should try to bunt against this particular pitcher.
(1) There’s a good chance you’ll be able to predict how he will handle that same scenario in the future; and (2) You’ll have a clue as to what type of play is difficult for the pitcher (i.e. if this is a weakness for him) and then you can use this to your advantage.
Will he make a throw to first, or try to run and flip it?
Now lets go back to our pitcher and how he handles a throw to first base on a come backer.
If the pitcher throws the ball to 1st base, it’s a clue that he may be fairly athletic and feels comfortable in throwing a ball outside of his normal pitching motion. In this case, bunting may not be the best option.
However, if a pitcher runs it over towards first base and under hand flips it, there is probably a reason for that. It could be that he not confident in his throwing ability. Maybe he has thrown balls passed the first baseman in the past and now this is his go to move, or perhaps throwing to bases is something he doesn’t practice and doesn’t feel comfortable with. Either way, it can indicate a weakness you can take advantage of by bunting for a hit.
Bunting Strategy – Taking advantage of the pitcher’s weakness.
You can force the pitcher to make an athletic throw by laying a soft bunt down the first base line.
This is not a standard push bunt, you want to make sure it’s hard enough where the catcher can’t get it and the ONLY person that can make a play is the pitcher.
A pitcher who isn’t too confident in making an athletic throw will have difficulties with this play.
He has to get to the ball quickly, so his momentum not going in the direction of first base. Then he needs to make a throw to the first baseman without hitting the runner or throwing it into right field.
Since this isn’t a play that is practiced often, and it is a very difficult play, you will quickly tell how athletic the opposing pitcher is and if bunting may be a way for your team to scratch across a few runs.
Digital or Paperback available
The reason I picked this type of bunt strategy is because a bunt down the third base line is a play that happens so fast for the pitcher that he doesn’t have time to think about it. This tends to be an easier throw for him to make. Also, pitcher’s practice fielding this bunt often.
Of course, just because a pitcher runs and under hand flips a ball to first base on a come backer doesn’t guarantee that he is uncomfortable making an athletic throw. But paying attention and seeing this as a potential way to attack the pitcher may help you get to a pitcher that is tough to score runs against.
Why are baseball hitting drills important, and how can we use them to our full advantage.
Hitting a baseball is arguably (as Ted Williams was known to say) the most difficult thing to do in sports. You’re dealing with baseballs thrown at different speeds, in different locations, and moving different directions. This is a challenge – to say the least.
That is why one minor flaw, loss of rhythm, or the slightest timing issue will throw off your swing and make hitting even more difficult.
The baseball swing may seam simple to an outsider, but the baseball players know the truth. There are hundreds of different nuances to the swing that can work either for you or against you. This means hundreds of variables for every at-bat. So how can you isolate and improve upon the particular element of your swing that’s causing the trouble? In my opinion, it’s this very reason that hitting drills are so essential.
New book release, includes 20 FREE VIDEOS
How Batting Drills can help. It can be difficult to work on a deficiency in your swing by taking batting practice. Video analysis and the feedback of others will help you understand where your swing needs improvement. However, understanding WHAT TO FIX and HOW TO FIX IT are two different issues.
The difficult part is isolating pieces of your swing to improve. But don’t panic – that is where the correct baseball hitting drills can be extremely helpful.
For example, I am in spring training and my first couple days of batting practice I was hitting too many fly balls. Ugh. Those are easy outs and I need to focus on hitting ground balls and line drives. The last few days I have been working in the cage before my day begins and I have only been working on the high tee drill. I am focusing on taking a high pitch and hitting a head high line drive to the back of the cage. This is creating good habits and a mindset that I have been able to take onto the field. My on-field batting practice sessions have improved (I believe because of this drill).
Identify what piece of your swing needs improvement and look for a drill that focuses and isolates that problem area. Repeatedly and correctly working on your deficiency will eventually make your swing better.
I am a big believer in working off the batting tee. In a game you have to deal with what the pitcher is throwing at you as well as how your swing feels that day. Using a tee is the only way you are 100% in control of your swing. There are no external factors you have to deal with (type of pitch, location, etc).
When you need to work out kinks in your swing I think you would want to be in 100% control. Once you establish some consistency off a tee you can move to some type of underhand flip and then into batting practice. Hopefully this progression will make you successful in the game against a live pitcher.
Getting the most out of your hitting drills. There are hundreds of drills that are taught daily around the world. The good thing is that doing the wrong drill won’t hurt your swing, but it definitely won’t help you. Drills have a different impact for every player. This is one area that you must customize to you and your swing.
My college coach would watch every persons swing on the team over and over through a video analysis program as well as pay attention during a game. He would create a list of 2 drills he wanted each person to work on that week. Some players would have 2 drills they did all season and some guys would have their 2 drills change every week. But he was the first coach I had that knew the importance of working with a purpose and doing an appropriate drill for my swing.
Don’t over complicate it, if you roll over a lot or pop up weakly to the opposite field work on a drill that forces your front shoulder to stay in longer. If you hook balls when you pull and you don’t get the backspin you want to properly drive inside pitches, find a drill that helps keep your hands tight to your body or one that help your hips clear all the way around as you are making contact. In my case, I was hitting a lot of fly balls so I focused on the high tee drill.
The correct baseball hitting drills can help turn a flawed swing into a strong, efficient swing fairly quickly. There is no substitute for hard work but make sure the work you put in is constructive and effective.
What has your experience been with using a batting tee or other types of baseball hitting drills? Is there a particular drill that has worked well for you? Tell us your story, and play hard! - Doug
For this post only, here is a preview of one of the 20 free videos which accompany our new book for sale, Baseball Hitting Drills for a Batting Tee. The 2 Ball, 2 Tee drill is very good baseball hitting drill for youth players, because it helps create a mindset that leads to proper baseball swing mechanics. If you are interested in learning about this drill (and others) in more detail, including common mistakes to avoid, I recommend checking out the book.
On a separate note – It you have already purchased the book, I just want to say thank you for supporting this website and helping us to keep the hundreds of pages of pro tips and instruction free for everyone. Much appreciated! - Doug
I was always looking for the latest batting drills to help me fix my swing problems.
Most likely you have used some sort of baseball drill in your life which probably revolved around hitting. Baseball batting drills have been around since the beginning of baseball and is a great way to work on problem areas of your swing by letting your body make the necessary adjustment without letting your mind get in the way (more on that to come in a future post).
A common misconception I have seen as well as experienced myself is a coach telling me to do certain drills that I have done before. I would think to myself, “I have done these drills in the past and my swing is still faulty, how are they going to help me now?” I was always looking for a new drill that I have never seen before that would help me get over the hump.
Fast forward 5 years. As I watch some of the best hitters on earth do their work behind the scenes, I’ve made a couple observations. I watch the drills they are doing and learned most of them are pretty basic batting drills that you and I have done before. So what gives?
There are two differences between what they are doing and what I was doing.
1. They did the drill perfectly and had a plan for every swing. In the game there are no “do overs” so in our minds every swing counts. Contrast this with the batting cage, where players often find themselves “just going through the motions”. Sure, it’s tough to hit 100 balls in the batting cage and fully concentrate on every swing, but that is exactly why you might be wasting your time.
How many times in a row can you hit a line drive to the back of the net in the cage? It is important to make your practice perfect. Line drives are the goal. No balls should hit the top net in the cage, you shouldn’t roll over any balls (ground balls to the pull side) especially off the batting tee. If it does happen, don’t hit 5 more just like it before you bother to make an adjustment.
Have a plan and take it seriously. Even players that seem on television to have a non-caring, always-happy attitude take their cage work seriously. The best players in the world are doing the same drills as you, but they are doing them perfectly. It’s on us to make every swing important.
2. They know why they are doing a drill and how to execute it properly. Doing a drill just because someone suggested that particular drill doesn’t make sense. Think of drills as custom to your swing. If you have problems with inside pitches and you pull the ball incorrectly, there is a drill for that. If you tend to pop up weakly to the opposite field, there is a drill for that. If you have trouble maximizing your bat speed and don’t quite get to a strong launch position, there is a drill for that. Here’s an example: If you are having trouble with too many swings and misses, or rolling over and hitting ground balls, you might be opening up your shoulders – the Kick Back Drill is designed to help hitters fix that problem.
Do accurate self-evaluation and talk to others that will be honest with you. Once you know your weaknesses you can address them and work on them through drills.
Common mistakes for the Inside Tee Drill (exaggerated for demo purposes); Taken from newly released book. Click to learn more.
Being able to execute the drill properly is very important. You can watch a drill and try to reproduce it, and even make it look like it should. However, if you don’t really understand what the drill is meant to accomplish, you could be wasting your time.
Often it’s little things such as hand position at contact, where the batting tee is set up, or the common mistakes to avoid that make batting drills effective.
Doug’s Philosophy. I believe in doing drills, but I want to be more specific. I believe in doing certain drills that will help the deficiencies in my swing; and I believe in doing them properly over and over again. I would rather have 2 or 3 drills I do everyday and become unbelievable at them than to know 15 drills and do them sparingly and be average at them.
When we do our hitting drills, we should have a specific plan as to where we want to hit each baseball. Think of every swing as important as it would in the game. Remember there are no “do overs” in a game.
Ok, this is where I’m going to self-promote. Over the last couple months I’ve worked hard putting together a book of baseball hitting drills for a batting tee. (And no, the batting tee is not just for young kids. Many of the best Major League hitters still use the batting tee as part of their every day routine.) The book comes with free videos, full color illustrations, and some pretty cool bonus stuff. As you know, all the baseball instruction on this website is free, and it’s projects like this that are going to help us keep it that way. If you’ve already bought the book, I would just like to say a sincere thank you for your support.
Team captains & baseball superstars – you might be impacting your team more than you realize. Are you the reason your team is losing games?
Inside baseball locker rooms is where you will find a hierarchy of players. Like it or not, this is the way a baseball team is set up and functions. Competitive juices flow up and down the talent pool but depending on the team it is usually cordial.
In my experience as a team captain in high school and college, and then being low on the totem pole in professional baseball, I have experienced both sides of this coin. I understand how influential the leader or team captain is and how their actions directly impact the rest of the team.
Whether or not you would like to admit it, the best player on the team is usually one of the leaders (coach appointed or a natural shakeout). In high school and college I don’t think I knew quite the impact I could have had on the success on our team. I didn’t realize until I got to professional baseball.
Team killers. Not being an everyday player in pro ball and watching our “leaders” I felt a competitiveness with them. I didn’t want them to out work me or give better effort then I did. Since effort is one of the only things we can control in baseball I figured I should bring this everyday to the field. I noticed however as our captains started showing up a little later to the field, or they didn’t run hard around the bases, or they started missing extra batting practice sessions that the rest of our team followed. The trickle down effect destroyed our team. In professional sports where the margin between winning and losing is extremely small, once the team starts to cut corners and not put in the work or effort, losses start to pile up and it becomes a very difficult hole to climb out of.
Once this happens usually one of the “leaders” tries to be inspirational by saying something to the team, but he is still unaware that his actions are speaking so much louder than his words. Look around at the great teams not only in professional baseball but in all leagues. The teams usually reflect their leader and the best teams have leaders that work hard and lead by example.
Lead by Example. Last year during spring training, I got to be on the field with Derek Jeter everyday and watched how every single practice he worked very hard. From taking extra swings in the batting cage to running hard in conditioning drills he always led by example. I was impressed how he ALWAYS ran balls out to first base. Even on ground balls to the second baseman he will give you a good effort. Wow, if he runs hard, I know that I better run hard.
As a player trying to see where I fit in with a team I never wanted to feel like i was the weak link, and I never wanted to feel like I was being outworked by the captain. Most players do this naturally because they are competitive and healthy competition can drive a team.
If you are a captain or leader on any team, don’t take for granted the impact and influence you have on your team. Lead by example and watch how the team will follow your lead and the team will become a more cohesive unit.
Note to Parents: Parents, your kids probably don’t even realize the impact they have on the rest of the team. Similarly, you may not realize how influential your own example and words can be to your child. I’ve seen parent’s notice that their child is working hard and say “Great job!” That small compliment is no big deal to us, but to the kid, it makes all the difference in encouraging them to continue that behavior. Or if the reverse is true, it falls on us to call our kids to a higher standard. Our input and encouragement can go a long way toward helping our children lead their peers in a positive way though hard work, sportsmanship, team unity, and more. You never know who is watching and who your child is influencing.
Check out our free baseball tips from professional players:
I hear questions all the time about how to use a wood bat and how to care for it properly. Hopefully this will give you all the answers to your questions. If it doesn’t, please feel free to ask your question in the comments section below.
1. I hear people say, “hit with the label up,” what does that mean and why.
The bat companies label is placed on the weakest part of the bat. The reason you hear “hit with the label up” or “hit with the label down” is because that will put your bat in the correct place to hit the baseball on the side of the bat where the grains are straight and the strongest.
Look at the ball marks on your bat. If the label is at a 12:00 on a clock you want your marks at 9:00 or 3:00. If your marks are at 12:00 or 6:00 then you need to adjust the way the bat is in your hands. Using the strongest part of the bat will make the bat last longer if you hit it on the barrel obviously. This video can help explain more about this aspect of how to use a wood bat.
2. How can I make my ash bat last longer?
The sad reality about ash bats are that they will flake away at the barrel until they basically are unusable. This happens if you hit the ball repeatedly in the same spot over and over again without breaking the bat.
It is hard to determine exactly how good each ash bat will be. Some start flaking after one batting practice session and some seem to harden up and last many weeks.
One way to make the wood more durable is to “bone” your ash bat. This means to take your bat to a hard surface and rub it back and forth with some force to compress the wood. Using a steel pole, porcelain sinks, or even an old dried out bone.
3. Should I put a grip on my bat or not, if so what kind?
This is all personal preference. I hear some parents talk about using a grip similar to what you would find on an aluminum bat because it will take away some of the shock or sting. True or not I don’t know, I have stung my hands with and without grip.
I prefer to not use any grip. I like to feel the wood and not add any grip.
99% of the people that put a grip on their bat use athletic tape.
This actually doesn’t give you any better grip (it’s still slippery) but it allows you to customize your grip to the exact way you want it. Tape will allow your handle to be a little thicker if the handle feels a little thin in your hands. You can taper the knob any way you like. Some people even add a lot of tape to the knob to give a little extra weight at the hands to make the barrel feel a little lighter. Play around with it to see what you like.
4. What is the best way to get a grip on the bat and which products are best?
Pine tar is the best way to get a grip. When you first get a bat the handle is slippery even if you put tape on it. Pine tar will give you the tacky feel that keeps it in your hands.
The first thing to know about pine tar is that when applied it may be slick. Smack a rosin bag on top of where you applied the pine tar to give it tackiness. Rosin is essential to making the pine tar the type of sticky you want. (see the video below)
Liquid pine tar is applied to a pine tar rag and then smeared on the baseball bat. Usually pine tar is placed above where the hands grip the bat so you can grab for tackiness and then apply to the handle.
Pine tar sticks are a great option, it is less messy and very easy to keep in your equipment bag. The stick is applied to the handle or just above the handle, but again rosin helps to give it more tackiness. Some pine tar sticks are better than others. I have done some reviews on pine tar and pine tar sticks. Click here to see our recommendations for best pine tar.
5. Why is there an ink mark just above the handle on my maple bat?
Starting a few years ago (end of 2008) bat companies did a lot of research to see why maple bats were exploding differently from ash.
Maple bats breaking would usually lead to a bat barrel that would be flying into the stands or out on the field. The sharp, jagged end would be enough to really do some damage. The ink mark is a result of the research that was done and even though it is really useless to the consumer it means something to the bat maker.
The way the ink runs gives insight to the strength of the bat and if that piece of wood can be sold or not. Bat companies can only sell maple that meets or exceeds the ink test. This ink mark must be visible so umpires, players, and anyone else can see that the ink test was done of that bat. This test is only done on maple bats. Click here to see our recommendations for best wood bats.
I hope this post for how to use a wood bat has been helpful for you. If so, I hope you’ll consider sharing with your friends! I invite you to leave feedback or ask questions in the comments section below. Play hard! - Doug