Today I’m going through the beginning of the routine I do every day to get ready for my baseball games.
It’s a progression of 5 basic drills. I’ll talk about why they are helpful for getting game-ready, and how you can customize the routine to help workout any kinks in your own swing.
This post is building off last weeks video: Tips for getting GAME READY with MN Twins’ Eric Farris: Pregame routine Part 1.
This series is all about how I and many other pro guys do our everyday pre-game preparation. It is kind of extensive and can get kind of lengthy, so we broke it up into a couple videos.
- Part 1 – Batting tee in the cage
- Part 1 Cont – Drills for the batting tee
- Part 2 – Flip toss in the cage
- Part 3 – BP (Batting practice on the field)
The batting tee is such an important part of that routine that it’s getting broken into 2 posts. Today, I’m getting more specific with the batting drill progression I use to get myself game-ready, and how you can customize it.
After arriving at the field (1:00-1:30, for a 7 o’clock game), I jump in the cage to get loose and just get started.
I try to use this time in the cage, the first part of my pregame routine, to improve specific things about my swing or work out some of the problems I have been having over the last week.
And you can modify this routine to address specific problems you are facing in your swing.
Drills using the batting tee:
Many pro guys, myself included, always start our days with the batting tee. The reasons I like to use the Tee:
- I am 100% in control of my swing.
- It’s the best way to isolate parts of my swing that I want to work on
- It gets me warmed up and ready for when I do face someone pitching or under hand toss, in the batting cage or at batting practice.
- It gets my swing is grooved and ready to go.
Batting Tee Drill #1: Balance and Rhythm (with Checkpoint)
Purpose: The best hitters are slow, methodical and relaxed. It looks so easy and effortless. A big problem I have faced is going too fast. I like to be quick and have quick movements. So this is a time I can make myself slow down recreate those great swings with some rhythm, using the Tee.
This entire drill happens at 1/2 speed of your normal swing.
- Relaxed starting point. Feet together, nice and relaxed with the ball out in front. I will rest the back against my shoulder with my hands in place but nice and relaxed.
- Balance. Next I will pick my left knee up and there’s a slight pause on one leg while you check your balance for just a few seconds.
- Pause. From there, drop into batting position and PAUSE. This is a CHECK POINT where I want to make sure I am in a balanced position and that I can attack the ball. In other words, when you are at the point of separation, pause and check to make sure (1) Your weight is evenly distributed; (2) Your posture is strong; (3) With your hands back, feel the separation or torque building up in your front side as you get into a strong launch position. Imagine a rubber band stretching from your front foot to your hands. The rubber band is stretching tighter as you achieve proper separation, or in other words, as you are getting into position for maximum bat speed.
- Swing. I will take about 10 swings this way, just to loosen up.
(If you purchased our book Baseball Hitting Drills for a Batting Tee, then this picture probably looks familiar. In the book we call it The Separation Drill, and as you can see now, it’s one I do often before games.)
Batting Tee Drill #2: Balance and Rhythm (withOUT checkpoint)
Drill 2 is actually a variation of #1, which is why I’m calling it a “progression.” Everything is still at 1/2 speed but the pause is eliminated.
Purpose: This drill address several problems, including the tendency to collapse your backside, losing power and swinging uphill.
So instead of cutting my swing off, this drill helps me swing through the baseball, it keeps the barrel in the zone longer and increases power.
My feet are still together, knees are bent and I stay nice and slow as I swing through the baseball. The entire drill is happening at 1/2 your normal swing speed, but without the pause this time.
Batting Tee Drill #3: Hitting the ball deep, opposite field
This just allows me to groove my swing by letting the ball get a little deep on me. This is beneficial for several reasons.
- Of course, it’s good to practice, since it will likely happen in a game. So if it happens, it’s ok, I’m not panicking and I can still make contact, hit it off to right field, hit a hard line drive.
- More importantly, it’s a good test of your swing. If you can’t hit the ball deep, it’s a good indication that your swing plane is off and an adjustment needs to be made. In other words, if you’re having trouble with this pitch, it could be a sign that your barrel is late to the hitting zone because your swing is too steep.
Now we are back to hitting at normal speed.
- In your normal stance, but keep the baseball just in line with your belly button. This is hitting the ball deep.
- Try to hit the baseball directly towards the first baseman.
Repetition: I will take 5-10 swings doing that. This way I am ready if the ball does get a little deep on me.
Key Points: Off the Tee, I really like to over emphasize things like relaxation, quiet and slow movement. Even if you have larger movements, that’s ok. We just want everything to be under control.
Batting Tee Drill #4: Line drives down the center
Purpose: This is the last step in the progression before moving on to flips. This is to check that your swing is in a good place and ready for some added intensity.
- Results. Biggest thing off the tee is hitting the ball straight. When I am hitting it down the middle, I want to keep it off the ground, I want to keep it from hitting the top of the net. I want to try and hit as many balls as I can off the back of the net.
- Simplify and focus. To me, that is an important thing to try and focus on while you are in the cage. When you are out in the field, your mind starts expanding, and there are a lot of other things that you are trying to do. In the cage, simplify, balls off the back wall. Keep it off the top. Keep it off the ground. This is very telling. When not going well, a hitter might get lucky with one or two good line drives off the back of the cage. But if you can’t do it 10 times in a row consistently, it’s a sign that something still needs some work.
Positioning: Now I want the batting tee right off my front foot.
From here I am getting into my swing, I can move the ball around a little bit. I can move it on the outside part of the plate, the inside part of the plate, all of that.
Modify: If you want to work on the pitch in, that’s fine. Just stand a little closer to the batting tee. The balls a little bit out in front. It’s the same idea as before. Take your time and work bat placement and form. I try to hit the ball to the far left corner of the cage. Again try to keep the ball off the ground and off the top. Practice that line drive.
Batting Tee Drill #5: Inside Pull
Purpose: Learning to pull the ball correctly is a difficult skill to master. All of these drills are designed to help you prepare to face the pitching you will encounter in the game.
A common mistake for hitters when pulling the inside pitch is to open up their front should too soon, which causes all sorts of problems. It pulls your barrel out of the hitting zone too soon, costing you power and decreasing your odds of making solid contact with the baseball. Usually this mistake results in hooking the ball, and probably hitting a ground ball to the pull side.
The proper way to pull a baseball is to keep your shoulder closed as long as possible, allowing the barrel to work through the baseball. You’ll recognize when it’s done correctly because the baseball will come off the bat with backspin rather than hooking with side-spin.
Using the batting tee in a long cage allows you to see and feel how the baseball is spinning off your bat, so you can know if you’re pulling the baseball correctly.
Positioning: The tee is slightly in front of your front foot, on the inner half of the plate. You want to hit line drives in the direction of where the pull-side gap would be.
IMPORTANT – Remember to hit the ball off the back net. It’s the most important thing you can do while you are in the cage. That way, you develop a feel for when your body and mechanics are working correctly. If you aren’t hitting line drives to the back of the net, it’s an indication that an adjustment is needed.
Additional things you can do off a batting tee for warm up:
Heavy Bat: Hitting with a heavy bat can help make your grip stronger, and will help you feel better when you are holding that normal sized bat.
Hitting Jackit: The Hitting Jackit is a bat weight that works as an alternative to a heavy bat. And some guys during their first few rounds like to put a hitting Jackit on their bat just to help get started and get loose.
A fungo Bat: The fungo is lighter than a normal bat is good for feeling that whip. Alternating that in conjunction with a heavy bat can actually help improve bat speed.
(Check out recommendations for these hitting aids here)
Coming soon: Part 2 – Hitting underhand flips in the cage
After I’m done getting loose and doing my routine on the tee, I go into underhand flips.
How we do that is a coach or a player, usually our hitting coach, will be about 6-7 paces away. He will stand behind the L screen and all he’s going to do is underhand flip to me, while I take my swings.
I feel like it’s a good way to graduate as the day goes on from the tee to actual “pitch-like” balls coming towards you. You can work on your swing, everything is low pressure, low speed and it helps you groove your swing for the game.
So this is something I like to do and hopefully will answer some of your questions about a pregame hitting routine.
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