This is one of those things that I wish I’d realized and known the importance of a long time ago.
“The gather” is a part of baseball hitting mechanics that has a HUGE impact…. with possibly the biggest impact being simply batting average. Done improperly, this makes it far more difficult to make contact with the baseball consistently.
I have heard a lot of different hitting philosophies in my career and I want to explain what improved my outcomes when facing world-class pitching.
Baseball Hitting Mechanics – The Gather
The gather is often overlooked or under-taught because it seems like it should be a simple move.
I heard so many times, “you have to get your weight back before you hit.” This allows you to use your entire body, it’s similar to throwing a punch.
Even though I understood the concept I struggled with the execution.
Initially I had trouble with control, balance, and most importantly, head movement. After countless hours watching video and working with Bobby Tewksbary I learned a few things about getting the weight back properly.
Once I got some things figured out however, it dramatically helped my timing and got my body in a position to swing the bat correctly with authority.
What is “the Gather” ?
It doesn’t matter if you have a leg kick, toe tap, small stride, or a no stride, there is always a form of gathering. My definition of gathering is this: Getting to a strong position before you make your move forward.
Mechanics of the Baseball Swing Gather
Here are 3 things to think about regarding this phase of the swing. Each of these 3 things are related and have a direct influence on the others.
- Back knee – Getting the weight back properly
- Head movement – Finding proper balance to control the stride.
- Bat path – Setting the best bat angle in order to properly start your swing.
1. Back knee
When transferring your weight to your back leg make sure your weight stays inside your back foot, it should never get over the outside.
To be more specific, you should have your back knee inside of your back foot and your head inside of your back knee. This stacking angle should be a slight diagonal.
If this position breaks down, you start to lose power.
2. Head movement
For most hitters, this is one of the most difficult parts of the baseball swing.
Too much or the wrong kind of head movement is a major problem. It’s a problem that even some big leaguers still struggle with.
The goal. The head should move very minimally or not at all towards the catcher. The difficult move is to get stacked properly on the back leg without taking the head back with the lower half of the body.
Forward head movement is ok. But if you start off with your head moving backward, it’s probably also going down. When that happens, it’s very difficult to see the baseball clearly.
Avoid free falling. Once you are able to gather and stack your weight properly without a backwards head move, it’s important to find balance that will help control the stride. In this position you should feel like you can stride in a way that can be controlled. Many hitters deal with a uncontrolled falling of the stride leg or a fast quick stride. The saying “slow feet equals quick hands” is very true.
Even though you stack your weight properly make sure you are not in a free fall after you get to this position. There needs to be a sense of balance where you can get ready to see the ball and deliver the barrel to the baseball.
A hitting drill to help. A drill I used that really helped me was I stood in the mirror with a glove and ball similar to a pitcher out of a stretch position. I lifted my leg up like I was to deliver a pitch.
In this position I was able to keep my head still, but put a bat in my hands and my head was moving all over the place. I worked on this for a few weeks with a glove and ball until I was able to figure this move out.
3. Proper Bat Path
Just as important as the first two pieces of the “gather” is setting your bat angle to properly start your swing.
There is not one way to do this but there are some things to consider.
1. Hand Position & Balance – The hands need to be in a strong position, this position needs to help you find balance.
This hand position and setting a bat angle gets the bat into a strong position while helping the lower half balance properly.
2. Movement – It may LOOK like hitters push their hands backwards in this position.
IT’S AN ILLUSION.
The truth is, elite hitters keep their hands near the back shoulder and in the gathering phase of the swing, not pushing them any closer to the catcher.
Then, as we move forward and step away from our hands we allow our hands to work properly. If we push them back they get in a weak and stagnant position that makes it difficult for them to work ideally.
There are a few moves that can happen, the hands can drop a little bit, and there can be a slight barrel tip towards the pitcher or even towards home plate (are these things good or bad?).
When the gather is done properly, the swing is on track to progress like it’s supposed to. The hands will get to where they need to as long as the hitter provides enough time and gets to the “gather” early enough.
Pro tip – Recognizing effective baseball hitting mechanics. This move with the hands and barrel of the bat provides freedom of the swing and allows athleticism to be used.
Many people teach hitting with mechanics that take the athleticism out of hitting. We as hitters need to use whatever athleticism we have to its fullest. The best hitting mechanics will enhance athleticism rather than replace it.
The gather portion of the swing is very important to understand and control.