There have been many famous baseball players known for their hitting including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb, Manny Ramirez and Honus Wagner just to name a few. Each had their own individual approach at the plate, but there hitting technique had a few basic elements in common, depending on whether they were swinging for power of focusing on contact. Mastering the basics is a must for anyone who wants to excel on the baseball diamond.
The goal of “rotational hitting” is to drive the ball deep into the outfield for extra base hits, including home runs, or fly balls that can advance or score base runners. Rotational hitting starts with your stance in the batter’s box. Bend your knees with your feet a little wider than your shoulders. You are bending slightly forward from the waist. Since your goal is to hit the ball over the infielders’ heads, into the gap in the outfield, you align your body to an angle allowing you to hit the ball into the desired position in the outfield. Your powerful swing starts with moving your front leg, such as taking a small step, followed by dropping your heel.
Then you rotate your hips. Dropping the heel pulls the rear hip toward the front side. The power comes from the hip motion. After the hip rotates, the torso of your body spins forward quickly. This keeps the bat in the rotational flow.
End with your palms down. The swing begins with you holding the bat with palms facing up and ends with the follow- through where your palm is facing down over the shoulder.
This style focuses on making contact with the ball, while possibly sacrificing some power. When practiced correctly, this type of hitting produces solid lines drives and hard hit ground balls that can shoot past infielders.
Your stance in this style is much the same as the one you employ for rotational hitting. Your feet are a little wider than the shoulders. Your knees are bent and you are leaning slightly forward from your waist.
Take a soft step forward with the weight on the big toe of the front. Twist the hips and torso as if you were squishing a bug with the ball of your back foot. Bring the barrel of the bat to the ball as if you were performing karate chop. The lower hand snaps from the elbow straight out. The tops hand goes straight towards the ball.
The swing should continue with both arms extended fully and pointing at the pitcher. The wrists roll over as you hold on to the bat with both hands. Your back shoulder should completely rotate around to the front and touch your chin. At the end of the swing, the bat will be behind your head.
Baseball Hitting Mentality
Mechanics are not all that is involved in hitting a baseball. Mentality plays a huge role in baseball hitting success. If you walk to the play with a defeated attitude, you will be defeated. Never walk up to the plate thinking,”I hope I don’t strike out.” Do not doubt your own ability. Your attitude must be, “I am going to hit the ball.” Be aggressive and hit the ball hard.
Hitting Practice Methods
Tony Gwynn recommends practicing with a batting tee and a bag of wiffle balls. He claims hitting a ball off a tee correctly makes him a better hitter. He still uses this method after 18 years in the major leagues.
Another popular hitting practice is the power bat drill. The idea is to hit through a heavier object than a normal baseball increasing the power of your swing.
A drill used to improve decision making at the plate is the colored ball drill. Several baseballs of different colors are used. The pitcher calls out a color before the pitch. The batter can only swing if the ball is the color the pitcher called out.
Getting into a batting cage with a bucket of balls and a pitching machine is a great method to concentrate on improving your swing. Ball movement with the pitch is hard to duplicate with a pitching machine so you should also practice batting with a live pitcher and learning to hit different types of pitches.
There is a wealth of information about baseball hitting. Ted William’s book on hitting is essential reading. Bobby Woods, a former pro baseball player of the Chicago Cubs organization has an instructional hitting video for baseball and softball players of all ages. The video is 75 minutes long and includes 20 hitting drills. Another book offering hitting instruction is “Baseball Skills & Drills” by Mark Johnson, John Winkin, Jack Leggett, American Baseball Coaches Association.