Coaching Junior Baseball

Batting Practice for Young Hitters

Batting Practice for Young Hitters (Zooka and Live Ball) by Coach Wickham

When doing batting practice for your hitters there are two (2) ways you can give them far more beneficial turn at bat than trying to pitch to them.

Soft Toss

  1. Set the batter up with a home plate as if in the batters box.
  2. Make sure they have good distance from the plate so they hit with the widest part of the bat and not on the tapered part of the bat.
  3. Get the batter in a good balanced stance, i.e. feet wider than their knees, remind them with soft toss there is no step involved just swing and squash the bug with the back foot.
  4. Ask the batter to swing the bat and watch their swing plane.
  5. Toss the ball at that height so they get good balls to hit.
  6. Soft toss the ball from a 45 degree angle to their front hip from approx. 8/10 feet away from the batter.
  7. Show them the ball in your hand before you toss it

Live Toss

  1. (1) Set the batter up at home plate.
  2. Set up a net at approx. 8-10 feet in front of the batter.
  3. By doing this you can toss the ball to any spot over the plate i.e. Inside and outside of the plate at any height

These activities will give the batter a far more productive time at bat because there are many more chances to hit the ball and not have them swinging at balls out of the hitting zone.

Batters Stance Skill Clinic (Drill)

Although this drill can be used in different ways at different levels, it still underlies the fundamental need to make sure that a player's stance is adequate. Although this drill is intended for the younger players, players at all levels can use proper stance training.

What you need (set up): A group of 6 batters (with helmets and bats). Line the players up evenly spaced along the 3rd base line.

How this drill works: Not as much a drill as it is a skill clinic, the coach will call out "stance!" and all of the players will get into their batting stance. The coach will go through the line of players and make any adjustments the first few times. After doing it three or so times, the coach can then call "stance!" and if any players still need the same stance correction they are eliminated from the game.

Results: The repetition alone will be good for the younger players. The stance is one of the most important elements of setting up a good swing. By learning the right stance, it sets up the foundation for solid batting in the future.

Batting Drill for Zooka and Live Ball Players Practicing off a T

  1. Set up 2 Ts the first T sitting directly on top of home plate with the top of the triangle facing towards the pitcher.
  2. Set the 2nd T up in front of the plate by 1' with top of the triangle is facing towards the batter.
  3. Put a ball on each T.
  4. Get the batter to attempt a level swing by trying to get the first ball to hit the second ball.

Proper Batting Stance:

  1. Bat is gripped with both arms fully outstretched (this will align the knuckles of the fingers)
  2. Bat is pulled in comfortably to the body - arms in an inverted V - do not push players to adopt a raised back elbow as this could promote muscle tension - bat should end up perched upwards above and slightly behind player's head but not resting on shoulder either as this would be heavy.
  3. Player adopts a posture with feet wider than knees approximate distance apart would almost be the length of the bat if bat were lying on the ground. Ensure you obtain this position by lifting TOES of feet (not heels). Toes may be pointed slightly inward - opposite to a Charlie Chaplin stance.
  4. Player bends knees slightly and transfers 70% of weight to back leg with 30% weight to front leg (for balance).
  5. Player should be looking at the pitcher, Zooka or T.

Batter Positioning at Home Plate

  1. Lay the bat on the ground with the sweet spot covering the inside part of the plate with the sweet spot ending at the centre of home plate. The bat should be position so it goes through the inside corner of home plate.
  2. The batter should put his front foot at the end of the bat handle. This will allow the batter to cover the plate when his weight is transferred from the back to front foot during the swing.

Setting Up a T

  1. The T should be positioned so the top of the triangle is jutting up against the top of home plate (do not set the T up well in front of home plate).
  2. The T should be adjusted so the height of the ball is at protector level.
  3. The ball should be positioned on the T so the brand mark between the horseshoe seams (if no mark, use a permanent marker to make a big circle) is facing backwards to the catcher - teach catchers and batters to look for this set-up.

Batting off a T (younger players)

  1. Batter should adopt the stance and positioning explained above.
  2. The player should take a single powerful swing while WATCHING the mark on the ball. The swing should extend completely through the hitting zone and up over the shoulders. The swing ends with the heel of the back foot raised (squash the bug) and the toes of the front foot pointed to the pitcher.

Troubleshooting Batting off a T

  1. If the player lets go of the bat with one hand or the swing is weak and stops where the bat is pointed at the pitcher, this is a possible indication the hips are locked and the swing was cut short. Ensure the player pivots by lifting the heel of the back foot and using the toe to "squash the bug."
  2. Player should not to address the ball repeatedly. Each time the ball is addressed, the bat will go lower and the player often ends up focused on/hitting the plastic (yellow) part of the tee.
  3. Do not encourage players to "take a step" when batting. The step comes from cricket and actually requires the batter to take a backward motion before he can step forward. For young hitters, this is too much to ask. It is better simply to transfer weight from the back leg to the front leg - no step.

Batting - Zooka and Live Ball.

  1. Same concept as use of t except attention is focused on machine/pitcher instead of spot on the ball. The batter must watch the ball all the way onto the bat.

Troubleshooting Batting - Zooka and Live Ball

  1. It is particularly important to ensure the batter remains focused on the ball all the way until it is hit by the bat. Too often batters lose the ball in the last 10' before it is hit. You can assist young batters to watch the ball by colouring the ball in different bright colours and asking them during batting practice which part of the ball they hit.
  2. See Trouble shooting Batting from a T (above) to see other problems with swings.
  3. Powerful hits come from a swing that drives through the hitting zone. Players may not have a long level swing through this zone producing small hits or pop ups. See additional drill below for practices which help produce a level swing through the hitting zone.

Kissing Point Angels Coaches Development Course
16 October 2006      7 – 10 pm
Course Instructor:  Ric Wickham
Handout 5: Batting Practice for Young Hitters and Batters Stance Skill Clinic (Drill)

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