Drive the Ball to All Fields with a Simple Visual Aid

Power to All Fields

Driving the ball to all fields is obviously a great skill for hitters to acquire. Many hitters struggle to drive the ball to the opposite field without a slice. Still, other hitters struggle to pull the ball without a hook. We found a simple and easy way to help combat this using a bucket lid and some duct tape.

Bucket Lid Arrow Drill

  • Make sure your arrow is straight
  • Put the bucket lid in the area that contact occurs with the ball
    • Outside pitch arrow is deeper and pointed to the opposite field
    • Inside pitches are further out in front of the hitter and pointed to the pull side
  • Toss or throw pitches to the corresponding arrow location
    • If you're working on the outside arrow, throw the ball outside
  • Tees can be used as well if tossing accurately is a problem

Applying the Bucket Lid Arrow Drill

As you can see, the Bucket Lid Arrow Drill is simple to explain and use in practice or lessons. Make a game out of it with different arrow positions and focuses for different rounds of batting practice. Players will compete and learn at a faster pace with some rewards for doing well and consequences for failure.

One coach even created an Arrow Drill Leaderboard at his practices that the kids really enjoy checking in on their status. If you're looking for even more drills for the upper body and staying through balls to all fields, check this article out from Garret Gordon.

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Creating Better Arm Position = Better Barrel Turn

The upper body in the swing is very crucial. It is part of what's holding and ultimately delivering the bat to contact. Unfortunately, the upper body is where most hitters make the biggest mistakes.

Here at Baseball Rebellion, we have our Rebel’s Rack progression of movements that hitters can learn. As a result, this allows hitters to turn better with better posture.  Once a hitter has mastered there footwork, posture and turn it’s time to dive into the positions and movements of what your arms should do when you hit.

The Elite Upper Body Move

A lot of elite hitters get their arms in a position that resembles somewhat of a house.  As you can see there are five points of contact which makes a pentagon shape.  The main point is to help you all understand the certain angles the arms can make.

Take a look at the pictures below of Yelich, Trout, Betts, and Bonds that their "house" is shaped a little bit differently.  Just like how the architecture and shapes of the homes many people live in are also different.

Now does this something that happens every single swing? No, but I bet you that every ball these guys hit from this position at contact was crushed. A matter of fact this is something you can practice that will help you generate more bat speed and more hard contact with the ball. 

hitters house

When You Should Practice Upper Body Mechanics

First off if you're not squaring the ball up and hitting the ball hard but your footwork, posture, and turn are on point then you’re going to want to keep reading.  A lot of hitters that I have trained in the past and even now are missing the “turn behind the turn”.

This is crucial for hitters if they want to hit well. I know it looks like I'm exaggerating the movement but at high speeds, this can become a reality for many hitters. Here are some examples of what not to do.

The Knob Puller

knob puller gif

You can see in the video above I am pulling the knob of the bat across my chest.  When hitters do this they are oftentimes late on the pitch.

If they do happen to make contact it is not solid.  As a result, the ball will slice or flair to right field for right-handed hitters and left the field for left-handed hitters. All in all, this is a move that needs to be avoided. In short, this is a big no-no.

The Woodchopper

wood chopper 2.0

The woodchopper move right here is the worst you can do.  Hitters that swing straight down at the ball have no chance of being consistent.  They also will not make solid contact, this limits their ability to drive the ball.

Please for the sake of your batting average and slugging % DO NOT swing straight down! No matter what professional athletes may say.  This is a contradiction of what they actually did. Only here you can learn what they actually did.

The Bat Dragger

bat dragger gif

The bat drag is most common with younger athletes who have a tough time holding the correct arm position during the swing. Look at my back elbow during this video, what my elbow is doing is not right and is a weak-hitting position.

Also, athletes who lack upper body strength will suffer from the bat drag tremendously.  So please for your own sake do some push-ups and pull-ups to help yourself out! Our Bat Drag Buster is also a great tool to fix this problem. Along with the drills, I am showing you in this article.

The Barrel Pusher

barrel pusher gif

Pushing the barrel to contact is a tough habit to break.  Hitters will feel the turn and then at the last moment, they throw their hands at the ball.  As a result, this will make hitters miss-hit balls and they will get frustrated.

Another reason hitters do this is that sometimes hitters stand up and out of "side bend" or they never "hip hinged" in the first place!

Get In Front Of The Mirror

In my own personal experience getting in front of a mirror has always been something I liked.  For this reason, give it some time you might like the feel of mastering your arm angles. Getting to see and feel where your body has to be when you hit is crucial for your development.  Working on the angles I have talked about in this article is simple and not time-consuming.  Taking

10-15 minutes before bed or in the morning to work on your best stride, best turn and now even your best barrel turn. Those who take the time to become a master at their craft will find themselves whopping baseballs in the gap!

Upper Body Mechanics Drill #1

Mirror Halfturns with Ball in Back Elbow
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Learn How a See-Saw Can Teach Us Proper Hitting Mechanics

Years ago, I wrote an article about hand pivot or a ‘see-saw’ action of the elbows that turns the bat. Last night (April 30th, 2019), there was a demo of someone improperly using a Balance Bat, a great product, and I commented on it. Video of comment and tweet here:

In the tweet above, the person says “...Is getting the hands to snap, this way, ok?  Notice how my elbow is still up…” That is the entirety of the audio in the tweet. Since commenting, my phone still hasn’t stopped buzzing and it’s 9:15 pm the next day. Because of this, I thought it would make sense to revisit that old article and clarify how we turn the barrel. Also, I wanted to list and demo the products we use to create the deep barrel turn in our hitters.

Turn the Body First

First, before you do ANYTHING with the upper body, the lower body and torso must rotate properly. That means the stride needs to be correct and the focus is preparing to turn the body and time the ball with the turn. Once those things are completely correct, we turn the focus to the upper body and hand path that creates deep barrel turn.

Creating the Turn of the Bat

The Turn Behind The Turn Drill

The main idea we use when teaching players to turn the bat is that the hands don’t move in the swing. We explain this with the “Turn Behind the Turn” drill.

This drill clearly eliminates knob drive and teaches the hitter to deliver the barrel with his body. If the hitter can successfully get the bat head to the net without hitting his elbow or knob they have done the drill properly. Also, the hitter can learn about keeping their spacing and maintaining his or her posture through the turn.

Bat Drag Buster with the White Band

To help with the ‘feel’ of the elbows staying apart and being the ends of the see-saw, we use the white band of the Bat Drag Buster. The Bat Drag Buster was originally created to eliminate a racing back elbow of pre-pubescent hitters. What has happened, however, is it has become one of our favorite training tools of our college and professional hitters. They can feel the weakness when they break their wrist angle and let their elbows get closer together. Because of this, the Bat Drag Buster allows the elbows to get stay apart and work in harmony inside the swing for the first time ever.

Clearly, after watching the video above, you can see how weak and unsupported the bat would be with a pure wrist barrel dump. Real hitters feel this weakness if they attempt to turn the barrel with their wrists.  The Bat Drag Buster helps hitters maintain their spacing and deliver the barrel in a more forceful way. Because of this, the bat is also more supported as the hands stay closer to the body.

Follow Thru Bat

The last way we talk about the depth of the turn is by using a FollowThru Bat for the sound it makes. When swung properly, the bat head can be ‘directed’ or ‘released’ directionally.

DId you hear ‘where’ the clicks were? I spoke about this a long time ago as well in a past article.  What’s interesting about the Follow Thru Bat is that it teaches proper barrel zone entrance and where the bat should be fast. Too fast and too early on an inside pitch will cause rollovers. Conversely, if you’re too slow too long in the swing, you’ll be late and slice balls backside.

The Baseball Rebellion Truth About Training Barrel Turn

These are the tools we use and how we use them to create a correct upper body pattern in hitters. We do NOT do random ‘feels’ and ‘ideas’ on our hitters. We teach them to feel the correct move, slowly at first, and then fast in the game. This is very different than others on twitter who use made up and unsupported junk that doesn’t exist in a swing. Before you blindly trust a coach because of who they were/are or who they work with, please look at the body of work online. Do they have a facility? Do they have a long term track record of training players of all ages and ability levels? Do they have a real basis of knowledge or did they attend a weekend clinic? Do they create original thoughts (and/or products) that are proven to work? If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, perhaps its time to evaluate if they’re the right hitting person to follow. It’s not just your swing that matters, it’s your team’s, players’ or kids’ swings that suffer if you’re wrong. Avoid the snake oil sold by a ‘feel teacher', man. Instead, look for movements that make sense, taught by real teachers, man. 

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JK Whited gives a drill that helps hitters who are hitting weak pop-ups and groundballs generate more power and more consistency

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The way team hitting / batting practice is organized, and the culture that is created during practice can be either very helpful or damaging to your baseball/softball player's ability to take quality swings and not feel afraid to take them. Here are just a handful of situations or batting routines that might be happening to your player at practice and if you are a coach, let's take some time to perhaps rethink how your baseball/softball team's hitting time is being used.

5.  Not Hitting

Yes, this does happen! Before I get too critical on coaches and their practice plans here, it should be said that I love defense. I was a catcher my whole career and love making defensive plays and stopping runs from scoring.  It's crucial for the outfield and infield to be able to communicate and work well together, but do we really need to skip hitting so that there can be 3 hours of bunt coverage? Especially on a play that gets ran once a year! Every baseball and softball player in the lineup will get at least two at-bats in a game. The one secret play, that never works, is not worth the time. Do the math, get some swings in.

Practice Solution 

If you have to have entire practices dedicated to defense, just be sure to do the same for hitting. Even if a player has what might be considered a "bad swing," at least they can develop timing with their bad swing and have more of a chance for success.

 

4.  Throwing Bad BP or Front Toss

Bad Baseball Batting Practice Throwing

One of the more frustrating things for us to see is a player that has a good swing but gets worse because his coach can't throw front toss or batting practice. It is even more frustrating when the coach who just bounced five balls in a row gets mad at the hitter for not swinging. Most young players are afraid of their coaches already and don't want to"talk back."  So what happens?  The player will undoubtedly start taking awful swings at awful pitches just to appease the coach and ruin his own practice time. Every time the coach throws a bad pitch, the player should take, which can even be used to the hitter and coaches benefit. If the coach continues to throw poorly, the player should then be allowed to go work off the tee or go through dry swings where they can practice good movements.

Practice Solution 

Coaches should practice throwing strikes overhand and front toss. Before any us at Baseball Rebellion became a full-time instructor, we had to become great at front toss and BP. Not to say we don't make mistakes, but baseball and softball hitters, especially ones learning new movements, have to have a certain level of consistency with each pitch so they can focus more on their swing. If one of your responsibilities as a coach is to front toss or throw batting practice, you need to be somewhat good at it, or you will only make your team worse.

 

3. Batting / Pitching Machines

If you are not currently an in-person or online client of Baseball Rebellion, it's challenging to visualize practicing a baseball/softball swing without hitting a ball. All of our clients know how to train at home with no bat, no ball, and have huge gains in their swing. Taking your team or player to a batting cage or even bringing in a "portable" batting machine to practice seems like a good idea in theory.

The problem with machines and creating a good swing occurs in the timing of the pitch, especially if your swing has a good loading phase. If you have followed Baseball Rebellion before then, you know we like to see hitters have a nice rock back or sway move to get some momentum started. Guys like Jose Bautista are great examples of this type of negative to positive move. For the hitter to properly execute the start of this move, they must use the load phase of the pitcher as a visual to know when to start. Since most pitching machines have zero to very little pre-release action, the hitter can struggle at getting started, therefore throwing off their entire swing pattern. This is especially difficult for baseball and softball hitters who have just started to learn this type of movement.

Bad Baseball / Softball batting or pitching machine

There are many different types of pitching/batting machines out there, and some are better than others. Any machine that shoots the ball out without any warning is one to watch out for. These can be extremely frustrating to a hitter with movement. The ball will suddenly appear which gives it the perception as fast, but the speed of the ball is normal to slow, causing the hitter to suddenly jump forward but then realize they are super early getting their front foot down. Unless you are very in-tuned with your body and timing, there is very little hope for consistent or powerful contact. No baseball or softball player out there wants to look bad in front of his teammates and coaches, so they will begin to strip away movement from their swing. Ultimately the once good swing is now sliced down to a panic-induced wrist snap. Months of training and money has been wasted.

Some machines like the classic Iron Mike model is the only one that I think can accurately give the hitter some kind of timing mechanism. But even that can be hard if the batter can't see the arm come around and back to the top.

Practice Solution 

This is a tough one because I do understand the need to take swings with a moving ball and as mentioned earlier, and good throwers can be hard to come by. For players, if you can't work on good timing with a negative to positive move forward, then my advice would be to start with your front foot already down. If your mechanics are already good, you can still work on lots of other parts of the swing like hip rotation, front and back leg action, and barrel path, just to name a few. However, if the hitter's mechanics are already bad, I am afraid these types of machines can only cause more frustration and negativity.

2. Situational Batting Practice

A lot like bunt coverage practice, there is a definite time and place for situation hitting practice. But often baseball and softball teams spend countless hours of hitting/batting practice time on nothing but hit-and-runs, slashes, bunting, two-strike approaches, etc. Again these are times that may only happen one or two times a game, hence the name situational.

STOP slash bunting in Baseball or Softball

Now if you are dedicating the opening round of batting practice to a few bunts and one or two hit-and-runs, that is one thing, but making entire rounds dedicated to hitting the ball backside on the ground can be detrimental to a good swing. In rounds like those, the hitter is forced by the demands of the coach to hit every pitch, even inside pitches, to the backside of the field. Again, the hitter, being afraid to disappoint the coach, will adopt a weak backside mentality, creating a slower delayed turn of the barrel to flick the ball that way. Then when the game comes around, the coach wonders why his team can't drive the ball. The "backside approach" round can work for very specific cases of timing issues but usually not for the whole team. These types of rounds will create mental and physical issues in most baseball and softball hitters that could take a long time to overcome.

Practice Solution 

Immediately after a brief situational round, allow your hitters to "let it fly." Get them ready to do what they will most likely have to do in the game, Hit! I think a lot of coaches out there would be surprised in the performance of their hitters if they introduced more power rounds in their practice or even dedicated one to a home run round. Not only would the players have ready their aggressive mindsets, but they would also have a lot more fun knowing they have the freedom to go for it. Less fear and more aggressive hitters should be what any baseball or softball coach should strive for. Don't be afraid to see how a player can develop over time with this kind of practice. The baseball and softball players that we work with everyday start to learn how to hit doubles on purpose and their mishits become hard singles.  As a hitter, it feels great knowing you can make mistakes and still get on base.

1.  Quick Pitching the Hitter

I chose this topic as number one because it seems to be what all of my clients have in common. We spend months before the season getting their swings to be powerful and consistent. During this process, they are allowed to move freely through the entire swing then reset before the next pitch. In this resetting time, they have they can regain their composure, think about and make adjustments, and then take another good swing. 

Coaches have to remember that practice time is the hitter's time to get better and not their time to see how many swings they can take in two minutes. Too many of our hitters will see us during the season, after months of training, and all of a sudden they have a shorter yet weaker swings with no finish. Before they even get their shoulders fully rotated, they are slowing down and hopping back into their stances. They cut out their rhythm, their forward motion, and their finish to get ready for the next pitch. Time and time again they fall victim of the "practice culture" in baseball and softball. When they finally do take a full and aggressive swing at practice, the coach will already be throwing the next pitch before the player has a chance to reset. So when the player decides not to swing because they are not ready, they get yelled at. Now fear has been installed in the young player, and they cut down their swing to make the coach happy. This happens every day for some kids, and all of us here at Baseball Rebellion have to work on getting them back to where they were two months ago.

Practice Solution 

Take less, but better swings. The old saying goes "quality over quantity," and nothing could be more true for baseball and softball swings and practice. With every quick restart with zero time to think, your hitters are getting worse. If you have a limited time for hitting at practice, then use the time wisely. Cut each round down by three or four swings and let the hitters focus on their swing and training, whatever it might be. If you're a player with this issue, don't be afraid to let a pitch go by from time to time or ask the coach to slow down. All players should be able to speak to their coaches and ask for time. It is the player's practice after all.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, I understand how difficult it is to be a coach at any level. Every level of baseball and softball has its obstacles to hurdle when it comes to practice. Things like field time, coaching assistance, even balls can be hard to come by. I don't want this article to bash on all coaches, everywhere, who try hard to do it right. But trying hard and not knowing, are two different things. We have tons of FREE articles on here that can help you become a better coach. If more coaches took the time to improve upon some of this issue, everybody and the sports of baseball and softball would benefit. Lastly, if one of your parents is taking a player on your team to see a professional instructor, please respect their choice to outsource their information and invest their money. Let their players focus on his or her specific goals and work on their swing regardless if you think it's right.

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