How to Fix NOT Seeing the Ball: The HeadRight HeadLight Drill

Written By: Chas Pippitt

The Most Valuable Skill in Baseball!

VISION:

Hello, Chas Pippitt, aka Captain Obvious, here to tell you about the most valuable skill in baseball:  The ability to watch the ball.

If you can't see the ball hit the bat...what are these guys looking at?  Now, I'm sure some eye doctor will say 'it's physically impossible to see the baseball hit the bat' and someone else will tell the story that Ted Williams could read the words on a spinning record as it played...  I want to be clear, I'm not saying you need to actually SEE THE BALL HIT THE BAT, I am saying that you must be able to visually judge the PATH of the pitch, and see that path in your mind so you can get the bat barrel in the way of the baseball.

Tulo Hitting Mechanics, Troy Tulowitzki Hitting Mechanics, Eyes Down on Baseball, Eyes on Ball, Headright Headlight Drill, Chas pippitt headlight, chas pippitt, baseball rebellion

Eyes down in the zone, behind the ball, barrel in the way of the path of the pitch.

WATCH THE BASEBALL

Now, EVERY SINGLE KID has had EVERY SINGLE COACH tell him to ‘watch the baseball’ in one form or another.  From ‘keep your head still’, to ‘you can’t hit what you can’t see’, to ‘watch the ball hit the bat’, the expressions are endless…and so is the mistake of hitters pulling his or her head to see where the ball goes before the ball makes contact with the bat.

How is it possible that the ONLY THING ALL COACHES AGREE ON (the need to watch the ball) is not only the first thing that kids are taught, but also the first thing that kids forget the second they get to the field?

Young Player Pulls Head Baseball Swing, Eyes On Ball Baseball, Eyes On Ball Softball, Hitting Drill, Baseball Rebellion, Headright Headlight, Head-Right Head-Light Drill, hitting drills, vision drill baseball

A young hitter pulling his head/eyes away from the hitting zone…his results are clearly suffering.

Is it immaturity?  Impatience?  Stupidity?  No.  It’s simply that coaches aren’t doing a good enough job PROVING to kids that keeping your ‘eyes on the ball’ is the only way to survive in this terribly difficult game.

There are many ways to do this.  I ask my kids all the time, ‘have you ever heard of the blind major league baseball player?’  Of course, the answer is, ‘no.’  However, I then tell them that there are off balance players all the time, fooled hitters, fielders who make errors, there have been midgets, one-handed men, short and small guys like Dustin Pedrioa...

Dustin Pedrioa Eyes On ball, Dustin Pedrioa Baseball Swing Mechanics, Pedrioa Vision, Baseball Drills, Pro hitting drills

Dustin Pedrioa taking his eyes down to the baseball and into the hitting zone.

and Giant tall guys like Randy Johnson.  Fat slow guys like Cecil Fielder and skinny fast guys like Tony Campana (he’s a buddy of mine and he’s only 5’8’’ 150…I don’t care what his bio says!).  But never a blind guy…and the second you pull your head out towards the pitcher during the swing, you BECOME A BLIND HITTER!

Prince Fielder Hitting Drills, Prince Fielder Vision, Baseball Hitting, Prince Fielder Baseball Swing Mechanics

Prince Fielder with his eyes down in the PATH of the baseball. He’s not just picking the spot the bat will hit the ball, he’s seeing the PATH of the pitch, and swinging ON THAT PATH! Super Advanced!

Now, again, whether you think I’m right (I am) or wrong (I’m not) about ‘down and through’ mechanics vs the different mechanics we preach and teach in The Baseball Rebellion Hitting Methodology, you can’t argue that vision, or the act of watching the baseball, is NOT the most important thing whether you are in the field or at the plate.

THE 4% DIFFERENCE

I’m going to tell you that when talking to Johnny Narron, Josh Hamilton’s personal hitting coach, he told me that he thinks the difference between the truly great hitters like Josh, A-Rod, ManRam, Bonds, Mays…the list goes on, from an all-star player was ‘two feet of vision’ during a pitched ball.

Josh Hamilton Hitting mechanics, Josh Hamilton hitting off tee, josh hamilton Vision, Hamilton Baseball, Josh Hamilton Hitting mechanics

Josh Hamilton practicing off a batting tee…Totally focused on his vision.

Now think about that.  2 feet of vision in a pitch that travels roughly 54 feet (taking 6 feet off of 60.6 for the stride and release of the pitch) that is less than 4% difference!

4 Percent!  He went onto say that the difference between the all-star player and a bench guy in the majors was another 2 feet…So Barry Bonds was only 8% better than Joe Shmoe Major League Flash in the Pan Guy!  That’s a pretty bold statement, in my opinion, considering that Joe Shmoe was about 100000% better than me…or anyone else who plays at a high level and can’t make it!

VALUE OF VISION

So I started to really think about this idea, on how to train kids to ‘Value their Vision’ as their main tool to be as good a player as they can be.

Joey Votto Hitting Mechanics, Joey Votto MVP, Votto hitting baseball, eyes on ball drills, head-right head-light drill, chas pippitt headlight

NL MVP Joey Votto with his eyes perfectly in the hitting zone, behind the baseball, and in the path of the pitch.

Here’s what I came up with:  Joey references a ‘broomstick’ drill on swing smarter.com where you swing the broom and hear where the sound is.  I prefer a Lacrosse stick with no head on it.  They are roughly 4 feet long and have an open end.  I tape up the handle thicker, more like a wooden bat handle, and the kids swing it.  First, they pull their head, the sound the stick makes, when swung hard, is loud and noticeable.  That sound also has a ‘direction’ or a ‘location’.  It’s in front of the hitter because as the head pulls, the hands and shoulder follow along with the head.  In essence, the knob of the bat pulls and the barrel is NOT accelerated sideways into the zone…it’s not accelerated period until too late.

Do the same drill with a ball sitting just off the outside corner of home plate.  Now, STARE at that ball while you swing as hard as you can so that your head stays still and your NOSE points down at that baseball and NEVER MOVES forward away.  Swing just as hard as you did before…and change nothing…Where was the sound?  Over home plate you say?  GREAT!  Isn’t that where the ball is when you’re hitting?  The sound is BESIDE YOUR BODY and over home plate instead of IN FRONT of your body in the batter’s box?  A great example of this idea is this picture of Josh Hamilton.

Josh Hamilton baseball swing, josh hamilton eyes on baseball, Josh hamilton tee swings

Yes, I know this picture is the same as the one above…BUT REALLY LOOK AT IT! The Baseball Hitting Rebellion is a training site…we want to show you not only how these guys hit in games…but what it takes to GET THERE!

He’s really focused BEHIND the ball with his vision, and his head will STAY there to finish off his extension.

WHAT YOU SEE ON TV

Keep in mind, you’ll watch tv and see guys hitting home runs and ‘watching the ball leave the yard’ and you’ll think, Chas, those guys aren’t keeping their heads still.  I’ll say two things do that:

First: Yes they are, INSIDE the swing they are motionless.  The swing truly ends at full wrist snap and extension.  So those guys are ‘finished’ before their swing finishes…because the early acceleration finishes their swing with no effort.

Robinson Cano Baseball Swing, Robinson Cano Hitting Mechanics, Cano Swing, Cano hitting, baseball hitting drills, baseball drills, softball drills, vision drills baseball

Robinson Cano keeping his head still DURING extension and AFTER the contact…once he finishes (at maximum wrist snap and extension) he will allow his head to raise. Do Not let your son/daughter raiser his or her head after contact…ever. It only leads to pre-contact problems and balance issues.

Second: Players at that level, the MLB level, who are on SportsCenter for hitting home runs and making millions of dollars, are literally IN CHARGE of what they’re doing on the field.  The major league and minor league coaches I talk to about ‘suggestion’ instead of ‘teaching’.  When a big leaguer gets a hit, he doesn’t pick up his first base coach…he watches the ball into the outfield and makes a decision on a single or a double.  An example of this was Ryan Braun in the low minor leagues and hitting coaches.  Those coaches were directly instructed NOT to talk to Ryan about hitting…let that sink in…Because the upper-level guys didn’t trust those low minor league level coaches to make adjustments to Ryan Braun’s swing.  The only thing he WAS allowed to say to Ryan was, make sure you’re seeing the ball.

Sammy Sosa hitting drills, sammy sosa vision, sammy sosa baseball swing, baseball rebellion, chas pippitt, headright headlight drill, chas pippitt head-right head-light drill

Sammy Sosa…Seeing Contact?!?

Another example of this was when Josh Hamilton broke his shoulder this year, he threw his coach under the bus for telling him that ‘no one was covering home.’  The Rangers backed the coach, after Josh complained about that being a ‘stupid decision’, and said it was actually Josh’s decision to go…This proves that the PLAYERS are truly the ones making the decisions on the field, as they are the 'valuable commodities' people pay to see.  Most of the time, the only coach on the field who impacts a game is the third base coach, and even he, as in the Hamilton story, only 'suggests' what players should do on the field.

Now, after that slight tangent, I’m back to vision.  Now, at Baseball Rebellion, we literally are ALWAYS looking for new and fun ways to teach kids to hit.

HEADRIGHT, HEADLIGHT

One way we did this was with our fun idea we affectionately call the HeadRight HeadLight.  The HeadRight HeadLight forces kids to 'GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT' when they hit.  We turn the lights off, so it’s pitch black dark, and we hit.  How does that work?  Well, we strap a light to the hitter’s head, above his nose, that we can angle down at a ball sitting on a tee.  The light doesn’t ‘bend’ and the light doesn’t lie.  If the hitter moves his head, the ball goes from ‘lit up’ to ‘dark’ and the hitter misses or miss-hits the baseball.  Also, with this HeadRight HeadLight drill, the light once the ball leaves the tee, should be shining just above where the ball WAS sitting on the tee.  This is true even AFTER the ball is gone.

Carlos Gonzalez great vision, cargo hitting mechanics, carlos gonzalez hitting mechanics, baseball swing mechanics, vision drills baseball

Carlos Gonzalez with great visual discipline. Eyes behind the baseball, bat in the path of the pitch.

We at Baseball Rebellion have done this crazy drill with kids as young as seven (they LOVED IT) as well as professional level players. Now, I will say this, the pro guys looked at me like I was crazy, and maybe I am a little bit, but bottom line, once they did it even they were shocked at how much head movement they had before and after contact!  One said 'you can’t argue with the light.'  It’s either still…or it isn’t…the proof is right there.  The more still the light, the more efficient and accurate the swing will be.

 

At Baseball Rebellion, we are tired of coaches who regurgitate information that is tired, old, and in most cases, incorrect.  Our own research into biomechanics, muscle activation, kinetics, and HD video study proves our stances on what we teach and why we teach it.  Our challenge is translating the video into a systematic approach that is understandable, learnable, enjoyable, and accurate.  Try these drills and enjoy the results!  And for goodness sake, KEEP YOUR HEAD STILL AFTER CONTACT!

Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion

UPDATE:  In a more recent article, Chas Pippitt Demonstrates the Head-Right Head-Light Drill!  Click here to read more!

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Tony
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Tony

Very good article. How true this is. Very good pictures to go along with the explanation. My son has done the headlight drill in lessons with Chas and once he understood the problems that moving his head caused it made him work harder on limiting his head movement and focusing on the ball. Keep up the good work Chas.

Keith
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Keith

Absolutely good idea to help keep eyes on the ball.
Would have never thought of that.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Hey Chas, great drill my son loves it. Pretty self explanatory too. I have a question though in regards to head movement ,just for my own clarifacation and so I can better coach(explain) to my son what he needs be doing during his swing. This drill obviously works on your line of sight at the point of contact with the ball. From one of the short video clips on your I.T.S. baseball website I heard you tell your hitting pupil to continue to keep his nose behind the ball. So am I correct in assuming the seeing of the the… Read more »

jb
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jb

Hey chas, lately ive been having a little trouble with the inside pitch and getting jammed quite a bit. I have been doing great with the outside pitch using your principles. I know i need to keep my hands inside the baseball. What are some other things that are causing this and some things you recommend to fix this. thanks

Andrew Rando
Member
Andrew Rando

What kind/size light, how do you attach it, where above nose? I must be the only dummy since I am asking this question! LOL!

chas
Member

Andy,

I got my lights from Home Depot. Brinkman makes a good one that has 5 lights, a low setting, a high setting and a blinking setting that is cool as well.

One of my online lessons actually sent me video of him doing the HeadRight HeadLight drill in his garage! Totally cool to have kids from all over the world trying this out.

By the way, he loved it!

Chas –

Adam
Guest
Adam

Chas,

This is so rich! I played a lot of baseball growing up and finished playing D-1A in the mid-1990’s. Never once did I have a coach use a vision drill. Now I’m teaching my 7 y/o son and this website is a gold mine.

Thanks for giving me the tools to help my son become a great hitter.

Best,

Adam

Mark
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Mark

Do you have an ebook for sale or any other products?

Jason
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Jason

Best idea I ever heard. Just found the web sight and just amazed by all of the great ideas. Keep up the great work guys

Jake
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Jake

Lately I’ve been having trouble seeing the ball. My head follows the ball until it crosses my firstbase coach. I’m not purposely looking at him for any sings, but I start to lose track as it gets closer. I think I might be trying to move my head too quickly and then just lose focus, but I can’t tell if that is the only reason for my slump. Like this afternoon, I was playing a game and I could tell I was swinging under the ball but I couldn’t see were the ball was gonna end up. What should I… Read more »

Shane
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Shane

Hey Chas,

Great article!! I’m currently a college athlete and found this article very helpful. I have been classified as a “pull hitter” because I pull my head off of the pitch and end up swinging around the baseball. What should I do to correct this?

jerry
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jerry

chas love your swing mechaniccs teaching, and the head not moving . like joey states the head not moving is probally the one thing most hitting instructors agree on.BUt reacently paul reddick made a statement that I found intresting he said the best hitters are that because of vision . Reddick said I can swing like ken griffey but cant hit like him . i think what he meant was, he cant read pitches like griffey can .ibesides a still head im curious about how great hitters trac the ball rod crew said he could read the spin on the… Read more »

jamie
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jamie

chas, Fantastic read , fantastic ideas ! My son and I eat this stuff up. Was just wondering though if you could give a step by step instruction as to how to set up the light ? what type of light , what type of strap you use to hold the light and where should the light be located at on the head ? or maybe add a video of yourself doing the drill so that we can see how the setup looks while being used. Again thank you so much for all you time and energy you put into… Read more »

dan lepri
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dan lepri

Can you suggest a light to use for the headright headlight drill.

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[…] How to Fix NOT Seeing the Ball: The HeadRight HeadLight Drill – Chas Pippitt Check this drill out. I'm wrong again? ME If you think practice is boring, try sitting on the bench. Reply With Quote […]

agcisneros
Member
agcisneros

Chas, great “outside the box” drill. I’m have a team full of 6/7 year old boys and am always looking for different and “fun” drills to keep it fresh, interesting and fun for them while also teaching them the correct way to play baseball. You can bet I’ll be trying this out in the near future (maybe tomorrow after we practice)

Tony

Colin
Guest
Colin

I’ve been having trouble with the stick I’m rolling over or poping up a lot my coach says that it’s because I’m not watching the ball hit the bat and that I need to see the ball at contact but when I do it I always end up just pounding it into the ground or flying out, I’m making more solid contact now but I was just curious if u had any ideas for what I could do to try and fix my problem. Thanks!

Coach Helke
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Coach Helke

Here is some information supporting the fact you can’t see the ball hit the bat. You do have to continue to your head as if you are seeing the ball hit the bat – keeping it still – but the truth is it is impossible to see the ball hit the bat (live pitching). I recently wrote an article on the subject using scientific facts looking at research and speaking with biomechanic professionals, physicist and Visual Psychophysicist. The most important part of “seeing the ball” is from ball release to a little less than half way. Here is just a… Read more »

Chris Brasfield
Guest

Just wanted to let you know the article you shared is still helpful 7 years after the 1st reply. Keep the tips a coming!
Thanks

Admin

Thank you Chris!

Matt
Guest
Matt

Thank you for posting this information. I have a young player that use to do very well hitting but has gone in a slump. Several people have given all kinds of advice but things have not improved. I really like the simplicity of your drill. I have been told that kids need to feel, see or hear to learn. I will try this drill to see if it helps. Thank you again for sharing.