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Hello, Chas Pippitt, aka Captain Obvious, here to tell you about the most valuable skill in baseball: The ability to watch the ball.
Now, I'm sure that some eye doctors will say 'it's physically impossible to see the baseball hit the bat' while others 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. Instead, I am saying that you must be able to visually judge the PATH of the pitch, and see that path in your mind so that you can get the bat barrel in the way of 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.
So, how is it possible that the ONLY THING ALL COACHES AGREE ON 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?
Is it immaturity? Impatience? Stupidity? No. It’s simply that coaches aren’t doing a good enough job of 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, one-handed men, and even short and small guys like Dustin Pedrioa...
But never a blind guy… The second you pull your head out towards the pitcher during the swing, you BECOME A BLIND HITTER!
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.
When talking to Johnny Narron, Josh Hamilton’s personal hitting coach, he told me that he thinks what separates the truly great hitters like Josh, A-Rod, Manny, Bonds, and Mays, from other all-star players, is ‘two feet of vision’ during a pitched ball.
Now think about that. 2 feet of vision in a pitch that travels roughly 54 feet. That is less than a 4% difference!
4 Percent! He went onto say that the difference between an all-star player and a bench player 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!
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 of a player as they can be.
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 have 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.
He’s really focused BEHIND the ball with his vision, and his head will STAY there to finish off his extension.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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Chas Pippitt | Cornerstone | Hitting | Vision
31 thoughts on "How to Fix NOT Seeing the Ball: The HeadRight HeadLight Drill"
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.
Absolutely good idea to help keep eyes on the ball.
Would have never thought of that.
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 ball leading up to this point of contact that your lights out drill works on starts with the head turned toward the pitcher. As the pitcher releases the pitch the hitter’s eyes begin to track the ball, the head begins to turn to the position it reaches that is covered in your drill. The nose behind the ball instructional phrase is meant to get the hitter to visualize an imaginary line extending from the tip of the nose, and keeping that line moving back toward the hitting impact zone continually behind the incoming path the ball is traveling. Am I on track with my understanding or way off, or totally overcomplicating this process?
I’m glad someone is still reading!!! not many comments lately.
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
Interesting question, and I’m actually surprised that no one else has asked this. In the I.T.S. Baseball Hitting System, the last pitch we learn to hit is the inside pitch, so it makes sense this is your trouble area based on the information that i’ve put out there now.
Quick answer: more than likely, you’re doing these two things:
Stopping your hip rotation
pressing your hands forward (towards the pitcher) at the baseball
The hip rotation issue is totally normal at this point, but what you’ve got to remember, is when you see an inside pitch out of the pitcher’s hand, it’s the MOST important pitch to really thrust your hips on. Most players, see that pitch, kinda freak out and just think ‘get to the ball!’ so they eliminate their power from their swing and press their hands forward while pulling the hands across their body with the front shoulder.
the pressing your hands forward issue is happening BECAUSE you’re stopping your hips! Getting jammed is the SYMPTOM of too little or too slow hip movement. Now, remember the 4 deep article? even on an inside pitch, your hands must be DEEP, meaning not extended at power V at contact but at a much deeper angle with the top hand elbow (somewhere around 110 degrees from shoulder to elbow to wrist. I’d bet your trying to hit an inside pitch at closer to 180 degrees (totally straight top hand arm) than 90 degrees (a right angle).
Try to hit the inside pitch with your belly button facing the direction you want the ball to go. (you cant actually do this, but you can get it passed the pitcher instead of stopping it short) and also try to hit the inside pitch CLOSER to your body without extending your hands.
Thanks again JB and keep rebelling against bad hitting technique!
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!
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!
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.
Do you have an ebook for sale or any other products?
No E-Book yet, but I do sell the Drive Developer, as you probably know.
I’ve been in the process of writing a book for quite some time, but I think books are the wrong way to go. As soon as they’re published…they’re out of date.
I like the constantly changing ideas I can post in a blog better, so keep reading here, and you’ll get the newest and best stuff we’re doing at BHR and I.T.S. Baseball.
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
Thank you so much, Joey and I both really appreciate your comment. I work very hard to bring the best and most thought out and studied information to everyone who is willing ot read my blog and have an open mind.
I think you’ll enjoy the site, keep the comments coming!
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 do to help see the balls path better?
Thanks for the great article.
It sounds like you’re thinking too much as you hit. Remember hitting is an explosive and fast activity, so you don’t have time to go step by step through technique processes during at bats. If you are under the ball, simply raise your vision.
This means, you’re probably looking at the center of the baseball, this time, look at and swing at the TOP of the ball.
This won’t change your swing plane…it’ll simply make you ‘miss’ your spot (the top of the ball) but still hit the center of the ball (your intended target).
Does that make sense?
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?
Lots of college hitters email and post here actually, so you’re not alone.
Concentrate on releasing the barrel towards centerfield and never pull your hands across your chest/belly button in the swing, just let the bat take them.
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 ball. Frank robinson said he couldnt . but watched the angle of the pitchers hand for various pitches and locations. I know your busy with the swing mechanics . Do you think you will ever get into how great hitters trac the various pitches and reconize them ?I know it starts with a stationary head but I also know there is much more to it .I be intrested in your thoughts on this.
First, Reddick is is wrong, he can’t swing like Griffey…he can look similar, but physically, he’s obviously not the athlete Griffey Jr was.
There are many ways to read the type of pitch and location of pitches from ball spin, to exit angle, to grips, to pitchers who ‘tip’ pitches…the list is on and on.
In short, I may get into it at some point, but it’s a tough one to write about and we’re really into the video examples…and that’s going to be hard to create.
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 the game. Sometimes it seems like people have fallen out of love with our countrys pastime , untill I get on this site and I realize that people are still passionate over the greatest game ever . Even if sports talk radio is not !!
All types of step by step instruction we give are through the online lessons.
Other than that, we hope the articles and comments can help be a small guide in the right direction for parents and hitters tired of terrible and misguided advice.
I strongly encourage you to give the lessons a shot…I think you’ll be surprised on what we can do for your son.
Can you suggest a light to use for the headright headlight drill.
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)
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!
Seeing the ball deep is always a good idea, so I like what you’re coach is saying from that standpoint. I would say you’re probably swinging very DOWNWARD with your hands dropping down DURING the turn.
Focus on making sure you’re on plane sooner with your hands higher in the turn, and I think THIS ARTICLE will help you figure that out for sure.
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 snippit:
Ken Fuld, Visual Psychophysicist at the University of New Hampshire states –
“In the last few feet before the plate, the ball reaches an angular velocity that exceeds the ability of the eye to track the ball. The best hitters can track the ball to within 5 or 6 feet of the plate.” This includes all levels.
“You might as well close your eyes,” says Robert Adair, of Yale University, and the Physicist to the National League. “All the information you have to hit the ball is in your brain when the ball is at the halfway point to the plate.” (Source: Robert Adair, Yale University; The Language of Sport by Tim Considine; Associated Press).
A recent article, published in the journal PLOS ONE, February 2016 – Contribution of Visual Information about Ball Trajectory to Baseball Hitting Accuracy – by Takatoshi Higuchi et. al.
Basically showed this:
* When they inhibited the batters vision the last quarter of the pitched ball, there was no difference in
bat-to-ball contact when compared to when the batter could see the entire pitch (no vision disruption).
Therefore – it made no difference whether they blocked the batters vision the last part of the pitch or
* When they obstructed the batters vision for just a brief moment early – right after the ball left the
pitchers hand – there was a significant decline in bat-to-ball contact.
Also, even if a batter could see the last 5-8 feet before contact it wouldn’t matter anyhow because they couldn’t adjust quickly enough to do anything due to Visio-Motor Delay (the delay between visual perception and muscle contraction).
With all that said, it is important for the batter to “act as though” they can see the bat-to-ball contact. Without doing so inhibits the swing mechanics and balance.
The truth is – a batter is actually making an “educated guess” of where the ball will be vertically, horizontally and at what velocity when it crosses the plate/ or not cross. Yes, hitting is a guess based on early vision and quick calculations. From there, it’s the batters “proper” mechanics and part of that is “seeing the ball hit the bat”. Athleticism alone just won’t do the job.
INSTRUCTING – is telling someone how to do something
TEACHING – is telling them WHY. And the why needs to be with hard evidence and not with theories or conjecture.
I agree that you cannot ‘see the ball hit the bat’ but that keeping your head moving back is important. While there are examples of players NOT doing that, I think the best players generally have and I continue to teach the head continuing to turn back to make the spine/neck positioning the best it can be to deliver speed to the bat as early as possible in the swing motion.
Just wanted to let you know the article you shared is still helpful 7 years after the 1st reply. Keep the tips a coming!
Thank you Chris!
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.