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It’s that time of year again. The summer baseball season is wrapping up and kids all over the country are getting ready to go back to school in a few weeks. While the rest of the country will take a break from competitive baseball, the spotlight will be on the 16 teams who have earned a bid to the 2014 Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. The LLWS provides a unique experience for the participants. The 10 day tournament plays host to teams from all over the world and games are nationally televised on ESPN and ABC. Former and current big leaguers including Gary Sheffield, Jason Varitek, Todd Frazier, and Jason Bay all participated in the LLWS. Many of the qualifying regional tournaments were also televised this past week. There were two specific players who caught my eye and I am looking forward to watching them compete in Williamsport.
Let’s start with Marquis Jackson from Jackie Robinson West (JRW), winner of the Great Lakes Regional. This Chicago lineup put on an absolute show during the regional, outscoring opponents 61-19 in their undefeated run to the World Series. Many hitters in the JRW lineup performed well in the regional but none surpassed JRW’s cleanup hitter Marquis Jackson who came into Saturday’s championship game with a .625 BA, 4 HR, and 8 RBI. Here is a look at one of his home runs from regional play that traveled over the scoreboard in right center field.
Marquis is athletic, strong, and talented but there are aspects of his swing that make him stand out beyond his athleticism. Below are two segments of Marquis’ swing with a brief breakdown of his mechanics.
In this clip Marquis moves athletically even though he does not create a great deal of momentum by moving his mass forward. Instead, he reaches his front leg out to touch his toe on the ground but gets to a decent back leg angle position by opening his back hip as his heel is dropping to the ground. As you can see, the opening of the hips results in his front foot opening as his foot is being planted firmly into the ground. Marquis does a nice job of delaying his upper body as his lower half begins to turn.
The Barrel Turn
This particular clip shows why Marquis was chosen for this article. His ability to turn the barrel is the main reason he is a significantly better hitter than the vast majority of his peers. His upper body works as one unit to get the barrel in the way of the baseball DEEP in the strike zone. Watch as his elbows remain the same distance apart throughout his turn to contact resembling the See-Saw motion Chas describes in his article. Marquis does a phenomenal job of using his shoulders to create a flawless Nike check with his barrel. I also want to point out the stillness of his head while the rest of his body turns. Because of this clip, this baseball has no choice but to be smashed!
Like JRW, Mountain Ridge (Las Vegas) finished their regional undefeated. They were carried both on the mound and at the plate by Austin Kryszczuk who batted .429 with 5 HR and 15 RBI in the regional. Below is a clip of one of Austin’s blasted home runs.
Austin’s movements are extremely athletic and explosive. He has a rather high leg kick and his back foot is pulled off the ground and forward! Too often, kids are discouraged from movements like this because coaches feel that it is wild and out of control. I will further breakdown Austin’s swing below but the main aspect I want the readers to notice is the overall athleticism and explosiveness Austin displays.
The Forward Load
As you can see, Austin has a high, athletic leg kick. From the top of his lift he does not just reach for the ground with his leg. He moves his head and his torso forward as well. This move helps Austin create momentum by moving his mass, stay balanced throughout his forward load, and athletically create hip and shoulder separation. One of the few flaws I see with Austin’s pattern is his closed front foot when he lands. This can be a dangerous position for his front knee as he gets older. Overall Austin’s forward load is very high level and is similar to fellow Las Vegas native, Bryce Harper.
Austin does an exemplary job of turning his body and pulling his back foot up and forward using the Super Thrust of his hips. His back foot is OFF the ground at contact. This move is uncommon to most mainstream teaching and is vastly different than the squish the bug methodology. While Austin does not turn the barrel quite as well as Marquis Jackson does, Austin’s explosiveness in his lower half makes up for most of his upper half deficiencies. That being said, Austin still makes a nice upward Nike swoosh with his barrel to contact and maintains the upward path after contact by getting good upward extension. This part of his swing also has many similarities to that of Bryce Harper.
Many people ask us, Can kids really do the stuff you teach? The answer is yes they can! Marquis Jackson, Austin Krysczcuk, as well as the hundreds of kids we teach are great reminders that kids are absolutely capable of performing high level hitting movements. Good luck to Marquis and Austin as they begin their quest for a LLWS championship this Thursday!
Gabe Dimock – Baseball Rebellion Certified Instructor