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As I wrote earlier in the year, High School Freshman Takia Nichols has completely changed her swing with Rebel’s Rack progression training at Baseball Rebellion HQ. Now, how do we continue to make sure Takia, and players like her, stay on the path of production during the season and throughout her career? Game results matter much more than HitTrax numbers once the season starts. Because of this, we make sure to keep tabs on our hitters during the season. And we also emphasize the importance of communication with them about their game success and struggles.
The first component of continued improvement for Takia and all hitters is communication. She must be able to tell us how she’s doing in games, both good and bad. Without this information, we cannot give her holistic and complete instruction to maximize her on-field results. The home runs are fun, and there are already many of those to report, but the failures are just as important. Teaching hitters not to be ashamed of strikeouts or hitless games is paramount at this time. Many underclassmen are embarrassed by struggles. We run towards those games as instructors to identify and correct movement issues that cause the hitters to struggle.
After we’ve communicated about success and failure, it is our` job to intervene and correct the struggle points. If a hitter is seeing a lot of slower pitchers or spin, we work on adjustments. Many times, once a player hits a few home runs, throwing more off-speed pitches is how the league's teams adjust to a new player with power.
The best drills for timing work on slow pitches are hesitation moves both with the Rebel’s Rack and Timing Turns with the Rebel’s Rack/Rack Bat (video below) as well. Also, we will use our Spinball machine set on slower than normal pitching to force the hitter to ‘time a slow fastball’. Once a hitter masters this ability to time slow pitches, then we can throw in even slower pitches with spin. Surprisingly, the ability to maintain posture and wait on offspeed pitches is the main thing we work on with our top athletes.
Often times, high-level players will have success early in the season because they facing weaker, non-conference opponents. The hitter will then get into conference play had start seeing a drastic increase in velocity. We help hitters prepare for this transition by working on Fastball Timing. Fastball Timing is exactly what it sounds like, teaching a hitter to time the pitcher’s fastest pitch. Once a hitter has their stride ‘timed’ to the pitcher’s fastest pitch, then we can work backward with slower pitches or moving pitches. None of the ‘timing spin’ work we do here at Baseball Rebellion works if the fastball timing is off. Because of this, learning to be ‘stubborn’ with the stride movement and tempo is extremely important.
“Stubbornness” with the stride is not allowing the pitcher to do anything that changes the hitter's stride ever. This includes stride movement quality, tempo, or timing in games. Many times, hitters will try to ‘hover’ in the air or slow their stride down to deal with changes in velocity in games. This is the exact WRONG thing to do as it changes your movement's tempo. Because of this, it helps the pitcher get you out. Remember, the pitcher’s job is to just make you change anything about your movement that makes your fair ball weaker. When you look at the pitcher’s job this way, it makes it easier to work on movement stubbornness rather than getting hits.
Now that the hitter is ‘stubborn’ with their stride movements, they can learn to delay the turn for spin. There is always an opportunity to delay the turn with the front leg, but there is never a chance to ‘speed up’ the turn if the hitter is late. Lateness is the biggest swing killer we see here at BRHQ, as it eliminates all adjustability. Being early, even to a fastball, is a much better movement plan than being late ever is. No matter the pitch, if the ball isn’t in the hitting zone at front foot landing, you can just sit ‘down’ into the front side. This movement maintains the head posture, hand position, and turnability of the athlete. Because of this, the hitter can still take an ‘A’ turn towards the pitch, and in softball, demolish the ball to or over the fence.
These are the main hitting areas where we will continue to work with Takia and all our hitters as their seasons' progress. Communication and honesty is the first roadblock. And once a hitter is no longer scared to tell us about their failures, the sky's the limit. Takia has grown leaps and bounds in this area. This growth will allow her to dominate high school pitching even as a freshman on varsity.