Written By: JK Whited
After watching the video above, I think you would be able to say that every single swing was taken with authority, purpose, and the plan of ruining a pitcher’s day. If your player is not training with these same qualities, they are, without a doubt, wasting their time.
As researchers and instructors, we are always looking for the technical advantage for our players. We study how the human body is supposed to work and how it can be used in the most efficient way to strike a baseball with accuracy and force in the shortest amount of time possible. We want our players to understanding of the key components and principles of a great swing pattern. The principles include vision, hip and shoulder separation, stride direction, etc. All of these things have a very important place on the “hitter’s totem pole” so to speak. Without these components working together as a system, the player can not reach their potential. This is not to say they can’t still be good players, they simply just won’t be working at maximum potential.
Important as all of those principles are, there is one underlying concept that seems obvious but is rarely seen. Intent. There are many variations of the word “intent,” but put simply it means “what you are planning to do.” If your dream is to be a great hitter, then there is only one kind of intention that works and that is the intent to crush the baseball – all of the time.
When a new client comes in for an evaluation, one of my favorite questions to ask them is, “So when you come up to hit, what are you trying to do?” Nine times out of ten, the response I get is, “To hit the ball.” My second question is, “Hit the ball how?” The answer to that question will always be “To get a hit.” Now, these answers seem to be reasonable in theory, but are they the right ones? I suppose the answer is yes and no. If the determinant of success is a player’s statistics, then “trying to get a hit” is a good answer. I would argue that success lies in taking a great swing with great intentions, whether they get on base or not. If they have the swing pattern and more importantly the intent, I don’t worry about the results – they will come.
This diagram illustrates the fundamental idea that intent should always be visible when working on any aspect of the swing.
As a staff, we tell our players that mistakes at less than top-speed don’t matter. We want top-speed and aggressive mistakes. It does the instructor and the player no good to make mistakes while going slow to ensure contact. Don’t get me wrong, there is a phase of a player’s training where they must learn to walk before they can run. However, they need to top-speed as soon as possible. The hitter must be willing to take aggressive swings and fail in practice in order to become more successful in games. I will fully admit that one of my biggest challenges as an instructor is to not be over technical. Quality instructors spend a lot of time analyzing every single movement from a technical view, which they need to do. They also must be careful not to fall too deep into the technical hole which will produce good technique in a robot fashion.
The young lefty you see above is a example of a great kid who has changed his swing for the better. He has worked extremely hard and kept a phenomenal attitude through the good and bad times of his training. However, he never fully came into his own until he understood and believed that he could take the hacks you see him take now. If you notice in the series of pictures below, he was able to have almost identical swing patterns with intent to crush the ball on all pitch locations. This entire series of eight swings took place during two rounds of five where he crushed every ball at every location. It was a very inspiring round for him and myself, hence the video and this article.
The educated instructor could go through each of these eight swings and pick out the subtle flaws, in stride direction, hand position,and vision. However it is interesting enough to know that like pure body size and mass, intent can also mask some technical mistakes. When Mike Trout lands with a closed front foot, most high level instructors know that this is wrong and for multiple reasons. If Mike Trout wanted to perhaps rotate further and eliminate some stress inside his knee, he would have the ability to hit the ball a little harder. The only thing is, he hits the ball plenty hard enough and often enough to be one of the best players in baseball. Does he really need to hit the ball further than he already does? Like our player in the video, Trout’s highly efficient (but not perfect) swing pattern is powered by intent. Without the intent, the rest doesn’t matter. Our young player now knows that no matter where a pitcher might want to throw him, he can handle anything and handle it with force. As a player, does it get any better?
Young lefty shows both technical skills and serious intent to crush the ball at all locations.
The moral of this story is that no matter which swing pattern you choose to follow, make sure that you and your player understands what their true job really is. Most players can be capable of so much more if they just have the right intentions. As parents, coaches, and instructors, we need to help and allow those intentions to be realized. The right intentions paired with a proper swing pattern will allow a player to find out just how high their ceiling can be.