Softball Power Hitting Solution: Turning Tappers into Towering Homers, The Takia Nichols Story

Unlocking Your True Potential at Baseball and Softball Rebellion

The softball community at all levels has been very welcoming and open to the movement ideas here at Baseball Rebellion. Because of this, many schools are adopting the Rebel’s Rack movement progression.  This movement work allows coaches and instructors to unlock the hidden potential inside of their athletes while adding the ability to hit for power. On March 22nd, 2016 Tomika and Takia Nichols walked into Baseball Rebellion. Here is Takia’s unedited evaluation video. Baseball Rebellion HQ had zero Hittrax at this point, so we used a Stalker Sport 2 radar gun to collect her exit velocity data.

Takia’s Evaluation Video, Taken on March 22, 2016

Tomika’s Interview

For this article, Tomika, Takia’s mother, was gracious enough to answer some questions about her and her daughter’s experience here at BRHQ.  Our questions and her answers are as below.

Question 1

How did you hear about Baseball Rebellion and what made you want to come for lessons?

“One of the parents from Takia’s travel ball team and I were talking.  I was telling him how we had tried several different hitting instructors.  At the time, I was driving from Hillsborough to Raleigh and she was not showing any improvement.  He told me about a place in Hillsborough, Baseball Rebellion, that provided hitting training. It was close to home, so I thought I would give it a try.  I scheduled her first evaluation and the suggestions that were given seemed to click. So, we scheduled our first lesson and the rest is history.”

Question 2

What would you say the biggest difference in your daughter is since she starting training here at Baseball Rebellion?

“The biggest difference is now she is hitting for power. If it’s not over the fence it’s hard line drives. The speed of the ball coming off her bat, for the most part, is unstoppable.”

 

Question 3

What do you think the biggest misconception about Baseball Rebellion and the training here at Baseball Rebellion is?

“The biggest misconception from my point of view is the methodology. In the beginning, she was asked why does she swing like that. People have seen her videos in the cage and ask and can she hit like that in a game. And the answer is, yes. For me the numbers on the Hittrax are fine but what keeps me coming back is her performance on the field. When I saw my daughter who was then 12-13 years old hit the ball to the parking lot, I was amazed. Then I watched girls move out of the way of a ball that is moving so fast they  don’t even attempt to catch it, I was sold. She is still working hard to improve but when she is focused she can be unstoppable.”

Question 4

Finally, Can you describe the way you and your daughter have been treated at Baseball Rebellion and the learning environment here at BRHQ?

“The environment at Baseball Rebellion is honestly like no other facility that we have been to. It’s a very friendly environment. We are actually treated like family. She has trained with everyone there and each trainer genuinely cares about the individual.  This personal interest extends past the cage and on the field to school and life in general. I recommend Baseball Rebellion and Softball Rebellion to everyone! You cannot go wrong if you are willing to put in the work and trust the process.”

83.2 mph at a 30 Launch Angle Produces 308 Feet, WOW!

Hittrax Spray Chart from 308 Session

IMG_3590

Takia’s Most Recent Video

Final Thoughts on Takia

Clearly, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Takia and her mother.  The sacrifice both have put into getting Takia here consistently has been tremendous.  Takia’s work ethic is exemplary.  Her focus and drive to be great are also as high as we have here at BRHQ.  Because of this, she has turned herself into a sure-fire Power 5 recruit.  That being said, I wouldn’t call her drive ‘different’ here.  Many players exhibit the same drive, work ethic and similar gains to what Takia has earned.  In the coming months, I will highlight more and more players as they do more and more incredible things.

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Imagine this: You're headed to the field after struggling again in your last game.  You've hit and hit and hit, and yet, your coach says you're still 'pulling off'. 'Roll-overs' are happening over and over and you keep 'just missing' the ball. Right now, it's just you, a tee, and a bucket of balls trying to figure it out and break the slide. The problem is, this is how you've always tried to break out of a slump, but this time is different. You keep working on getting more 'extension' but it's just not translating to the game. What if I told you that you have a great tool to achieve optimal extension in the swing? And, what if I told you it's not the bat, the balls, or the tee

Get Creative: Two Hand Frisbee Throw

When you look at the top of a bucket, what do you see?  A seat?  A table? Honestly, I see a seat mostly, but I also see a training tool.  When used properly, that simple bucket lid can be used as a frisbee.  Pick that 'frisbee' up and try a two-handed frisbee throw. That move is one of the most effective ways to train extension and direction in the swing.

Jugs Bucket

What is Extension?

Extension is a hitting term that refers to the arms straightening out after contact of the ball. Often, extension work involves a lot of knob pushing and is not generally the best way to practice hitting. However, having natural extension in the swing keeps the bat head in the zone longer and allows for more contact points and a greater margin for error. Below you will see a gif of Eric demonstrating proper extension off a tee.

Full Slow Motion Swing off LAT

Pull Side Extension vs Rollover

Extension only matters if the direction of the barrel is good.  Lots of the same movements and cues work for all fields, which is nice.  One thing to be aware of is the distance and height of the frisbee flight.  You want an upward trajectory, especially on the pull side frisbee throw, as that's most players power side. The upward trajectory will match the intended attack angle of the bat entering the zone for a powerful extra-base hit. See the gif below for a demo of the pull side frisbee throw.  You can also see a demo of a pull side rollover frisbee throw.  Please note that I angled my body so I could see the flight of the frisbee down the length of the cage instead of hitting the side net. This allows me to see if I rolled over like the second gif or if I get a true straight flight of the frisbee. Straight flight indicates proper palm up palm down extension.

pull side frisbee throw
Pull Side Roll Over

Centerfield Extension vs Rollover

Working 'up the middle' is something all players must be able to do.  Honestly, this accuracy based skill keeps most coaches happy, and therefore, allows players to swing how they want. Mostly, I say a 'quiet coach is a happy coach'. If a coach just says 'good' when you hit, you get to keep hitting. Now, this frisbee flight is more specific to the player than the pull side throw. If you're a power player, throw it high and far. If you are more of a gap to gap hitter, throw it fast and lower than the power hitter.  Singles hitters: throw low and fast, maybe no higher than the top of the cage to maximize their results.

Middle Frisbee Throw
Middle Roll Over

Opposite Field Extension vs Pull Off/Rollover

Opposite field frisbee throws are tough. They have the least margin for error and require the most focus of all the directions. This is due to the early acceleration of the frisbee and early release as well. Just like an outside pitch when hitting, you have the most chances to roll over or pull off the frisbee throw. All players, regardless of power, should throw the outside pitch frisbee low or lower than their centerfield throw. Any top had wrist pronation (pushing over the top of the bottom hand with the top hand) kills the direction and extension to the opposite field. It is super important to maintain your palm up/palm down position through the throw. As you can see in my demonstrations below when I stay palm-up-palm-down through the throw the frisbee goes straight. Conversely, when I push over the top with my top hand (pronate), the frisbee flops down into the ground. Pitchers throw outside for a reason, it's hard to maintain that direction of the barrel. Taking the timing aspect out of it, just the barrel direction gives hitters fits. Again, I have angled my body to see better frisbee flight. I strongly recommend this, not only when doing frisbee throws, but when practicing inside and outside pitches off a tee. Ball flight and frisbee flight tells you a lot about your movements and extension if a hittrax, field, or video is not available.

oppo frisbee throw 2
oppo roll over

Frisbee Your Bat to a Better Batting Average

Mastering the two hand frisbee throw will help with barrel direction, power, and extension in the swing.  Focus on your hands staying palm up/palm down through the extension of the throw.  The better your turn the bucket top/frisbee and get to palm up/palm down, the better your swing will be.  Throw the frisbee with speed and quickness.  Try to throw it fast and far.  I recently wrote an article about the wrist and forearm movement that goes along with this quite well.  Use both of these articles together to get your bat flying through the zone.  You'll be glad you did.  And hey, maybe you'll pick up FROLF (Frisbee Golf) as a new activity.

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Note from the Author:  The top of this article is extremely dorky and filled with big words.  If you just want to skip ahead and learn how to train your forearms and wrists to roll over less and have more power in the swing, just click the red button below.

The Truth About Wrist Movement

At Baseball Rebellion, we commonly ignore the hands/wrists in hitting instruction.  Most of the time, when the turn is correct, the hands and wrists just fall in line. However, in some cases, a hitter has issues with how their hands help deliver force into the bat.  In those cases, after the turn has been taught, the instructor or coach must know how the wrists move and exert force in the swing.

Forearm Movements in the Swing

The forearm muscles pronate and supinate (rotate) the hand and wrist.  Often times, these movements are confused with wrist movements and in hitting when hitters 'roll their wrists, the hands are cued to fix it.  In reality, this mistake is a forearm movement and when described as hand movement cannot be easily fixed.  Inside the baseball swing, the top hand forearm supinates while the bottom hand forearm pronates simultaneously.  These movements of the top and bottom hand coupled with the body turning in the swing, turn the barrel behind the ball.  But what happens after that?   First, let's take a second and define all these terms to help understand the movements of the forearms and wrists.

Forearm: Supination

Supination

Forearm: Pronation

Pronation

Wrist: Flexion

wrist flexion

Wrist: Extension

Wrist Extension

Wrist: Radial Deviation

Radial Deviation

Wrist: Ulnar Deviation

Ulnar Deviation 2

Transitioning from Supination/Pronation into Ulnar Deviation

Blending these movements is key in learning how to Turn the Barrel.  The difference between allowing the bottom hand to take over and pronate (roll over) and transitioning into ulnar deviation is the key to staying on plane.  On plane swings deliver high levels of force and represent the most efficient delivery of that force production into the ball.  Allowing the wrists and hands to stay high in the turn helps eliminate the possibility of rolling over.  Here's how proper forearm and wrist mechanics work in the swing from the top and side view.

supination:pronation into ulnar deviation
supination:pronation into ulnar deviation top

Apparently, I'm transitioning from having hair to not having hair, which is awesome!

chas is bald top

Rolling Over Defined and Demonstrated

The main mistake we are trying to identify and correct in this article is 'wrist rollover' in the swing.  Again, that is a forearm issue where the top hand takes over and pushes up and over the top hand.  This action is called 'early pronation' in the swing.

Early pronation dramatically changes bat plane and is directly related to many mis-hits.  The body cannot support the barrel or effectively exert force on the handle of the bat if the top hand overpowers the bat and rolls over the bottom hand.  Here are some gif of "rolling over" and after this, we will show you how we at BR correct this swing flaw.

Defining Wrist Roll

Bad movements like the wrist roll are easily corrected with the Drive Developer.  Here is a wrist roll demo, notice how the band hits my side and my hands pull across my body.

barrel path- roll over

From the top view, you can see how the band hits my arm and my bat head is pulled out of the hitting zone.

roll over

Turning the mistake movements above into proper barrel turn and extension in the swing does take some time and training.

barrel path

From the top view, you can clearly see the band does not hit my body and my top hand forearm does not supinate during ulnar deviation.  This gives the bat a clean path and allows for the longest and most powerful contact zone.

barrel path

Eliminating Wrist Roll: The Drills that Pay the Bills

How do we get from the bad movements to the good ones?  We use three main drills here at Baseball Rebellion to Eliminate Wrist Roll and strengthen Ulnar Deviation in the swing.  These drills specifically target the muscles in the wrists that help the top and bottom hand works together to turn the barrel and finish extension in the swing.

Directionally, they help players drive the ball to all fields and can easily help opposite field power as well as pull side power.  Barrel direction and force generation is key in the swing, and the Drive Developer Drills we show here are a staple of exactly how we eliminate wrist roll in our players and create more power and better swing plane.  These drills and many many more come with the Drive Developer and you'll see almost immediate changes on blast, HitTrax or Rapsodo after performing these movements.

Ulnar Deviation Side View
wrist strengthening
wrist strengthening
wrist strengthening

Combining these moves with both hands on the bat handle allows for the hitter to feel the movements together.  Becoming stronger in ulnar deviation helps the body ignore the option of rolling over.  We commonly refer to this as 'turning the barrel' or "making the top hand become the bottom hand".

wrist strengthening

These drills are simple but require focus and technique to re-pattern your brain to choose ulnar deviation (a wrist movement) instead of pronation of the top hand and supination of the bottom and, both forearm movements.

Drive Developer Swing Repatterning Drills

Changing a hitter's force production pattern is only possible by making the hitter apply some force!  Many times, players will do dry movements well, and then go back to their normal patterns once they return to hitting.

How do coaches and players teach themselves to apply force to the handle of the bat accurately without the failure if hitting?  The answer is the drive developer.  At Baseball Rebellion, we have had a lot of success repatterning the upper body mechanics of players with the Drive Developer bat speed training system.

Many players have radically changed their swing plane and power efficiency with the Drive Developer.  Here are a few drills how the Drive Developer can help you or your hitters today!

These drills and many more come with the Drive Developer.  Learn to turn your barrel and deliver force!  I hope this helped people understand more about "rolling over" and how to eliminate it.  Train to deliver force the best way.  Train with the Drive Developer.

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Stop Rolling Over and Increase Extension in the Swing

The Insider Bat is an extremely popular training aid. Tens of thousands of people have purchased this hitting tool. Unfortunately, in our opinion, the Insider Bat is about as bad a training tool as you can use. However, we have found a few ways to use it that have helped hitters understand extension, helping them stop rolling over, and how to allow their wrists to deliver the barrel.

Why Do The "Outsider Bat" Drill?

By holding The Insider Bat backwards, you create the ‘Outsider Bat’ and the best ‘snapping the barrel’ training tool we’ve found. You can hit the pad ‘square’ to make a “POW” sound as you can hear in the video above. By varying the angle and distance of the pad, the hitter must adjust and adapt by changing their extension point and when they allow the barrel to enter the zone. This is a great drill for fixing rollovers, increasing extension (if needed), or helping the hitter turn the barrel sooner (if needed).

How to Execute the Drill

  1.  Hold The Insider Bat backward
  2.  Make sure you ‘smack’ the pad with the back of the insider bat
  3.  Vary the distances to help the hitter understand delaying the barrel if they’re early
  4.  Vary the distances to help the hitter understand early barrel entry/barrel turn if they’re late
  5.  Change the angles of the pad to help hitters understand how to direct the barrel to all fields

What You Need for The "Outsider Bat" Drill

  1. An insider bat
  2. A football blocking pad

Obviously, not everyone has a football blocking pad, but a couch cushion will work just fine.

Think of a hitting flaw you've heard of. Now, what do you think is one of the most common flaws? Over and over when our highest level clients come into train they struggle with one thing. Almost all of them struggle to pull the ball in the air and keep it fair. Most of them hook the ball, roll their hands over, and top-spin pulled balls. Luckily for us at BR/SR, fixing pull side power issues is pretty much our specialty. Because of this, it's simple for our high-level athletes to make the adjustments needed to give their 'hook', the hook.

Everyone knows what that hard-hit ball feels like that juuuuuust hooks foul. Nothing is more frustrating than turning a double or a home run into a strike. Often times, that ball the hitter pulled foul is the best and most hittable pitch they'll get in that at-bat. Giving those extra-base hits away is a team killer, especially with runners on base.

Another interesting issue that arises from the inability to keep inside pitches fair is how the pitchers attack hitters. Pitchers will eventually figure out which hitters pull across their bodies and hook balls foul. They can feed inside locations to get an easy strike and get ahead of these types of hitters, which opens up their off-speed arsenal. Any way you look at it, the symptoms of hooking the ball are easy to see and easy to exploit.

Now that you've learned the symptoms hooking the ball, the causes of the hook and the 4 cures we use at BR/SR to fix the hook get to work! I know that if you take the time to read this article, and then do the drills inside of it either with your team, your young player, or yourself that you will see results. The pull side balls will be straighter, have more carry, and most importantly, stay fair! Often in lessons, I say, "Hands high and let it fly!". If you perfect these drills and put it into your game swing, the fans will say "Oh my!" as you trot around the bases.

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Are you constantly doing one hand hitting drills and seeing no results? Find out why you could be hurting your bat path from doing these drills.

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Learn How to Throw to Your Hitters

It is the start of the season and you need your practices to be smooth and efficient. And you know that is not possible if you don't have a good batting practice thrower. We know that throwing BP isn't easy. It has taken us a lot of practice to become a professional BP thrower. Today we are going to take you inside the training we make our employees go through to become better batting practice, front toss, and side toss throwers.

If you watch these videos and practice using our tips, you're going to see a dramatic change in how you throw to your hitters. And trust us, your hitters will appreciate it!

Tips for Throwing Batting Practice

  1. Set Up a Target
  2. Four-Seam Grip Always
  3. Loose Arm Action- Don't be Stiff
  4. Firm Throws on a Downward Angle- NO Lollipop Throws (THIS IS TERRIBLE FOR HITTERS!)
  5. Stay Behind the Screen!

Tips for Throwing Front Toss

  1. Stiff Wrist on the Toss
  2. Sit Down for Better Accuracy
  3. Downward Angle at the Hitter
  4. Get Farther Back from the Net Than You Already Sit/Stand
  5. Aim at a Target

Tips for Throwing Side Toss

  1. Four-Seam Grip
  2. No Wrist Action- Keep it Firm
  3. Throw to Middle of the Hitter
  4. Straight and Strong Throws
  5. Sit on a Bucket or on a Knee

Your Hitters Will Thank You

If you can learn as a coach or parent how to throw effective batting practice to your team or kid then you are helping them out more than anything you can buy them. That $400 bat won't do your kid any good if he doesn't have any strikes to hit with it. Learn how to throw BP and your hitters will thank you and want to hit more.

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One Way to Get Your Season Started Right

How Proper Communication Can Help Your Kid Become a Better Player

Baseball and Softball seasons are starting all over the country.  Travel ball parents, little leaguers, high school players, and pros getting ready, the time is now to get hyped!

Communication Circle

Many players have spent countless hours in the weight room, batting cage, or on the pitcher's mound honing their skills for the season. Coaches are having tryouts, starting practices, or games are in full swing.

How do we as instructors or coaches deal with these players and their new 'skills'?

How can we be the best we can and reward the player for their work in the offseason?  The answer is building the "circle of communication"!

There is no reason a relationship cannot be established between coach and instructor.  In fact, I think it's pivotal with today's youth culture, travel parents, and lesson culture that these coaches and instructors get together and work WITH each other instead of AGAINST each other.  This completes the "circle of communication".  Once the circle of communication is complete, it goes on forever and never stops.

The Lines of Communication

(click each box to expand)

Player to Instructor

Player to Instructor

At the beginning of the offseason, every player probably has a plan of what they want to improve on.  If it's hitting, then they go to a hitting coach.  Perhaps they want to get stronger, so they lift some weights.  Getting more velocity behind their throw could be a goal.  Because of this, the player gets on a velocity program.  The player dictates what they want out of a program. Then the coach dictates how they, as a team, go about achieving these goals.

Instructor to Player

Instructor to Player

Once the offseason winds down, now it's the instructor's turn to communicate.  The player must understand how to articulate his work to his coach.  They must be able to explain the 'why' of what they worked on and how they measured and achieved their results.

Instructors must make sure the player is prepared for any and all conversations with their team coach.  And the player has put in the work and trusts the instructor.  Because of this, the Instructor must help the player get the team coach excited about the 'new and improved' player he's acquired.

Player to Coach

Player to Coach

Player to coach communication is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.  Because of this, that puzzle piece won't fit unless the first two communication points occur. The player must schedule the meeting with his coach when he gets back to school. 

Then, he sits down in the coach's office or maybe in the batting cage hitting to discuss his changes.  Hopefully, the coach listens, watches, and sees the improvement in their game.  When that happens, and the coach is enthused with the player's offseason of work, the last two pieces of communication is possible.

Coach to Instructor

Coach to Instructor

Hopefully, the coach will reach out to the instructor for more in-depth information about the player's offseason program. Now the lines of communication are fully open and clear.  This is in the best interest of all involved, the player, the coach, and the instructor.  All of these three people want the same thing: the player to do well for the team!  Once the coach opens this line of communication to the instructor, the sky is truly the limit.

Now, the coach can communicate exactly what he or she saw in practice and games to the person helping with development in the offseason.  Because of this, deficiencies in the player's game can be specifically targeted in a one on one setting instead of a group or team setting.  The player gets the best of all worlds, a coach who knows the work he did over the offseason and an instructor taking cues from his coach about what can continue to improve.

Instructor to Coach

Instructor to Coach

I have a great relationship with some coaches across the country. Many of which have players they know I train or I recommended to them when the players were in high school.  As someone who works with young athletes, I don't want my job to be 'done' when they head off to college or the pros.

I want to work hand in hand with the player, his family, and his new coaches to help further his development.  In addition, I'd hope any coach who signs any of my players sees some value in the type of work we did with the player and the player's dedication to our program.

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On-Deck Preparation

On-Deck Preparation: Gaining An Advantage

If you need your hitters to establish a new on-deck routine, check out BR’s latest article on a 5 step solution to help your hitters on deck.

Being Coachable

What Does it Mean to Be Coachable?

How do you handle constructive criticism by your coaches? Learn how being more coachable will allow you to better your talents as an athlete.

Should your son or daughter be a switch hitter? Today we'll talk about the 5 best switch hitters of all time and the reasons why switch hitting isn't ideal.

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Are you having trouble with your hitters being too early or too late and you don't know how to fix it? Check out our tips and drills to help with timing.

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Top Hitting Articles of 2019

To end the calendar year we wanted to highlight our top hitting articles of 2019. We have been putting out hitting content since 2011 and this year was our best year yet. And we have you to thank! So sit back, relax, and catch up on our most-read hitting articles of 2019.

1. The Truth About Extension in the Swing

Extension is a very common hitting cue. You hear it at all levels in both baseball and softball. But is that phrase even the best to use? In a previous article, I wrote about how the hitter creates top barrel speed and where the acceleration happens.  In this article, I'm going to discuss what happens next, EXTENSION. Or to use an even better term, 'barrel release'.

Barrel extension in a swing has been cued the same way for a long time.  Like many of you reading this, I had dozens, if not hundreds, of hitting lessons growing up, and apparently did not know the information I know now. Having said that, one cue I remember hearing a lot was "get to extension" or "get extended."  Anybody who studies a high-level swing knows that the arms become extended.

Click here to read the full article.

The Truth About Extension

2. The Best Way to Train for Increased Power

I am going to take you through HitTrax data of ALL ages. The data will show you sessions from hitters from 8u to college for baseball AND softball. Showing the success they have hitting the ball in the air (between 22* and 36* Launch Angle).

One of the biggest things you'll see is that most hitters, especially younger, are unable to hit the ball over the fence in this window.  What these charts do show is that these hitters must CONTINUE to train to hit the ball high. If they learn to hit in these windows as much as possible now, they will eventually give themselves a better chance for homers as they advance. Read through the article to see Baseball Rebellion certified drills to help you hit the ball farther!

Click here to read the full article. 

The Best Way to Train For Increased Power

3. Hitting Terms Every Coach Must Know

Do you know today's most commonly used hitting terms? If not, this article will be extremely helpful for you. It's important for moms, dads, coaches, and players to understand these terms. Knowledge is power, and knowing these terms and what they mean will help everyone learn faster and share hitting information better.

Exit Velocity

The speed the ball comes off the bat, this has nothing to do with the bat itself, just the ball once it’s hit. Another term that means the same thing as Exit Velocity is Ball Exit Speed

Launch Angle

The angle at which the ball leaves the bat once it is hit...
Hitting Terms

4. Stop Striking Out with One Simple Move

Strikeouts!  The bane of every coach and player's existence.  Since the beginning of baseball and softball, players have and coaches have hated striking out. It may be surprising to read, but this article is not about how strikeouts are okay.  Also, it is not about how strikeouts can be good outs, or how they're just part of the game.  This article is about limiting strikeouts with one movement change and one approach change.

Approach: See Fewer Pitches

Interestingly, the more pitches hitters see in an at-bat, the less likely a hitter is to be successful.  Most of the 'quality at-bat culture' is just incorrect.  Seeing more pitches does have a place in the game, but in individual at-bats, it decreases success rate.  Period

Click here to read the full article.

Stop Striking Out

5. Increase Power with Side Bend & The Rack Bat

Are you seeing a lot of strikeouts or popups from your son or daughter? Are they rolling over or getting jammed more than you'd like? One of the most likely problems is their posture and the answer is side bend. Side bend occurs as the hitter is turning their bat behind them and (hopefully!) working back up to the ball.

Side Bend is bending towards home plate at the contact position.  The body has now rotated to the ball so the hip hinge in the stance has transitioned to side bend. You cannot achieve proper side bend however without first getting into the proper hip hinge position. Check out our article and drills to get into a perfect hip hinge position. 

Click here to read the full article. 

Increase power

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Strike Zone Secrets: 2 Realities about Umpires You May Not Know

How to Understand the Strike Zone as a Parent and Player

Recently, a few parents and players have talked to me about the ‘strike zone’ issues. Usually, they describe a bad call or two that the ump called on their son or daughter which resulted in a strikeout. I also had a parent submit a video recently in a 10u elite travel ball game where the pitcher appeared to be lobbing the ball in.

This article is important because it’s going to help you reframe your expectations of the umpire and give you a strategy based on your hitting style and size that will help you control the zone as a hitter.

What is the Strike Zone?

Before I get into the “Strike Zone Secrets”, we must define the strike zone. MLB.com defines the strike zone as follows: 

The official strike zone is the area over the home plate from the midpoint between a batter's shoulders and the top of the uniform pants -- when the batter is in his stance and prepared to swing at a pitched ball -- and a point just below the kneecap. In order to get a strike call, part of the ball must cross over part of the home plate while in the aforementioned area.”

Picture From MLB Desbribing the Strike Zone
Picture From MLB Desbribing the Strike Zone

Two Secrets to Better Teach Your Kids the Strike Zone

Now that we’ve defined the strike zone, here are 2 facts about umpires and a strategy that will help you get more pitches you want to hit versus take based on your size and hitting strengths.

Secret 1: Most Umpires Call Strikes Based on Where the Catcher Catches the Ball

The strike zone at most youth tournaments MUST be larger than the MLB definition. Players are LEARNING...and honestly, so are the umpires, coaches, and parents. In the video below, Garret stands in different parts of the batter’s box and we freeze-frame the ball at different ‘strike zone possibility calls’.

As you can see, those pitches crossed Garrett at different places based on where he stood in the box. For the record, those pitches were intended to simulate a coach pitch or 9u game pitch from an average pitcher.

Umpires, parents, and players all would perceive those pitches differently depending on where they stand and how tall they are as a player. Check out the video below to see a 9u game and an example of game pitches looking like the one we demonstrated previously.

Players, coaches, and parents must be able to understand the umpire’s perspective on balls and strikes. And while they won’t always call balls and strikes to the letter of the law, their word is the law. And their perception and decision are all that matters.

Secret 2: The Umpires are NOT out to Get You

Umpires at the triple crown elite winter world series in Rocky Mount, NC are not highly paid individuals. They aren’t highly trained either. They are usually parents of players who no longer play ball that just love to be around the game. Sometimes, they’re younger kids looking to make an extra buck on the weekends or even volunteers helping out for community service hours.

None of these umpires are malicious or hate you or your player. All of these umpires are doing the best they can and have no intention of screwing up the game or making incorrect calls.

Strategy Based on These Videos

If you’re a shorter player, stand in the back of the box.

This will give the pitch more time to ‘fall’ into your hitting zone. If you’re a taller player, and low pitches get you out, stand more towards the front to increase the chances of getting a higher pitch. In both of those pitches in Garrett’s video, the catcher would have caught the pitch at perfect ‘target’ height. Because of this, it is extremely important for shorter players to stand in the back of the box to give them and umpires the most realistic view of THEIR strike zone. 

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