Batting Cage Secrets from Baseball Rebellion

Players all over the country are gearing up for summer travel ball! Softball is already in full swing here in NC and Showcase and Travel Baseball is getting rolling as well. Summer rainstorms are frequent here and in the south, so lots of indoor reps are needed to get ready for the summer circuit.

Lots of times, these indoor reps can be mundane and repetitive as its very hard to get competitive juices flowing indoors off BP. Another issue is that there are very few teams with access to HitTrax or Rapsodo hitting consistently. So how do you train players to avoid the best players on the field inside a cage? How do you groove and train your hitters to crush balls in the gap in a cage?

“Hang” a Center Fielder

If we didn't have 6 HitTrax machines and 6 Rapsodo hitting machines at our facility, this would be the best decision I ever made. Honestly, it still may be. I used some old netting and hung it off the top of my cage.  

Net at Top of Cage

This small piece of netting is my “center fielder”. Not only does this ‘target’ become something hitters don’t want to hit, it ‘punishes’ them by stopping the ball. Hitters LOVE to see the ball travel. Stopping the ball after a ‘good hit’ to center (which ends up in an out most of the time) frustrates the hitter.

This implicit training tool incentivizes missing the ‘CF-Net” so they can drive the ball further down the cage. Missing the net is missing the center fielder, the best defender on the field and the place where doubles go to die. Obviously, at younger levels, the centerfielders aren't as coordinated and struggle to run down fly balls over their heads. But as the hitters get older the fielders get better and the centerfielders track down nearly everything. Check out this graphic we retweet a few weeks ago.

This ball had an expected batting average of .700. Meaning that 700 out of 1,000 batted balls at 101 mph and a launch angle of 27 degrees are hits. The ball traveled 399 feet. If that ball is hit in one of the gaps, where the fence is shorter, it is a home run and not an out

Centerfield Out

Install a “Shortstop” or “Second Baseman”

We use old pitcher’s pockets sometimes, but those can cause ricochets we want to avoid. Now, we use a football blocking pad which makes a loud sound when hit. When the pad is hit, we all react and say, ‘nice grounder’ or something of that nature.

Shortstop 'Blocker' for Right Handed Hitters
Shortstop 'Blocker' for Right Handed Hitters
Shortstop Blocking Pads
Shortstop Blocking Pads

These types of situations help get players to realize every hit in a cage isn’t created equal. On a field, it’s easy to see the SS catch a ball cleanly even if it’s hit hard. In a cage, it’s common to think, ‘oh, I hit that hard, that’s a hit”. Because of this, bad hits and bad outcomes are internally thought of as ‘good’ outcomes. Nothing is more poisonous to a hitter’s game production than practicing getting out in a cage. Check out the 'shortstop' in action. 

Avoiding fielders is a huge part of our ‘hit design’ here at Baseball Rebellion. The HitTrax and Rapsodos help for sure, but the hitter can see and hear these negative feedback mechanisms that are both inexpensive and instant. Hitting the ball over the middle infield and away from the centerfielder works in all levels of baseball. 

Is It Possible to Train Hitters to Avoid Fielders?

Yes, we do it every day here at Baseball Rebellion. The number one way to get in the lineup and stay in the lineup is to get more hits. Just because of hit the ball hard does not mean it was a good at-bat. If you are continually hitting the ball hard to the middle of the field chances are you are getting out more than you are successfully getting hits. I've never heard of a coach keeping a kid out of the lineup because they are getting too many hits. Introducing these simple limiting factors into hitting is both cheap and fast and will pay big dividends in games as soon as you do it.

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How you talk to an umpire can be the difference between winning and losing. These men and women are not robots, they have both emotions and memories. More than likely, they will remember both good and bad interactions with you and your team. What’s the best way to make umpires remember you and your team in a good way and get the benefit of the doubt on tough calls?

Pitchers and Catchers

Talking to Umpires

ALWAYS introduce yourself and shake the umpires’ hand. Do this pregame in an inconspicuous manner. Catchers, NEVER EVER show up the umpire on a ‘bad call’ and always make sure they’re ok if they’re hit by a ball. Pitchers, make sure you NEVER EVER show up the umpire on a call you think he or she missed. Always thank the home plate ump after every game you pitch, win or lose, good or bad. Re-introduce yourself then as well, to help the umpire remember you and your character. It is hard to thank an umpire when you have lost or feel he’s squeezed you but I promise he or she will remember your words post game.

Umpires: don't be like this guy. The pitcher clearly does nothing wrong here. All he simply said was "that's horrible", talking about the call. He didn't say the umpire horrible, only the call. That's a big difference. This thin-skinned umpire is costing this pitcher's chances of playing in this weekend's super regional and possibly one game of the College World Series due to his suspension. Which is a mandatory 4-game suspension by the NCAA for pitcher ejections. 

Position Players and Bench Players

Be smart. Your actions on the field and words in the dugout help or hurt your team. Make sure you’re a part of your team’s solution and not a part of the problem. Remember: negativity breeds more negativity. This happens with teams, businesses and marriages.

Be POSITIVE about the next pitch or next call instead of reacting negatively to a perceived ‘bad call’. Remember, you weren’t closer to the call than the ump. And remember this as well: no umpire goes into a game trying to be wrong. Do you go into a game trying to walk everyone or strike out? Of course you don’t! Give them the benefit of the doubt and allow for some human error while keeping your competitive spirit.

Batters

Batters, you are the easiest and most likely to anger an umpire. Never ever look back at an umpire to question a call. Speak forward, or downward, to the umpire and never make eye contact or ‘helmet brim’ contact towards him or her. Looking back and speaking to them is a huge “NO NO” and will always be dealt with in a negative way by the ump. I was on a team once where a player ‘drew a line’ in the dirt where the pitch was...it ended in an ejection. Umpires will hold previous experience with you and your teammates against you, as they are human beings. Be a reason for them to like you instead of a reason for them to hurt you.

Check out these do's and don'ts from Philadelphia Philly Bryce Harper.

Coaches and Parents: It's Not About YOU

William Wotring/ The Dominion Post

There is a great responsibility with coaches and parents that many coaches do not understand. As coaches and parents, we are role models, we are mentors for our athletes that we coach/raise. We owe it to our players to never allow the umpires to be disrespected or berated at our games by our fans.

These people, the umpires, are humans. Because of this, we know they make mistakes and will not always rule correctly or in our favor. Therefore, it is our duty to protect them and our players from the outbursts of the parents on our team or our supporters. Umpires will never forget a coach calming an out of line parent or fan and this will provide much leverage and latitude in the future. There is no telling how this ridiculous and embarrassing outburst by this fan hurt WVU baseball with borderline calls.

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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 Less 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. Check out the chart below detailing the batting average by count in MLB in 2018:

MLB numbers on each Count
  1. The batting average on the first pitch was .340. Yes, there are higher batting averages in 2-0, 3-0 and 3-1 counts but to get into those 'hitters counts' you are relying on the pitcher to fall behind. Of course, this is going to happen and we must jump on those opportunities to drive the ball when in those counts. The fact of the matter is swinging 0-0 still shows a high success rate for hitters.
  2. If you take the first pitch, like SO MANY coaches require their hitters to do, you really limit your success. Every strike you take your batting average falls tremendously.
  3. The truth is this: if you see less than 3 pitches before you hit the ball fair, you cannot strike out!  Be aggressive and attack fastballs early in the count.  Pitchers want to pitch from ahead in the count. Use that knowledge to your advantage and be ready to swing early and often.

Track the Ball with Your Nose: Neck Moves Not Eye Moves

A common misconception is that you track the baseball with your eyes.  I know it sounds funny to say you don't see with your eyes.  In hitting, your neck movement helps you track and predict the ball's location.  Turning your head is much better than eye muscle movement for ball tracking.  Turning your head back into the contact zone will not allow you to 'see' contact. However, it does prepare your body to deliver a faster barrel. Check out Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant and how he uses his neck to help him track the pitch:

Kris-Bryant

Neck Movement and Bat Speed

Game usable bat speed is key in hitting baseballs and softballs.  Check out this video about head position and bat acceleration.

You can hear the sound difference very clearly.

  1. In the first swing, yes, my body is moving forward and my head stays forward.  This movement helps me speed the bat up.
  2. The second swing you can see a less forward move and better head positioning.  This head position and neck moves allow me to speed the bat up earlier in the turn.

This gives a hitter more time to decide if he should swing.  Also, this extra time gives the hitter more information about pitch type, speed, and location.  More information leads to fewer swings and misses.  Another great benefit of more information is less swinging at balls out of the strike zone.  Joey Votto is a great example of this as his plate discipline is out of this world.

Joey Votto

You can see that Votto swung at 'clear balls' very rarely in the 2018 season. To put this into perspective, Votto saw over 1,200 pitches last season and had a chase rate of just 13.1%, which led the majors. 

Votto also was very successful in 'moving the baseball', meaning putting the ball in play only striking out in 16.2% of his plate appearances.

Less Strikeouts, More Agression, Better Accleration

It is counterintuitive to think that swinging more often early in the count will lead to fewer strikeouts.  However, taking advantage of the pitcher wanting to throw strikes is key.  Use that to your advantage as a hitter and take the game to them!  Practicing turning your head back to the ball will lead to a huge early bat speed advantage.  So turn your passive approach into aggression and turn your neck to hit.  More bat speed and fewer strikeouts will be your instant reward.

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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...You've...

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What’s the best way to challenge hitters? Is it a facing a coach throwing BP? No. Front Toss? Not a chance. If you don’t have access to a having your...You've...

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Are You Paying for Hitting Lessons for Your Son or Daughter and Not Seeing the Results You Want? Check Out How Baseball Rebellion Uses a Movement Progression and Data to Help Make Hitters Better.

When Kylie of Orange High School, located in Hillsborough, NC, came in for an evaluation Kylie and her parents had no idea what they were getting into. She’d played softball in Orange County for a few years and had just moved up to the Challengers team. Because of this increase in competition, she and her parents wanted to make sure she got some instruction. Her evaluation took place on March 21, 2019.

Evaluation Day: March 21, 2019

As always, no changes are made during an evaluation. I highlighted her swing against another HS player that was about her age and size. What Kylie and her parents noticed was a clear difference in aggression. Because of this, the demo swinger’s hits were going over 15-mph faster and up to 90-feet further. Kylie and her parents decided to enroll in the program and off they went.

Kylie's Evaluation Video
Kylie's Evaluation Video

First Day Back: First Lesson March 27th, 2019

Kylie came back on March 27th and had her bag, bat, and gloves with her. I smiled and told her she wouldn’t need those, and got her mother a chair so she could watch. Then, we headed over to the Movement Wall, where all of our initial movement and Rebel’s Rack work takes place.

After Fitting Kylie with her Rebel’s Rack, we began to learn to stride.

Initially Skeptical

Kylie was unsure of exactly what we were doing. Obviously, she was confused that we were not in a cage and using a bat. Because of this, I reassured her we were ‘learning to turn’ not ‘learning to hit’. She used the ‘LINE” and started to stride heel to heel.  After a while, we introduced a hesitated turn.

Initially SLOW

When Kylie started to try to turn, she was very slow when she turned. The ‘slowness’ of the turn caused her head to go forward and her turn to be incomplete. Eventually, she realized that when she went faster, she actually did the turn better! Much like trying to ride a bike slowly, the body struggles to pull the back foot forward when turning slowly. The speed of the turn is what allows the back foot to move forward while the head stays still. No speed means no chance for correct movements.

As you can see below, the turn on the left is one of Kylie's first initial rack turns. She shoots her head forward, moves very slow and drags her back foot on the ground. The turn on the right is only a few minutes later after a few verbal internal cues. She turns much more aggressively, keeps her head still and fires her back foot up and over the line.

Fast To The Finish, By The Finish

Finally, Kylie started to trust herself and me enough to go fast in her turn. When the back foot moves forward it pulls up and off the ground. Because of this, most athletes feel like they are ‘falling’ back when they initially learn the BR turn. The only way to complete the Rebel’s Rack Progression correctly is to go fast in the turn. Once she went fast, she was surprised at how balanced she felt. Because of that feeling of speed and balance combined, she went even faster.

Homework on Land, Homework at Sea:

At the end of the lesson, Kyle got her medium Rebel’s Rack and I told her to do 1000 turns before next week. Her mother said that it would be 2 weeks before I saw her again as they were going on a cruise (tough life!). Because of this, I upped her homework to 2000 turns. Kylie asked, “what if I can’t take the Rack on the boat?”.  I told her to “find a way you CAN get better instead of a reason you CAN’T”.

2nd Day Back: First Time in the Cage April 8, 2019

Kylie entered the training area with her dad and I was in a lesson. I told her to head over to the Movement Wall and start her Rack Progression. Upon finishing my lesson, I greeted her dad and headed over to talk with Kylie. Korey Reed, a BR Certified instructor from West Virginia, was shadowing me. I told Kylie to ‘show me her homework”. She asked a question, I ignored it, and repeated, “Just show me your homework.”  She did 2 turns, they were great, and we went over to the cage to hit.

When The Work Gets Done, The Hitting Gets Fun

I had Kylie do eight Rebel’s Rack Timing Turns and then I asked her if she was ready to turn. She said yes, so I told her to get her bat and prepare herself to turn as fast as she could. Her very first swing she hit the ball 57-mph. That’s 7-mph harder than her hardest hit at her evaluation. As you can see from the video, we changed nothing about her stance or hand position. So how did her velocity jump so much in literally one swing?

Farthest Hit (170 Feet)

Deliberate Practice and Verbal Cues

The Rebel’s Rack Progression is based on how people actually learn new tasks that are not hard-wired into healthy humans. Chunking up movements, combining them when ready, and then speeding them up. Constant reinforcement happens here, both with visual cues (given by a mirror) and verbal cues (given by a coach). Instead of the athlete guiding themselves, at the formative stages, the athlete must BE GUIDED. Remember coaches, there is a paying customer expecting that guidance, and we always respect that fact.

End of Lesson Comparison: Video and Hittrax Data

This video is less than 90 seconds long...so give it that time, Kylie’s improvement is worth it.

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Learn How a See-Saw Can Teach Us Proper Hitting Mechanics

Years ago, I wrote an article about hand pivot or a ‘see-saw’ action of the elbows that turns the bat. Last night (April 30th, 2019), there was a demo of someone improperly using a Balance Bat, a great product, and I commented on it. Video of comment and tweet here:

In the tweet above, the person says “...Is getting the hands to snap, this way, ok?  Notice how my elbow is still up…” That is the entirety of the audio in the tweet. Since commenting, my phone still hasn’t stopped buzzing and it’s 9:15 pm the next day. Because of this, I thought it would make sense to revisit that old article and clarify how we turn the barrel. Also, I wanted to list and demo the products we use to create the deep barrel turn in our hitters.

Turn the Body First

First, before you do ANYTHING with the upper body, the lower body and torso must rotate properly. That means the stride needs to be correct and the focus is preparing to turn the body and time the ball with the turn. Once those things are completely correct, we turn the focus to the upper body and hand path that creates deep barrel turn.

Creating the Turn of the Bat

The Turn Behind The Turn Drill

The main idea we use when teaching players to turn the bat is that the hands don’t move in the swing. We explain this with the “Turn Behind the Turn” drill.

This drill clearly eliminates knob drive and teaches the hitter to deliver the barrel with his body. If the hitter can successfully get the bat head to the net without hitting his elbow or knob they have done the drill properly. Also, the hitter can learn about keeping their spacing and maintaining his or her posture through the turn.

Bat Drag Buster with the White Band

To help with the ‘feel’ of the elbows staying apart and being the ends of the see-saw, we use the white band of the Bat Drag Buster. The Bat Drag Buster was originally created to eliminate a racing back elbow of pre-pubescent hitters. What has happened, however, is it has become one of our favorite training tools of our college and professional hitters. They can feel the weakness when they break their wrist angle and let their elbows get closer together. Because of this, the Bat Drag Buster allows the elbows to get stay apart and work in harmony inside the swing for the first time ever.

Clearly, after watching the video above, you can see how weak and unsupported the bat would be with a pure wrist barrel dump. Real hitters feel this weakness if they attempt to turn the barrel with their wrists.  The Bat Drag Buster helps hitters maintain their spacing and deliver the barrel in a more forceful way. Because of this, the bat is also more supported as the hands stay closer to the body.

Follow Thru Bat

The last way we talk about the depth of the turn is by using a FollowThru Bat for the sound it makes. When swung properly, the bat head can be ‘directed’ or ‘released’ directionally.

DId you hear ‘where’ the clicks were? I spoke about this a long time ago as well in a past article.  What’s interesting about the Follow Thru Bat is that it teaches proper barrel zone entrance and where the bat should be fast. Too fast and too early on an inside pitch will cause rollovers. Conversely, if you’re too slow too long in the swing, you’ll be late and slice balls backside.

The Baseball Rebellion Truth About Training Barrel Turn

These are the tools we use and how we use them to create a correct upper body pattern in hitters. We do NOT do random ‘feels’ and ‘ideas’ on our hitters. We teach them to feel the correct move, slowly at first, and then fast in the game. This is very different than others on twitter who use made up and unsupported junk that doesn’t exist in a swing. Before you blindly trust a coach because of who they were/are or who they work with, please look at the body of work online. Do they have a facility? Do they have a long term track record of training players of all ages and ability levels? Do they have a real basis of knowledge or did they attend a weekend clinic? Do they create original thoughts (and/or products) that are proven to work? If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, perhaps its time to evaluate if they’re the right hitting person to follow. It’s not just your swing that matters, it’s your team’s, players’ or kids’ swings that suffer if you’re wrong. Avoid the snake oil sold by a ‘feel teacher', man. Instead, look for movements that make sense, taught by real teachers, man. 

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Using Spray Charts to Show How the Rebel's Rack Helps Increase Power

If you don't know, Baseball Rebellion's Rebel's Rack is a rotational power product designed to help hitters turn their body faster and hit the ball farther.

Every hitter wants to hit for more power but many don't know where to go to train how to do so. Everybody and their brother on the internet is a hitting coach.  All of us say we can improve your exit speed or distance but here at Baseball Rebellion, we have a methodology that has shown to increase power.

I wanted to use the spray charts generated by HitTrax to show you, visually, how the Rebel's Rack can improve hitters.  Below, you'll see seven different spray charts from baseball players and softball players young and old.  Amazingly, you can see incredible differences, but all the differences are not the same.

Reading the Spray Charts

Blue Dots on the spray charts are HITS.
Red Dots on the spray charts are OUTS.
Black Dots on the spray charts are balls hit off a tee.

The farther the dot is from home plate, the further the ball traveled.  Farther dots tend to be doubles, triples and home runs.  While closer dots tend to be singles. The most current session is the top graphic, while the evaluation session is the bottom.

Player 1- Baseball: 8-years-old, 2 months apart

Picture1

Player 2- Baseball: 7-years-old, 6 weeks apart

Picture2

In hitters one and two, neither hit the ball super 'hard' from an exit velocity perspective.  Because of this, many people would theorize that it's better for them to hit the ball low. In actuality, it's better for them to hit the ball higher so they can get it out of the infield. As their launch angles went up on average, their hitting success went up as well. Avoiding infielders works at ALL LEVELS. So even though both hitters saw an exit velocity jump from Rebel's Rack movement training, they got more hits because they hit it higher.

Player 3- Baseball: 9-years-old, 1 month apart

Picture3

Player 4- Baseball: 16-years-old, 2 months apart

Picture4

Hitters three and four are different than hitters one and two.  These hitters have more exit velocity and power than the first two players. Even so, you can see how both hitters increased their power both pull side and to center field.  Hitting the ball higher was not the change we made here, we just wanted them to 'carry' the velocity they already generated to higher launch angles. For example, each hitter already hit the ball hard enough so we didn't need to make them hit it harder. When they hit the ball higher at the same exit velocity they already generated, their distance went up anywhere from 40 to 100 feet. Rebel's Rack work with a concentration on getting the back shoulder to drop more helped achieve this.

Player 5- Baseball: 14-years-old, 6 months apart

Picture5

Hit Design

Did you notice in the above spray chart how few balls are hit directly to the outfielders?  The above spray charts are what "Hit Design" should actually look like.  Avoiding fielders is key in baseball and softball and we have been working on true "Hit Design" here at BRHQ for years.  In the coming months, we will talk more about avoiding fielders, understanding where hits 'live' in the cage, and coaching players to be more productive.

Player 6- Baseball: 16-years-old, 4 months apart

Picture6

Hitter six was an interesting spot as well. This hitter had been trained to stay low and to the middle of the field all the time, in spite of the fact that he had great size and strength. We showed him some movements and focused on his 'pull side elevation' in his swing as he rolled lots of balls over when he pulled them initially. As of now, this hitter has four home runs as a freshman four-hole hitter for his varsity team. His exit velocity is up 15-mph since he started with us and his distance is up over 140 feet. Because of this, he is a legitimate D1 power prospect and none of that was possible without the Rebel's Rack movement training.

Player 7- Softball: 13-years-old, 4 months apart

SprayChart7

How Were These Results Achieved?

The only intervention or training tool used with all these hitters was the Rebel's Rack.  As you can see, all of the hitters above gained considerable distance with this training.  Some in short amounts of time, others slightly longer.  Either way, the gains were created and sustained with deliberate turn training.  Learning a movement and then loading a movement is key in all training environments.  The Rebel's Rack movements will change your hitter's ability forever with increased power and bat speed.  Learn to turn, don't just try to learn to hit.

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Learn why training to turn your body properly can help you hit the ball farther while keeping you healthy and on the field

If you follow Baseball Rebellion on Instagram, you know this past weekend I was at the Yankee game with my family. We saw a few home runs, which was cool. Here’s Aaron Judge’s Home Run I videoed from the stands.  

Judge Home Run

Judge Strains Oblique

Unfortunately, Aaron Judge’s game did not end the way he wanted it to. Judge left the game with a left oblique injury that could require significant time on the IL (injured list). How could this injury have been avoided? Could the way he trains hitting be the culprit for such an unfortunate stroke of bad luck?

Oblique Injuries in Baseball

Generally, Oblique injuries are devastating for baseball athletes. This article was written in 2017, and details lots of information about the oblique injury epidemic in baseball. Stan Conte and Mike Reinold, two of the most influential PT’s in baseball, are quoted in the article.

Oblique Muscles in Red

The article states, “The internal oblique sits under the external oblique, and it is the most commonly injured abdominal or core muscle in baseball because it is the most activated core muscle during hitting and throwing.”  Often times, the obliques are under trained and cannot handle the lead leg rotational force, which causes it to give out.

The Rebel's Rack as a Training Tool & Keeping Our Athletes Healthy

The Rebel's Rack completely deemphasizes the arms in the baseball or softball swing.  By pulling back on the rack, the lats and upper back are engaged and prevent pushing forward of the arms. Because of this, the body turns farther and faster than it normally would in a swing. The increased turn forces more mass to accelerate and therefore generate more force impacting the ball. Not only will this generate more force, but also this turn prepares the body to support the barrel and deliver it faster into the hitting zone. Training the obliques to deliver this powerful and explosive force will remove unwanted arm push and allow the core to decelerate itself in a safe and anatomically correct way.

Adjusting to Pitches Incorrectly Can Cause Injury

In the article mentioned above, the author Reinold goes on to say that adjustments to unexpected pitch speed differences or movement can also contribute to injury. He thinks while pitching mechanics are generally repeatable, hitters can often be thrown off balance by unexpected movement on a pitch. "If you react quickly to a breaking ball when you're expecting something else and it causes you to make an awkward swing, you could certainly end up with an oblique strain," Reinold said. These issues in overstressing different parts of the body are easily fixable and trainable with the Rebel’s Rack.

Here you can see a drill where we use the Rebel's Rack to work on timing the off-speed pitch. This basic timing drill is just the tip of the iceberg how the Rebel's Rack can help you not only gain power in your swing but also prevent injury!

Rebel’s Rack Rotational Power Work

For those of you who have followed us at all in the past, you know the Rebel’s Rack is a rotational power tool. The Rack helps develop useable force and directable force through the baseball or softball swing. Below is a video about how we use the Rebel’s Rack to make sure our athletes are prepared to turn as fast and far as they can. Turning fast requires the ability to stop the turn fast as well. Using the rack to train swing side, opposite side, as well as eccentric and concentric contractions are all part of the Rebel's Rack rotational power plan. With our number one goal of keeping our athlete's healthy. 

Rebel’s Rack Deceleration/Eccentric Work

Decelerating the bat is just as important in hitting as accelerating the bat head. Many hitting coaches and strength coaches greatly undertrain the slowing down portion of a baseball or softball swing. Because of this, muscles can be overstretched and get into ranges of motion they cannot support from a strength perspective. These eccentric movements are just one way we help the body handle the powerful rotational force of hitting. Because of this, we are strengthening the muscles needed to help generate the deceleration in the swing.

Rebel's Rack Isometric and Range of Motion Work

Mobility and range of motion are major components of being athletic. Almost all baseball and softball athletes stretch and many do ROM work in the weight room as well. However, some of these movements are not totally proven to translate into the swing. We use isometric holds with the Rebel's Rack to train strength at the end range of movement. Because of this, Baseball Rebellion has not had a known oblique injury to any of their athletes in the last six years.  Here is just one of our isometrics we use to ensure the health and safety of all our rotational athletes.

The Number One ABILITY of an Athlete: AvailABILITY

This most recent oblique injury is the 2nd major oblique injury of Aaron Judge's career. He was shut down for the season in September of 2016. Perhaps there is something he is doing in his hitting training that causes instability through end range. There may be some room to add Isometric or eccentric training to his hitting regimen that would help him stay healthier longer. Judge has proven the ability to be a dominant force in the MLB when healthy. Because of this, he should take heed of this article and train his body to turn accordingly, instead of just "snapping" his obliques.

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My oldest son, Bryant, is now playing his first year of Little League baseball. He’s almost six, so he’s in machine pitch and loving every second of it. We’ve had some funny conversations and happenings already in this season, and I wanted to use this platform to share those with you.  

A Year of Firsts

First Practice: First Bloody Nose

On his second practice, his team decided to ‘rent out’ a ‘really nice facility in Durham’.  So in walks 12 five to six-year-olds for practice. Bryant is obviously super pumped that practice is at ‘Baseball Business’ and can’t wait to start.  The decided to do some catching and throwing first, and Bryant decided to catch with his face and not his glove.

bloody nose

Thankfully, that was the only blood flowing injury of the day. He was back out there three minutes later after we cleaned off the blood in the bathroom.  

First Opening Day

Every player is announced, a few awards were given, and the pledge of allegiance and little league pledge were read.  The end though was the highlight of the day, where all the kids threw their hats up in the air.

Honestly, I'm just glad we found his hat!

First Cup

It is a little league rule that all players must wear a cup. I was trying to explain this to Bryant and I could tell he was more than confused. I told my wife I’d take him to get a cup when I got off work. So of course, she went ahead and took him to get a cup herself. As she was walking around Dicks Sporting Goods, Bryant was shouting, “where are the Penis Protectors”? As patrons and staff laughed and Bryant giggled at the idea of the cup, my youngest son Tyson started screaming “PENIS PROTECTORS” as loud as a 2-year-old can shout.

IMG_3684

First Game

Now, it’s game day. Bry is hyped, but he also asked about the post-game snack three times. The game starts and Bryant is on the bench and batting last (like father like son). My wife, a former D1 college athlete, leans over and says, “I wonder why he’s batting last and on the bench”. I look out to the field and show her that the team is in numerical order for positions and batting lineup.  

#1 was pitching

#2 was catching

#3 was playing first, and so on.

She looked back at me and said, “I’m embarrassed I even said anything”.

Bryant’s line: 0 for 1 with a K, a few fielding errors, a few grounders caught, and 1000 smiles.

First Post Game Father Son Breakdown

I asked Bryant if he had fun!  He said, “YES, it was awesome, I even hit the ball!" (he had a foul ball).  I said, “That’s great buddy! Wanna go get lunch?” After our postgame photoshoot, we headed off to Mattie B’s, a restaurant in Durham and he got sliders. Bryant talked about the game some more, and he had some questions about baserunning. Then, he got quiet and looked at me. I thought, this is it, he’s going to ask me to help him with his hitting! He says, “Dad, If I had my bat, and a perfect stance, and took a great swing...could a Gorilla hit it farther than I can?”

IMG_3727

First Day Takeaways

He’s five-years-old.  And your son or daughter is young too. Enjoy the time you have with them playing a game you and they (hopefully), love. Praise their effort. Praise their enthusiasm. Have them thank their coaches for their time after practice and games. That night, I tucked Bryant into bed.

He looked at me and said, "Hey dad, thanks for coming to my game".

I said, "Sure buddy, I loved it!”

He rolled over and that was it. Out of all we talked about, the most important thing for him was just that my wife and I were there. So I challenge you all to BE THERE for your kids at their games. As much as I think I know about baseball, I learned a lot from Bryant that day about what matters to him.

Bryant's First Interview

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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.

Communication

communication

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.

Intervention

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.  

Fastball Timing

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.

The Pitcher's Real Job

“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.

Timing Spin Based on Fastball Timing

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.

Communication, Fastball Timing, Stride Stubbornness, and Spin Timing

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.  

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Frequently, Baseball Rebellion is emailed with questions about the Launch Angle Tee, one of our products.  Many times, these emails have questions about the tee or adapter top itself.  However, the one thing I continue to be surprised about is how often we are asked for tee drills.

To be more efficient, we will show how we use the Launch Angle Tee to develop Baseball Rebellion hitters.  One move we do not exactly 'teach' would be the one demonstrated by my four-year-old in tee ball. So enjoy that picture and hopefully the drills ahead and take your tee game to the next level!

Bryant Leg Kick

Drill 1: Middle-Middle

Set the tee up in the middle of home plate.  Adjust the height to about mid-thigh height, swing away.  Practice hitting the ball at the height that makes sense for your exit velocity or skill set.  Generally, the harder you hit the ball, the higher you want to hit it.  If you're a line drive hitter, practice hitting the ball lower, but still not bouncing in the infield.  If you're a power hitter, practice slightly pulling the middle-middle pitch in the gaps.  Pulling the middle-middle pitch slightly avoids the centerfielder.

Drill 2: Outside Pitches all Heights

Set the tee on the back outside third of home plate and slightly angle it away from the batter.  The visual of the upward slope of the Launch Angle Tee shaft will help the hitter get on a better plane.  Start at middle height.  This pitch should be over top of the corner but more towards the white of home plate.  Drive the ball backside with force for five swings.  Then, lower the tee, this will put the tee deeper in the hitting zone but still outside.  Drive this ball over the back side infielder's head five times.  Then raise the tee up above the original starting position.  This will elevate the ball and move it out in front of the plate slightly.  Hammer this ball in the gap five times.

Drill 3: Inside Power Pull Pitches

Obviously, the Power Pull Pitch Drill is one that many kids really enjoy.  If in a cage with a Hittrax or on a field, players love to compete to hit the longest ball.  Driving the ball in the air with less hook is really important.  This is also a great drill for driving up intent and showing the value of turn direction.  Set the tee on the inside corner, slightly angled to the pull side gap.  Swing up the slope and let it fly.  Go for distance and height if you're a power player and sharp line drives if you're not.

Drill 4: Step Behind Happy Gilmores

Another player favorite is Step Behind Happy Gilmore tee drills.  Players do a great job if they control their tempo and footwork. Because of this control, players can really get some power out of this drill.  Another great drill for on-field work, outfielders can get great reads on balls as well.  Driving the ball with power is something that coaches ask me about all the time.  They want players who can do this already, and they want players who they know are learning to do damage.  The Step Behind Happy Gilmore drill is a great way to build power, intent, and footwork coordination.

Drill 5: Step Backs

The Double Inside Load, one of my first ever articles, is extremely important to keep and maintain. Because of this, The Step Back Drill is a key drill in building a 'glute loaded hitter'.  Loading the glutes instead of calves and quads creates a rotation instead of a push through contact.  This quick pulling action the hips create on the back leg is paramount in power generation.  Build your load first, and the turn will happen naturally and explosively.

Drill 6: Out-In-Front Front Leg Focus

Let's face it, no one is on time all the time.  That's why we started doing the Out-In-Front Front Leg Focus Drill.  Learning to sit down into your front leg without your head drifting forward is huge.  Adjustability is key in hitting, so this front leg move must be practiced and drilled.  Because of this, we do this drill often with our best hitters.  They face the best pitchers, so while they're very disciplined, having a great 'I'm fooled' swing is paramount for their production.

Drill 7: Three-Stride Drill

The Three Stride Drill is a favorite drill we do for slowing down hitters who rush.  Hitters love to hit.  Because of this, many hitters rush through their stride and load just to hit the ball.  The Three Stride Drill re-emphasizes how important the load and stride.  Interestingly, when we can get hitters to slow down and stride right, the ball really jumps off the bat.  Often, the hitter will have those 'ah ha' moments and realize how much their stride and load affects their power output.

Drill 8: Slowest Stride Drill

The Slowest Stride Drill is more advanced than the Three Stride Drill.  Because of this, only our strongest and oldest hitters do this drill.  Slowing down the stride requires lots of core strength and body awareness.  Young kids struggle with slowing the stride when hitting, so we do this with a Rebel's Rack with them.  Older hitters can feel a 'float' or a 'hover' move in this drill which can be positive for their soft slow landing. Once a hitter has a fast turn, they have more time to wait.  Learning to wait is something that the Slowest Stride Drill emphasizes.  The SSD does this by helping slow tempo and increases softness in the front foot landing.

Drill 9: Bucket Drill

One of the hitting coaches we follow is @CSalt19.  Carlton demonstrated the Bucket Drill very well so we included it in our progression.  The Bucket Drill helps hitters load the glute of their back leg to avoid jumpiness and arm push.  Both of those mistakes are power suckers and really effect swing plane and bat acceleration negatively.  The Bucket Drill was new to me, but an obvious addition to our tee progression.  The Bucket Drill works on the load through the back heel, slowness in the stride, and great head position/posture.  This awesome drill was a must add for us here at BR, and we think you should add it too!

Drill 10: Emergency Swing Deep Tee Drill

Easily the hardest drill in our tee progression is the Emergency Swing Deep Tee Drill.  This drill, for our highest level hitters, is important as it can grant them another pitch in an at-bat.  When fooled, especially by speed or spin, it's very important to be able to 'hang on' for one more pitch.  A foul ball in certain situations is a great outcome!  Because of this, the Emergency Swing Drill is practiced often by our top hitters.

Start Hitting More Line Drives and Home Runs Today!

Try these tee drills and make up an order for you!  If there are others you like, shoot us a comment with a link and we can check those out as well.  Make a video, post it on YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram and tag to us.  At Baseball Rebellion we love to share information and learn more, so show us your stuff!  Who knows, maybe your drill will be in our updated tee progression in the coming months.

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The Launch Angle Tee revolutionizes the baseball/softball hitting tee! The Launch Angle Tee aid in players swinging at the proper swing approach angle that help them hit more doubles, triples, and home runs! For the first time ever, hitters can use their tee for DELIBERATE PRACTICE to maximize their launch angle on the baseball or softball and raise their slugging percentage. No more hitting the tee...See more ball, hit more ball with the Launch Angle Tee!

Launch Angle Tee Benefits:
  1. Allows for hitters to see the maximum amount of the ball when hitting (no above ball visual interference)
  2. Least Bat to Tee contact of any ‘bottom-up’ tee in the industry. HIT THE BALL, NOT THE TEE!
  3. Helps both Baseball & Softball hitters maximize their launch angle by exposing more of the bottom of the ball
  4. Train your swing to hit the middle to lower half of the ball to maximize ball distance and height