Stay at Home Hitting & Fielding Drills- Week 1

Stay at Home Hitting Drills- Week 1

While most of our country is safe at home during this time, we wanted to give some drills that can be done easily inside. We will continue posting these drills across our various social media platforms and on our website as well. If you have a drill that you're doing at home send it to tyler@baseballrebellion.com and we will highlight it in one of our "Stay at Home" series!

The Wall Stride Drill

Tilted Posture Drill

Turn to Catch

  • Improve timing and direction of rotation
  • Focus on the hitter turning their face to contact instead of using their peripheral vision.
  • Improves hand-eye coordination
  • Trains to adjust posture to different locations of the pitch.

Wall Ball

The Turn Behind

  • Increased barrel awareness
  • Better understanding of acceleration
  • Creates a deeper barrel path to allow the hitter to get "on plane" sooner

How to Train Timing Without a Moving Ball

Pitch selection is always a struggle with hitters of any age. However, live pitches aren’t always readily available. So where does pitch selection come from and how can we train timing without a moving ball?

The later a hitter can commit to a swing and still get to contact on time, the longer they can see the ball. The longer a hitter can see the ball the better swing decisions they will make. How well a hitter accelerates is vital to being able to wait longer before committing to swing. The good news is your hitters can train timing and acceleration without a moving ball. 

How Can a Medicine Ball Help Train Pitch Selection? 

How Can a Medicine Ball Help Train Pitch Selection? 

  • A hitter is only as good as the pitch they swing at.
  • The best swing mechanics in the world are of no use if the pitch is one that is unhittable. Now I’m not talking about 92mph sweeping slider unhittable. I mean 4 feet outside unhittable.
  • However, players of all levels chase pitches regularly. Do we just think that they are chasing on purpose? No way. So why do hitters swing at bad pitches?
Vision Training on a Budget 

Vision Training on a Budget 

  • Pitch selection is affected by numerous factors with the most obvious being vision.
  • The fact that live pitches thrown from quality arms aren’t always readily available for a hitter’s training makes training vision much more difficult.
  • So how as a parent or coach that doesn’t have the means available for the ever-growing vision tracking training, can you help your hitter train their pitch selection?
  • The easiest way for a hitter to make better decisions on pitch selection is to allow them to see the ball for longer out of the pitcher’s hand.
  • We can either do that by backing the mound up (not gonna happen), or by allowing the hitter to have a swing that allows them to start their swing as late as they can while still being on time and powerful.
Acceleration vs. Bat Speed 

Acceleration vs. Bat Speed 

  • The only speed and force a hitter can generate and have an effect on contact is the force created before contact with the ball.
  • Pretty short window to try to create speed right? Which is where acceleration comes into the conversation.
  • The faster a hitter can accelerate their bat to full speed, the later they can commit to the pitch. In turn, seeing the ball longer and making better decisions.
  • All on the same page? Great, now let’s train it.

Resisted Med Ball Throws

We’ve posted Medicine ball drills in the past but this version of the drill is my personal favorite to improve acceleration.

  • The hesitation allows the hitter to check their load and make sure their back leg is properly loaded and coiled in order to properly accelerate. 
  • This hesitation also allows the hitter to feel the sudden start of the rotation and the lack of momentum forces them to accelerate properly. 
  • Because they are learning to accelerate instead of just brute force and speed they develop an understanding of just how late they can commit and begin the swing.
  • A better understanding of acceleration will lead to a better understanding of timing in the swing

What to Avoid with this Drill

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How to Break In Your Glove

How Important is it to Break in Your Glove The RIGHT Way? 

In a sport full of superstitions none are more prevalent than the sacred relationship between an infielder and his glove. They will go to extended measures to keep it intact including carrying it onto planes as a carry on (seriously). The reason they are so cautious with their glove is that it is broken in exactly how they like it and they don’t want to lose that. 

Breaking in a glove is always an interesting topic. From baking it in the oven, covering it in shaving cream, and even lathering it in vaseline, athletes go to drastic measures to make their glove feel like an extension of their hand.

  • And, that’s what it has to be, an extension of their hand.
  • So how can the molding of the glove benefit and play a role in the success of the fielder? Does the break-in make that big of a difference?
  • Can the way you break in a glove result in more errors?
  • Let’s take a dive into how an infielder can break in their glove to positively affect their defense. 

1. Breaking in Your Glove- Finger Placement

There are two main strategies and set-ups when it comes to finger placement in the glove.

Straight up (All five fingers separate in the web): when all five fingers are placed in different finger holes in the glove, and two in the pinkie: when the pinkie and ring finger are placed together in the pinkie hole of the glove.

  • This is solely a preference for what is comfortable for the fielder. I’ve heard of organizations mandating their infielder to use the straight-up method because of their belief that it leads to more control of the glove.

Two-Pinkie Method: However, if you have a youth fielder who may no be equipped with the adequate hand strength to close the glove on command, try out the two in the pinkie method.

  • This tends to give the athlete more pressure on the edges of the glove and leads to easier open and closing.
Break in Your Glove Straight Up
Break in Your Glove Two Pinky

2. Breaking in Your Glove- Open Pocket

To be honest this is the main culprit of my desire to write this article.

  • If I have to watch another youth fielder comes in for their fielding lesson and attempt to field a ball, whether hit or thrown and reach out for the ball with the pocket or web of their glove closed, I will punt the glove over our building.
  • To be clear, I’m not talking about squeezing the glove too early, I’m talking about having a glove broken in in such a way that when the glove is resting the pocket is completely closed.
  • If we’re relying on a youth infielder to have to flex their hand to properly open their glove, then we’re in some trouble.

Here is an example of how a glove should properly lie with a baseball in it.

Screen Shot 2020-03-05 at 1.59.53 PM

3. Breaking in Your Glove- Funnel to the Pocket

An infielder has to not only field the ball well but also has to exchange to their hand and throw at an extremely quick rate.

  • Part of a quick exchange is knowing where the ball will be in their glove. If the ball funnels to a different part of the pocket every time the ball is caught, the fielder has to reach in and search for the ball.
  • But, if the glove is formed in a way that funnels the ball to the same spot of the pocket, the fielder knows where to go every time.
  • The fingers of the glove should act as a funnel towards the pocket. I often see fielders roll or fold the fingers of their glove in towards the palm which gives me anxiety.
  • The fold creates a lip that can affect the hop of the ball. Think about how a shovel works. The flat edge allows the dirt to direct to the same spot on the shovel.
  • Make the fingers of your glove a shovel to make the surface bigger. The bigger the surface, the more likely you are to make the catch.
Break in Your Glove Tulo
Troy Tulowitzki Perfectly Broken in Glove
Break in Your Glove Arenado
Nolan Arenado Perfectly Broken in Glove

Make More Plays by Breaking in Your Glove Correctly

How you break in a glove involves preference and what the infielder likes. However, more needs to go into it than just looking cool. How the glove is broke in is vital to how the ball is caught and transferred. Give your fielder the advantage of having the proper break-in for their position.

  • Middle infielders need their gloves to stay tight to create a smaller pocket which allows for easier transfers on double plays.
  • However, third-basemen need wider pockets for diving plays down the line and slow rollers.

Understand how to blend comfort and necessity when it comes to breaking in a glove. It may be the difference in a couple of errors throughout the year. We all know, baseball is a game of inches.

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How to Break in Your Glove

How to Break in a Glove

Gloves are precious to infielders. How the glove is broken in can be key to the success of that fielder. Check out this article to discover the in’s and out’s of breaking in a glove.

Improving Grip Strength in Catchers

Improving Grip Strength in Catchers

Catching development has grown immensely over the past year. Drills are being developed at a much higher rate with an emphasis on receiving. And rightfully so, a catcher has significantly more opportunities of receiving a ball than say blocking or throwing.

Improving Grip Strength and Receiving in Catchers

How Catchers Can Get Better at Stealing Strikes

Receiving is king when it comes to catching development. Without the ability to receive, catchers are unable to throw or block enough to be considered a good defensive catcher.

There are simply not enough opportunities to do so. With stealing strikes being a quantifiable stat, there is no way for catchers to hide from their ability or lack thereof.

Weighted Receiving Drill

When looking at receiving as a skill it can be broken down into a few factors that go into it. Vision is obviously a huge factor as well as just an overall understanding of how a pitch should be presented

However, when dealing with amateur catchers grip strength plays a huge role in receiving.

The catcher can have a fantastic understanding of proper pitch presentation but without the adequate grip strength to withstand the force of the pitch, they’re hopeless. 

This drill will cover one way to improve your catcher’s grip strength without breaking the budget. 

Check out who the best receiving catchers were in 2019 in the MLB.

Stealing Strikes Catchers

3 Key Points to the Weighted Receiving drill

1. Strengthen Framework

  • Catcher’s ability to go from arm extension at contact with the pitch to flexion for pitch presentation is a key to stealing pitches.
  • This is also known as “funneling”. With the catcher funneling each pitch towards the middle of their chest, they are presenting the pitch to the umpire as a better location or more centered.
  • The wrist weights force the catcher to be stronger throughout the transition from extension to flexion.

2. Increased importance of beating the ball to its spot

  • Beating the ball to its spot means being able to understand the flight of the ball and the path it’s on, and taking your glove to where it will be.
  • Many catchers follow the path of the pitch with their glove hand instead of getting to where the ball will be early.
  • Getting to the spot early allows the glove hand to work back towards the middle of the body instead of meeting the ball at the spot and allowing the force of the ball to pull your hand away from the centerline.
  • The wrist weights force the catcher to get to the spot earlier in order to handle the force of the pitch effectively.
  • If done incorrectly, the force of the ball teamed with the weight will push the catcher’s hand away. 

3. Grip Strength

  • As talked about above, grip strength can often be overlooked. The weight of the wrist weights forces the catcher to improve their grip strength as well as forearm strength.
  • The weight and resistance of the wrist weight force the catcher to utilize their forearm as well as their shoulder to successfully receive and frame the pitch. 

Development on a Budget 

It shouldn’t cost a fortune to get your catcher better. Wrist weights can be found at almost any indoor facility/gym. Take advantage of the resources around you and make yourself a better catcher.

You can utilize these wrist weights while doing drills such as Trampoline Receiving or catching full bullpens. They can even be used for blocking drills. The skill of receiving isn’t going away anytime soon so you have no excuse not to be good at it. Use your resources and become the catcher every pitcher wants to throw to.

How Do Hitters Learn Timing?

THREE NEW DRILLS ADDED!

Being on time for a pitch is a very difficult task. Every bit of help a hitter can get to be on time more is extremely valuable. Whether it is a visual cue, mechanical cue, or approach based cue, every little bit helps.

  • When thinking of timing and being “on time” with a pitch, the first thought it vision and rightly so.
  • Vision is the number one contributor to timing.
  • Hitter’s approach at the plate plays a major role in their ability to be “on time” to a pitch.
  • Whether it’s hunting pitches or sitting on a location, being smart about what to look for and anticipate at the plate can help improve timing.
  • Despite the major role these two components have on timing, they aren’t the only factors. 

Often overlooked in regards to timing is a hitter's movements/mechanics. Great vision and approach can only make up for so much when it comes to poor movements.

And when it comes to movements such as early torso rotation, the best vision in the world can’t overcome that. If a hitter is unable to load and unload correctly, timing suffers.

What is Scap Loading and How Does it Effect Timing?

When talking about loading/unloading many’s first thoughts include the hips or pelvis. However, the load includes the entire backside of a hitter's body. While the glute, hamstring, and hip flexor help load or coil the hitter's pelvis, the scapula helps with the upper body loading process. Our body wants to rotate towards the pitch. Throughout the duration of the stride phase, the hitter is resisting rotation. So what can a hitter use to fight against that rotation and instead rotate on time? 

Scap Loading
By a hitter engaging and pulling their scapula back behind them during the stride, they are loading their upper body and creating a connection between their upper body and the bat.

This allows the hitter to fight against early torso rotation while still maintaining posture and connection.

This increased acceleration ability and connection allow the hitter to support the barrel better throughout contact.

All of this can be attributed to the engagement of the scapula.

How Can I Use This Knowledge to Help My Hitter?

How can we make this easy to understand and simple to implement for hitters?

This simple FOUR step progression allows the hitter to not only engage their scapula and have an increased awareness of what the scapula is vs. their trap or shoulder, but also implement it.

It also doesn’t require anything other than a bat and resistance band. Scap loading isn’t a new thought or something that is revolutionary. This is something that can be seen in elite hitters from any era. Check out the hitters below and see just how long their scap’s are pulling back as the pitch approaches.

Sosa Scap Load
Sammy Sosa
Lindor Scap Load
Francisco Lindor
Trout Scap Load
Mike Trout

Banded No Stride Drill

Why Band No Stride? Tap for more info

Why Band No Stride?

  • This phase of the progression allows the hitter to develop an understanding of where and what their scapula is and how to use it.
  • It is important to force the hitter to simplify this phase and solely pull back with their scap.
  • They will want to turn their shoulders in or stride forward. Don’t let them.
  • Most youth hitters have no idea what their scap is and if the hitter is younger than 10 that’s more than ok.
  • However, for older hitters, it is crucial that they become aware of where their scap is and how to engage it.
  • Force them to stay simple during this phase and simply learn how to pull back with their scap.

Band & Stride

Why Band & Stride? Tap for more info

Why Band & Stride?

  • Now that the hitter is more comfortable with where their scap is and how to engage it, try adding timing and rhythm to it by including their stride.
  • The pullback of the scap should be synchronized with their forward movement.
  • The scap pull should create a stretch against the forward momentum of the stride helping to create separation.

Bat No Stride

Why Bat No Stride? Tap for more info

Why Bat No Stride?

  • By adding a bat during this phase the hitter begins to associate this move with hitting.
  • The feel of pulling back with the bat can start to help hitters feel the correlation that they will need when they return to hitting.
  • Again stress to the hitter that this phase does not include the stride but simply learning how to load the scap with a bat in hand instead of a band.

Bat Full Stride

Why Bat Full Stride? Tap for more info

Why Bat Full Stride?

  • With a sound understanding of how and when to load the scap, the hitter will now simulate a full stride once again stretching the scap pull against the forward movement of the stride.
  • Reinforce that the hitter should land in a tense and fully loaded position.

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Back Hip Load

Load Your Back Hip For More Torque and Power

Learn how loading into your back hip in your stride can create more torque in your swing and help you hit the ball harder and farther with more consistency.

Arm Health and Velocity Development for Position Players

Arm Health and Velocity Development for Position Players

Everyone knows that arm health and velocity are two important factors for all ball players, but too often we only reference them from the pitcher’s perspective

Every coach, instructor or parent that has ever worked in baseball has dealt with a hitter ”spinning off”. If it’s so common and has been dealt with so often, why is it still around? Here is what no one is saying about “spinning off”.

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The Mental Game of Hitting: Confidence vs. Preparation

Why is Confidence so Importance in Baseball?

Baseball is a game of failure. We’ve all heard this same recited phrase hundreds of times because it’s true. The best hitters in the world will always fail more than they succeed. Which also contributes to the constant lack of confidence in hitters.

 

There is no mystery why MOST (not all so please don’t @ me) of the best hitters in the world are also the most confident. Whether they show it outwardly or not, the best hitters believe they are the best hitters.

As to why we can get into that another time, that’s not what this article is about. 

So how, in a game of such failure, can we expect the athlete to remain confident in their abilities?

Sure we can talk about persevering and controlling what you can control but where does the athlete get their confidence from?

Bryce Harper Confidence
Bryce Harper is viewed as one of the most confident players in MLB.

Where Does Confidence Come From? 

Yasiel Puig Confidence

When confidence comes from results on the field, it can often be hard to find. However, when the athlete finds confidence from their preparation and how they get themselves ready to perform, it becomes controllable.

The environment that the athlete is trained should promote confidence in that hitter. They should find confidence in the work they put in and how prepared they feel when they get into competition.

If the hitter has only faced 20-mph front toss and 40-mph batting practice, why should they be confident against live pitching? They shouldn’t. They haven’t prepared for it. 

By creating an environment that puts the hitter in a stressful, challenging environment you are training that hitter to perform in an arena similar to what they compete in.

By facing that as an athlete, they are prepared for their competition.

How Can I Put This Into Practice?

It is important that I mention, you don’t and shouldn’t train in this environment year-round. Hitters have to have movement patterns that allow for success inside of these constraints.

Without those, constraint training is just preparing a bad swing to survive, which I get is needed in some cases.

However, this type of training has its place which is in the time leading up to the season as well as the season itself. In the middle of the off-season, there is no need for huge amounts of confidence.

For example, we held a 12-week high school group training program this winter. The group was broken down into 3 segments appropriate for the time of year.

  • The first segment covered movement patterns and mechanics.
  • The second begun preparing them for the live at-bats they would face during the third segment. This included mix rounds, curveballs off the machine, high-velocity work off machines, and flat ground at-bats.
  • Then, in the third segment, they took live at-bats against the high school pitching group and learned how to prepare for their at-bats both mentally and physically.

Group Training Program Phases

Group Training Competition

The Struggle is OK!

It is important to stress to your hitters that struggle is ok in training. You’re going to fail in the game so you might as well learn how to deal with it and overcome in your training. Many hitters feel that if they aren’t doing well, they are getting worse or something is wrong.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you create the right environment, failure is inevitable. By dealing with these failures in practice the athlete is training how to overcome struggles in the game. 

Would you rather be unprepared and delusional about your abilities, or prepared and confident in your training? 

When The Lights Come ON 

Confidence is a trait often looked for and seldom found. However, in order for the proper confidence that lasts throughout the competition, the right training environment must be present. No one knows who the best hitter is during the off-season. It’s ok to struggle. But when the lights come on, the hitters who are prepared shine the brightest.

How to Transition from Off-Season to Pre-Season

The season is quickly approaching and our schedule is packed with hitters who are trying to get ready for their upcoming tryout. We are always working on ways to help our hitters get better, and the question for us is how do we, as private instructors, make sure the hitter is fully prepared for everything they may face during the season?

The Transition

We at Baseball Rebellion are beginning to transition SOME lessons to more of a pre-season preparation phase. Notice I said only “some” lessons are transitioning. The transition to more of a season preparation approach should always be dependent on age and skill level.

 

Off Season Transition 1

The average 10-year old will benefit more from continuing to develop rotational speed within a movement pattern rather than chasing in-game success at their local 10U tournament.

However, it is vital for hitters who have worked hard to improve their approach and movement patterns to test that pattern and ensure they’re ready to perform at the level they desire. Sure a swing may work on a 20-mph front toss, but that is not what they are judged on by their peers. They must be able to hit while in a game environment.

Whether working with professional athletes or an average sixth-grader, they all want the same thing. They want the confidence to take what they have worked on in the cage all offseason, and successfully implement that in the game. Check out one change Mookie Betts has made in his swing over the course of his career:

What Needs To Change?

I want to be clear about one thing during this article. Teaching and instructing the proper movements will always be the primary responsibility of a hitting instructor to the client.

Just because the season is approaching and the lessons are shifting to a season prep phase, doesn’t mean the hitter can ignore movement quality. For example: if a hitter's posture is forward in their turn, their results will be flawed no matter how many constraints thrown at them.

Mookie Betts Swing 1

Notice the forward posture of Mookie Bett's Chest during the 2015 season in which he hit .291 with 18 HR's in 597 AB's

Mookie Betts Swing 2

The posture change in 2018 led to a .346 BA with 32 HR's in 520 AB's and an AL MVP.

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Make the Training Environment Challenging!

The ability to challenge a hitter in training is key to recognizing flaws in movements or even mentality. It's easy for hitters to feel comfortable and take their best swing against tee work, front toss or even BP. Successful training shouldn't feel comfortable.

As instructors, we must make sure the hitter maintains confidence and aggression while facing velocity whether via pitching machine or live at-bats.

How Do We Adjust to Pre-Season Training

Not only does the way we challenge hitters change during this phase but also the goal of the lesson changes depending on the hitter's needs. This requires a level of openness and honesty between the instructor and the hitter.

For a middle school kid, this may be their first taste of playing on a bigger field. The days of the 220ft bombs are now over and those hits are directly to an outfielder. They must learn to adjust their turn to hit the ball lower and harder to give themselves the best chance for success.

Middle School Off-Season Transition

Hit Trax 1

This is an example of a sixth-grader training on a smaller field that he will play travel ball on. His ability to hit drive the ball in the gap is being trained.

Hit Trax 2

On a bigger field the focus shifts from driving the ball to and over the wall, to hitting it lower and in front of the outfielders.

High School Off-Season Transition

A high schooler on the fringe of making the team with a coach that wants players to hit the ball on the ground has to be aware of that and we as instructors have to be aware of that.

While instructing and researching hitting is our full-time job, at the end of the day, we don’t write the lineup card. This doesn’t mean we abandon a movement progression and mentality to do damage, we simply teach hitters the proper way to hit the ball lower while maintaining their aggression.

This typically involves changing the hitter's vision on the ball as well as the depth of their turn. The turn will be slightly flatter than normal with the intent of hitting higher on the ball.

The video below shows a drill we use with our hitters to achieve swing accuracy and a better understanding of how to successfully hit the ball higher or lower.

Prepare Them and Watch Them Rake

Just because private instructors aren’t on the field, doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for those results. Developing and understanding a plan for each hitter to be successful is what makes the season fun for us.

The teaching doesn’t stop because games are being played. Our job is to teach them, then prepare them.

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The Youth Movement in Baseball

Baseball gets younger and younger every year. As recently as 2007, the average age of MLB position players (according to Baseball Reference) was 29.1. In 2018, that number had dropped by a full year, to 28.1.

This statement doesn’t limit itself to MLB. College scholarships are offered at younger ages than ever, despite the NCAA’s attempt to limit the school’s contact with newly minted high schoolers. The stress levels for 13-18-year-olds have never been higher when it comes to performing on the field. Before an athlete plays their first high school game they more than likely know a peer that has given a verbal commitment. 

Here is a list of the top-10 2023 grad (who haven't even played their freshman year of high school):

Youth Movement in Baseball

As you can see, six out of the top-10 are committed. This isn't' a knock on them at all. In fact, if they are talented enough to be recognized by this high magnitude of college baseball schools we should be congratulating them.

Are we REALLY Preparing our Young Players?

So how as a coach, parent, or instructor can we make sure our athletes are ready for the test. Now I don’t want you to take this article as you have to treat 6th graders like professional athletes or else they’ll never make it. But the building blocks for each athlete must be built before the test.

Everyone knows of or has trained the 12-year-old with the mustache who thinks they have it all figured out. The truth is up until the move to the bigger field, youth athletes can out-size their field of competition. However, as they begin playing on bigger fields against better competition, they now must show skill and talent to succeed. 

When dealing with teenage hitters not only does anxiety and pressure play a factor, but mentality does as well. I’m not talking about competitiveness (if you create the right environment they will compete their butt off). But the mental focus and capacity to dive into the mechanics and specific details of the swing.

We Can Fix Anything But We Can’t Fix Everything (At Once)

So what are the 3 most common mistakes made by teenage hitters and how can we solve them? How can we make sure we are preparing our hitters for what is to come, not what they are currently facing.

With that being said we have to address each of these 3 issues with the thought in mind that teenage hitters want to hit well. Whether that means thinking about 20 different things, it doesn’t matter to them. They just want to do well. We have to inform the hitter that the adjustments being made can’t be completed while attempting to complete 19 other tasks. We can only adjust one thing at a time while hitting. Avoid the mental block and keep things simple for your hitters when fixing these mistakes.

The Three Most Common Mistakes in Middle School & High School Hitters

  1. Over-Rotation Of The Swing

Why is it Bad?: 

The aggression and speed in which the hitter swung have created success for them up to this point. However, with the pitching getting better and them seeing good offspeed for the first time, but brute strength and speed no longer plays. That pure aggression has also caused some issues with the rotation in the swing. 

Generally, athletes are one side dominant (Right-handed thrower/hitter, Left-handed thrower/hitter). Meaning the glutes, obliques, abdomen and backside muscles that accelerate rotation is constantly trained and strengthened. However, to use this rotation properly, they must be able to decelerate that speed by using those same muscles on the front side of the rotation.

If the accelerator muscles are able to create more force and speed than the decelerating muscles can handle, the rotation overrotates past the desired point. Without proper deceleration, the bat drags through the hitting zone causing both slow bat speeds and poor direction in the swing. 

Drill: Closed Medicine Ball Throws

How it Helps:

This drill forces players to stop their rotation and not allow their hips to overrotate past the point of release. By showing the hitter that they can rotate successfully without rotating their hips, allows them to feel the connection between the “stopping” of the hips, and the release of force.

2. Lack of Support for the Bat at Contact (Weak Body Positions)

Why is it Bad?: 

In order for a teenage athlete, who more than likely lacks the desired strength necessary to withstand the force of contact, to not get “blown up” by the ball they must support the bat with their body. The use of side bend allows hitters to keep their hands high throughout the rotation.

The hands staying above the back arms elbow is key to the hitter supporting the barrel and having accuracy throughout the swing. For a quick experiment take a 25-lb dumbbell and hold it out in front of you with straight arms. Now hold is close to your chest and above your elbow. Which was easier?

Drill: Banded Swings (As shown in video 2 above)

How it Helps:

By using the resistance band on the hitter’s back foot and top hand, they feel the tension and desire for the band to pull their hands down. This forces hitters to pull against that band in order to support the barrel. The muscles are firing properly to keep the hitter’s hands close to their chest no matter pitch location.

3. No Control with Their Stride or Forward Move

Why is it bad?: 

The aggression and speed in which the hitter swung have created success for them up to this point. However, with the pitching getting better and them seeing good offspeed for the first time, but brute strength and speed no longer plays. That pure aggression has also caused some issues with the rotation in the swing. 

Generally, athletes are one side dominant (Right-handed thrower/hitter, Left-handed thrower/hitter). Meaning the glutes, obliques, abdomen and backside muscles that accelerate rotation is constantly trained and strengthened. However, to use this rotation properly, they must be able to decelerate that speed by using those same muscles on the front side of the rotation.

If the accelerator muscles are able to create more force and speed than the decelerating muscles can handle, the rotation overrotates past the desired point. Without proper deceleration, the bat drags through the hitting zone causing both slow bat speeds and poor direction in the swing. 

Drill: Long Stride Drill

How it Helps: 

This forces hitters to move forward more than usual, but with complete control. Making hitters move athletically while under control can lead to better vision/timing understanding. Many times hitters are forced to shorten up or simplify their stride when they need more time and rhythm. Allow the athlete to learn their rhythm and vision to better understand control and timing.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

It is important to remind the hitter while these adjustments may be tough for them right now, they are vital for their future success. Positive building blocks in the early stages of development can lead to easier adjustments later on.

Remember, stick to one thing at a time and keep things interesting/challenging for the athlete. While they might feel the pressure of a professional athlete it is important that we remember and remind them that their career is still young. One thing is for certain with teenagers, if you create an environment that encourages competition, they will compete.

Identifying & Correcting Three Main Flaws in Hitting

All While Preventing Youth Player Burnout

Training youth hitters can be like walking a tightrope. Depending on the athlete’s mental capacity and focus level, the intensity of training has to be adjusted from case to case.

Too much information given to the wrong player can lead to burnout and a miserable time for the hitter. On the other side of that, being too vanilla and boring to the wrong hitter can lead to boredom and frustration. 

Burn Out GIF

As a coach, instructor or parent it can be extremely stressful attempting to understand what each player can process and how far you can push them without going over the edge.

It is easy to watch a youth hitter hit and want to change 1,000 different things, but how enjoyable is that for the athlete?

You may be able to see the mistake but can you address it with the athlete in a way that is easy to understand and simple to fix?

The THREE MOST Important Mistake to Fix with Youth Hitters 

So what are the important struggles to address? This could be different for each hitter but I wanted to address the MOST common mistakes. 

However, understanding the mistake is only half of the equation. How can the struggle be addressed and fixed in a simple and enjoyable way for the hitter?

1) Lack of Aggression/Bat Speed

Why is it Bad?

From the time an adolescent athlete picks up a bat, the desire is to just make contact with the pitch. In initial evaluations of youth hitters, we often see a desire to not miss instead of hitting the ball hard. Hitters only have a certain amount of time to develop bat speed and natural aggression within the swing.

It is often hard to get youth hitters and parents to understand that is it ok to be overaggressive at a young age. The goal should be to develop the speed and aggression needed to do damage past tee-ball. Accuracy and adjustments can be made at an older age. Let youth athletes be aggressive and athletic.

Drill to Fix:

How it helps:

Using a different instrument than a bat can create a fun, enjoyable environment for a young player. It also limits the failure in the drill. No matter the age, athletes don’t like to fail. Mis-hitting a ball is seen as a failure and limits the aggression of youth hitters.

By taking the ball and bat out of the equation you eliminate the fear of failure and create an environment where the only goal is the move their body properly and aggressively.

2. Negative Approach Angle (Chopping Wood)

Why is it bad?: 

Youth hitters start their career on a tee where the ball is in front of them, stationary, and below where their hands initially start. The desire for contact leads the hitter to move the bat directly to the point of contact (usually downward and on top of the ball). All of this is fine when the ball is on the tee and little Johnny gets roaring applause for touching the ball and keeping the tee-ball game moving.

However, as Johnny gets older this bat path can cause issues against a ball moving down towards him. I get it, youth infielders are bad and any contact on the ground will probably lead to a baserunner and your next 10 and under State Championship. Congrats….I guess. Teaching the hitter to properly swing the bat “on-plane” with the pitch aggressively will lead to hits later in life, which to me seems more important.

Drill to Fix:

 How it Helps:

Another drill that allows a young hitter to hold anything but a normal bat and hit a moving ball that creates so much stress. This allows the hitter to show aggression as well as an understanding of where the bat is moving.

A downward moving bat will lead to the hitter hurling it into the ground, aka negative reinforcement. Allow the hitter to be an athlete and try to keep the cueing as simple and athlete-friendly as possible.

3. Sway Back in Load

Why is it bad?:

I saved the most technical of the three for last. This is an issue seen every day in youth hitters and often ignored. I’ve yet to meet a youth hitter who has consistently great timing (arguably the most important aspect to hitting). This is a direct cause of the hitter’s stride tempo, rhythm, and direction. My issue with the direction of youth hitters strides is the giant “rock back” or “sway”.

Whether cued to “stay back” or “load up”, hitters rock back into their back knee and towards the catcher constantly. Not only is this incorrect for rotation but it also is causing the eyes and vision of the hitter to move away from the ball and then back to it. Their vision is now moving in two directions all the while trying to recognize and time the pitch. 

Drill to Fix:
 How it helps: 

This is often a tough drill for young hitters to master. Their initial move to “load” their swing is to rock back, causing them to hit the wall. This drill forces an understanding that they can still turn in and load their pelvis without swaying back. Moving forward to balance is a vital component to the timing of a young hitter.

K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple

Youth hitters require a different style of instruction than older, more mature hitters. It is the instructor, coach, or parent’s role to instill the skills needed for proper development, while still allowing the athlete to compete in a fun, interactive environment. There is a fine line between skill development and information overload.

The hitter can only fix what they understand. Give the hitter exactly what they can handle and make it enjoyable for you both. The less struggle they encounter at a young age, the more likely they are to avoid burnout.

Training youth hitters can be a stressful, nerve-wrenching job. Yet, it often yields the most rewarding success’.

Drill Videos (For those who don't want to read the entire article)

Medicine Ball

Whiffle Ball Bat

Wall Drill

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Catching Case Study for Youth Catchers

Why the Importance of Receiving Is Undervalued

Why is Catching so Valuable?

The skill of receiving pitches at the catcher’s position has been brought to the forefront like never before. Right, and left catchers are upgrading their value by changing what they value.

Catching can be broken down into three simple categories: receiving, blocking, and throwing. While blocking and throwing get a lot of fanfare because they are the easiest to see and discern when done correctly or incorrectly.

However, if we simply look at which of the three the catcher has to do the most. We see that receiving is quite important. While a catcher might throw to a base once every couple of innings. They receive roughly 10-20 pitches each inning.

How Can I Make Catchers Value This Stance?

So how does this information change the way we train catchers? It is no longer ok to just be adequate at pitch presentation (how the catcher presents the ball to the umpire).

Great receiving catchers can steal strikes and outs for their pitchers that far outweighs the number of runners that can be thrown out.

Every catcher wants to catch the ball well.  But are oftentimes are in a position with their body that makes it impossible for them to do so.

We must look at the set-up first. Which is what we did with a recent middle school client from Pennsylvania.

Why Setting Up with One Knee Down Isn’t Lazy

For years catchers setting up with one knee down has been seen as lazy. And worse a negative mark towards that catcher. In the same breath, that catcher was told they needed to loosen their hips in order to set up lower to steal their pitcher’s strikes at the bottom of the zone. 

Catching Evaluation Initial Video

As you can see from Ryden’s initial evaluation video he set up very tall towards the top of the strike zone. He mentioned that he did this in order to be more athletic. As well as be quicker to pitches in the dirt or to get out of his stance to throw to different bases. 

I would say this is the most common teaching and the same teaching that is becoming extinct. Ryden’s desire to “be more athletic” wasn’t allowing him to receive pitches in the best possible way. The first thing that had to be addressed was his set up.

Starting with one knee down makes it easier for the catcher to catch the pitch down. It also puts them in a stronger position to withstand the force of the ball.

This aspect is crucial for youth catchers who lack the grip strength to handle the pitch easily. So obviously with that being said, the first adjustment Ryden made was in his set up.

Catcher Receiving Picture 1

The setup difference allows the glove and eyes to stay in generally the same spot. However, notice how much stronger and balanced he is. This base allows him to handle the force of the pitch better. 

The Initial Move

When talking about handling the pitch down in the zone easier, we have to talk about beating the ball to its spot and the glove path leading to the pitch. Another reason we want to set up lower is it allows the catcher to work back up to the ball.

Every ball a catcher receives is thrown on a downward angle. In order to catch it well, catchers have to be able to work up to the bottom of the ball. This is to avoid the ball pulling them down and away from the zone. This is the reason for the next adjustment we made with Ryden. The initial move by Ryden when the ball was in the air was to stand up a little more up to eye level with the pitch.

This then forced him to dive down and stab at any ball low in the zone. We made the adjustment to have him lower. As well as turn his glove down in preparation for the pitch.

Catcher Receiving Picture 2

As you can see this is the first time we see a major difference in Ryden’s glove height. He is now able to work up through the strike zone instead of top to bottom. 

The Presentation

Now that the setup and glove path has cleaned up, it puts Ryden in a position to present the pitch better. While the two pitches represented in this article are similar speeds and locations, how he went about catcher them couldn’t be more different.

He is now able to withstand the force of the pitch with the correct setup and glove path.  He is able to make the same pitch look completely different in the eyes of the umpire.

Because Ryden is working up to the pitch instead of diving down, he is able to work the ball back to the middle of his body. With the last move being upward.

Catching Receiving Picture 3

Notice how in the initial picture on the left the catching arm is locked out and pushing away from the zone. Where on the right the elbow is bent and pulling back to the middle of his body. Just slight changes in how he got to each pitch, allows him to present a pitch in the same location completely differently. 

Slight Adjustments for Major Changes

These changes occurred over the course of 48 hours. These adjustments we made might seem small because they are. However, they lead to massive differences in how he received the ball. Because of this, he is now much more valuable for his team this season.

I have zero doubts that he will be able to steal strikes that lead to outs all season long. There is no better way for a catcher to make themselves more valuable than becoming a better receiver. Catcher’s catch the ball much more than throwing or blocking it, train accordingly.

The Finished Product

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Blocking Drills for Catchers

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Check out three drills you can do with your catchers to help improve their blocking and footwork on balls in the dirt that you can do at home or the field.

One Simple Drill That Will Improve Your Swing Quality Watch any given Major League Baseball game and you are likely to find very different looking swings. The same goes if......

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