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As private instructors, we have an obligation to each one of our clients to provide the resources to be a better hitter, pitcher or fielder. Parents are putting their trust in us to give their children the best possible chance to succeed. We explain to the families immediately in the evaluation process that we expect a lot out of our hitters outside of the facility.
Simply coming for one lesson a week and doing nothing in between won't cut it. We will provide the resources for improvement, but development is truly on the player. For the past year, I have worked with a local hitter named Jack. His family trusted us with his development and the results reviewed in this article are a testament to Jack's hard work and his parents choice to bring him in often.
Jack was a very athletic 12-year-old at the time of his evaluation. He was advanced in his understanding of how he wanted to hit. He understood that he wanted to hit the ball hard and in the air. But didn't always understand how to do it. You can see that Jack gets a lot of early armbar in his swing. He also has too much of a lean back in his turn, which can cause hitters to pop a lot of balls up.
So why do in-person lessons? What are we trying to accomplish? Tyler Zupcic wrote an article on this topic explaining that we strive to "Raise Ceilings". Meaning, we want to take however good a hitter can possibly be and make that just a little better. As explained before, Jack was very talented when we first met. My goal was to take that natural athleticism and turn it into skill. Jack understood he wanted to hit the ball in the air but didn't know how to correctly.
Part of Jack's development was his understanding that to be a great hitter, his barrel accuracy had to improve. As his accuracy improved so would his ability to hit the ball harder (Max Exit Velocity, Blue Squares). By stressing his average exit velocity (Green Squares) in lessons, Jack would, in turn, begin to make better contact, more often.
The images above represent the comparison between Jack's initial evaluation (2018) to a recent lesson on October 3, 2019. Jack has been able to take his initial Max Exit Velocity and turn that into his Average Exit Velocity through an entire year. You can tell by the second picture that represents the distribution of Jack's hits during the session (groundball, fly ball, and line-drive percentages), Jack already hit the ball in the air well. The work we have done has allowed him to continue hitting the ball in the air, yet much harder and more effectively than ever before.
We have written article after article about how we train rotation as a skill. After taking Jack through the movement progression on the Rebel's Rack we attacked his upper body flaws. As you could see in the above GIF, Jack had a tendency to drop his hands in order to get the bat on plane with the pitch. The goal was to show Jack a way to move the bat that allowed for more adjustability as well as a better bat path. Two major drills we used to attack this flaw were the Turn Behind the Turn, as well as Half Turns with a Ball in the Back Elbow.
Both of these drills are great for upper body efficiency. They place constraints on the hitter and force them to keep their hands high during their swing to allow for a better bat path and fewer pop-ups. The ball in the back elbow of the half-turn drill forces the hitter to stay connected to their body's rotation and doesn't allow them to extend their arms too early. If they do decide to reach out and extend their arms, the ball will fall.
To allow for the quickest and most effective results, proper cueing is a must. The drills alone are not going to create the desired result. It is the job of an instructor to properly cue the drills right to maximize improvement. The parents are entrusting their child's development with us, we don't have the opportunity to throw stuff against the wall and hope the hitter "figures it out".
Here are some of the cues we used with Jack:
"Front Elbow Up" - "Turn the Knob to the Ceiling" - "Keep Hands Above Chest/Ball"
While all of these are upper body cues (Jack had good footwork, to begin with) this is what he needed. These cues might not work for every hitter but they are a great place to start with upper body mistakes.
As you can see from the above GIF, Jack's hand path has improved dramatically. Training something as detailed as the hand path in a swing can be tough to track and test. Obviously we used video as well as Hittrax, but there are so many more resources to use to help your hitters understand their own swing.
Jack is a visual learner and the use of Blast Motion's 3D Swing Tracker helped Jack understand how low his hands were getting in the swing. We also were able to track it using the Attack Angle measurement. Jack initially evaluated with a lower Attack Angle because of the loopy hand path. The ability for Jack to improve the consistency of his Attack Angle, allowed Jack to have better barrel awareness. Another measurement we tracked was his Connection Score. The Connection at Impact put a number and score on just how well he kept his hands up in the swing.
“Jack came to BR with wide eyes and a desire to learn and get better. Eric and the entire staff at BR are pro’s pros. Eric combines technical expertise about the baseball swing with a positive approach and personality that truly connects with his students. Not only has Jack made great progress in his swing mechanics and performance, but BR is also one of the highlights of his week”
This article is not a testament to how a couple of drills can make a hitter that much better. This is an article explaining that with trust in the right people and the willingness to work on your craft daily, you can take what was your best result, and make it the norm. Jack has worked incredibly hard this past year and will continue to do so. And while doing so, continue to see his results improve. So whatever your desire is to do with the game of Baseball, are you actively working towards those goals daily? Is what you're training the right thing for you or just some random drill you found on twitter? Hitting until your hands bleed doesn't always mean you're improving. Find the right way to train with the technology to prove it.