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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?
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.
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.
— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) May 1, 2019
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
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.
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.
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.