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Imagine this: You're headed to the field after struggling again in your last game. You've hit and hit and hit, and yet, your coach says you're still 'pulling off'. 'Roll-overs' are happening over and over and you keep 'just missing' the ball. Right now, it's just you, a tee, and a bucket of balls trying to figure it out and break the slide. The problem is, this is how you've always tried to break out of a slump, but this time is different. You keep working on getting more 'extension' but it's just not translating to the game. What if I told you that you have a great tool to achieve optimal extension in the swing? And, what if I told you it's not the bat, the balls, or the tee
When you look at the top of a bucket, what do you see? A seat? A table? Honestly, I see a seat mostly, but I also see a training tool. When used properly, that simple bucket lid can be used as a frisbee. Pick that 'frisbee' up and try a two-handed frisbee throw. That move is one of the most effective ways to train extension and direction in the swing.
Extension is a hitting term that refers to the arms straightening out after contact of the ball. Often, extension work involves a lot of knob pushing and is not generally the best way to practice hitting. However, having natural extension in the swing keeps the bat head in the zone longer and allows for more contact points and a greater margin for error. Below you will see a gif of Eric demonstrating proper extension off a tee.
Extension only matters if the direction of the barrel is good. Lots of the same movements and cues work for all fields, which is nice. One thing to be aware of is the distance and height of the frisbee flight. You want an upward trajectory, especially on the pull side frisbee throw, as that's most players power side. The upward trajectory will match the intended attack angle of the bat entering the zone for a powerful extra-base hit. See the gif below for a demo of the pull side frisbee throw. You can also see a demo of a pull side rollover frisbee throw. Please note that I angled my body so I could see the flight of the frisbee down the length of the cage instead of hitting the side net. This allows me to see if I rolled over like the second gif or if I get a true straight flight of the frisbee. Straight flight indicates proper palm up palm down extension.
Working 'up the middle' is something all players must be able to do. Honestly, this accuracy based skill keeps most coaches happy, and therefore, allows players to swing how they want. Mostly, I say a 'quiet coach is a happy coach'. If a coach just says 'good' when you hit, you get to keep hitting. Now, this frisbee flight is more specific to the player than the pull side throw. If you're a power player, throw it high and far. If you are more of a gap to gap hitter, throw it fast and lower than the power hitter. Singles hitters: throw low and fast, maybe no higher than the top of the cage to maximize their results.
Opposite field frisbee throws are tough. They have the least margin for error and require the most focus of all the directions. This is due to the early acceleration of the frisbee and early release as well. Just like an outside pitch when hitting, you have the most chances to roll over or pull off the frisbee throw. All players, regardless of power, should throw the outside pitch frisbee low or lower than their centerfield throw. Any top had wrist pronation (pushing over the top of the bottom hand with the top hand) kills the direction and extension to the opposite field. It is super important to maintain your palm up/palm down position through the throw. As you can see in my demonstrations below when I stay palm-up-palm-down through the throw the frisbee goes straight. Conversely, when I push over the top with my top hand (pronate), the frisbee flops down into the ground. Pitchers throw outside for a reason, it's hard to maintain that direction of the barrel. Taking the timing aspect out of it, just the barrel direction gives hitters fits. Again, I have angled my body to see better frisbee flight. I strongly recommend this, not only when doing frisbee throws, but when practicing inside and outside pitches off a tee. Ball flight and frisbee flight tells you a lot about your movements and extension if a hittrax, field, or video is not available.
Mastering the two hand frisbee throw will help with barrel direction, power, and extension in the swing. Focus on your hands staying palm up/palm down through the extension of the throw. The better your turn the bucket top/frisbee and get to palm up/palm down, the better your swing will be. Throw the frisbee with speed and quickness. Try to throw it fast and far. I recently wrote an article about the wrist and forearm movement that goes along with this quite well. Use both of these articles together to get your bat flying through the zone. You'll be glad you did. And hey, maybe you'll pick up FROLF (Frisbee Golf) as a new activity.