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Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor Tyler Zupcic came to me with a throwing problem. He was complaining about shoulder pain, that had now moved down to his below and forearm, as he kept throwing batting practice in his lessons. One day out of the blue he showed up to work with an odd black and blue mark on the inside of his throwing elbow. He asked me to watch him throw and see if there was anything mechanically I could help him with.
I immediately saw the reasons for his arm troubles. Tyler was an outfielder at Appalachian State where he never experienced arm pain but had a long arm swing with a big stride. When throwing BP behind an L screen it is not the same timing of arm swing to stride. What that means is when a thrower’s front foot hits the arm position should be 90 degrees cocked behind the head. The reason this position is important is that the upper body is able to rotate the shoulder more direct to the target instead of horizontal. (Check out an article on why Horizontal Rotation is bad and drills to correct it. https://baseballrebellion.com/dshinskie15/how-to-stop-kids-from-throwing-sidearm/ ) You can see in the picture below the position of his arm at front foot strike is at 0 degrees.
As you can see from the picture above, the ball did not get above his elbow before his foot is firmly in the ground. This is the culprit of his pain. The forearm cannot get to safe external rotation when in this position. As he moves into the throw his forearm drags behind body rotation, which causes stress on the elbow. He gradually increased his arm action by focusing pre-throw on one simple thing and then executing the task. He increased on day 2 to about 60 degrees seen in the picture below.
After day 2 he started to grasp the concept and the feeling of timing up his arm swing with the front leg. With a simple cue of feeling his arm get to 9o degrees behind his head, Tyler was able to relax more and allow his arm to safely wipe. Again the reason I wanted him to get to this position, is because the arm is more supported. By Tyler using more of his body as he is rotating his shoulders at the target, his arm is in a more supported position. What I mean by “supported” is that the arm can move safely and freely with the body to cause less stress on the small muscles in the elbow and shoulder. When the arm is in a supported position, he is able to throw more consistently and safely.
After day 3 you can significantly see the difference in where the arm is positioned as his front foot hits. After we fixed his arm action Tyler instantly was able to throw harder, more accurately and with no pain to his clients. Although this was obviously a must fix for Tyler because of our profession here at Baseball Rebellion. Parents and coaches can make these simple cues to help throw more pain-free and more accurate batting practice for their kids and teams. Here is a video of the difference from day 1 to day 3.
As professional hitting instructors we are always looking for different things to use to help make our hitters better, more efficient, and have a deeper understanding of their swing. One of the products we use on a daily basis here at Baseball Rebellion is the FollowThru Training Bat, which is a weighted training bat this is designed to something very different from what we use it for (to see more about the FollowThru bat and how its designed click here).
The purpose of the product is to have the hitter feel and hear the ‘click’ of the metal rod that is placed inside the bat at the point of contact, forcing the hitter to have a direct, down or level path to the ball. Here is a video showing the way the product is intended to be used:
If you have been following our company you know that is not the bat path we want our hitters to have at Baseball Rebellion. With that said, all hitting instructors have one common goal and that is to get their hitters to develop and generate bat speed. The training bat is a great tool to help the hitter feel the barrel working backward towards the catcher first to help achieve the fast, upward swing plane that we desire. To get the hitter to feel what efficient barrel path is they must feel the ‘click’ of the metal rod back behind them instead of out in front of them. It helps the hitter feel the initial move of the barrel as well as helps teach them the proper hand pivot to turn the barrel around the knob with extreme speed. The weight of the bat is also a great feature because it forces the hitter to keep the weight of the bat up by turning with their hands high.
You can take full swings and hit with the FollowThru bat but we rarely do that. We use it most when only practicing the movement patterns through half turns. Even though we use it differently than its intended use, it is an excellent product to help hitters generate early bat speed and turn the bat with extreme efficiency.
Here is an in-lesson look at myself explaining and demonstrating the way Baseball Rebellion uses the FollowThru bat:
Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor JK Whited takes everyone through the first installment of his whiteboard series. During JK’s whiteboard talk, he goes over:
Seen above, the countdown drill is used to teach a hitter to be quick to the ball as well as be able to adjust to different timings. The thought behind this drill is if a hitter is able to square a ball up with a very short amount of reaction time, they will be able to adjust to different pitches better. The problem with this drill is that it doesn’t allow for a realistic pitch angle. With the coach or instructor dropping the ball from straight above, it doesn’t allow the hitter to adjust to the plane of the pitch.
A drill that you could implement instead of the countdown drill is the Rebel’s Rack Timing Drills. This allows a hitter to time their turn to certain pitches as well as giving them a realistic pitch plane to see.
Tweet the link at us and we can talk about it!
Hitting a low and inside pitch is really really hard. Many right-handed hitters have even more trouble with this as most breaking pitches break away from them and in towards the left-handed batter’s box. Something we do at Baseball Rebellion to make sure our hitters can get their bodies in position to drive the low and inside pitch is the launch angle tee noodle drill.
First, we use the Rebel’s Rack to feel a flat turn (which is how you hit a high pitch and how we start our learning to turn process). Then, you add the Launch Angle Tee with the pool noodle as a barrier to go ‘under’ with your back shoulder and the Rebel’s Rack. Sometimes, hitters need a longer instrument to ‘see’ their hip hinge and side bend working so we use a dowel rod or a broomstick. Using the Launch Angle Tee’s angle as a guide, turn your body so the dowel rod works under the noodle and complete the turn as normal. Lastly, we take full swings, with no ball at first to feel the hip hinge and side bend that the best players in the world use to crush low and inside pitches. You can use another tee to hit balls under the noodle, or, if you have a great tossed (like the guys here at Baseball Rebellion) you can hit a moving ball either in front toss or batting practice with the noodle still in place.
The Launch Angle Tee Noodle Drill will dramatically help your range of motion inside your turn and make it effortless to get your body in position to smash low and inside pitches and ruin pitcher’s days.
One of the most overlooked plays in baseball is the relay play to throw a runner out at home trying to score from first base on a ball hit into the gap. You see it so many times in world series highlights and that single play happens to be one of the most important plays of the series. While it is worked on tirelessly at the youth and high school level I don’t see it done properly or as efficiently as it should be.
Once the ball makes its way to the wall here are all the things that must happen all before that runner on first runs 270-feet (90-foot bases):
Remember, all of that has to happen in 10-11.5 seconds (average time from contact of the ball to tag at the plate in MLB on plays at the plate on 20 different relays from the 2018 season) which takes precision and efficiency from all players involved.
The outfielder is the one who starts the relay, the outcome of the play usually is directly correlated to how quickly they can get the ball off the ground and into the infielder’s glove. A good rule of thumb to tell your players is that, on average, every step the outfielder takes with the ball in his hand, the base runner will be two to three steps closer to home. Efficiency in your movements is important!
Two years ago I was invited to travel to Stuttgart, Germany to coach at a baseball camp from an assistant coach of mine at UNC Asheville. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so at the time but when I was asked again, I jumped at the opportunity. The coach who invited was really excited about what I and Baseball Rebellion could bring to the kids over there, especially in the hitting department. He and I had already been back and forth for years about the “best” way to swing a bat and he really took a hold of the information and used it at his high school where he coaches. Once he saw the results, he knew we would be a great fit in their camp setting. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into but I was excited to tackle a new challenge.
On Tuesday, July 31st I sat out on a trip to Stuttgart, Germany. I took a plane from Durham NC up to Newark New Jersey. From there I took a 6-hour flight to Dublin, Ireland. Following that flight, I hopped on another to Frankfurt, Germany. Then finally an hour-long train ride into Stuttgart Germany. Needless to say, I was exhausted before even arriving in Germany. It was only my second time out of the country but never had I ever traveled so far or jumped into such a drastic timezone difference. I could barely see straight. All for what you might ask? To do something that I have done thousands of times before, to teach baseball and more specifically teach hitting. But this time it was a little different. This time, the families were military and the appreciation I felt that weekend as an American and from the kids was like no other experience I had ever had before.
This camp all started with two guys who met while one was working in Tallahassee as a government contractor and one was an FSU assistant baseball coach. The FSU coach was helping his son out with his swing and from that blossomed a very funny but very important relationship. What started out as a 10 player camp in Hawaii, grew to over 50 and jumped the pond over to Germany. The goal was simple: Let’s get great coaches and people out in front of these kids and give them the best information possible. Perhaps for some of the players, give them the chance or guidance to play at the collegiate level.
I had never been to Europe before and this would only be my second time ever out of the country. Needless to say, I was excited to see what it was like. Once we were there, we were able to spend some time doing a few things around Stuttgart and the surrounding areas. We had arrangements to visit a few of the military bases where we had to privilege to meet some incredible men and women who have served our country for years and continue to do so. We actually got to sit down with a three-star General who gave us a rundown on their responsibilities and operations all over the world. I, unfortunately, was not allowed to take any pictures but I’ll just say that those men and women are some of the coolest and most bada** people I have and probably will ever meet.
We made one stop here at Castle Solitude which belonged to Duke Charles Eugene.
Not only was the local history great, the food and hospitality were on another level. Don’t worry, we were well fed! I had THE BEST tiramisu I have ever had.
The people over there were so kind and welcoming that I hope to make it back and see them again. They welcomed us like old friends and we had a wonderful time experiencing so many new things. I can not thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship.
But back to the reason why were went all that way, the kids. We sometimes forget that it’s not just the unbelievable moms and dads who serve in the military that make sacrifices. These kids often times have to move to different cities, states, and countries multiple times throughout their childhood. They understand what their families are doing for their country but it has to be very difficult for them just the same. And just like a lot of kids living in the U.S., these kids love sports and love baseball. Unfortunately, the ability to just find a baseball coach or instructor in foreign countries anywhere is tough to do. There many very dedicated dads and coaches who work tirelessly to make sure these boys and girls have teams and coaches every year and they do an amazing job but the information is limited. So any time someone like myself or any of the great college and high school coaches can spend time with these kids, they are very appreciative. We had kids coming from all over Stuttgart and the various bases around the area. Families and players were coming from bases as far as two hours away.
Each day started with a great warm-up and stretch routine, followed by a very specific throwing routine.
After the warm-up and throwing program, the mornings were used primarily for defense. During the time of the day, I was able to work with all the catchers. These guys were awesome. They listening, asked question, and definitely were not afraid of getting beat up a little back there.
After we broke from lunch every day, it was time to hit! On the first day of camp, I gave a 45 min talk about hitting and how we at the Baseball Rebellion teach our students. Needless to say, most of the kids and their parents were taken aback a little bit that I hated the word “hands” and that we were going to eliminate them from our vocabulary that weekend. There were some older guys that were aware of the trend over here in the States but most still believed in some common myths about hitting. I was extremely excited to bring these new ideas to the players and see how they took it.
Once the demonstration was over I took them all to the outfield, put them in a giant circle, and got them moving. We had their bats were on elbows and the focus was on using their body’s biggest and most powerful muscles. They might have been a little apprehensive at first but once they started feeling their bodies in more athletic and explosive positions, they began to really dive in. Some of the little guys were the best at it.
These guys were especially excited when we started the turn battles!
Once we got the body moving properly it was time to hit. I brought over a few of our Launch Angle Tees for the kids to have. The players and their parents thought the Launch Angle Tee was crazy but by the end of it really understood the value of it and how it worked.
In Germany and other military bases around the world, these kids get what they get. They have little leagues and high schools but the facilities, information, and the competition is limited. If they are lucky these leagues will have a dad or coach who played in high school or even sometimes beyond but that seems to be rare. They do have internet where some of them actually had seen our stuff before on Twitter, Instagram, and so forth which was really cool. Most of the time they only have dedicated parents who do their best to help out. But they often have to move a lot and usually over long distances so the consistency of information is not there. Regardless, they love baseball and want to be great just like kids here in the U.S., in some cases they want it even more.
As we do every day at the Baseball Rebellion, I know that I was able to show these kids and parents that there is a best way to use your body to swing a bat. We might not all be physically capable of the same things but we can all be the best version of yourself. More importantly, though, I wanted the kids to start believing in themselves. Without intent and belief, the swing will never work. I wanted these kids to understand like our kids do here in the states, that just making contact and putting the ball in play is flat out just not good enough. They are all better than that, and I hope that they continue to use the movements I showed them. I am looking forward to seeing a few that will actually be making a trip to see us when they come back the U.S. sometime this fall!
At the end of the day, I think every coach that made the journey last weekend would say that the mission was accomplished. We were able to show the kids new techniques and ideas. We also had a great question and answer period for any older players looking to play at the next level. Some of our college coaches that were there did a fantastic job of answering their questions to the point and truthfully. There are so many great universities at all level here in the U.S. and I think some have the ability to find their place when it’s their time to decide.
I have been incredibly lucky throughout my life. Baseball has done so much for me and has taken me many places and I have made great friends along the way. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt to have been on that trip and meet so many great people. The kids, parents, military personnel, and coaches I met were all fantastic and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. I hope I get the chance to go out there again next year and continue to bring the latest with me. There are so many wonderful families over there doing what they do for us. I feel very honored to have helped their children out even for just a little while and hope to do so again someday. I couldn’t possibly say it enough but, Thank You.
Here is a list of three very popular hitting myths in baseball and softball. Obviously, these myths are completely subjective as there many hitting myths out there. These three myths have been proven to be completely false either by science or comparative video. If you have been in the baseball/softball world for enough time you have certainly come across one or two of these myths, from either an instructor or coach. Hopefully, this article can help open your eyes to some of the common myths or phrases used in hitting.
Any golfers out there? If so, how many of you would agree that a pitching wedge creates more backspin than a driver? Probably most of you would agree, so why don’t we hit wedges off the tee box? The answer is because backspin doesn’t exactly equal more distance. Too many coaches talk about creating backspin on the baseball, so much so that the swing centered only around creating it. Here is a classic example.
This video demonstrates one of my favorite players of all time talking about how he THOUGHT about creating power. While this may be how Chipper thought he swung, we can all see through video, it’s just not true. I would rather teach hitters what is actually happening than a thought that may lead to the right mechanics. Developing swing mechanics that focus solely on creating backspin will set the player up for a lot of frustration. To be clear, topspin is certainly not what we want either but let’s look at the facts. While backspin on the ball is a component of the ball traveling far, force generation (bat speed) and bat path are much more important factors in creating consistent power. Here is an example of an optimal swing path, which if struck correctly will create some backspin but most importantly it will efficiently transfer energy at the correct launch angle.
In the following graph, you can see the visual correlation in backspin and distance.
For more information on backspin, please follow this link to Fangraphs website.
I think in this case most softball enthusiasts would say the swings are different because the game of softball is different. Honestly, I can’t really wrap my head around that thought. So many girls are held back because of the fact that they are girls and not guys. The truth of the matter is that any girl who plays competitive softball is fully capable of taking what is considered a “high-level swing”. The fact that they are girls is a non-issue, and in many cases, females are more capable of achieving the movements in a high-level swing.
In 2013, fellow Baseball Rebellion instructor JK Whited wrote an article that touched on how girls are taught in today’s “softball culture”. He spoke on the fact that he believes on average girls seem to be taught much more slappy, tricky, run first, hit second type of swings, especially the undersized girls. This type of teaching grossly limits girls when they are capable of so much more. I often talk with the softball hitters I work with about taking off the “Chains” put on them by coaches who see them as not good enough to perform a high-level swing. Are they unable to perform high-level moves because they aren’t good enough? Or, are they not good enough because they don’t perform high-level swing mechanics. It is most frustrating working with a 10u softball player that has already been limited in what she can do based on her size at ten years old. Teach what provides the highest ceiling for that player’s career because the fact is, no one knows how she will develop. In the end, it is unfair to the girl to limit her development.
Anyway, there are so many great examples out there of how good girls can be. Regardless if you are a boy or girl, generating force and creating an optimal bat path are executed the same way. Here you can see Georgia standout Alex Hugo moves almost exactly the same as superstar Edwin Encarnacion of the Cleveland Indians.
Just like her Major League counterpart, Alex Hugo’s can move and operate her body the same way the most powerful baseball players can. Will she hit it as far? Of course not, but she doesn’t have to.
Let’s not also forget the upward swing plane of a good softball swing. Regardless of what you might think, the softball fastball peaks and drops down to the catcher’s mitt. Just like a baseball player, girls should work towards executing a nice upward bat path to match the downward pitch angle. This, of course, will give the softball player a much higher percentage of quality contact as well as deliver a head-on strike of the ball. Here is a great example of an upward swing from a softball player.
(Gabe Dimock actually wrote a great article as well on this myth last year)
The fear of striking out is at the root of almost all young hitter’s problems. It is viewed as the single worst thing you can do in baseball in the mind of the young hitter. Too often coaches/parents are so negative towards striking out that when their player ultimately does, the child sees the disappointment in the coaches face. The player will do anything they have to do in order to NOT strikeout, thus creating weak-minded, slow swings that in turn, lead to more strikeouts. If more strikeouts in a random 12u weekend tournament lead to a players success when it actually matters, sign me up for all the strikeouts.
The simple truth is that striking out more does not have to be followed by lower batting averages and poor performances. When a player is offensive minded and takes aggressive swings at the plate, the chances for better success such as doubles, triples, and home runs become a possibility. While the fear-based swing can only be followed by limited success such as a weak single. The up-side to being aggressive is so much higher, while the downside remains the same, just an out. Those who conquer this fear have a substantially higher chance of success.
With pitchers becoming better than ever before, the strikeout rates have hit an all-time high. While strikeouts are up, so are league-wide runs scored, slugging, and OPS. I’m not saying there aren’t times where putting the ball in play is absolutely necessary. What I’m saying is when it is time to let the hitter loose, let them loose with no fear of striking out. After all, it is just one out. The risk of striking out more comes with the territory of being more successful and you have to be willing to go there. The reward is well worth the risk!
Eric Tyler – Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor