UN-CAGE your BP: What Every Coach and Player MUST Know About Hitting in a Batting Cage

Written By: Chas Pippitt

UN-CAGE Your BP:

What Every Coach and Player MUST Know About Hitting in a Batting Cage

One of the Most Common things I hear when I’m watching lessons at another facility (which I used to do all the time…now the local guys know who I am so I can’t) or watching a team hit batting practice in a cage is “hit the ball right back at the screen”.  I hear it at all levels and I see it most when college hitters who we have never worked with come in for their initial evaluations here at Baseball Rebellion. Over and over, I’ll flip them front toss, and it never fails, they hit backside ‘flairs’ and low line drives and ground balls right at the screen.  When I’m sitting on a bucket doing underhand front toss, I usually get about 6 balls out of 10 pitches that would hit me if i didn’t have a screen in front.

This video is of KC Judge, the Director of Performance at Baseball Rebellion, hitting balls to simulate the ‘low and hard’ approach of most college and high school hitters when they come to their evaluations at Baseball Rebellion.

Many coaches reading this, probably think that having players practice ‘working backside’ and hitting the ball ‘low and hard’ is a good idea. I totally get the need for some ‘situational’ hitting rounds to ‘move a guy over’ from 2nd to 3rd or ‘get a guy in’ from 3rd with a grounder to a back infield. They also probably identify with the cues I mentioned before, and love that round of BP that KC just took. I’d imagine these coaches think those ‘low line drives and hard ground balls’ work out into hits lots of the time.  I understand the logic of “there are no bad hops in the air” and making the defense “work” to get an out.  I’ve even heard of coaches punishing players with running for ANY pulled baseballs…even Home Runs!  Surprise…I don’t think that’s smart. Thanks to Hittrax, we now know exactly how high and far certain hits in the batting cage would go on a field. Since we can now see the difference, allowing kids to hit the sides and tops of the cage has improved their on field performance as well as making their lessons much more fun.  It makes sense that practicing hitting grounders and singles ALL THE TIME really limits the damage a hitter can do when they get a hung breaking ball or a fastball middle in.

Think about it: it takes 3 consecutive singles to score a run, but when most coaches think back to big games their teams won, I bet they think back to the doubles and home runs that scored runs in bunches, instead of the many many innings where 2 singles get hit and no runs are put on the board.

Here’s an example of how Harford Junior College, one of the top 8 Juco’s in the nation in Baseball and an extremely powerful lineup, looks at Batting Practice. The Harford Mindset is to crush baseballs no matter if it’s in a cage or on the field. Listen to the confidence in Coach Tom Eller’s voice as well as Daulton Weeks’s voice and listen to how they view hitting batting practice and game hitting in general.  I know if I had these numbers, I’d be super confident as well!

I know I’d want to play for that coach and with those players. They’re empowered by the ability to really practice doing damage within their batting practices. KC Judge will perform the self toss drill. The Self Toss Drill is one of the best drills out there to get a more ‘ferris wheel’ barrel action and activate a powerful Side Bend within the swing.

Hitting Drill: The Self Toss Drill

After KC did a few more reps of the Self Toss Drill, I had him take a “Harford” round of BP…

Now many coaches would say that round of BP wasn’t as good…because KC hit the top of the cage with most of those balls. To be honest, before Baseball Rebellion had a Hittrax, I would have been one of those coaches who would be telling KC to ‘get the ball off the top of the cage’. Now, through the use of their high speed camera tracking ball distance, launch angle and exit speed, I can see how much difference hitting the ball HIGHER in the cage really can have for a hitter’s value for their team.  Here’s the REAL LIVE DATA on KC’s first and 2nd rounds of BP  Round 1 (Low and Hard) is on the left, round 2 (Elevate and Celebrate) is on the right.

Hittrax Data KC Judge

As you can see, KC not only hit 6 more doubles in round 2, but also he batted for a higher batting average.  Not surprisingly, his exit velocities are lower when he hit the ball higher (everyone’s exit velocities are lower when they hit the ball higher) but you can see how much more DAMAGE he did to the opposing team.  Once, I asked Coach Eller about his batting practice rounds and he told me that their first round of Batting Practice at Harford is actually a Home Run Round instead of traditional bunts and hit and runs. Wanna see if it works?  Here’s a poor soul’s windshield who parked outside the stadium at the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction.  This car was 460 feet away from home plate…courtesy of Daulton Weeks…Daulton Weeks Home Run, Broken Windshield, JUCO world Series, Harford Baseball, Power Hitting

I have written my last 3 articles using the Hittrax, and I do dozens and dozens of lesson a week using this product. Honestly, I think it’s the most important measurement tool a baseball or softball facility can have on the market today. Without it, I’d still be telling Spencer Smith and Grace Sherron to hit the ball lower than the top of the cage…and I know they wouldn’t have had the incredible seasons that they had without the staff at Baseball Rebellion learning the truth about hitting in a cage. Grace and Spencer were both Conference Players of the Year and we’re waiting for their all state nods to happen as well.  Both are committed D1 and both are excellent students of the game.  Since they’ve started to hit the ball HIGHER in the cage, thanks to Hittrax removing the negative stigma that cage ‘pop ups’ can have, we now use all sides of our batting cage nets with all of our players to great success.

Spencer Smith w his awards

Spencer Smith, Team MVP, All Conference, Unanimous Conference Player of the Year

Grace Sherron CPOY

Grace Sherron, Conference Player of the Year

– Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion

I also wanted to include this last video of KC hitting 100mph with wood for the first time in his life.  I did say that he couldn’t do it…and I was wrong.  KC never, to my knowledge, hit a ball over 100 mph as a player or while I was training him.  It really was cool that he hit 100.  I was pumped for him when he did it…I just couldn’t show it and give him that gratification.  HA

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coachbrown1978
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coachbrown1978

Chas, I have just completed my first year as hitting coach at a AAA high school in Louisiana. I tracked every ball in play this year and graded it based on angle off the bat, the distance it went and if we reached safely. We put right at 700 balls in play. All balls that left the bat at 0 degrees and up resulted in 46% reaching base. All down angles resulted in 40% at reaching safely. I wanted to really identify if air balls were as easily put out as is thought. I have to say that when I… Read more »

Wesley A Kring
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Wesley A Kring

Another interesting, helpful article. Thanks!

And I appreciate Coach B’s comment. His idea for HitTrax for high schools on a tight budget (i.e., a string across the cage) … really great!

Ethan Curtis
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Ethan Curtis

So he hit the ball high by using a steeper side bend angle at contact?

MS
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MS

Anybody who played tee ball knows that you have to hit the ball in the air to hit a home run. Figured that out when I was five, so it baffles me when I hear about people talking about hitting ground balls. Honestly, isn’t the whole point of hitting to hit the ball over the fence / hit a home run? Thats what I always though growing up. My mom actually encourage it! I’ll get off my soap box, but in terms of launch angles and exit velo, generally balls on the ground are hit harder but result in more… Read more »