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  • Hitting Instruction for Young Players

    Hi guys,

    I have been following the hitting thread and decided to start another thread with a different twist.
    The question: Do we teach 9-12 year olds how to hit the same way we teach players high school age and older?

    Looking at some of the graphics supplied on the hitting thread reminds me that we in baseball seemed to have moved away from a hitting the ball down mentality to a hit it long mentality. Essentially a swing with a downward moving plane versus one that swings off parallel at 20-45 degrees.

    I have had this question raised many times in the clinics I run and have always advocated an inside swing, hitting down on the ball. I feel the homerun kings should be developed later.

    Any thoughts?
    "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
    - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
    Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

  • #2
    Guess before I post anything I should check out the other thread. But since I'm being lazy I'll go ahead. One of the coaches at the local high school put on a clinic for 7-13 year olds a few weeks ago and used an analogy that was great. The station was set up with the ball on a hitting T. There was a second T about 1.5 feet behind the T with ball and the second T was elevated higher so that the kids had to swing at a downward angle. He used the analogy of landing a plane, which with small kids was something they could relate to. I thought it would be neat to attach some kind of toy air plane to the end of a dow rod and the kids could get a good visual representation as to what the swing should look like.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Jake Patterson
      Hi guys,

      I have been following the hitting thread and decided to start another thread with a different twist.
      The question: Do we teach 9-12 year olds how to hit the same way we teach players high school age and older?

      Looking at some of the graphics supplied on the hitting thread reminds me that we in baseball seemed to have moved away from a hitting the ball down mentality to a hit it long mentality. Essentially a swing with a downward moving plane versus one that swings off parallel at 20-45 degrees.

      I have had this question raised many times in the clinics I run and have always advocated an inside swing, hitting down on the ball. I feel the homerun kings should be developed later.

      Any thoughts?
      You're under the misconception that not swinging down, means swing for the fences. Why would you want to swing down? You either miss the ball, hit a grounder, or pop up.

      Pitchers want you to hit the ball on the ground, so why would you accomodate them?

      The swing I teach doesn't teach you to try to hit the ball over the fence, it allows you the best chance to hit the ball, and hit it hard, and if you have enough strength, a ball hit well might go out. I teach the swing that Barry Bonds uses and he hits grounders, line drives and pop ups more often than he hits home runs. Why do you think teaching his swing is incorrect? He doesn't swing down.

      Ted Williams said that he tried to hit every ball in the air, yet he still hit at least half of his batted balls on the ground.

      Swinging down almost guarantees failure, swinging like all the guys I showed in the photos I posted, allows you to hit the ball consistently and hit it hard, but it doesn't mean it always goes on a HR trajectory.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by tadlock11
        Guess before I post anything I should check out the other thread. But since I'm being lazy I'll go ahead. One of the coaches at the local high school put on a clinic for 7-13 year olds a few weeks ago and used an analogy that was great. The station was set up with the ball on a hitting T. There was a second T about 1.5 feet behind the T with ball and the second T was elevated higher so that the kids had to swing at a downward angle. He used the analogy of landing a plane, which with small kids was something they could relate to. I thought it would be neat to attach some kind of toy air plane to the end of a dow rod and the kids could get a good visual representation as to what the swing should look like.
        That almost guarantees failure. That is the worst dang drill in baseball. Nobody in pro ball swings like that. That is the Charlie Lau/Dave Hudgens type of swing that guarantees a low batting average and no HR's.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jbooth
          That almost guarantees failure. That is the worst dang drill in baseball. Nobody in pro ball swings like that. That is the Charlie Lau/Dave Hudgens type of swing that guarantees a low batting average and no HR's.
          I agree. But what do you do for a kid that has a serious loop in his swing and his hands drop befor he swings?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by hiddengem
            I agree. But what do you do for a kid that has a serious loop in his swing and his hands drop befor he swings?
            \

            Tell him to keep his hands near his armpit and just turn his shoulders to move the bat. Tilt the spine so the head is toward the plate and turn the shoulders. The back shoulder will move down as you rotate, and the hands will move in unison with the shoulder. You have to get kids to understand that they don't swing the bat with their arms. Yes, the arms and hands are involved, but the swing has to START with the hips and shoulders. The hands must NOT be the first thing to move.

            As Yogi Berra supposedly said;

            a rookie says to Yogi,

            "Yogi I keep dropping my hands when I swing. What should I do?"

            Yogi replied; "Stop dropping your hands when you swing."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jbooth
              \

              Tell him to keep his hands near his armpit and just turn his shoulders to move the bat. Tilt the spine so the head is toward the plate and turn the shoulders. The back shoulder will move down as you rotate, and the hands will move in unison with the shoulder. You have to get kids to understand that they don't swing the bat with their arms. Yes, the arms and hands are involved, but the swing has to START with the hips and shoulders. The hands must NOT be the first thing to move.

              As Yogi Berra supposedly said;

              a rookie says to Yogi,

              "Yogi I keep dropping my hands when I swing. What should I do?"

              Yogi replied; "Stop dropping your hands when you swing."
              Makes sense.

              Comment


              • #8
                the same swing!

                I'd absolutely recommend teaching the same swing at any age. The instructional method will differ but the same basic swing should be taught, IMO. Emphasis on the items Jim listed, plus intent (hit the ball hard) as well as making sure you watch mechanics closely for some of the bigger common problems which occur - the looping swing plane, too much arm/hand action, bat drag, hip slide.

                Jake, why you would want to teach young kids to swing differently than older ones? Is there some benefit you can see to doing that?

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think Jim's points were very good. Only thing I'd add is a (hopefully) clarifying point to this comment (not sure if he agrees or not):

                  The back shoulder will move down as you rotate, and the hands will move in unison with the shoulder.
                  I'd say the rear shoulder will move downward as a side-effect of rotating while tilted over the plate... there is no active shoulder drop. So on a high pitch, little or no shoulder drop occurs at all because there is little or no tilt. Not sure if this is any clearer... but hoping to avoid the teeter-totter of dropping the rear shoulder and incorrect swing plane for a high pitch.

                  HG has a good point about kids and their looping swings. See it a lot. Personally I've found the thing that works the best is an explanation/demonstration to them showing that there is no looping/uppercutting in a good swing. Depending on their age you have to figure out how to explain it - might be using a stick across the chest as they turn, might be walking through video of a good hitter for a kid that's a little younger, something like the animated swing plane posted in the other swing thread, etc. Somehow they have to get a true mental image of what their swing is really supposed to look like. (Important in the other areas as well... staying connected, the contact point, etc.) One thing that usually indicates to me that younger kids "understand" what they need to do is that they can show you the the proper motion at a slow speed.
                  Last edited by hit-it-hard; 01-04-2006, 10:56 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Jake, IMHO, one of the most important things that you can do for young hitters is to increase the time that the bat is in the same path that the ball is traveling through, so if the kid's timing is off, he'll still make some contact. A pitched ball will descend when it comes to the plate at a 15 to 25 degree downward angle, depending on pitch speed. If the kid swings down, he either meets the pitch at the exact spot where the bat/ball trajectories meet, or he misses it. If he swings slightly up, he still has a good sized zone where even a mistimed swing will "get good wood".

                    With a slight uppercut, a topped ball will at least get a lot of topspin and maybe skip past the infielders or zip over their heads and then die in front of the outfielders, like a good Bjorn Borg topspin netskimming forehand. If he gets under it, maybe all that backspin will give the ball enough carry to cause some trouble. On the other hand, it drives me nuts to see some kids (and my son sometime has been one of 'em) swing down on the ball and meet it on the bat's sweet spot but just under the center of the ball. The hit looks nice, but the shortstop backs up five steps and hauls in the little looper.

                    Here's an example from my son's team last spring, during the playoffs. The 11 year old hitter hadn't had an extra base hit all year. On a decent fastball high/inside but a strike -- and you can track its slightly downward path by following the yellow arrow -- the boy turned on it and got just a hair under it. If he'd been swinging downward with that kind of contact, he would have hit a soft liner to shortop. But, by matching the ball's incoming path, his trajectory and the backspin put the ball in the eggplant beyond the left field wall.


                    I think coaches advocating downswings are trying to deal with kids up uppercut and pull their heads off the ball. I say, deal with that problem, not the swing itself.

                    One reason that kids drop their hands is in fact out of a desire to start the swing in a level path to make sure they'll sweep through the ball at some point. Unfortunately, the get no power and, relying on their hands, can't get up to a high strike and can't get around on a fast pitch. There are a zillion drills to reinforce their need to go directly from their launch position toward the ball. One I like (as does Ripken, I recently read) is to force kids to practice their swing using just their bottom hand. (They can rest the bat handle on their upper arm's bicep, if need be.) If they hitch (i.e., drop their hands) or otherwise rely on their hands too much, they'll barely get the bat around and the side of their bottom hand will hurt. But, if they use their hips, middle and shoulder to start the swing, at the end of the swing the bat will take off on it's own with little or no need for the bottom hand to do anything. JBooth demonstrates the principle with this little gizmo.

                    It's good to see JBooth pull himself out of his rocker to address this. I swear, Jim can be in the woods forty miles from a computer, but by gum if someone posts a hitting idea that sounds remotely like a Lau/Hudgens technique, Jim'll detect it like Lassie sniffing out a forest fire and come out to wrestle the idea to the ground. He's been very successful with young hitters and knows his shi... er ... stuff.
                    Last edited by Ursa Major; 01-05-2006, 01:25 AM.
                    sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by hit-it-hard
                      Jake, why you would want to teach young kids to swing differently than older ones? Is there some benefit you can see to doing that?
                      Younger kids are being taught the basics of the swing, i.e. proper grip, stance, load, head position, bat angle, etc. Older kids are typically taught the finer points of the swing. Building blocks. It would be fruitless to film and analyze a player at the T-ball level while it's a pretty common practice at the high school level.

                      I may have not stated my case well. Downward swing may be the wrong choice of words. I worked this past year with several batting instructors, one was Andy Walker (Former hitting instructor for the New Jersey Jackels) the other Chip Plante (14 years in college ball and now coaches for the Worcester Tornadoes -Can Am League - similar to AA).
                      We spent a great deal of time getting the bat to the hit zone without taking an outside route. A major problem we have had with young kids is dropping the back shoulder extending the arms allowing the bat to take a long outside swipe at the ball. Many of the kids we had at the clinic felt this was ok as this was the way "Manny swings." We all know its not.

                      We teach getting the bat down, through and up. A key teaching point used with young batters is driving the knob of the bat down to keep the swing compact, thus avoiding the long outside route. If you were to put a bat at your belly button and stand facing a fence or screen and then set up to swing, the batter would be able to swing without hitting the fence. I have a clip of this but it's too big for this format. send me an email and I'll attach.
                      "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                      - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                      Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jbooth
                        Yes, the arms and hands are involved, but the swing has to START with the hips and shoulders. The hands must NOT be the first thing to move.
                        Hi JB - I agree with the above.
                        "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                        - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                        Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jake Patterson

                          We teach getting the bat down, through and up.
                          You need to explain this one. It defies the laws of physics unless I don't understand what you mean.

                          A key teaching point used with young batters is driving the knob of the bat down to keep the swing compact, thus avoiding the long outside route.
                          Drive the knob down to where? And how? And why?

                          The knob should move from back shoulder to front shoulder on a line that is parallel to the tilt angle of the shoulders.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Guys check out this clip.Is it me or does Barry drop his hands before anything happens? the lattter part of the vid shows it a little better


                            http://www.youthbaseballcoaching.com/mpg/Bonds12.mpeg

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jbooth
                              That almost guarantees failure. That is the worst dang drill in baseball. Nobody in pro ball swings like that. That is the Charlie Lau/Dave Hudgens type of swing that guarantees a low batting average and no HR's.
                              Maybe I didn't go into enough detail but definately don't know about Charlie Lau/Dave Hudgens (please do inform me!)
                              The second T is elevated just slightly above where the ball is placed. This, I believe, is to prevent the hitter from looping his swing (extending arms). The airplane analogy was to land the plane (the back elbow staying in "V"), hit the ball where it's pitched and follow through.
                              After looking through your diagram on the other thread, this looks very much like what the coach was trying to teach.
                              After a few years of being on multiple baseball/hitting forums, I've realized the biggest problem is terminology. I've seen others and myself included, know what I'm trying to say but it comes across different in writing. A great advantage is the graphics and diagrams that some coaches have the talent to design. Those are great and I'm more of a show me don't tell me type person anyhow.
                              Thanks for the input.

                              Comment

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