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From the Batting Cage to the Field...

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  • From the Batting Cage to the Field...

    A concerned dad needs help. My son currently plays on a 10-Under USSSA travel baseball team. He loves baseball and can't seem to get enough. While I consider myself knowledgeble of the game, my ability to teach hitting techniques is limited. Up until this point, my son has always been a good hitter. Now, faced with increasingly better competition, his average has started to fall considerably. I get him to the batting cages as often as possible (about twice a week) and he hits consistently. We do some soft toss in the backyard with wiffle balls, and we do some work off of the tee.

    The problem is that he seems to hit very well in the cages at tournament time prior to games, but during the game, he doesn't make very good contact. Every thing that he hits seems to be either off of the handle, or off of the end of the bat. He rarely strikes out, but his contact isn't solid like it is in the cage. I'm open to any suggestions or tips as to how I can help him. He absolutely eats, drinks, and sleeps baseball so I want to provide him all of the help that I can. He is willing to do anything that will make him better.

    Any advice is appreciated.

  • #2
    I think you should do more tee hitting. Also, you can get a rope and tie it around his waist. Then, you stand about 5-6 feet away with the other end of the rope. You should be at a slight back angle. If he drops his back elbow, his bat hits the rope. This might improve his swing. After a while, it will become muscle memory.

    I hope this illustration will help.(the blue is the rope)
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Gashouse6; 02-20-2006, 04:10 PM.
    St. Louis Cardinals BBFTG Website


    • #3
      Yeah but he said it's either off the handle (which means he isn't getting his hands around fast enough, could be a reaction problem or having a long swing) or off the end of the bat (which means you either swung too soon, or your trying to pull the ball)

      Now if he said everything was pop ups, then maybe you'd want to address if he was dropping down, but why try and "fix" something that doesn't need fixing

      If his reaction time is slow, you might want to see the eye doctor. Or maybe he just needs to adjust to the better pitching. It may just be all in his head. Just have him relax and not think about anything but hitting the ball when he is in the hitters box.
      I don't know when it comes off the bat that he swings too soon or if he is trying to pull it. If he just swings too soon, tell him to be patient and trust himself. If he is trying to pull it, have him work on the tee and put tennis balls on it. Set it up so that when you hit it nicely, it'll go up the middle, and if you pull it, it won't go far at all

      Hope this helps
      Last edited by XFactor; 02-20-2006, 06:01 PM.
      While I do prefer to interact with people in a gentle manner... I'm also not at all opposed to establishing my dominance in a reign of terror.


      • #4

        Great that you are posting on the board.

        Obviously, hitting mechanics could be a factor. Without seeing a clip, I would be willing to bet that he doesn't yet know how to rotate, and he is pushing his hands forward. But it is dangerous to diagnose, sight unseen. That would be a typoical 10 YO pattern, though. And anyway, everyone can / should improve mechanics. (see recommendation below).

        But even for hitters w/ decent mechanics, the kind of thing you are describing can be a fairly common pattern. Becasue of practice habbits.

        For most, hitting off the machine is a lot easier than hitting off a live pitcher.

        Two factors that I see:

        1) Timing. The machine doesn't force the hitter to vary it. Pitchers do, both in changing speed of pitches, and because they all have different deliveries.

        2) It is rare for most of us to work location in the cage. We tend to set the machine on middle / middle, and not surprisingly, kids hit it pretty good. Nothing wrong w/ that as a starting point. But now he is seeing better pitchers, which means they work the corners, and seldom throw a pitch down the middle. He hasn't practiced it, and doesn't know how to adjust.

        Often, we do this even w/ the Tee. That's probably a good place to start to fix the problem. Get an Oscar Miller Schutt Tee, or equivalent. Or just put the Tee on a throw-down or chalked home plate. They're a little too proud of the Tee, and it is expensive. And easily replicated in other ways. But I've included a picture so you know what to order - OR replicate. Once he takes his normal stance, let him warm up on the waist high middle pitch, then move the Tee to all 4 corners of the zone (high/low/in/out). Don't let him move his feet. Just force him to keep his stance location and adjust mechanically. That is what he is going to have to do when facing live pitching the rest of his life.

        The VAST majority of 10 YO hitters - true for older ages, actually - CAN NOT hit a line drive off a Tee from all 4 corners of the zone. At least not without moving their feet. And if they can't do it off a Tee, they certainly aren't going to be able to do it against a live pitcher.

        So, I would suggest trying the above, seeing which pitches are causing problems, and then start implementing optimal mechanics to fix it. I would srongly recommend that you get in touch w/ Steve Englishbey who posts on this site, and purchase his DVDs. There is no better content available, IMO, and he is very easy to speak with, (and as much as it pains me to say it), a great guy. Buying his DVDs - and implementing what he teaches - will absolutely help your son. Steve also makes house calls, for a very reasonable fee. Or, if you find yourself traveling from Georgia to Texas, you can go to him. He is domiciled in Houston.

        Additionally, if you can post a clip here, there are a lot of sincere folks who will be pleased to help, and make suggestions for improvement. In fact, that would be a great idea. But get in touch w/ Englishbey as well. His eMail is [email protected]. Once he receives your eMail, he'll call you, and you can go from there. It will be a worthwhile conversation, for sure, and you may decide you want to buy a DVD or schedule some time w/ him.

        But based on what you described, practice habbits are going to be a big part of it as well.

        Best regards,

        Attached Files
        Last edited by ssarge; 02-20-2006, 06:37 PM.


        • #5
          Without seeing a clip like the others have said, I would highly suggest throwing to him from the front while you sit behind an L screen. Start 15-20 feet away throwing inside and out, up and down. He should be able to stroke that. Back up here and there until you are about 30 feet away and do the same. Keep backing up until you reach your limit to give consistent pitches.

          From this shorter distance you can speed up your throw to give him about the same reaction time that he gets from the typical pitcher in your leagues.

          If you can get an L screen it's a great tool since you are throwing to him from the same direction as a pitcher does.

          The tee work and other things the fellas said above are great and you need to do them, but I find an L screen invaluble.


          • #6
            Scott's & WMs points are good ones... good enough that I'll reiterate some of them - and add one of my own.
            • Check and double his mechanics (with video) - get Englishbey's DVD, post a clip and get feedback, or otherwise spend the time to properly inform yourself if you have doubts of what is correct
            • Make sure he can drive the ball off a tee (agree with Scott's all 4 corners using the same stance/location for every swing recommendation )
            • Live pitching work - you pitching, other kids pitching, etc. Adds variation of timing and location. (A little off topic, I have truly become an expert at varying pitch speeds on our jugs machine with perfectly timed power offs.)
            • Check his approach at the plate - young kids that hit everything in the cage, but not at game time are sometimes trying to decide if it's a strike and then swing, rather than thinking swing all the way until the ball's location tells them not to. (Btw, check mechanics with video here too... they often differ between tee and live.)


            • #7
              Reservations about Englishbey's Services

              Lots of good suggestions here. I'd like to try my hand at making one ... or repeating one: Post video clips. It is true that there are certain common inefficiencies in young hitters' swings and that it is likely that your son is in good company, but there's no way we can make any concrete or specific suggestions unless we can see what we're dealing with.

              I also agree with SSarge's recommendation of Englishbey and his DVD ... with qualifications and even reservations. There are more than a few swing instructional experts and programs out there and countless local gurus, but several of us on this forum have what we consider good reasons to conclude that Englishbey is the best. In my opinion, you and your son would best be served by not only looking into his services (and/or his DVD), but also by understanding enough about how extremely successful hitters at the highest levels of competition use their bodies to swing a bat. That is what Englishbey is (in my opinion) best at teaching - both by demonstration and by developmental drills and exercises. He talks a lot too.

              A word of warning though: If you're looking for a quick-fix program or easy 1-2-3 formula, Englishbey's stuff is not for you. MLB hitters did not get to be so with quick fixes and easy formulas.

              Another word of warning: You will never really understand or appreciate the incredible value of Englishbey's DVD (or his clinics) unless you first attempt to understand some of the issues that it so effectively addresses. Unless you understand these issues, his DVD will just be one more among the many ... in spite of its slick packaging and technological excellence.

              A good start in understanding these issues would be to post video of your young hitter's swing (or send it to one of us to post for you).


              • #8
                One thought that may not apply to a kid with "travel ball" skills but certainly applies to many, if not most, 10 y/o is this: a kid doesn't have to worry about being hit by a pitching machine or soft toss, but the thought is in the back of their minds with kid pitching. Check to see if either his front foot is bailing out more in live pitching than against the machine, or if he's back on his heels. Also, he knows he'll be swinging at every pitch coming from a maching, but not at every pitch coming in live -- so, he may have to get back into the frame of mind that "every pitch starts out as a pitch you're going to hit, until you decide that it's not" as JSiggy points out in his last suggestion.

                One test is to see how he does against good coach pitching in batting practice. If he can't hit that either, it may be a timing issue. If he does hit it well, there's a chance he feels less fearful of coaches' pitches than wilder pitches coming from kids.

                Another issue may be game pressure. Against a machine, you can swing hard and not worry if you miss one (and perhaps rarely will miss 'em). In a game at the travel ball level, a kid may worry about just making contact (i.e., avoiding a strikeout), which is when they often disconnect and get "handsy".
                sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.


                • #9
                  Thanks for all of the info. I'll try and video my son's swing and send it to someone for posting.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by XFactor
                    Yeah but he said it's either off the handle (which means he isn't getting his hands around fast enough,
                    Careful, how does an elite hitter get their hands around fast enough?


                    • #11
                      They recognize the pitch and start their swing and they don't have a long swooping swing.

                      I'm saying the boy may not be reacting fast enough or he may have a swooping swing
                      While I do prefer to interact with people in a gentle manner... I'm also not at all opposed to establishing my dominance in a reign of terror.


                      • #12
                        I'm betting the hitter is pushing the hands forward instead of staying connected. Telling him he needs faster hands is placing the focus on the wrong place and will likely exacerbate the problem until he learns to start so early that he can still get the barrel around and hit average pitching with a 7 or 8 frame swing that will fail him when he faces elite pitching.
                        Last edited by Mark H; 02-23-2006, 06:51 PM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mark H
                          Telling him he needs faster hands is placing the focus on the wrong place and will likely exacerbate the problem until he learns to start so early that he can still get the barrel around and hit average pitching with a 7 or 8 frame swing that will fail him when he faces elite pitching.
                          Yup. "Quick hands" is one of the worst cues on the books.

                          (Tee hee. He said "exacerbate.")


                          • #14
                            Mmm, fair enough
                            While I do prefer to interact with people in a gentle manner... I'm also not at all opposed to establishing my dominance in a reign of terror.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by fungo22
                              ... in spite of its slick packaging and technological excellence.
                              He obviously had help in this department - was it you?


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