First of all, I am very excited about getting this blog rolling. I think it will be a great resource for our hitters and other hitters out there. Today, I want to share with you the basis for why we teach what we teach. This will just simply be our reasoning for everything we do. I will touch on a lot of things that I will explore in more depth in future blog posts.
Creating a high level swing is by no means an easy task. It is a complex movement with a lot of parts that need to be activated or shut down in specific sequences. Often, hitters and instructors either don’t have the knowledge or the patience to work towards this goal. This is one of the first things I try to communicate to new clients. You are going to get frustrated, you are going to feel like you aren’t getting any better, you may feel like you want to quit. This is where you as a hitter are at a crossroads and you will have a decision to make. Often, that decision is to simplify everything. Get your foot down early, eliminate your stride, throw the barrel directly at the ball, etc. This is the most frustrating to see because often the hitter will experience short term success. At that time they abandon all the progress that has been made for short sighted reasons. But, there will come a time when this type of “simplified” swing will remove hitters from the game because they will no longer be able to handle the pitch pressure. My goal is to help you create a swing that isn’t just set up for your current level but will also translate to next level and the one beyond that. This takes dedication and commitment from the instructor, the hitter, the parents, coaches and everybody else involved in the process.
So, what exactly is a high level swing? Put simply, it is the movements within the swing that we see every great hitter make. I think everybody can agree that the best hitters in the world are in the big leagues. They have found a way to be consistently successful against the best pitchers in the world.
“Always compare anything anyone tells you about the swing to slow motion video of the best hitters in the world.”
This is where I lose a lot of people. The number one argument is that big leaguers are freaks or have super human hand eye coordination. If that were the case, we would not see the similarities in patterns between all the great hitters. The fact is, these guys have figured out a way to swing a bat that gives them an advantage over hitters that do not create high level movements.
The second argument that I hear is that big leaguers are grown men and kids are not strong enough to swing like them. There is some validity to this. Kids are nowhere near as strong as adults but does that mean we should not work towards a great swing? If a 16 year old cannot squat as much as a 25 year old powerlifter does that mean he should not try? Does he not benefit from going from squatting 250 lbs. to 300 lbs., even if the powerlifter is squatting 800 lbs.? It makes no sense to me to teach a 10 year old one way to swing then a completely different way swing once he turns 15. Not to mention, I have seen a lot of 10 year olds with very mature patterns. Young hitters will benefit from working towards a high level swing even if they aren’t as strong or dynamic as MLBers.
The last argument I hear is that the best hitters in the world do not have any similarities, they all have their own unique way of hitting and you can’t learn anything from them because what works for them may not work for others. This is simply confusing style vs. principle. Style is very unique to every hitter and is not something I change unless it is interfering with principles. The two biggest movements that people get confused as principle are the stance and the type of stride (big leg kick, toe tap, no stride, etc.). True principles are the things that every great hitter does. It is how hitters create bat speed, it is how they create margin of error, it is how they create adjustability. My next post will dive into these principles.
One thing I should point out is that we have to be careful with what big league hitters say about their swing. What hitters feel can be very different from what is actually happening. Many MLB hitters will talk about swinging down towards the ball or letting their hands drive the swing. Some of them truly think they are doing this, while others just need to feel certain things in order to produce a great swing. All that really matters is what is actually happening, if a hitter has to feel like he is swinging down to produce the proper swing path then that is fine. This is why communication between the instructor and the player is so critical. We need to understand what you feel when you produce certain movements.
This is a whole lot of talk about just one aspect of hitting. It is also important to recognize that confidence and approach play a big part in our ability to be a great hitter. Mechanics, confidence, and approach all work together to determine our long term success. To be honest, the mechanical aspect is what interests me most, so that is what my posts will mostly focus on. But I will certainly touch on all three. One of the great things about improving your mechanics is that it can go a long way to helping your confidence. Trusting your swing allows for freedom and ease in the box. When you have a clear mind, it is easier to focus on your objective and approach.
I hope this all made sense and that my reasoning is sound. This is the foundation of everything we teach and everything I will talk about here in the future. Stay tuned for my next post as we really dive into the swing principles.