So my hope to track my swing’s progress on weekly basis proved to be a little tough to manage, as the last month has been crazy both in and out of baseball including moving and three out of state trips. All excuses aside, I would have liked to have spent more time working on my swing. Although it wasn’t extremely extensive, I did really feel like I discovered some important things about myself that I will be able to use in the next few weeks as I amp up the swing work before my alumni game.
Here’s some brief notes about some of the work I did in the last month.
9/2 – 9-5 Routine
3×10 Heel board coils with big PVC
3×10 Lid loads
*Alternated sets between top half and lower half work
3×10 Small PVC load
3×10 Hanging Takes
3×10 PVC Bag Swings
In getting started taking swings again, I realized how tiring a movement it is when you do it at length. I tell guys all the time that there is such a thing as swing shape, but this is the first time I really experienced it in a drill setting. When doing lower half coil work, I could really feel the drill working as my back ankle and hip really burned. Of course I’m a guy that really never utilized that back side of the lower half properly, so it makes sense that the sudden use was a bit of a shock.
As I worked into some lid loads and loads with the PVC pipe, It really confirmed my belief that just feeling that proper load over and over is beneficial. I was able to differentiate between the times where I loaded with constant motion, and when I got a little bit stoppy.
Hanging takes is a drill that I haven’t done enough with my hitters, but is something that I need to incorporate more as it really helped me feel the difference between my upper/lower half turning separately vs together. Keeping the PVC pipe in a neutral position as I loaded and unloaded with my lower half created that stretch that is so key to maximizing the sequence of the swing.
As I worked into hitting the bag with the PVC pipe, I really had to work hard with my lower half to get it to look and feel right. With the lower half, focusing on opening my front foot all the way to the mirror in front of my helped my hips get that head start that they need. Josh Donaldson really emphasized the focus in this much discussed video. I spent my whole career focusing on trying to block that foot off and keep it closed, so this isn’t a habit that will break easily! The other piece that I found really beneficial on the bag is making sure that my eyes stayed up in the mirror as I hit the bag. I have noticed this with my guys quite a bit, where they get too locked in on a spot on the bag and they push to it. In reality, the eyes are up and ahead of you virtually the entire swing as you track the ball. Immediately when focusing on this I noticed the difference in the sound as I made contact with the bag, creating much more whip with an “upward focus”
2×10 Heel coil
2×10 Weight load
2×5 Weight load/unload
Lid Hit Progression
Big Papi Progression
After a few days of just doing drill and bag work to get myself primed for actual swings at baseballs, I worked into some of the main drills that I do with my guys. Starting with some of the same ones as mentioned above, I worked into the lid hit progression that I intro to most hitters within a few of sessions. As I started with the lid hits and tennis balls, I quickly realized that I was not very good with the feel. As the first step is to start at an unload position and focus on rotating and releasing, I was really cutting across the ball and not getting any extension into release. I needed to go back even further and feel my arms extend as I swung the lid. This feel really helped as I worked into the next few steps, swing from a loaded position and then working all the way through the load and unload and swing. It helped to really grip the lid tight, as holding it loose caused me to push my arms and hands forward rather than turn the lid at my back shoulders my hips led the way. Squeezing it tight forced everything to be more one piece. Below is a quick Gif of my bucket lid swings, which really shows my tempo and my sequence to be much improved, temporarily.
After lid hits and wanting to put the actual baseball bat in my hand, I worked into our Big Papi progression. This progression is modeled after Ortiz’s practice swings from the video below, and really focuses on having a nice easy tempo with the hands, as they’re isolated and not driven by the body doing the work. As I worked through the progression, I had my best results when focusing on keeping my elbow flowing in my load and throwing in down and forward as I swung. I could really feel the whip I created when everything up top stayed moving, vs stopping and restarting.
Papi Progression on bag and flips
Stuck with the Papi progression and with the help of my brother Jordan, really felt some good things as I worked through it. One of the biggest things I realized is that when working to make these changes to my swing, I don’t really have any background in feeling the proper movement, so I needed some help in evaluating whether or not I was doing it correctly in a live setting, and figure out the mental cues that helped that to happen more consistently.
As I went through the live swings, I realized that I needed to kind of alternate from the lives swings back to the bag in order to get some better feel without trying to hit a moving baseball. Bag work is great because you always square the thing up, leaving the that focus out and allowing you to lock in on your movements. As I hit the bag, worked back into the cage with some dry loads and then back to swings off of flips, my focus was to ride my elbow up a lonnnng time, almost to the point where I was late. This felt so foreign to me, as my natural tendency is to stop and go straight to the baseball. Starting early and staying slow in my load helped the tempo to allow the sequence of my swing to work properly, which is something that I really preach to a lot of our hitters!!
The days not listed in the post were spent with some minute drill work and dry swings/loads, but not nearly enough to make huge changes. The next few weeks, I’ll need to really step up the amount of time and days that I spend working on drills and taking full swings. Even with the limited number of days that I spent, some of the thoughts and concepts really helped me in my teaching of other hitters. I’ve always known that it’s easier to coach when youre actually doing some of the same things, so more extensive training on my end will only help me to communicate with hitters.