Hitting Drills for a Batter Who is Pulling Away from the Ball?
Dave's Response to Removing Fear from Hitters
My son is 12 years old, and he has worked his way into the bad habit of backing off his hitting stance while he starts striding.
He seems to be pulling away from the plate as the ball is pitched. I have seen this with players that have been hit by a ball.
How can I correct a hitter from stepping out or bailing out ??
Awesome Question and a Very Big Problem!
Well, one of the biggest hitting problems in youth baseball is overcoming the fear of the baseball. Stepping out and bailing out is likely caused by hitters afraid to get hit by the baseball.
This is a very common dilemma for youth baseball players.
Lets face it—nobody really likes getting pegged by a hard fastball. It hurts. It will make you cry. You can get injured and miss playing time.
It is very normal for our human bodies to try to protect itself from dangerous projectiles traveling towards us. Our natural survival instincts tell us to get out of the way of fast objects buzzing by very close to our bodies.
So it is quite a normal impulse to step away and bail out from fast, dangerous baseballs whizzing close by.
Survival of the Fittest
Having said that, baseball players have to go against their natural survival instincts to be able to consistently hit the ball better.
Somehow hitters have to mask the normal fear from their minds and ignore the urge to step out or bail out from the fast pitches. In order to hit against good to above average pitchers you cannot step out and bail out.
So, in order to effectively hit the ball hitters will have to find a way to get past the fear of the ball and ‘stay in there’.
Bottom line: Baseball is not for the timid and meek when it comes to hitting. Baseball is a lot like the survival of the fittest. The batters that let the fear of getting hit affect their batting will drop out and find something else to do.
The batters who are able to overcome the fact that fast, dangerous baseballs are being pitched very close and not ‘give in to the pitcher’ will survive and have longer baseball careers.
Now, there is certainly no disgrace to not being able to overcome the fear of the baseball. It is kind of unnatural and a little crazy to get used to standing up at the plate against a very fast pitcher that could hurt you very badly.
How to Fix Bailing Out
Now, let us look at some hitting techniques and drills that sometimes I have had some success with and have been known to help hitters overcome the fear of being hit by the pitch causing bailing out and stepping out.
1. Acknowledge that getting hit by the baseball hurts. Nobody wants to get hit by the pitch. No one wants to get hit in the face with the baseball. It is very ‘normal’ for baseball players to have a fear of being hit by the pitch.
I have seen grown professional baseball players cry after being hit by a pitch. It can really hurt. Occasionally, batters have been so traumatized from being hit by a pitch they cannot ever fully recover their courage to give up the fear and not let the fear affect their swings even ever so slightly.
2. Put a facemask on the helmet: Check your local sporting goods stores and purchase a facemask for your batting helmet.
Girls’ softball players always use a facemask while batting. Just having something to protect your face may be enough to give someone confidence to stay in there.
3. Explain that the most dangerous position to be in is stepping ‘wide open’. The batter is fully exposed to being hit in vital body parts. The face, hands, arms, front torso are all facing the pitch.
Getting hit in these body areas can be very damaging. The right way is to step directly at the pitcher. If the pitch comes inside toward the hitter the hitter should turn away—or inward roll.
Now the back of the helmet protects the head. The hands and arms are not exposed. The only parts that are exposed are the front shoulder, the back, the rear end, and the back of the legs.
All these areas of the body anatomy are somewhat padded with muscle are not vital and overly important survival areas. The ball will definitely sting, leave a bruise, and still hurt for a minute or two but rarely if every will a long term injury come out being hit by the pitch in this area of the body.
4. Pitch tennis balls (or whiffle balls or the soft incedi-balls): Start by tossing underhand tennis balls on the inside of strikezone. Have some of the pitches hit the batter. Show the batter how to inward-roll from the pitch when the pitch is coming close to pegging the batter. Show the batter the ‘open’ position with all the vital body parts exposed to the pitch.
Show the batter that stepping out and bailing out put the batter in tremendous peril to being hurt by the pitch. Do this drill for all your hitters.
The inward-roll is a must for hitters in their teenage years because they will start seeing breaking pitches and curveballs. If a batter starts bailing out on the inside pitches they will look pretty silly when the ball curves right over the plate. This is another reason hitters need to learn how to roll away from the pitch—to hang in there on the curveball.
A kid is certainly not a bad person if the fear of getting hit by the pitch is too much for them to overcome. Remember, fear of fast things whizzing by our heads is actually normal and natural.
Try these hitting tip suggestions to stop your bailing out batters. Sometimes it works and sometimes kids will have to find something else to do.
We know that 75% of our children are out of youth sports by the age of fourteen for various reasons. Fear of the baseball is one of the reasons.