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by Chad Slaughter
(Eastman GA US)
I have a 10under youth baseball team that hits at practice with plenty of reps in multiple hitting stations.
When we get in a game hitting th ball is a struggle. I have tried the approach to just relax step up to plate hit it, dont worry where it goes just swing the bat like at practice. When one hits they all do and when one doen't none do.
I am at a loss to what to try next to get consistency at the plate to help them relax and do what they do at practice.
I hear this from baseball coaches and baseball parents all the time. Ballplayers hit the ball during batting practice but struggle to put hits together during the baseball games.
Baseball moms and baseball dads will say, “Why cant your hit like that in the games?’ Well, let us take a look at some of the possible reasons and solutions.
BASEBALL PRACTICE PLANS
First, you seem to have a good baseball practice plan and organized practice template with your batting stations.
This is the best way to get the maximum amount of batting swings in the least amount of time. Batting practice can be very slow moving with too much standing around if not planned correctly.
I was at a 14U practice the other day and I wanted to step in and re-organize the whole batting practice. It was terrible. One coach pitching—one batter hitting—12 other players out shagging.
And worse yet the coach waited until the shaggers threw the ball back to him on the pitching mound before he threw another pitch. WOW it was really bad. I felt bad for the kids and for the baseball coaches who are nice guys but just don’t know there is another way to plan a good BP session.
GAMES VS. BATTING PRACTICE
Secondly, no one in baseball hits the ball in batting practice as consistently as they do in the ballgame. In live games those darn pitchers are trying to get the hitters out.
Good pitchers are usually going to have decent fastballs. Pitchers might even have sinking fastballs boring in on right hand batters. They usually have a change-up and might even be able to hump-up on the fastball.
Bottom line is the pitchers are trying to avoid hitter’s ability to square up and hit the ball on the barrel.
Contrasted to batting practice where the soft toss is easy to hit. The tee or whiffle ball drills are easy to execute. Batting practice from a pitching machine or a coach pitch are consistent speeds and easier to time.
Add the ‘pleasantly wild’ nature to most 10 year olds then the game hitting becomes much more difficult than the easier timed throws during batting practice.
LAW OF BATTING AVERAGES
Thirdly, there are nine guys out there on defense trying to keep the hits from falling in.
Even some of the hitters can make really good contact but the defense is going to make some plays on them preventing hitters from reaching base.
Good hitters that hit .300 are going to make an out 7 out of 10 times anyway so the math is against us too. If the pitchers are throwing strikes and avoiding walks, and the defense limits the errors then the offense is forced to put some hits together. Putting hits together is not always going to be easy to do.
Fourthly, There are two very important aspects to hitting that are very often if not always overlooked in the amateur baseball levels.
1) Good professional hitters have a YES, YES, YES mindset. That means that the batter makes up their mind before every pitch that they are going to swing the bat.
You cannot have any ‘doubt’, ‘if’, or ‘maybe’ type thinking before the pitch. This defensive type mindset will cause hitters to be consistently late on the pitches, which brings me to the second point that is overlooked by youth baseball hitters.
2) The best hitters hit the ball out in front of home plate. The outside pitch about even with the front foot, the pitch down the middle about a foot in front of the plate and the inside pitch a good foot and half or more in front of the plate.
If either one of these two elements is missing then you are going to have a struggling hitter vs. good pitching.
You can have the best practice plans and multiple practice stations but unless you know how to have a professional hitting mindset to be looking to swing it, and know to hit the ball out front of the plate you will have some frustrated hitters.
Now, once the pitch is on the way a good hitter will be able to judge the pitch and hold up the swing most of the time.
If a hitter does chase a pitch way out of the zone it is vital that the coaches and parents ‘lay off’ the kid and do not hammer on them about how bad a pitch was. If the coach always is critical then the batter will quickly go back to the defensive mode of doubt, iffy, and maybe hitting and will struggle even more.
You have to create an atmosphere to encourage the kids to swing it! If you are looking for a walk to win games then you will never develop hitter that are able to reach high school baseball.
‘Hitters go as far as their bats takes them’. Hey, I think I have a book named that.
Thanks for your service in baseball!
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