As we enter a new off-season, travel and high school teams are beginning their winter workouts. I am going to offer 3 drills that I think are important to include in the progression of a great hitter. They can be used at any age level, and can be progressed and regressed accordingly. Whether you are a coach looking to add to your professional toolbox, or a player, looking to add new drills to your routine, this article is for you!
I'd also be remiss, if I didn't shout out some of the great coaches that introduced some of these drills to me throughout the years. Always try to better yourself being around great people!
Athletes will go through the steps of the swing on the coaches cadence. As the athletes move, they will freeze in each position. Coaches will come around to correct things they see wrong in the swing. Eventually, the athlete can take accountability and self- correct.
Key Coaching Points:
Be sure to be clear and concise with your coaching cues. Use the same terminology throughout all of your sessions so that players can use it later on in the cage, game, etc.
Start with the most amount of prompts to begin with, and than take steps away until your players are engaged in a full swing on command.
You can simulate a pitcher throwing the ball, having the players have an “at bat” with you. Mix up your times to the plate so they can see how important being on time and in rhythm is.
Cadence: (Varies depending on the coach)
“Find your rhythm/balance”
“Drop-Pop” (Front foot drops, back foot pops as hips clear)
Contact (palm up/palm down)
Top Hand- Bottom Hand
Athletes will perform 1 handed drills with either a short bat or a bat that they can control with 1 hand.
Key Coaching Points:
Create Space between your ear and your hands to ensure a clear bat path through the baseball (“best position to throw a punch”).
Focus on good barrel turn getting “palm up” through the entire hitting zone, naturally rolling into your backswing.
Same hand separation as top hand, as both hands need to be in the same spot when two hands are on the bat.
I like to cue the “elbow/snap" method. Throw a hard elbow as if your were elbowing someone behind you. Then without circling, snap the bat head out towards the baseball creating a “whip” like effect.
With a short bat, or a bat that the athlete can control, have them “stay connected” through contact by taking a swing through the baseball.
Player starts in their regular stance, and goes through their swing phases.
Player swings as if they are taking their regular swing.
As they hit through the baseball, they will stop their swing, sticking their balance point, seeing their hands out in front of them. The coach should assess their path, and make corrections as needed
Key Coaching Points:
The coach should be focused on the force produced from the lower half, and the path of the bat through contact.
After 3-5 consistent reps, have the player now take a full swing, with the concept of “staying connected” in mind.
This is a great progression from the Top Hand, Bottom Hand drill, as it allows the player to understand each hand’s responsibility as they work together. If one hand goes astray, the sequence of the swing falters.
This drill can be used with heavy baseballs as well (TCB, SKLZ).
As with anything, there are different drills that work for different people. I have found great success with these drills in helping my players develop an awareness of their swing. The slow swing allows them to take accountability for each phase of their swing, making real time corrections as feedback comes in. The top hand, bottom hand drill is an “oldie, but goodie.” With the shorter bat, the player has more control and can focus on their bat path rather than the bat being too heavy. The connection drill is one that I found to work well in my progressions to ensure an awareness of staying through the entire hitting zone, and not pulling off the baseball.
Whether you are a player, or a coach diving into your off-season training, give these 3 drills a try prior to taking live swings in the cage. You’ll be sure to make great improvements that will enhance your game!
Until next time,
Coach Anthony Anzalone