Hitting Drills for Baseball Practice
It is possible to get 400 swings in 60 minutes of hitting practice when the coach divides the players into smaller groups and utilize multiple hitting stations. This article describes the mechanics of dividing the players and picking the specific hitting drills that isolate the different mechanics of hitting.
Hitting drills we do can be found all over the web. The secret sauce is not in some special new drill, but in planning the hitting practice to maximize the fundamentally correct swings to develop proper muscle memory.
It is important to remember that perfect practice makes perfect play. If the players are not swinging with correct fundamentals all they are doing is reinforcing bad muscle memory. Poor muscle memory means there will be "holes" in the swing, which translates into offensive outs and player frustration. Perfect practice creates good muscle memory, which means more hard hit balls.
Here is what we do is set up six unique hitting stations around the field and divide the team into many different groups (try to keep only two players per group). To get 400 swings in one hour, using six batting stations, will give the players 10 minutes at each station. The pitching machine station can only provide about 40 swings in the allotted time. This leaves us with 360 swings for 5 stations; therefore, you must average 72 perfect swings per station per player.
Here are some example hitting stations:
1. Overload / Underload practice swings: 5 sets of 10 overload and 10 underload = 100 swings focused on bat speed. Practice swings without a ball develops a good fundamental swing with good balance.
2. Semicircle soft toss drill: coach soft tosses 15 balls from behind, 15 balls from the side, and 20 balls from the front = 50 swings focused on hitting the center of the ball. This drill adds the element of a slow moving ball with the batter focusing on hitting the middle of the ball at the ball-bat contact point for line drives into the outfield.
3. Pitch location batting tee work: 2 sets of 10 outside, 10 middle, and 10 inside = 60 swings focused on hitting location and driving the ball to all fields. Working with a tee adds the element of hitting the ball without ball movement so the batter can focus on another element, in this case driving the ball to all fields. By eliminating the ball movement a batter can develop good balance and contact point location to be able to hit to all fields.
4. Wiffle ball short toss: 3 sets of 10 inside, 10 middle, and 10 outside = 90 swings concentrating on getting the whole swing together but with the ball moving at a slower speed than during the game. At a short distance, the coach can position the pitch at different locations within the strike zone to provide additional batting practice for hitting to all fields.
5. One handed tee work: 3 sets of 10 front hand only and 10 back hand only = 60 swings concentrating on hand movement through the hitting zone. The front hand guides the bat through the strike zone and the back hand provides the power to the swing. This drill isolates the hand movement through the hitting zone.
6. Hitting practice off a pitching machine: 40 swings focusing on timing the swing. By mixing up dimple balls from different manufactures, provides variation in speed and pitch location to simulate a variety of ball movement. It is very difficult to teach hitting mechanics off a machine, but can be very effective with hitter timing.
By giving the players several hundered swings per practice and isolating the hitting mechanics, you give the player a lot of swings to develop their hitting mechanics. The most important aspect of the batting portion of practice is to allow your batters the maximum amount of swings to develop correct muscle memory so that when they are in the game they can focus on tracking the pitch and not their hitting form.
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