What is the best way to teach a 12 year-old to hit an above average fastball?
Roy asked: I've heard at 12 years of age the reaction time required to hit above average fastballs approximates major league reaction times. What is the best way to train a hitter to react to and hit 75MPH+ speeds?
Rick answered: Roy, thanks for your question.
Everything to do with hitting begins from the ground up. Building a strong foundation of hitting fundamentals is essential.
Players need to feel that they can trust their mechanics and their abilities. That trust frees their mind to concentrate on the at bat at hand, and the current pitch.
Through training and repetition, the process becomes automatic and the player reacts to the pitch without thought. Yogi Berra once said," you can't think and hit at the same time."
Branch Rickey said, "a full mind is an empty bat."
Creating the proper mechanics where the player loads and strides on line, slowly and early with minimal head movement, picks the ball up early out of the pitcher's hand, has a short and quick bat path to and through the hitting zone, staying balanced throughout, will provide him with the best opportunity to handle above average fastballs.
Loading and striding late generally causes a player to rush. The rush creates added movement, especially with their head. If their head moves, the ball moves. Rushing can be associated with lunging. Lunging speeds the ball up, making them further behind.
Once they feel they are late, they often attempt to muscle up and swing harder. This can lead to a longer, looping swing, and they become slower, not quicker.
If the hitter is arriving late, the solution is generally not to hurry up, it is much more effective to start earlier, "slow and early."
Players will adjust to the speed, if their mechanics are solid. So much of hitting is the confidence that they are a good hitter.
Tee work, soft toss, short toss and live BP.
I believe that hitting fungos is also a good drill for hitters to help develop their swing.
In all the pictures above, the hitters all have great dynamic balance. Each is in a differnt stage of the swing. Roberto Clemente and Carlos Gonzalez are not a surprise. The third was a high school freshman when he hit that pitch.
It takes time, dedication, effort and patience. It may be the number one most difficult feat in sports to accomplish, consistently hitting a baseball. If it's not number 1, it is certainly in the top three.
Good luck as you both go forward. Pete Rose's philosophy, " see the ball, hit the ball," was possible because he hit from a sound, dynamic base.
Yours in baseball,
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