Angela asked: My son is 15 and in love with the game. I'm so sick of hearing about baseball and the season hasn't even started.
Problem is my son is an AWESOME catcher, great pop time, great footwork, great throw downs, behind in the plate in a pitchers stance no problem.
Standing to the side of the plate, switching from a mitt to a bat totally different story. He just can't hit the ball.
According to his coaches he's got a great swing, great hip action and good rotation, he just CANNOT make contact, he has himself so frustrated and has no idea what to do.
As his Mom, I am willing to do whatever. I just don't know what "whatever" is. Please help! My boy will be devestated if he is a varsity catcher who has a dh.
Rick answered: Angela, thank you for your question.
Without the ability to see your son's mechanics in real time, we can go with his coach's assesment and work from there.
Mechanically correct would mean that he gets loaded early and slow, online straight back at the pitcher, with a minimum amount of motion, and that he is striding to hit, not striding and hitting.
If he is, it keeps his front side closed, so that he is able to create a short, compact swing on the pitch.
Has he always had a contact problem, or is this something that has recently become an issue for him?
If he has all those mechanics down and is not making contact, the first thing I would ask him, "are you seeing the ball?"
Not unusual for hitters to lock on to the pitcher's release point, see the ball and then lose focus on it somewhere between the pitcher's release, and the hitting zone.
When they are not seeing or tracking the ball, it is like they have a blindfold on. The best hitters in the world are unable to hit with a blindfold.
As you look at the images above, you can see similarities, there are only subtle differences in their approach.
Pic one is Aaron Hill of the D'backs.
Pic two is a freshman we had on our varsity in 2007.
Pic three is Icchiro Suzuki, of the Yankees.
Pic 4 is Jason Kubel of the D'Backs.
- Stride online, straight back at pitcher
- Hands inside and short to the ball
- Head down, eyes in contact with the ball
One thing he can try is, take the first pitch, with the only requirement from him, "to see the ball and track it all the way to the catcher's mitt."
What that does is put seeing the ball in his mind.
The rest of the at bat is seeing the ball, deciding if it is a pitch he wants to hit and putting a good swing on it.
This is not a permanent approach, as it will lead to taking too many strikes and getting behind in the count, a hard place to hit from.
Once he is seeing the ball well, then he needs to remind himself to "see the ball, stay calm", every time he steps in the box, every pitch.
This is something he can work on in practice, so that it carries over into the game. If it is just something he is attempting to do on game days, it will be inconsistent at best.
It doesn't need to be just on live pitching, he can work on this on tees, soft toss, short toss, cage and live. The more he works on it, it will become a positive part of his approach at the plate.
It is also a good practice to, as he steps in the box, take a deep breath and let it out. Takes off some pressure that hitter's may be feeling; but don't realize it. That exhale allows your muscles to relax, thus generating more speed and smoothness to their swing. Allows their muscles to better perform what they have spent so much time training them for.
Subtle things to work on, they are repetition driven.
Yogi Berra said, "you can't think and hit at the same time." Very true!
Step in the box, deep breath, exhale, tell yourself to see the ball, stay calm.
The link below is to a page on the site about a sports psychologist, Harvey Dorfman. I highly recommend his books, I explain why on the page.
For your son right now, with the interest he has in the game, Mr. Dorfman's book, The Mental Keys to Hitting will be very beneficial to him. You can purchase them through the site, which goes through Amazon, or go direct through Amazon. Cost is the same either way.Tribute to Harvey Dorfman.
Hopefully this will provide you with a place to start. There are no quick fixes, just the start of a journey.
Baseball is a game of repetition, your mind and body will learn what you teach it, whether it is right or wrong.
When it comes to game time, players react with the repetitions they created in practice, not what they heard someone say once or twice.
A good goal for your son would be to become his own best hitting coach.
The mental aspects of baseball are an area where a player is able to gain an edge over the competition. They are a set of skills, just as throwing, fielding, hitting and base running are.
They can be taught, learned and practiced.
Good luck as you both go forward in this baseball journey. I would would like to hear back from you on how things are going for you both.
Yours in baseball,