The Ole Ball Game

Cant identify and put a good swing on an inside pitch. Find myself chasing

by James Leachman
(Mobile, AL)

Photo Bill Stanton:

Photo Bill Stanton:

James asked: Can't identify and put a good swing on an inside pitch. Find myself chasing. Have any advice?

Rick answered: James, thank you for your question!

When you said you can't seem to identify and put a good swing on an inside pitch, it sounds like you may not be seeing the ball well.

I am a great believer in the work of sports psychologist, H.A. Dorfman. I was first introduced to his initial book, Baseball's Mental Game, in 1993. Well past my playing days at that point, the information gained from reading his book changed the way I approached coaching to this day. Mr. Dorfman has a talent for simplifying the everyday problems faced in this game, such that everyone can relate to and implement his suggestions.

Mr. Dorfman says,"hitters take for granted that they see the ball;but they don't make the distinction between casual, fuzzy focus and one that is intense and sharp. Just as we can hear without concentrated listening, we can see without a concentrated clarity."

"Want to see the ball better? Think ball!"

He also believes that before looking for answers to a hitting problem elsewhere, first ask yourself: Am I seeing the ball well? If the answer is you are not, then ask yourself why not? Too often a hitter who is struggling makes immediate changes to his mechanics-to his physical approach. This compounds the difficulty - muscle memory allows a player to have a consistent mechanical approach - unless the player inhibits his muscles by thinking about all manner of things which distract him while in the box. He's got everything on his mind. Everything except the ball!

"However good your mechanics may be, you won't be succeed if you are blindfolded. First things first: See The Ball. Track it and whack it!"

It is sometimes hard to remember that this elemental skill, seeing the ball, is not only prerequisite to being a good hitter, but without it all other skills are negated.

The ability to simplify is the ability to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may express itself.

Focusing on the ball is simply necessary!"

Mr. Dorfman suggests that whether you are struggling or doing well, give yourself regular "reality checks", related to how well you are seeing the ball. Grade yourself after each at bat, in terms of how well you saw the ball - tracked the ball. Was it your best look? Was it a number 1 (best) or a 2 and so on.

When you are not having a good looks, use your next at bat to establish your concentration on the ball. Take the first pitch and track it all the way to the catcher's mitt. You know it's going to be a "take", so you have no other obligation than to see the ball. Having done that, you discipline yourself to "look for the ball and be easy." React to the pitch as you see it and swing or take.

Before each at bat - before you get in the box - coach yourself. Remind yourself by repeating the mantra, "See the Ball;Be Easy. It's simple to say, harder to do. It requires discipline and trust, the traits of great hitters. Habit is a practice long pursued. Cultivate the good habit of seeing the ball, then put a hurt on it.

  • Before you step in the box, take a deep breath, let it out.

  • Settle in, soft focus seeing the pitcher and mound.

  • Pitcher starts delivery - sharp focus on pitcher's release point.

  • Track the ball all the way to the plate.

  • If it's one you want to hit, put a good swing on it, hit it hard somewhere.

Looking at the photos above, all three hitters have tracked the ball all the way to the hitting zone, their head is down, right on the ball.

It is not unusual for hitters to see the ball at release, only to stop seeing it somewhere between release and contact.

Mr. Dorfman has written 3 additional books since his first one. They are:

The Mental Keys to Hitting

The Mental ABC"s of Pitching

Coaching the Mental Game

I highly recommend all of his work. If you are into baseball, you will find these books are hard to put down.

I believe the mental game is the seperater between players, as well as teams. None of it comes about by accident, it takes practice; but all of it is as teachable a skill as hitting, throwing, base running.

Daily practice sessions provide countless opportunities for players to work on their mental game, as they work on their physical game.

Good luck. Would look forward to hearing how things go.

Yours in baseball,


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