Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Learn how to Stop AND Fix missing under the ball, hitting too many popups, and late batting timing for baseball and fast-pitch softball players.  Discover how to swing the bat faster, for more power, and ultimately hit more line drives.

“Shorten Swing” Like An Elite Hitter (Not What You Think)

Ask any “self-proclaimed” hitting coach what a “short swing” is, and you’ll get many differing interpretations.  I think the problem is found in the debate of feel versus real.  If you ask professional and MLB hitters what they’re trying to do, and they’ll use phrases like:

  • “I’m trying to stay short to the ball”, or
  • “I’m trying to be compact”...

The challenge is these examples are so vague, they’re widely open to interpretation.  And give coaches that kind of slack, and they tend to “hang” their hitters.  For instance, take the following swing example of Kris Bryant:

 

Some coaches will say his swing is too long, and that ONLY Big Leaguers can have swings like this.  This is an EXCUSE.  Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire have been quoted as saying they swing/swung down on the ball.

You see, what elite hitters are feeling, and what we’re actually seeing on slow motion video (what’s real) can be two totally different things.  So how do we get our hitters to “swing shorter”, like Kris Bryant…?

…without using hitting aids, and using effective external coaching cues, which science says are far superior than internal ones (CLICK HERE to read this post about that).  Without further adieu, here’s the…

Shorten Swing Path Drill

In the above video we discuss:

  • Drill Objective: to help fix “casting”, “long”, or “bat drag” type swings.
  • Define “Long” versus “Short” swing
  • Finger Pressure for “connection”
  • Hitting the “catcher’s glove”:
    – “Ferris Wheel” versus “Merry-Go-Round”
    – Throwing barrel “sideways”
    – Using Variations
  • Ropebat as a supplemental hitting aid.

The following is the NEW Improved and Updated version of the video above…

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Watch Albert Pujols talking about how to teach swing drills off hitting tee, place hitting outside pitches to opposite field vs pull, and keeping the hands inside out for baseball, slow-pitch, and fast-pitch softball players.

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics Video Talk

 

 

In this Albert Pujols hitting mechanics talk, some questions Pujols and Harold Reynolds answer:

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols & Harold Reynolds Interview, MLB Network 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Hitting ball off same spot off tee or vary?
  • Dangers of a purely opposite field approach…
  • When is using ‘hands inside the ball’ okay?
  • Hit top part of the cage of the back?
  • How many swings until you should take a break to reflect?
  • Inside pitch barrel path: is it different than away?
  • Should hitter get “taller” to hit a high pitch?

Make sure you watch the 8-minute 30-Clubs in 30-Days Albert Pujols interview on grooving his swing, before diving into my notes.  I time stamped the above video for quick and easy reference…

  • At the 0:10 second mark,  tsk, tsk…notice Harold Reynolds isn’t following the 4-foot social distancing rule!! (for those watching this well after the craziness of the Coronavirus has passed – lol).  
  • At the 0:30 second mark, interesting Pujols talks about building a consistent swing, hitting off the tee in one spot.  He references variance training with some hitting coaches moving the ball up and down, in and out.  I do agree with him, but it depends on the end result.  If you’re just introducing a new hitting mechanic, then keep the tee in one spot.  If you’re looking to deeply embed a well worn hitting mechanic, then variance or chaos training is key.
  • At the 0:45 second mark, Albert Pujols talks about setting tee up slightly off center of the plate towards outer part.  He likes to work gap to gap and not force or push the ball to right field.  He mentions if he focuses too much on right field, then he gets under the ball too much.
  • At the 1:30 minute mark, Pujols dispels the myth of “staying inside the ball”.  He says of course you’re inside the ball…you don’t see hitters EVER getting their hands outside the ball.  ‘Hands inside the ball’ can be a great cue for those hitters doing the opposite – casting barrel early.  It’s not a perfect cue, but may work in some cases.  Then to throw gas on the fire, he mentions ‘knob to the ball’.  Real v. Feel.  There’s a reason you keep hearing this kind of stuff from guys like Pujols, A-Rod, and Bonds.  It has to do with top hand dominance and pronation.  We call it the “wrist snap”.
  • At the 2:00 minute mark, Albert Pujols talks about working on the liner, not trying to hit the top part of the cage. He picks a spot in the cage he wants the ball to travel.  External cue.  He wants the ball to come off the bat as high as the tee is set.  Harold brings up that some people are teaching to hit the top of the cage (I used to be one of them!!).  But Albert plays the politician and comments that he doesn’t want to say what those coaches are doing is wrong, but that he wouldn’t teach that.  And right now, I’d agree with him.
  • At the 3:00 minute mark, Harold asked Pujols if there’s a rhythm to working on gapping the ball, and Pujols says he tries to hit 3 or 4 in a row, then take a break to reflect on the feeling.  He tries not to rush when working out.  He tries to take his time.  Process what he just did.  Great advice!
  • At 4:00 minute mark, Harold asks Albert about his inside approach.  How to hit the inside pitch.  Watch how Pujols demos his barrel path to get to it … barrel above hands?  This Adam Eaton video reveals the same thing.  Interesting huh?  We call this knocking the “belly button” catcher’s glove off.  He says he’s just reacting to the inside pitch.  Typically, he’s looking out over the plate.  He doesn’t try to focus on one area of the plate.  He looks middle, then adjusts in or out from there.  Definitely works for Albert.  And Mike Schmidt also talked about it in his book the “Mike Schmidt Study”. Only downside is when pitchers start using EV tunnels Perry Husband talks about.  It’s easier to cover middle in/out/up/down (50% of the plate), based on pitcher’s pattern.  Obviously, this is more effective the better the pitcher is.
  • At 5:00 minute mark, in the above Albert Pujols hitting mechanics video, Pujols talks about keeping his shoulders “square” or keep front shoulder pointing at “400-foot” mark in straight center.  Not to close shoulders off.  Albert never really did ‘show numbers’ much, but he does a lot of other things right.
  • At 6:00 minute mark, Pujols talks about not getting “taller” to get to the pitch up in the zone, but to stay sink down and use hands to get to it.  Again demonstrates keeping barrel above hands.  We talk about getting shorter and staying shorter.  And middle in, middle up pitches are addressed by knocking off belly button catcher’s glove or telling hitter to keep barrel above hands.  Real v. Feel.  Now, this isn’t actually what’s going to happen.  The result of this hitting cue is a tighter, shorter, more compact barrel path.  Much needed closer the ball is to the hitter or the eyes.  He talks about using his legs to get to pitches down in the zone.
Brandon Moss

Discover how to hit slow pitching, improve batting timing and rhythm mechanism, and STOP swinging early.  For beginner baseball and softball players.  Learn simple drills and tips for better more on-time hitting…

Brandon Moss Swing Analysis REVEALS Slow Pitcher Timing Secret

 

Brandon Moss REVEALS Slow Pitcher Timing Secret

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: Zimbio.com

This Brandon Moss analysis comes from a conversation I had with Coach Justin Karr and his 12-U Bakersfield Sliders Black team.  Thanks Coach Karr, I hope this helps your troops!

I want to compare what Brandon Moss does differently hitting a slower pitcher, like knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, to a hard throwing “King” Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.  We’re going to:

  • Make the complicated, uncomplicated,
  • Learn how-to adjust to slower pitching according to Brandon Moss, and
  • Discuss what a hitter can do to adjust timing.

 

Make the Complicated, Uncomplicated

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: MLB.com

First of all, executing flawless hitting mechanics mean nothing if timing is off.  I love how Dr. Kelly Starrett describes learning complicated movements (or strategies) in his book Becoming A Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance:

 “When it comes to learning complicated movements efficiently, the key is to make them uncomplicated.  We do this by breaking them down into precise, manageable steps.  Then we emphatically encourage like-your-life-depends-on-it focus in performing each step.  This is the path to a tight learning curve.  It’s the foundation required for optimal performance.”

We focus on one aspect at a time.  In respect to the calibration of timing, we have to forget swing mechanics and focus solely on adjusting the timing.  Making in-game adjustments, timing is THE most important priority.  We teach three possible swing adjustments with our seven hitting strategies.  We refer to these as the three dimensional hitting adjustments:

  1. Timing – is hitter out front or behind?
  2. Vertical (Launch Angle) – did hitter hit popup or ground-ball (or line drive?), and
  3. Horizontal (Barrel Path) – did hitter get jammed or hit ball off the end?

Which one of these after an in-game swing, if tweaked, fixes the other two?

How-To Adjust to Slower Pitching According to Brandon Moss

In the video, I compare and analyze two 2013 home-run swings by the Oakland A’s first baseman Brandon Moss:

  1. 77 mph knuckle-ball from R.A. Dickey Moss (left-handed) hit over the center field fence (418 feet*), and
  2. 93 mph fastball from “King” Felix Hernandez Moss hit over the right-center field fence (387 feet*)

(*Home-run distances according to the ESPN Stats & Information Group)

CLICK HERE to revisit a video blog article I did, featuring Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout, where I went over:

  • When does a swing start?
  • Leg kick or slide step? and
  • How to practice timing?

For an average velocity pitcher, each hitter MUST figure out at what point in the pitcher’s delivery that they start their swing.  Then experiment starting the swing at a later point with a slower pitcher.  This will be slightly different for every hitter as the Josh Hamilton article shows.

The main point is, the hitter has to make a a conscience effort to change their timing.  They can’t just use the same timing for every pitcher.  Hitting is a game of inches…being one inch ahead or behind can mean barreling the ball or not.

What’s the best way to practice this? The 2-plate drill shared in this article, and home run derby??  Using the 2-plate drill and throwing seated from 25-30 feet away (under or over hand front toss).  The thrower will be literally lobbing the ball to the hitter as they take two swings and switching plates.  Six swings per round.  The slower the throw, the better.  In our system, this is hitting strategy number 4.

Also, if the whole team’s offensive numbers are suffering against a slower pitcher, then the adjustment DOES NOT necessarily have to be a mechanical one.

One more interesting point…notice how far Brandon Moss cranked the Dickey knuckle-ball?  418 feet!!  “King” Felix?  387 feet…a pitcher’s velocity doesn’t dramatically contribute to batted ball distance.  It’s bat speed that does.  According to a forum at eFastball.com, for every 1 mph of added pitching velocity, 1 foot of batted ball distance is the outcome.  BUT for every 1 mph of increased bat speed, 4 feet of batted ball distance is the result!!  Don’t let low velocity pitchers slow your bat speed down hitters!

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Josh Bell hitting analysis on how to improve attack angle and what is the ideal home run launch angle for baseball and softball players?  What’s the difference?  Discover how to build a faster, flatter, and more powerful bat path to fix choppy and uppercut swings.

Line Drive Hacking With Josh Bell Swing Breakdown

 

Josh Bell Swing Breakdown

Photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this Josh Bell swing breakdown, we cover:

  • Size,
  • Interesting metrics
  • DeRo analysis
  • 2018 RCF Homer: 5/31 83-mph breaking ball/SL, down/away VERSUS 2019 LCF Homer: 7/3 96-mph FB, mid/up
  • Some interesting things in swing analysis: Float, Fall, Barrel Path – CB down/away v. FB mid/up (and late), how well he matches plane of pitch (tube)

CLICK HERE to view the size and metrics data on FanGraphs.

In looking at the Josh Bell image, it’s interesting to note how Josh Bell’s barrel path line intersects the plane of the pitch line.  Hitters that match the plane of the pitch line better will inevitably have higher batting averages and less strikeouts.

We teach our hitters to match the “tube”.  Imagine the pitch being thrown through a tube, and the hitter’s goal should be to hit the ball back through the tube.  Based on pitch height.  If the pitch tube is set at four-feet off the ground, then the ball must come off the bat four-feet off the ground.  If tube is set at one-inch off the ground, then ball comes off bat one-inch off ground.

If the hitter doesn’t hit it through the “tube”, which the best in the world miss the tube 80% of the time (league averages: 20% line drive rate, 38% fly-ball rate, and 43% ground-ball rate), then they make adjustments using the principle of paradoxical intention.

Consider the following…

Baseball Hitting Tips: Barry Bonds Getting Shorter

Check out this Barry Bonds swing training to get more power video for baseball and softball hitters.  Learn how to use swing plane barrel turn versus hands tipping* drill.

Baseball Hitting Tips Video: #1 Long Ball Secret

 

…we’re going over howBaseball Hitting Tips: Barry Bonds Getting Shorter

  • To use the body – not the hands – to get “on-plane” with the pitch,
  • Barry Bonds makes hitting the long ball look easy, and
  • Most young hitters get the #1 long ball secret wrong (and how to correct it).

A few weeks ago I worked with a 12-U Little League team from Bakersfield California called the Sliders.  They recently came to Fresno for a tournament and DOMINATED.

One of the moms Sheri – her son is Alex in the above video – emailed me a testimonial:

“The boys won first place! Ben, Paul and Dylan hit their first home runs ever! They went undefeated for entire tourney! We’re going to round table pizza to treat all the boys!”

The three young men who hit their first home-runs had worked with me for the first time, a week before the tournament.  Now, this wasn’t all me, but wasn’t a coincidence either.  Before I worked with them, all three boys naturally had a little forward momentum working for them.  And, Sliders Coach Justin Karr has been working the baseball hitting tips system with his team for over a year now.

In the baseball hitting tips video, Barry Bonds gets on plane with the pitch very well by lowering his body.  He does this by creating an “L” with his back leg to and through contact.  Whereas the moment Alex’s front heel hits the ground, he ‘stands up’ causing ball flight to be low.  Alex would have to get “on-plane” with his hands, which is very inconsistent.

Snapping Towel (Lean) Drill Setup:

  • NEED: light exercise band with handles, AND decent sized carabiner,
  • Loop exercise band handles to carabiner, then to chain link fence, OR
  • Parent/Coach holds exercise band handles, and finally
  • Have hitter loop band under armpits.

In the baseball hitting tips video above, I mentioned breaking the swing apart into two steps:

  1. To the Fight Position (landing), and
  2. The Final Turn.

You’ll see Olympic Hammer Throwers lower their backside as well.  This enables the release of the hammer at an optimal forty-five degree angle.  CLICK HERE to watch a World Record holding Hammer Thrower lower his backside while rotating.

*On the hands tip drill…  As my dad always told me growing up to not jump for the bells and whistles of a new car because it’s another thing to go broke and you have to fix it.  Just the bare essentials.  Consider this AthleticsNation.com post titled: “Josh Donaldson: Changes in approach and mechanics”, where they compare his 2013 to 2014 seasons.  The conclusion as to why his 2014 numbers were down versus 2013 was because of the barrel tip (over-emphasized in 2014).

Sure the hands barrel tip can get momentum going, but I have yet to be convinced that the risk is worth the reward.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Fun ways to teach a beginner kid (get them to buy in) to hit with power and improve batting timing for baseball and softball players.  Helpful drills and tips for 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, & 12 year olds.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: 5 Little Known Ways To Improve Hitters

 

 

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: 11yo Jackson Handler

This is one of my online lessons out in Pennsylvania (I’m in Cali), 11yo Jackson. 2.5 months between BEFORE/AFTER’s.

A great softball hitting tips for beginners question came in recently, from a reader (relates well to baseball too)…

“What percentage of hitters that you have coached got no improvement or no benefit from your program? How many swings per day would you recommend for a 10yr old hitter (what’s too much and not enough?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this softball hitting tips for beginners post:

  • Improvement depends on these 5 things…, AND
  • How many swings are too much & not enough?

 

Improvement Depends on these 5 Things…

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Mia Buffano 15yo

This is one of my online fastpitch hitters 15yo Mia out in Florida.

I’d be lying to you if I said that ALL my online and local hitters are continually improving or benefiting from my system.

Sadly, this holds true for anyone’s system…effective or ineffective.

Unless…

The instructor is HIGHLY selective on who they accept as a client.

Although, it must be said those hitters being taught ineffective mechanics will get cut much sooner than ones learning how to hit employing human movement principles that are validated by science.

We coaches and instructors can control only so much.

We’re like a flashlight guiding the way in the dark.  We can illuminate where we want the hitter to go and how to get there, but ultimately it’s up to the hitter to do their homework.

Here are FIVE critical factors for seeing constant improvement with hitters…

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #1: Motivation/Inspiration

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins photo courtesy: attitudes4innovation.com

Like Tony Robbins says, “Motivation is like a warm bath”.  Motivation wears off in the short term.  But inspiration can last up to months, if not years, from its inception.

There’s a time and place for each.

Think of motivation as PUSHING the player, whereas inspiration allows them to be PULLED by their own self-motivation.

The latter is obviously ideal, but the challenge is that every player is inspired and motivated by different things.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a hitting coach or the parents, than an unmotivated and/or uninspired player…

Which we may have to face the conclusion that this player is probably not in the right sport or activity.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #2: Effective mechanics

Is the hitter applying human movement principles – that are validated by science – to hitting a ball?

You see, effectiveness is doing the right things, while efficiency is doing those things right.

In other words, I can get real good at ‘squashing the bug’, ‘chopping down on the ball’, and ‘sitting back’ but my playing career will be dwarfed in comparison to executing more effective body movements.

One of the biggest competitive advantages I would recommend to any coach, would be to invest and read Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  Here’s a short video from Thomas Myers explaining “What is Tensegrity”:

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #3: Effective coaching cues

As most of you coaches know, player learning styles are different.  Do you know how many learning styles there are?

Here’s a clue…

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, says there are 3 main ones (acronym – VAK):

  1. Visual (sight/pictures),
  2. Auditory (sound), and
  3. Kinesthetic (feel).

Furthermore, vague coaching cues like ‘get on top of the ball’ or ‘be short to the ball’, which can be used effectively as adjustment cues, are too general and broad in scope to teach as a default swing strategy.

Without extended explanation, these cues aren’t very intuitive, and are ultimately ineffective on a broad scale.

On the other hand, ‘show your numbers to the pitcher’ or ‘land shorter’, will require minimal explanation to get the hitter executing exactly what you want them to do.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #4: Feedback systems

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners: Zepp Sensor

This is the Zepp sensor connecting to phone app

I think it was Peter Drucker that said what gets measured, gets managed.

If you’re a hitting coach that DOES NOT use slow motion analysis, then you’re not being effective.

With free slow motion video phone apps like CoachesEye and HudlTech, and inexpensive PC/MAC software like Powerchalk, there’s ZERO excuse to not do slow motion analysis with your hitters.

Also, swing apps like Zepp, SwingTracker, and the more expensive HitTrax cage system are great for getting more in depth in measuring a hitter’s outcomes.

You can also use Pocket Radar or a Bushnell radar gun to measure Ball Exit Speeds.

There are also intuitive hitting aids out there that help to cut down the learning curve when teaching a hitter specific swing movements.  One inexpensive one giving audible feedback of when the barrel is accelerating is the Swing Blaster.

The point is, there are great forms of technology and a few hitting aids out there to aid in your feedback systems.  These modalities give hitters INSTANT feedback on where to improve.

Softball Hitting Tips for Beginners #5: Doing the work

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.  Even if you’ve checked the previous FOUR factors off your list, if the hitter isn’t putting the work in, then they’ll get better…but can take years to see consistent improvement.

The overarching theme of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, in his tell all book Total Recall, was:

  • Goals,
  • Steps, and then
  • Reps.

You see, if the hitter is inspired/motivated, employing effective mechanics and coaching cues, using feedback systems to manage what’s measurable, then it’s all about putting the work in.

Do the right things, then get outstanding at doing those things right.

How Many Swings are too Much & not Enough?

Positive Coaching Alliance

Positive Coaching Alliance website is PositiveCoach.org

Fine Line Between Motivation & Inspiration

Remember motivation is like a warm bath, good in the moment, but will soon cool.  Inspiration is the PULL of self-motivation we want to cultivate in our athletes.

Most young athletes ARE NOT inspired to go to practice.  Most go because they want to have fun and connect with friends and teammates.  It’s the 1/3 Rule:

  • 1/3 of your team wants to be there AND get better,
  • 1/3 of your team wants to be there, and the last
  • 1/3 of the team DOES NOT want to be there & could care less about getting better.

And unfortunately, coaches have to spend most of their time on strengthening the weakest links.  This at least holds true for school ball, whereas the parents to have to pay to play.

I find leaning on an organization like the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to help equip coaches, players, umpires, and parents on how to build, motivate, and inspire better athletes, resulting in better people later in life.

Over-Practicing

The International Youth Conditioning Association, whom I’m certified with, talks about how long is too long to have young athletes train or practice.

If we’re coaching 12u, practices SHOULD NOT be more than 45-60 mins, 3 times per week.  More than that is too much.  30-mins or less for 8u.  Middle School should be around 1 hour 30-mins, High School 2 hours 30 mins, college 3-5 hours (depending on weight training days).

And if you feel that’s not enough time to get things done, then you’re not being effective and/or efficient with your practices.

CLICK HERE for an insightful interview with NCAA college Hall of Fame baseball Coach Bob Bennett (my coach for 3 years at Fresno State).  He outlines what MUST be the highest priority for practices.

Do you know how to tell if an athlete is over training?

CLICK HERE to read this BreakingMuscle.com article to see how to by just monitoring an athlete’s resting heart rate.

At-Home Sweet Spot

I recommend to all my hitters, to start with 5-15 minutes/day of purposeful quality swing reps at home.  4-5 days per week.  This range will depend on self-motivation of course.  Players can put in more time, but only if they’re feeling it on that day.  The point is to get them REVISITING the material everyday.

By the way, this is outside of normal team practice time.  This is time on their own without coach around.

And they need to know, less frequency will translate to a larger learning curve.  In other words, it’ll take LONGER to improve.

And lastly,

Look for the Signs

When practicing or training, look for signs of frustration/anger, boredom, or shutdown.

You’ve seen these before, for example…

When a player is getting frustrated, you may see tears welling up in their eyes…OR anger may be taking unfocused swings as hard as they can.

When a player is bored, you may see them yawn, or being distracted.  The latter could be ADD/ADHD.  The point is they’re not into what you’re teaching them, so you have to make an adjustment.  Make practice a game, and more fun.  That will grab their attention…and keep it.

When a player looks shutdown, it’s time to shut down their session.  Go back to the drawing board and start anew tomorrow.

An outstanding coach is an observant one.  Don’t try to fit a round peg in a square hole.

Above all, PLEASE use common sense.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Improve sports vision training when hitting, keep eye on the baseball, and learn how to see softball better. Discover the North Virginia Doctors of Optometry, Falls Church apps, glasses, and drills training.

Baseball Vision Training That Bryce Harper Is Talking About

Baseball Vision Training: Bryce Harper's amber tinted lenses

Check out Bryce Harper’s amber tinted lenses that help with the sun and different hitting backgrounds in the 2012 playoffs. Photo courtesy WashingtonPost.com

I have the honor and privilege of introducing baseball vision training expert Dr. Keith Smithson to you.

What does he do?  I HIGHLY recommend CLICKING HERE for a piece the Washington Post did about his baseball vision training, titled, “Washington Nationals Go Beyond The Eye Chart With Vision Training”.

In a nutshell, Dr. Keith helps his hitting athletes try and ‘buy time’.  By the way, his baseball vision training works for fastpitch softball as well!  His background?  Dr. Keith Smithson is the:

  • Director of Visual Performance for the Washington Nationals,
  • Team Optometrist for the Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, Washington Spirit and DC United, and
  • Visual Performance Consultant for the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and Nike.

He’s also graciously contributed more BONUS baseball vision training videos that I’m including in my Reaction Time Mastery online video course that will help hitters track pitches crystal clear, accelerate decision-making reaction time, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness.

You’ll find nothing like this course in the hitting industry.

Dr. Smithson has also agreed to share new technologies and strategies with HPL in the future, so you guys and gals will truly be on the cutting edge of vision and tracking!

The Doc is a very busy guy, but he agreed to answer a couple interview questions, so without further adieu,

Enter Dr. Keith Smithson…

 

If you were to train me for four weeks for a HUGE tournament and had a million dollars on the line, what would the baseball vision training look like? What if I trained for eight weeks?

I would begin with a comprehensive visual performance enhancement using the latest dynamic vision testing technology such as the RightEye system.

Based on objectively quantifiable test scores, we would begin a protocol of in-office and home based visual performance enhancement.

We would discuss visual acuity and contrast enhancement using corrective lenses and nutritional supplementation. We would maximize eye muscle function, as well as neurological visual processing function and achieve results, as current studies predict.

 

What makes you different? Who trained you or influenced you?

VIERA, FL February 15 : Dr. Keith Smithson, sports vision specialist. works with Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (1) on his vision skills where they would toss a ring and call out a color and they would attempt to catch the color during spring training workouts on February 15, 2013 in Viera, FL (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

VIERA, FL February 15 : Dr. Keith Smithson, sports vision specialist. works with Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (1) on his vision skills where they would toss a ring and call out a color and they would attempt to catch the color during spring training workouts on February 15, 2013 in Viera, FL (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

All of my testing and training methods are scientifically driven. I use objectively quantifiable testing and training tools to establish performance baselines before training and follow those results throughout training to target the training program and customize each program per the individual athlete’s needs.

I also work with multiple different professional sports teams, therefore I gain a vast understanding of the complex and differing needs of these athletes specific to their sport and position in that sport. I truly learn as much from them, as I trust they learn from me.

 

What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in hitting? What are the biggest wastes of time?

By in large baseball players are the most passionate about understanding the visual needs of their sport and are the most open to emerging technologies to maximize their visual potential.

The biggest misconception is that eye dominance plays an important role in visual performance in baseball. A study was done several years ago that showed equal hitting performance for same sided and cross dominant athletes.  

It is far more important to have equal visual ability and a coordinated eye muscle system to ensure proper eye tracking and depth perception judgements.

Dr. Keith Smithson can be found at: www.novaeyedocs.com

Also, as per Dr. Smithson’s recommendation, sports vision doctors can be found using the doctor locator on aoa.org.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Do ONLY strong baseball, fast-pitch, and slow-pitch softball players hit farther home runs?  And how far?  Can an “average” person hit home runs?  See how 14u small slugger Hudson White beat BIG slugger Blaze Jordan in the Power Showcase home run derby.  Learn Sadaharu Oh lessons on how to hit the first homer.

Sadaharu Oh: 5’10” 173-lbs, 868 Dingers Over 22-Years – How?

 

 

Sadaharu Oh: 5'10" 173-lbs, 868 Dingers Over 22-Years - How?

Sadaharu Oh photo courtesy: rnishi.wordpress.com

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the “Barry Bonds” of Japanese baseball, Sadaharu Oh:

  • Is 5-foot, 173-pounds, and
  • Hit 868 homers in 22 years (that’s almost 40/season!!)…

How did he do this?

Sadaharu Oh Analysis: Your Mission, if you Choose to Accept it…

Watch the above hitting footage, and identify – what you think – are the two most critical things contributing to his consistent power at the plate over a 22-year span.

Of course, Sadaharu Oh probably wouldn’t have put up those kind of numbers against today’s Major League pitchers.  BUT still…his body type…that many homers…for that long???!

Also, did you know he has a hitting book out?  It’s called “A Zen Way Of Baseball”.

I had an interesting conversation about Oh with one of my colleagues about if he were playing today, and was recruited over to the MLB, that coaches/instructors would probably make him a slap happy version of Ichiro Suzuki.

This actually makes A LOT of sense when you look at conventional American baseball/softball wisdom to make a “small left handed hitter” into a situational ground-ball inducing machine.  There NEVER would have been a “Sadaharu Oh”!

I agree there are roles to play in a lineup, and of course there’s a time and place for situational hitting, but if we taught ALL our hitters effective hitting mechanics, then what kind of metrics could a small slugger put up in-between?

Could we have a Dustin Pedroia-type who hits a 162-game average 15 dingers and 44 doubles?!  In addition, to be a bunting, hit-and-run, move ’em over extraordinaire!  Why can’t EVERY hitter experience repeatable power…?

A couple things to keep in mind when analyzing and commenting:

  • Use human movement science as a rule of thumb (un-weighting, spinal engine mechanics, springy fascia, etc.),
  • Be open minded and positive in the comments (no “spitting” on someone’s shoes PLEASE),
  • Clarify by giving a “time stamp” in the video to see what you may be talking about…

You can post your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

How To Hit A Baseball Interview

What college coaches and scouts look for in baseball or softball player recruits and what are the chances of getting a scholarship in 2022-2023.  Learn some parenting advice from Coach Mark Gonzalez about how to get your son or daughter noticed and does your kid have to play travel ball?

GoBigRecruiting.com says this about the chances of getting a scholarship… (true for baseball and softball)

“There are only about 300 division one programs, and they all only have 12 scholarships. With hundreds of thousands of HS softball players out there, the odds are less than 5%.

“You Can Have Average Mechanics and If You Have A Good Approach, You Can Still Be Successful” – Mark Gonzalez Dad Advice on How To Hit a Baseball

 

 

How To Hit A Baseball Interview

How to hit a baseball interview with super parent Mark Gonzalez, and his 7+ tips for other parents out there raising an athlete in a competitive sports environment.

In this how to hit a baseball post interview with Mark Gonzalez, aka East Bay Mark – @NorCal_Trojan on Twitter, and inspirational parent coaching his High School Junior hitter, joined me on the Swing Smarter Hitting Training Podcast and here’s what we covered:

  • What do you find to be the biggest mistake, one or two mistakes on how to hit a baseball that you see out there?
  • Was there an aha moment at some point where you finally said Oh, you know what, I might be over overdoing this being the helicopter parent?
  • “You can have average mechanics and if you have a good approach, you can still be successful…”
  • Is how to hit a baseball all about hitting dingers and doubles?
  • What ever happened to playing Whiffle Ball in the street, and can kids learn anything from video games?
  • What things have you guys been doing on the recruiting side?
  • “If this college wants a certain type of hitting approach and if that’s the hitting approach you really don’t like well maybe that’s not the school for you…”
  • Any other how to hit a baseball parting thoughts that you would give to those parents out there with freshmen, sophomores, juniors in high school, coming from a dad who’s coaching their own kid?
  • Where can people find you Coach Mark and powerful BONUS tips???

CLICK HERE to download and save the how to hit a baseball transcript PDF.

Enjoy!

About travel ball, nowadays it’s a good idea, but in my opinion it doesn’t have to be all year round.  Get kids playing other sports in the off season if you can.  Above all, make sure they’re working on the right things, and then working on doing those things right.  Also, here are two other helpful recruiting links:

  1. Power Showcase: How to Improve Your Recruiting Efforts
  2. Committing to College Baseball: Podcast episode
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Learn how to hit faster pitching, see the fastball better (pitch recognition), and fix late swing (2-plate drill) for baseball and softball players.  Discover practical drills to simulate hitting 80, 85, and 90-mph LIVE off pitching machine.

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips: Confidently Dominate Pitchers That Throw Heat

 

This is Part-1 of a 3-part fastpitch softball hitting tips (works well for baseball too) video series coming straight out of the Reaction Time Mastery online video course…

Hitting Training - Reaction Time Mastery

Sick of struggling to get your hitters on-time, balanced, and keeping high Ball Exit Speeds, especially while hitting off-speed and breaking pitches?  This online video course (7-modules total) reveals cutting edge science on the topics of: Vision, Tracking, Timing, and Forward Momentum.

Finally, you’ll be able to track pitches crystal clear, accelerate reaction time decision-making, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness with this “secret” online video course you can’t live without.

If you haven’t already, then CLICK the Link below to…

Get Access to The Reaction Time Mastery Online Video Course

In this fastpitch softball hitting tips video, we answer the following reader question:

“How to handle fear of pitcher throwing heat?”

We’ll discuss the following fastpitch softball hitting tips:

  • Goal is to keep swing tempo the same,
  • Adjust timing, DO NOT speed up swing tempo, and
  • Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity & Frank Robinson.

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #1: Goal is to Keep Swing Tempo the Same

All human actions require tempo or cadence…

ca. February 2005 --- Ultramarathon Runner Dean Karnazes --- Image by © Patrik Giardino/Corbis Outline

ca. February 2005 — Ultramarathon Runner Dean Karnazes — Image by © Patrik Giardino/Corbis Outline

The magic for a long distance runner happens when they count their right hand swinging forward 85-90 times per minute. Whether running, up/downhill, or on flat ground.

Have you ever ran downhill sprints, gotten really fatigued, and took a spill?  This was because the body’s slower tired tempo couldn’t keep up with the speed required to stay on your feet.

Furthermore…

The magic for a cyclist happens when they count their right foot/pedal reaching its apex 85-90 times per minute, regardless of moving up/downhill, or on flat ground.

Do you know what they do to stay within that range when going uphill or downhill?

Correct,

They change gears.

And most of you know…

In swinging a bat, the hitter is LIMITED on the amount of time they have to decide and swing.  The hitter must process the following information, as quickly as possible, pitch:

  1. Type,
  2. Speed, and
  3. Location…

This can be real challenging for the brain.  If the hitter’s timing is behind, such as is the case with a pitcher that throws heat, the hitter’s brain will begin “cutting out” excessive movements to get the barrel to the ball.

Essential hitting mechanics I often see getting “cut out” when a hitter’s tempo is behind:

  • NOT landing short, resulting in poor use of Ground Reaction Forces,
  • Front shoulder flying open too early, resulting in NOT effectively pre-loading the springy fascia in the torso,
  • NOT striding, resulting in the absence of getting a ‘head start’ and swinging from a dead stop,
  • NOT staying short, resulting in a ‘taller’ swinger, positive launch angles (not good for driving the ball), and will consistently drive the ball into the ground (VERY unproductive to run production, evidenced in my ‘Ground-ball Rant’), and/or
  • Won’t allow for the natural NIKE-swoosh barrel path to unravel, resulting in using an ineffective hand path to the ball, shortening the time the barrel spends on the plane of the pitch.

And from there, compensations occur, and the hitter loses the ability to optimally transfer energy from body to barrel to ball.

So, even with pitchers that throw heat,

We have to keep a consistent swing tempo

So, in knowing that, what do we have to clean up?

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #2: Adjust Timing, DO NOT Speed Up Swing Tempo 

My biggest fastpitch softball hitting tips advice when it comes to dominating a faster pitcher is to:

Brandon Moss homers off R.A. Dickey knuckle-ball

Brandon Moss homers on R.A. Dickey 76-mph knuckleball. Do you think he had to change his timing to do that? Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Start the swing sooner,
  • ‘Float’ less, or
  • A little of both.

And in the case of a slower pitcher, you’d reverse these elements:

  • Start swing later,
  • ‘Float longer, or
  • A combination of both.

You see, we want our hitter’s natural swing tempo, regardless of whether they’re facing a fast or slow pitcher.

What do I mean by when the swing starts?

I tell my hitters, their swing starts, as soon as they make the decision to pick up their front foot.

What about the ‘Float’?  What is it?

CLICK HERE for this other RANT post I did on that.  Scroll down to the section I sub-titled, “Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’”.

Also, CLICK HERE for this post showing a video of Jose Bautista, revealing what critical, but simple, change he made to his timing from the 2009 and 2010 seasons that has transformed him into the Joey Bats of today.

My favorite drill for speeding up the eyes on a machine, to help with hitting 80-90 mph (whatever is considered “fast”), is to set up the machine to throw about the fast velocity you want your hitters to adapt to.  Then have your hitters take a big step towards the machine after every swing.  After about 4-6 BIG steps forward, then have them return to the beginning.  What you’ll find is that they will be out front, whereas they were behind on the first swings.

If you want to condition hitters to hit 80 mph, then they MUST see 90.  If you want them hitting 90, then they MUST see 100.  100?  They MUST see 110.

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #3: Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity & Frank Robinson

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips: Effective Velocity

Perry Husband diagram demonstrating Effective Velocity and the hitter’s differences in ‘perceived’ velocity. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

When it comes to plate approach, fastpitch softball hitting tips that hitters at all levels MUST put into practice comes from Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity program.

He’s one of the experts I called on to contribute a couple videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

CLICK HERE for the interview I did with him on the blog.

Basically, Effective Velocity is about a hitter’s perceived pitch velocity.  For example, the radar gun registers a pitcher’s fastball velocity at 90-mph, down the middle of the plate…

However, if the same pitch is located inside or high in the strike zone, the hitter actually sees that ball faster, between THREE to SIX-mph faster.

And the reverse is true of the pitch locating outside or down in the zone.

My friend Taylor Gardner shared a conversation with me that his hitting mentor Matt Nokes had with Hall Of Famer Frank Robinson on his plate approach when facing pitchers that throw heat…

Frank Robinson said he was looking for the pitcher’s fastest pitch up and in, and adjusting to everything else.

Perry Husband did some work with Carlos Pena in 2009, talking about this very thing on the MLB Network:

Not saying this plan will work for everyone, but if you don’t have a plan, it’s a great place to start.