Conditioning Little Leaguers Warmup

Photo courtesy: Science.HowStuffWorks.com

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers:

How many of you do a dynamic warm-up with your players to start practice?

If you do not, then Dr. Stanley Beekman’s post is timely.

In the following post, the Doc will give you an active full body warm up routine you can use with your young athletes.

I even have my private instruction hitters do a RAMP warm-up routine before we start hitting.  RAMP stands for:

  • Range-of-motion – increase flexibility like Dr. Stanley will talk about in his post below,
  • Activation – activating certain muscles that tend to turn off because excessive sitting during the day, and
  • Movement Preparation – certain exercises that mimic specific hitting positions or movements.

This is promoted heavily in my Youth Fitness Specialist certification through the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA).

If you’re not including a dynamic warm-up, then you’re cutting your young athletes short.

Enter Dr. Stanley…

——

This is the second of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball little leaguers. In this post we’ll go over:

  • What is flexibility?
  • 4 reasons we want flexibility,
  • 7 causes of “inflexibility”,
  • Why warm up? And,
  • A sample warm up program to encourage flexibility

 

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility is defined as the ability to bend without breaking. In sports we mean ease and range of movement.

 

4 Reasons WHY We Want Flexibility?

  1. Injury prevention: For example Achilles tendonitis is caused by tight calf muscles.
  2. Better technique: Example – limitation of internal rotation of the hip joint will prevent the batter from staying closed.
  3. More Speed: Larger range of motion will allow more time to accelerate a body part.
  4. Less restriction of movement means more speed with less effort.

 

7 Causes of “Inflexibility”?

  1. Cold muscles
  2. The need to stabilize joint dysfunctions
  3. Injuries or dysfunction of muscles-agonists or antagonists, ligaments, and fascia
  4. Emotional stress
  5. Avoidance of  pain (prior or current)
  6. Shortened muscles
  7. Improper position of adjacent joints

 

Why Warm Up?

  • Muscles are like sponges. When they are dry they are stiff and will tear if moved. When they are dipped in water they become flexible
  • Joint movement pumps synovial (joint) fluid through the cartilage and prepares it for activity

 

A Sample Warm Up Program to Encourage Flexibility

So, what is the best way to warm up the body before performing intense exercise?

I have had a few kids on my son’s team work out with him. These are the warm up exercises we do. There are many other great warm up exercises, but the key here is to get the blood flowing to all the muscles and the heart and lungs working.

Sometimes there is an overlap between warming up and ballistic stretching (which we will talk about in the next installment).

We start slowly and then build up. If you have any favorite warm up exercises, let us know in the comments section below…

1. Running with high knees 15 yards

2. Running kicking the butt 15 yards

3. Lunge walks 10 yards

4. Side lunge walks 10 yards

5. Head rotation 10x each way 

6. Arm circles forwards 10x

7. Arm circles backwards 10x

8. Huggers 10x

9. Indian clubs for shoulders, elbows and wrists 10x (Stay with 1 lb clubs)
Indian Clubs on Amazon

10. Bulgarian bag thoracic warm up 10x each way.

11. Trunk twist 10x each way

12. Hip Circles 10x each way

13. Knee Circles 10x each way 

14. Karaoke 15 yds left lead and 20 yds right lead

15. Free Squats 10x

16. Bear Crawls 15yds

17. Crab Walks 15yds

18. Burpees with Hindu push up and jump 10x

Next time we will talk about stretching…

 

Domingo Ayala: How To Hit Cage Bombs

Photo courtesy: TopicNow.info & DomingoBeisbol.com

Okay, in all seriousness…

I received an email from a reader named Garrett,

…in response to a post I did, titled:

“What Every Coach MUST Know About Giving Feedback To Hitters”.

This post will identify and fix a “5 O’Clock” hitter…

 

Identifying a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

What is a “5 O’Clock” Hitter?
One who ONLY “shows up” for batting practice, but not in a game.  In other words, BOMB!! lol
Here is Garrett’s email…
“Hey Joey, 
Does this sound like the recipe for a five o’ clock/inconsistent hitter to you?
  1. takes one swing then goes and analyze the video…repeats the process 30 times
  2. relies on someone else to tell the what they are doing wrong
  3. uses BP to try and hit bombs…how do your hitters use bp on the field for work?
  4. uses the tee to practice the perfect swing for the perfect pitch
Thanks.”

How-To Fix a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

My responses below addresses the numbered questions above (slightly edited)

“Garrett,
  1. That sounds like a similar approach to Jaime Cevallos’s Positional Hitting!  Video analysis is a great source of external feedback, but like everything else, can be relied upon too much, or obsessively at times.  I’d prefer the hitter work out the kinks for at least 5-8 swings before filming again.  This can be supported in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.
  2. Hitters are their best own evaluators.  Nobody else can tell them how or what they felt on a particular swing.  I’ve had hitters like this, and typically it stems from mom or dad (or somebody) giving them the answers all the time growing up.  Not letting them make their own mistakes, and learning from them.  Young hitters have to fail on their own, then struggle for the adjustment…and if they need help after that, then coach can pick them up.  This has Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code written all over it.
  3. “Practice like you play, so you play like you practice”.  If you have to compete in a 100-meter sprint, you can’t train like you would for a marathon.  Marathon batting practice sessions (taking 8+ swings per round) are useless to a game swing.  My hitters take 3-5 swing rounds, and then get a brief break.  They’re also required to swing as hard as they can – under complete control – for each swing.  CLICK HERE for a great testimonial case study post from one of my San Diego dads, on the turnaround his two High School boys experienced making this switch.
  4. Mass practice off the tee is no good.  The tee position must be varied after each swing.  This is talked about extensively in Peter C. Brown’s book above as the Art of Variance.  Also, please refer to preceding point #3.
Hitting cage bombs gives a short-term boost to self-confidence.  And hitters who don’t do train for the “100-meter sprint” will break during competition.
Self-confidence is gained through working the process, staying the course, and not obsessively focusing on outcomes or their competition.  Gio Valiante’s book Golf Flow is a great resource for this type of thinking.”
BOMB!! 😀 lol
My question to you is…
What are the one or two biggest mistakes you see coaches or players make in practicing like they’re going to play?
Please REPLY in the comments section below…
Giving Feedback To Hitters: My 2yo Son Noah

This is Noah (2yo at time) hitting the beach-ball with Grandma Alice…

Giving Feedback To Hitters: A How-To…

My in-laws had just come over for Easter Sunday,

And we were watching my 2-year-old son Noah hit balls off his little tee in the backyard.

What transpired was an ah-ha moment for me in giving feedback to hitters…

My brother-in-law was the fielder, and in between swings, my mother-in-law was feeding his tee more balls.

Whenever Noah would angle to hit the ball away from my brother-in-law,

My mother-in-law would come over and help Noah angle correctly, by moving his body with her hands.

It dawned on me that I’d never given him feedback like that before.

I typically just tell him to “hit it that way,” and he angles his body naturally.

Which is the better way?  And does it matter?

There’s a growing body of research and study that reveals the science of giving feedback to hitters.

First, let’s see how you’d answer the following 3 questions…

1. Do you give verbal feedback between each swing?

OR, wait till the end of a round?

2. Do you use internal cues like a focus on the feet?  

OR, focus on external ones outside the feet?

3.  Do you physically move the player into a better position yourself?

OR, do you allow the player to make adjustments on their own?

How’d you do?  Don’t worry about being wrong…

In this post, we’re going to look at how science answers the 3 previous questions on giving feedback to hitters…

 

1. Do you give verbal feedback between each swing? OR, wait till the end of a round?

The Science Of Giving Feedback: The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle

To give this section some context, check out Daniel Coyle’s post about the Z-Boys by CLICKING the image above…

Daniel Coyle, in his book The Talent Code, talks about The Language Of Ignition.  He shares a story from Skip Engblom, the guy who coached the Z-Boys surf/skateboarding team in the 1970’s.

Enter Coach Skip… (by the way ‘unowaime?’ is Skip-Talk for ‘you know what I mean?’):

“When it came to skateboards, we got all systematic about it, practiced a couple hours a day, four days a week.  There’s no instant gratification, man.  Everything boils back down to training; doing it over and over.  So I never said much.  I would just be mellow and say ‘good job, dude’ or ‘nice shred,’ and sometimes somthing to up the ante, toss in a little carrot, you know, like ‘I heard so-and-so did that trick last week.’  And then they’d all be trying like crazy to do that one, unowaime?”

…”Here’s the deal.  You’ve got to give kids credit at a younger age for feeling stuff more acutely.  When you say something to a kid, you’ve got to know what you’re saying to them.  The stuff you say to a kid starting out — you got to be super careful, unowaime? What skill-building really is, is confidence-building.  First they got to earn it, then they got it.  And once it gets lit, it stays lit pretty good.”

In giving feedback to hitters, pretend words are precious.  Imagine that every word you say costs YOU money.  The less words you use, the smaller your bill is at the end of a session.  Make your words more impactful, more purposeful.

I wait till the end of a round (5-swings or so) to give feedback.  And even then, I’m quizzing THEM on what they did or felt, NOT telling what I think.  This works wonders in giving feedback to hitters that makes coaching sticky.

 

2. Do you use internal cues like a focus on the feet?  OR, focus on external ones outside the feet?

Giving Feedback To Hitters: Stabilometer

Stabilometer, photo courtesy: hospimedicaintl.com

I found a study by Charles H. Shea & Gabriele Wulf that was published at ScienceDirect.com titled, “Enhancing Motor Learning Through External-Focus Instructions and Feedback”, that illuminates a piece of the giving feedback to hitters puzzle… (CLICK HERE for the study abstract):

They had four groups who practiced balancing on a Stabilometer:

  • Group 1 – Focused on balancing with their feet (internal),
  • Group 2 – Focused on balancing by looking at a marker on the Stabilometer (external),
  • Group 3 – Concurrent feedback watching deviations from the horizontal on a computer screen and telling them the line represented their feet (feedback/internal focus), and
  • Group 4 – Concurrent feedback watching deviations from the horizontal on a computer screen and telling them the line represented the markers (feedback/external focus).

Study conclusions:

  • Both external focus of attention and feedback enhanced learning.
  • Learning benefits of an external attentional focus seem to generalize the feedback given to the learner.
  • Feedback generally enhanced performance and learning, suggesting that one function of feedback might be to promote an external focus of attention.

According to sports performance psychologist and distinguished PGA Tour mental coach, Gio Valiante, elite golfers use an external focus during tournaments by “moving towards the cup”.  In other words, they aren’t focusing internally about their mechanics.

Giving feedback to hitters works in the same way…I use feedback markers when working on footwork.  I urge them to “get to the markers” (external) instead of a focus on their feet (internal).

 

3.  Do you physically move the player into a better position yourself? OR, do you allow the player to make adjustments on their own?

Giving Feedback To Hitters: Golf Flow book by Gio Valiante

Great golf book on the mental process.  It’s has nothing to do with hitting, but at the same time has everything to do with it.


In a book by Gio Valiante called Golf Flow, he recalls a class session where he’s also a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida…

In the middle of class, that was being video recorded, he asked a female student to walk up and try her hand at sinking a putt on a 6-foot artificial turf green he had set up.

The first try was rushed, and she missed horribly beyond the cup.

The second try she took more time to line up, and the putt came up a bit short.

The third try she took a little more time, made a few mechanical adjustments, then sank the putt!

Please note that during the test, not a word was said to her.

Dr. Gio Valiante then had everyone in the class watch the video back of her whole session.  He instructed the class to analyze what key adjustments she made after her misses.

The key here is that the female student made the adjustments on her own.  Just like the Z-Boys skateboarding example above.

This has major implications on giving feedback to hitters…

Returning back to my mother-in-law’s reaction to Noah, when he was lining up to hit the ball off the tee…

The ah-ha moment for me was seeing Noah’s brain turn off as my mother-in-law did the dirty work of moving him into the right position.  In other words, he didn’t have to think about the adjustment, and make it himself.

Based on the research of this post, this leads to a longer learning curve.  So:

  • Keep verbal feedback (or cues) short and punchy,
  • Use external focuses (i.e. video analysis, “hit it over there!”), and
  • Make sure when you’re giving feedback to hitters, that you allow for natural adjustments to be made like in the case of Dr. Gio’s female student and my son Noah.

The Sooner You Know These Batting Timing Drills The BetterBatting Timing Drills

Take a guess at one of the biggest hitting frustrations is, according to my readers?

Timing!

Probably not a shocker because your hitters probably struggle with this as well.  Mine do!

I always tell my hitters, the most efficient mechanics in the world don’t mean a thing, if a hitter’s NOT working on being “on-time”.

In the survey, my readers asked if…

I use any batting timing drills with my hitters – that work?

Funny, because…

Last week, I was on a call with one of my online lesson dads from Southern California.  He said the difference in his son hitting the ball harder, with more consistency, has been because of how we cue one of the batting timing drills I’m about to share with you.

Before we get started…

I want you to note that the following two batting timing drills are rooted in science.  They follow the Principle of Variance (CLICK HERE for another post I did on that).

In this post, I want to share the:

  1. “Float” Variance Drill, AND
  2. Reaction Time Variance Drill.

CLICK HERE to watch this Carlos Pena video on how a hitter’s reaction time changes with pitch location.

 

“Float” Variance Drill

Basically, a “float” is a slight pause before falling forward.  Make sure you’re cueing “load slow and early”.  This is what helped my SoCal hitter from above.  CLICK HERE for this post referencing how Jose Bautista turned his swing around with the same cue.

We want the hitter to pick the stride foot up and shift their weight back.  Which means the back knee will have to track over the back toe – and not inside.  How far the back knee tracks depends on whether the hitters has a:

  • High leg kick,
  • Medium leg kick, or
  • Slide step/toe tap.

The higher the leg kick, the more the back knee tends to track over the toe.  The knee shifts inside the toe during the fall.  And this should be a natural move.  Most hitters cannot be “on-time” by just picking up the stride foot and falling forward.

And this is what would happen if the hitter focused solely on keeping the back knee inside the toe pre-stride foot lift.

If you don’t believe me, then do an experiment with the drill, and have your hitters note the difference in their quality of contact and control swinging the bat.

When to lift the stride foot to start the “float”, will get fleshed out in the next batting timing drill…

 

Reaction Time Variance Challenge

In the past, part of my timing training, was to tell my hitters to lift their stride foot at a specified point in the pitcher’s delivery.

Which is okay.

But now, my batting timing drills put more emphasis on trial-by-fire.  Let me put my hitter through an environment where they have to learn to calibrate their own timing.  I’m trying to melt them down mentally.  And they’re trying to keep me from melting them down.

In a game, the same thing happens.

In other words, this batting timing drill “takes care of business”, in a natural way.

Please post any other batting timing drills – like these – that are working for your hitters in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or share your testing on the drills I included)…

You Too Can Build a Heavy Bag in a Weekend with $10

Dr. Stanley’s homemade heavy bag.

Where was this post when I was younger!

Soon you’ll get to see how Dr. Stanley Beekman took his son from virtually zero follow through in a game swing…

To crystal clear follow through using a heavy bag.  A homemade heavy bag, you’ll learn how to put together over a weekend, for only $10.

One simple NOTE: in the last hitting drill under “A Drill That Will Help the Hips”, make sure your hitters are showing their numbers to the pitcher, and keep the hips in neutral, or parallel to the plate before powering into the heavy bag.

Take it away Dr. Stanley…

In this post, I will discuss:

  • Swing benefits of using a heavy bag,
  • How to make one for $10 (step-by-step), and
  • How we used the heavy bag to better my son’s swing in 2 weeks…
  • A drill that will help the hips

 Swing Benefits of Using a Heavy Bag

BEFORE

In the following video watch the bat slow down when the bat contacts the ball. This results in a lack of follow through:

When asked about it, he said, he didn’t follow through because the ball stopped the bat.  One of the reasons for this is a lack of eccentric strength in the wrists and forearms.

AFTER

Right after this, he started hitting the heavy bag. (Starting with 5 sets of 10 repetitions and over time progressing to 10 sets of 10 repetitions).  He felt the change in two weeks. He said, “Dad, it felt like a hot knife through butter”. We continued through the off season…

 

How to Make a Heavy Bag for $10 (STEP-BY-STEP)

Materials:

  • 3- Used tires of the same diameter (Free from any tire store)
  • 12-1″ -2″ screws
  • 12- nuts to fit the machine screws
  • 24-washers
  • 3-1/4″ eye bolts ($3.54)
  • 1-Large eye bolt with 2 washers and nut or a Large Screw eye bolt
  • Parachute cord ($3.98)

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Drill bits

Instructions:

1. Find a location under a joist or beam.

2. If you are attaching the heavy bag to a beam,  drill a hole through it and use the large eye bolt, 2 washers and a nut to attach the eye bolt to the beam.

HeavyBag3

If you are attaching the heavy bag to a joist, screw the Screw Eye Bolt to the joist.

3. Place a stool/bench on the floor where you want to put the Heavy bag. The height should be equal to your son’s knee.

4. Place on tire on top of the stool, and the second tire on top of the first.

5. Drill 4 holes at 90 degrees through the sidewall of the top tire and through the bottom tire at the area where the side walls touch.

6. Affix the tires using 4 screws, 8 washers and 4 nuts.

HeavyBag2

7. Stack the third tire on top of the other two.

8. Repeat steps 5 and 6 on the two top tires

9. Drill 3 holes through the sidewall of the top tire at 120 degrees to each other.

10. Push the small eye bolts through these holes and affix with the washers and nuts.

HeavyBag4

11. Tie a knot attaching the parachute cord to one small eye bolt.

12. Run the parachute cord through the large eye bolt and then to another small eye bolt.

13. Tie a knot.

HeavyBag5

14. Repeat steps 11-13 on the adjacent small eye bolt

.HeavyBag6

15. Repeat steps 11-13 on the eye bolts that only have one strand going to it.

HeavyBag7

16. Remove the stool/bench

HeavyBag8

17. Hit the bag with a bat

 

How We Used the Heavy Bag to Better my Son’s Swing in 2-Weeks

Here’s what we did to achieve the AFTER swing from above :

 

A Drill That Will Help the Hips

In addition to hitting the bag to develop eccentric wrist and arm strength, we can train technique. In the video below, the hips are trained to rotate fully.

 

There are more drills that can be performed, but they can be duplicated with a tee. The advantage to using a heavy bag, is that the feedback is more accurate, as it is not dependent on how exact the ball is hit.

8 Critical Principles to Coaching Youth Baseball Revealed

Imagine Coaching Youth Baseball, & Loving Every Minute Of It

Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown

And these principles don’t JUST work for coaching youth baseball.

These “rules” work for coaching youth fastpitch softball as well.

And the word “youth” doesn’t discriminate between a 7-year-old OR a 24-year-old.  They work at ANY level.  And ANY sport for that matter!  We’re talking principles here people 😛

This subject came up recently in an email I received from Brian Petrick, a High School Varsity baseball coach…

“Just wondering how you would organize hitting for a team practice. I’m in the northeast so I’m stuck in the gym with one batting cage. How would you organize hitting stations for 15-17 guys including variance instead of mass practice. I’m hoping to have 2 tee stations, 2 flat bat stations with whiffle balls. and the cage. cage will some days split in half for two groups of front toss and other days have regular BP. (At the same time 1 or 2 pitchers are throwing their bullpens) It can be difficult to keep the guys focused for an hour of hitting when we’re stuck in the gym for 4 weeks. I coach high school varsity so I do have jr’s and sr’s.”

Now, I’m not in the trenches, coaching youth baseball teams, like some of you are.  This is why I’m also asking for your help below.

Although, I DO want to give you the coaching youth baseball principles that I’ve learned to use with my paid one-on-one hitters, small groups, and team consulting.

In this coaching youth baseball post, we’ll talk about:

  • Coaching youth baseball: 8 scientific principles of successful learning, and
  • We need your help coaches…

Two books that changed my life, when it comes to teaching:

  1. Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown
  2. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born.  It’s Grown.  Here’s How., by Daniel Coyle

This post will highlight book #1 above.  Book #2 echos and adds to the same “rules”.  Let’s explore advice that’s grounded in research…

 

Coaching Youth Baseball: 8 Scientific Principles of Successful Learning

The following coaching youth baseball “rules” will optimize the learning process, guaranteed.  As Peter C. Brown puts learning, in his book Make It Stick:

“Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful.  Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow…The need to understand that when learning is hard, you’re doing important work…when learning is harder, it’s stronger, and lasts longer.

I’ll relate the following Make It Stick learning principles to coaching youth baseball hitters…the following is highlighted material from my book:

  • Principle #1: Test Often – spaced repetition of key ideas.  Think constant quizzing or testing.  Spread out the learning of a topic, and return to it periodically.  This form of periodic practice arrests forgetting, strengthens retrieval routes, and is essential for hanging onto the knowledge you want to gain.  I test my hitters on the information they’re learning in that session a TON!  They leave our sessions mentally drained.
  • Principle #2: Mix it Up!  – interleaving of different but related topics – if they interleave the study of different topics, they learn each better than if they had studied them one at a time in sequence.  For example, one of my hitters may learn how to land on a bent front knee, downhill shoulder angle, and keep a 90-degree bend in the back knee during the turn.  They’re all related but aren’t exactly in proper swing sequence.
  • Principle #3: Variance – CLICK HERE to read about this and the 3-foot bucket and bean bag study.  I love this one!!  I use it all the time from swings off the tee, to plate distances from the person throwing batting practice, to random pitching (think Cal Poly study in previous post link).
  • Principle #4: Solve a Problem BEFORE Instruction is Given – Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.  Before I teach something new, I may ask my hitter to tell me what the purpose of a given mechanical layer would be before I tell them the answer.
  • Principle #5: Elaborate! – elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.  This is another way to quiz them.  But I reserve this for the hitters that have worked with me for awhile, so they’re drawing from and connecting the “right” information.
  • Principle #6: Failure is a Badge of Effort – and is a source of useful information.  The need to dig deeper or to try a different strategy.  Making mistakes and correcting them builds the bridges to advanced learning.  Failure in learning the swing has to be encouraged.  I tell my hitters it’s okay to not have the right answer when I ask them.  It’s okay to not hit the ball hard (if we’re working on a specific mechanical layer during a session).
  • Principle #7: Quality v. Quantity – the amount of study time is no measure of mastery.  Just because you take 1,000 swings a day, doesn’t mean you’re being effective with your practice.  Tim Ferriss, in his NY bestselling book The Four Hour Chef, said: “If effectiveness is doing the right things, efficiency is doing things right.  Even with the best material, if your time-to-fluency is 20 years, the return on investment (ROI) is terrible.” 
  • Principle #8: Delay Feedback – in motor learning, trial and error with delayed feedback is a more awkward but effective way of acquiring a skill than trial and correction through immediate feedback; immediate feedback is like the training wheels on a bicycle: the learner quickly comes to depend on the continued presence of the correction.  I used to give feedback after every swing.  But now I wait till the end of a 5-swing round…and even then, they get quizzed before I tell them how those swings actually were.

Fore-WARNING from Peter C. Brown, in his book…

“Practice that’s spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility.  But these benefits come at a price: when practice is spaced, interleaved, and varied, it requires more effort.  You feel the increased effort, but not the benefits the effort produces.  Learning feels slower from this kind of practice, and you don’t get the rapid improvements and affirmation you’re accustomed to seeing from massed practice.”

 

We Need Your Help Coaches…

Let’s get back to Coach Brian’s email from earlier, in this coaching youth baseball post.  How can you help coach out?  What are you currently doing that uses some or most of the above principles with your hitters at practice.  For those with “weather disabilities”, and time constraints, what are you doing in small spaces to keep practices efficient and effective?

Please share your coaching youth baseball (or fastpitch) experiments below (THANKS in advance for sharing!).  Please leave a Reply below…

 

Batting Cages May Be Dangerous To Repeatable Power

“Textimonial” from Kyle – Stephen’s dad – the same night (he’s in white, I’m in blue)

I know you what you’re thinking, “Okay, so what’s wrong with hitting at the batting cages?

We’ll get to that…

But before we do, let me set the stage for what I’m about to share with you…

A glimpse into an online hitting lesson I gave to my hitter Stephen at The Feedback Lab.

I was granted permission from Kyle Harrington (Stephen’s dad), to share his 12-year-old son’s latest online hitting session with me (session #3 of 6).  They’re out of New Jersey (and I’m in Fresno, CA)…

 

What Was To Be Corrected

  • Hiding his hands from the pitcher
  • “Downhill” shoulder angle pre-turn, and
  • Maintaining 90-degree back leg angle during turn and finish.

 

Stephen 2-Months Later…

In the above video, I mentioned the difference between comparing a swing off the tee versus at the batting cages.  It’s not really an apples to apples comparison, BUT if they can repeat what we’re trying to get them to do off a tee, then the feeling to repeat it is there.  Here’s what his analysis showed:

  • Great downhill shoulder angle,
  • Much better with hiding his hands from the pitcher (could polish a little here), and
  • Much better body angle on his finish.

3-Points Worth Noting…

  1. Dad had mentioned to me, in the past 2-months, that they’ve been testing hand, butt, and hamstring tension, which might have also had an effect on Stephen’s outcomes.
  2. Stephen will be working on a better barrel launch angle using variance training mentioned in the above video.  Pay attention to the Bat Angle Experiment I referenced in the video.
  3. I give feedback based on Tony LaRussa’s “Pat & Pop Method”.  First give a “pat” on the back (what they did or are doing well), then reveal the “pop” (what they’ll be working to improve their swing).

Coaches, this is critical!!  Athletes don’t just need to be broken down all the time.  Build them up first, then offer up the constructive criticism.

 

The Danger in Batting Cages

And I’m not talking about Happy Gilmore style…

Someone smart once said:

“Practice like you play, so you play like you practice.”

Most coaches have their players do what’s referred to as “massed practice”at the batting cages.  For example, if you needed work on hitting off speed and breaking pitches, a massed practice would look like the following scenario…a pitcher throws each hitter:

  • 15 fastballs, then
  • 15 curveballs, and
  • Lastly 15 changeups…

But this isn’t what it’s like in the game.  The hitter rarely knows, with 100% certainty, which pitch, speed, and location they’re getting.  So practice MUST reflect this dynamic in training.  And hitting at the batting cages limits the amount of variance we can work into our practice.

I do a few things with my more advanced hitters (mechanically speaking), to mix things up:

We may not practice all these at once.  Coaches, our objective with our hitters is to move them to the verge of “meltdown” with variance.  Then bring them back.  Then rebuild.  I hope this helps!

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Never Suffer from Paralysis by Analysis Again

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters

This is a shortlist of the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on educating myself about how the human body moves…

I often get asked about equipment, books, and other resources to use, from coaches about hitting.

From hitting aids…to hitting programs…to hitting books.

There’s a potential for exponential growth in this information age, for coaches.  There’s no excuse not to succeed nowadays.  As Tony Robbins says,

“Where focus goes, energy flows.”

I wanted to share a list of equipment, books, and other resources that have helped in my own baseball training equipment for hitters journey.

I do a ton of research and study to find only the best.  The key is, does the information or hitting aid hold up to the modern human sciences?

At the end of this post, I’d like to hear from you.  What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out?

By the way, this “guide” has as much to do with softball, as it does for baseball.

Think of this post as the definitive guide to baseball training equipment for hitters

 

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Books

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers

Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers

  1. Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers – this book changed my hitting world.  Probably the best book for understanding the way humans move and how to optimize it.
  2. Dynamic Body Exploring Form, Expanding Function, by Dr. Erik Dalton et al. – a collaborative of distinguished movement author experts.  Even if you read a couple of the articles in there, you’ll be farther along than the conventional coach.
  3. The Spinal Engine, by Dr. Serge Gracovetsky – he cuts to the heart of the main engine in the swing.  I want to warn you though, the information is jargon thick.
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance…, by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza – this book is a beast.  The Golden Rule for hitters?  You have to train like an athlete first, THEN a baseball or softball player.
  5. The Golfing Machine, by Homer Kelly – Kelly was an aeronautical engineer for Boeing during the Great Depression.  He fell in love with golf and began applying engineering principles to the Golf swing.
  6. Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown – the science of successful learning.  This book changed how I train hitting forever.
  7. The Science Of Hitting, by Ted Williams – need I say more?
  8. Disciple of a Master: How to Hit a Baseball to Your Potential, by Stephen J. Ferroli – written in 1986 as an answer to the Ted Williams book The Making Of A Hitter.  Ferroli was a bio-mechanical expert who gave more detail to Williams’s study.  It’s an easy book to digest.  When I was reading it, it was interesting how eerily similar our approaches were because of science.
  9. The Making Of A Hitter, by Jim Lefebvre – particularly the part when he talks about the swing being a combination of Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces.
  10. Positional Hitting: The Modern Approach to Analyzing and Training Your Baseball Swing, by Jaime Cevallos – his observations are great, but applying the information via his drills prove to be a challenge.
  11. Heads-Up Baseball : Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, by Tom HansonKen Ravizza – one of the best books on the mental side of hitting.
  12. Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way Of Baseball, by Sadaharu Oh & David Falkner – from the Japanese baseball career home-run leader (he hit 868 homers!!).
  13. The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, by Ian O’Conner – great example of hard work and dedication paying off.  Not to mention one of the better human examples of ethics and morals.
  14. One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, by Tony La Russa – great insight into the game within the game, and great how-to example for coaches from a man who didn’t amount to much as a player in the game.
  15. Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Courtby John Wooden – I actually haven’t read this one yet, but have read through quite a bit of Coach Wooden’s stuff.  My college baseball Coach Bob Bennett used a lot of his coaching principles.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one of Coach Wooden’s books as a resource for coaches.  By the way, this is the best rated on Amazon.com.

 

 Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Hitting AidsThe Starting Lineup Store

In March of 2011, I put together an online store selecting the best 9 hitting aids on the planet.  It’s called TheStartingLineupStore.com.  I won’t go into all of them here, but I wanted to highlight my top-3 sellers:

  • The MaxBP Golf Wiffle Ball Machine – this is my top seller.  My young hitters have so much fun with this.  Heck, I have fun with this 😀  The founder/inventor tests every machine before it goes out.  The quality is top notch.
  • Backspin Batting Tee – it’s like a Tanner Tee turned upside down.  It hides the top half of the ball (where ground balls are born), and shows only the bottom half to the hitter.  On-path bottom half is their motto.

Top-4 essential baseball training equipment for hitters…

  1. Zepp Baseball App – the Zepp device attaches unobstructedly to the knob of the bat, and registers bat speed, ball exit speed, hand speed, swing path, attack angle, etc. to the coordinating app on your phone.  It carries a hefty price tag at $150, but for coaches serious about running swing experiments, it’s a MUST!!  CLICK HERE for an experiment I did using it.
  2. Coaches Eye App OR Ubersense App – slow motion analysis for your phone.  Both apps are compatible with both the iphone and android.  I have the CoachesEye.  Both are free I believe.
  3. Powerchalk – web based motion analysis.  You don’t have to download any software to your computer.  The free membership comes with:  1) The ability to upload ten separate videos to your own Video Locker, 2) Two-minutes of recording time per analysis, 3) 10-slot video locker, and 4) Upload and share video content.

If you digest the baseball training equipment for hitters book suggestions alone, you’ll put yourself in the top 1% of hitting coaches, instructors, and trainers.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

And don’t just stop there.  Read player biographies and auto-biographies of past players like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, etc.  That being said…

 

I Want to Hear Your Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters Thoughts…

What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out that should be included in the definitive guide?  Please comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

5 Powerful Baseball Quotes From Top Hitters…

I often post inspirational baseball quotes from top MLB hitters on my Facebook fan-page. So I wanted to share my top five player quotes and photos that get the most engagement on Facebook…ENJOY!

 

Derek Jeter

Baseball Quotes: Derek Jeter

Photo courtesy: HighHeatStats.com

I read D.J.’s unauthorized biography The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, and baseball quotes like this of his sum up his whole career.

Even though Derek Jeter was the 6th overall pick by the Yankees in the 1992 draft, he made over 50 errors at Shortstop his first year in professional baseball!  The Yankees doubted him and talked about moving him to the outfield.  He improved on his fielding, and the rest is history.

Whether it was brutal contract negotiations with the Yankees, media scrutiny from one of the biggest cities in the world, “Stat-heads” saying he had no range to his glove side, or injuries, Derek Jeter found a way to beat the critics, his competition, and inevitably etch himself into the Hall of Fame.

 

Giancarlo Stanton

Baseball Quotes: Giancarlo Stanton

Photo courtesy: SBNation.com

Fangraphs lists Giancarlo Stanton as a beast, 6-foot, 6-inches, 240-pounds!  And according to Wikepedia.com he was a three-sport athlete.  Before being drafted in 2007 by the Marlins, he was offered a baseball scholarship at USC, and offers to play football at UCLA and UNLV.

I love hearing this quote come from such a “big” guy.  I subscribe to the fact that Giancarlo Stanton was such a well-rounded athlete, and didn’t have access to year-round baseball that contributed to his success so far.

Unfortunately, a lot of Little League coaches and parents focus on just hitting the ball, instead of hitting the ball hard. These types of baseball quotes are great to put hitting into perspective.

 

Jose Bautista

Baseball Quotes: Jose Bautista

Photo courtesy: BirdDogRealty.net

One of the “smallest big hitters” in baseball.  FanGraphs.com lists him at 6-foot, 205-pounds.  But his Metrics make him look like Giancarlo Stanton!!!

These types of baseball quotes are based on mindset at the plate.  And after watching Jose Bautista swing, we can see he doesn’t get cheated…shocker, I know.  Consider this…

One of my hitting friends Bob Hall from Canada shared with me something he heard from a scout about having a plan at the plate…

You’re either a fisherman OR a hunter.  The fisherman waits for the fish to bite, while the hunter stalks his prey.  I tell my hitters to use both, depending on the pitcher’s accuracy and hitting situation, to their advantage.

 

Sadarharu Oh

Baseball Quotes: Sadaharu Oh

Photo courtesy: rnishi.Files.Wordpress.com

Sadaharu Oh, another small slugger, is listed at 5-foot, 10-inches, 173-pounds according to Baseball-Reference.com.  Why is this significant?

During Hank Aaron’s time, Sadaharu Oh played in Japan and was considered the Barry Bonds (career home-run leader) of Japanese baseball.  He blasted 868 dingers over the span of 22 seasons…and that’s almost 40 per year!

CLICK HERE for a post I did asking for my reader’s reaction on his mechanics.  Judging by these types of Sadaharu Oh baseball quotes, technique was his saving Grace.  It had to be, because he had to “do it right” to compete the way he did.

And sure, against today’s Major League pitchers, Sadaharu Oh probably wouldn’t hit as many homers, but man, how consistent his power was over 22 seasons.  I agree with one of my reader’s comments from the article link above, that if Oh played in America today, they’d have made him a slap hitter, much like they did Ichiro, because of his small physique.  Ichiro can hit the long ball, but not allowed.  Darn shame 🙁

And last but certainly not least…

 

Ted Williams

Baseball Photos: Ted Williams

Photo courtesy: ESPN.Go.com

I don’t think Ted Williams needs an introduction.  Looking at this picture, it seems to be around his magical .406-year, three years into the Big Leagues and weighing about 180-pounds, soaking wet, while standing at 6’3″!  He had the height, but definitely WAS NOT gifted with body mass.

In his biographies he often cited “inhaling” multiple malt shakes per day to put weight on his frame.  Too bad he didn’t have access to the information we have on that today!

In baseball quotes like this, Ted Williams talks like a man who struggled to do it right. “…you can’t make a hitter, but I think you can improve a hitter,” is not something Daryl Strawberry would say.  Failure is a huge part of hitting, way more than pitching.  We learn from our failures more than our successes.  Our hitters need to know from an early age that failure is okay.  As long as we use it as a tool to get better.  Progress is a process.

I Need Your HELP!

Ryan Braun early on pitch-plane

Ryan Braun early on pitch-plane. Photo courtesy: JTA.org

I often get caught up in my own ways of doing things that I sometimes lose sight of better hitting tips others are using for the same outcomes.  I’m not perfect.  And I’ll readily admit that I don’t know all the answers.  This my wife will surely echo 😉

But I do take pride in submitting and standing on the shoulders of giants.  This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson changed my life:

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Think of methods as “the drills.”  This post is for you hitting instructors or coaches who’re applying human movement principles, and successfully selecting your own methods.  I want to pick your brain, and hear your thoughts below.

But first, here’s the gist of the hitting tips assignment…

 

Hitting Tips from the Collective Few…

Ryan Braun Hitting Tips: staying long on the plane of the pitch

Ryan Braun staying long on the plane of the pitch. Photo courtesy: SportsWorldNews.com

I want to focus on efficiently increasing barrel time on the plane of the pitch using the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  By the way, it doesn’t matter if you come from baseball or softball.  So drawing from your teaching experience, what are your thoughts on the following (PLEASE leave your pearls of wisdom in the hitting tips comment section below):

  • Your go-to hitting drill for boosting barrel time on the pitch plane (pics or vids are welcome),
  • The best sticky coaching cue (or cues) that you use with young hitters, and/or
  • Any kind of underground (i.e. DIY) hitting aids that help with boosting barrel time on the pitch plane.

Keep in mind, inefficiencies such as arm barring, bat drag (racing back elbow), rolling over, and staying “attached” through the finish are issues you can address.   After a week, I’m going to have my readers vote on the best approach, and we’ll announce a winner.  Please share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…