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How To Hit A Baseball Interview

“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 it 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???

The following are timestamps and transcription of this how to hit a baseball interview.  CLICK HERE to download and save the transcript PDF.  This article is about 34-minutes reading time long.

Enjoy!

 


 

Joey Myers  00:06

Hello and welcome to the Swing Smarter Hitting Training Podcast, it’s your host Joey Myers from HittingPerformanceLab.com and today with me is coach Mark Gonzalez aka East Bay Mark.

Joey Myers  00:19

I want to welcome you to the show Mark.

Mark Gonzalez  00:21

Thank you for inviting me.

Joey Myers  00:24

I just want to let everybody know what kind of how to hit a baseball call this is going to be, I like to have my parents on that have worked with their kids and in Mark’s case, is Atticus a sophomore or junior?

Mark Gonzalez  00:36

He’s a junior now.

Joey Myers  00:37

Junior this year, yes. So, Mark’s been a follower of mine for a while and he’s been doing the thing on his side of the computer and in California because he’s East Bay, right? Are you still in East Bay?

Mark Gonzalez  00:48

Yes.

Joey Myers  00:50

San Francisco kind of area.

Mark Gonzalez  00:52

Just outside of Oakland.

Joey Myers  00:54

Just outside of Oakland. He’s been working with his son and doing the thing like many of you parents out there that are listening, and I always like to get the take of those parents that are getting their elbows dirty, their knees dirty, and are in the trenches so there you go, Coach Mark Gonzalez.

Joey Myers  01:11

First question I have for you, maybe we’ll start with today so it’s more recent. What do you find to be the biggest mistake, one or two mistakes on how to hit a baseball that you see out there?

 

What do you find to be the biggest mistake, one or two mistakes on how to hit a baseball that you see out there?

Mark Gonzalez  01:27

From a coaching perspective, in terms of a dad-coach to a kid anywhere from 10 to 17 is over coaching and this is something that has just taken me years and years to figure out that I just need to get this little thing right here and zip it up.

Mark Gonzalez  01:53

The human body is smart, and kids are smart and a lot of times they can figure it out for themselves and so a lot of times they’re just sort of a difference between what I say I want to happen and what I actually do.

Mark Gonzalez  02:13

For example, I’ve been telling my Junior, my son, for years and years and years that my goal is to become unnecessary but then if I’m always over coaching, always over correcting well there’s a gap between what I’m saying and what I’m doing which I think is important for dad coaches out there.

Mark Gonzalez  02:39

You can work with your son, give them basic instructions, and this is something I got from you Joe, but it’s like let them take five or six or seven swings and then ask questions.

Mark Gonzalez  02:51

A lot of times you can say, what are you feeling? What do you think? Were you on time there? A lot of times they know, and as my son is 16 years old now, he’s much more vocal and he can tell me Hey, Dad, let me figure this one out on my own. I’m like Oh, yes.

Mark Gonzalez  03:19

I think that’s great because that’s the goal, that’s not just a goal for coaching, it’s the goal for being a dad, right? You want to get your kids out there in society and become productive human beings of a good character and the only way that you can do that is a lot of times stepping aside and letting them sort of try to figure things out on their own.

Joey Myers  03:47

I love that. Was there a how to hit a baseball aha moment at some point where you finally said Oh, you know what, I might be over overdoing this being the helicopter parent or coach or whatever.

 

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?

Mark Gonzalez  03:59

Absolutely. Atticus might have been 10 or 11 years old and the aha moment was whenever I was too busy at work and I couldn’t go to a game Atticus would start hitting home runs, maybe there’s a correlation between my involvement and his performance.

Mark Gonzalez  04:22

That was like an aha moment, you don’t want to be the dad who the kids are looking over for instructions and that’s a balance sometimes because you want to work with your sons, and you want them to develop a good hitting technique, good mentality, and all that stuff.

Mark Gonzalez  04:24

There’s a time to work with them and then there’s a time the game is you should pretty much just shut up and let them play.

Joey Myers  04:53

I love that and I heard a similar story, probably not quite as nice a story but one of my hitters, one of my younger hitters was playing with another one. I know the dad and the dad’s a good dude, I played with him at Fresno State but maybe something’s going on at home or whatnot, and he’s got three kids.

Joey Myers  05:11

It’s the oldest one that my hitter was playing with, and dad was usually the coach, dad was out there as kind of the head coach, assistant coach, whatever. But the games that dad wasn’t out there, he did well, he was well mannered.

Joey Myers  05:26

The days that his dad was out there, he was very combative, not just with dad, but just with the other team players, I guess there was at one point, he was taking a throw from shortstop, they’re trying to turn a double play, the runner slid into him, and then he punches the runner for sliding into him.

Joey Myers  05:44

We’re talking 11-12 year old kids. It was interesting to hear that there was one player, same player, when dad was there, and one player when dad wasn’t there. Again, I’m not making how to hit a baseball assumptions, I don’t know what’s going on in the house, I don’t know any of that stuff. All I know is that you got A and you got B, so that’s a great thing that you kind of found that out when you’re busy.

Mark Gonzalez  06:10

99% of boys out there, they grow up and they want to please their dads, right, and that’s a really good thing, but you need to sort of impart the wisdom to your kid that they really can’t do anything for you to make them love them anymore, right? That’s already there.

Mark Gonzalez  06:32

If you’re going to love them, no matter what they do, that kind of takes the pressure off that sometimes I think younger kids can sort of think what they do, in sports, or in school, or whatever.

Mark Gonzalez  06:48

That sort of condition on the parents loving them and it’s not, and that’s something that as a parent, you really try to tell your kids every day, whatever they’re doing, that their performance has no way indicative of your love for them.

Joey Myers  07:07

Right. Great point. Is he driving now?

Mark Gonzalez  07:12

He’s driving, yes.

Joey Myers  07:13

It’s a whole new world, ain’t it?

Mark Gonzalez  07:15

It’s a whole new world. It has made it a lot easier where he gets to go to tournaments, and I sleep in. For you dads out there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, getting up on those weekends then driving to wherever, you drive, there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Mark Gonzalez  07:40

Maybe you can still show up, but it’s on your schedule, and maybe you see one game or maybe you don’t or maybe you just show up one day, and I think that kind of creates a much different father-son dynamic.

Joey Myers  07:56

Do you miss it, though? Or not yet? Are you still on vacation?

Mark Gonzalez  07:59

I’m still on vacation.

Joey Myers  08:01

You’re still enjoying it.

Mark Gonzalez  08:02

Yeah, and it’s nice. He has all his friends on the team. He’s always recording his at bat. He’s trying to do the college recruiting thing, so he’s always filming at bat and putting them on the social media.

Mark Gonzalez  08:20

It’s been an interesting transition where we started out more with the mechanics, and now we’re sort of transitioned more now to feel and he asked me for hitting advice more on the well what should my approach be.

Mark Gonzalez  08:49

Years ago, I’m 55 years old, but I played a few years of college baseball, back in the 1980’s. I understand approach and feel and what you should be looking for and all of those things that I think are the inner workings of hitting that are very helpful that a lot of times people focus too much on the mechanics of hitting.

 

“You can have average mechanics and if you have a good approach, you can still be successful…”

Mark Gonzalez  09:13

You can have average how to hit a baseball mechanics and if you have a good how to hit a baseball approach, you can still be successful. I think a lot of times people overly focus on the mechanics, now you want to have good mechanics, but when you’re in the game facing like 88 with hard sliders, and it’s not about mechanics. It’s about the mental toughness there.

Joey Myers  09:37

Right. It’s all about competing. If I forget, tell me to send you a video on that. This year, we really moved.

Joey Myers  09:47

Every year, it seems like there’s an aha moment, it’s either a how to hit a baseball mechanical thing or whatnot. This year, little bit of 2020 we started working with what you’re talking about the hitting, we call them hitting strategies, and we have six of them.

Joey Myers  10:01

It’s from the point of controlling your verticals, right? Controlling your flyball, line drive, groundball ratios, right? Controlling your line-to-line approach or your horizontals so being able to pull the ball or go oppo and your curveball approach.

Joey Myers  10:17

You’d mentioned an 88 mile an hour fastball pitcher, we call it fast guy pattern, that fast guy pattern, the fast guy tends to have different patterns where he locates the ball, what pitches he throws, that kind of thing versus a slow guy pattern so we have a fast guy pattern, slow guy pattern.

Joey Myers  10:33

We have a two strike we just started doing probably about two three months ago, we started doing a two-strike approach and nothing to do with the physical side not choking up, none of that widening out your stride, none of that.

Joey Myers  10:46

It’s all based on brain observations, what they do when they’re ahead, what they do when they’re behind that kind of thing. I’ll send that to you. When you talk about how to hit a baseball approach, what do you talk to Atticus about?

Mark Gonzalez  11:00

A lot of patterns and situations, you’re in the number three batter and he bats third, so if you’re the number three batter and it’s first and second and nobody out and you’re coming up, you’re probably not going to get a fastball. It’s interesting.

Mark Gonzalez  11:00

Like last season, Atticus had a few good games against this one team and so we were driving back from practice one day and I said, you know, they’re not going to throw you any fastballs next year.

Mark Gonzalez  11:12

He had an idea and it’s just little things, just little things about the pitches you’re going to expect. If you pay attention to the pitchers, like you’re saying, humans are creatures of habits and if you’re paying attention, it’s the same habits repeatedly.

Mark Gonzalez  12:04

There’s also of course situational, everyone wants their kid to mash, I get that. But hey, if you’re in a tight ballgame, you need that run, you got to try to figure a way to hit a groundball to the right side, if that’s bringing the tying run in.

Mark Gonzalez  12:22

If you’re not thinking about those things, if you’re not practicing those things, I think so much in the baseball community, it’s either or it’s like, well, you must be going yard every single swing or you’re not going to be an effective baseball player.

Mark Gonzalez  12:38

I’m all for hitting the ball long and far in the right situation. Situational baseball, you look at the major leagues, I think they lost a little bit of the situational skills that they might have had 30-40 years ago, but 30-40 years ago, dudes weren’t dotting 101 on the outside corner either, so that might have something to do with it.

Joey Myers  13:09

You’ve been with me for a while and at one point, I think you were probably as far back when we were talking about the ground balls are horrible and no bunting and all that kind of stuff. You were that far back.

Joey Myers  13:20

You probably noticed the how to hit a baseball change probably within the last three- four years where we said, it was really Perry Husband from hittingisaguess.com, we became pretty good friends. It was him that really turned me around, well, hey, in the big leagues, for every ground ball that’s 95 miles an hour and above the batting average is like 550. That’s interesting.

Joey Myers  13:42

We’re saying bad ground balls but there are good ground balls, the one hopper, maybe two hoppers that are getting through the infield, those are good as well.

Joey Myers  13:52

Anytime I see a far one side how to hit a baseball approach so like you said, the launch angle swing, they say whether it’s all dingers and doubles and that’s all you need to do, or all situational hitting and you got the coaches on the other side, they go oh, they hate that launch angle thing and they would rather be 100% situational hitting, which is 15% of the game or depending on the game.

 

Is it all about hitting dingers and doubles?

Joey Myers  14:15

But it could be 2% of the game, it could be 30% of the game. But like you said there has to be a middle ground where situational hitting is great and you should be able to have barrel control to be able to do a hit and run or like you said hit a ball to the right side of the diamond or hit a deep fly ball to the outfield to score run from third base, you should be able to do that kind of stuff and I agree with you, I think major league has really gone away from that the last five years if not the last decade.

Mark Gonzalez  14:45

Yes, it’s interesting in youth baseball, I don’t think I’ve seen kids play pepper like in 10 years, maybe even 15 years.

Mark Gonzalez  14:51

Where I grew up that’s all you would do before a game and in my estimation, it helps with bat control. If you can’t play pepper, then it’s going to be hard to hit a ball the other way when you really need to.

Mark Gonzalez  15:07

Also, another challenge for dads and youth out there is young kids don’t watch as much baseball as you and I did growing up, I coached a number of youth teams and recreational youth teams and even some travel and you would be surprised of the lack of just baseball foundation that’s out there because kids don’t watch as much baseball as they used to.

Mark Gonzalez  15:39

Even my son who really enjoys baseball, he doesn’t watch that much baseball. He enjoys playing baseball. He has the MLB app; he sees the home runs. He’s not sitting there watching two outs and on like June 3rd.

Mark Gonzalez  15:39

I think that’s the big change that I think a lot of dads need to really consider that a lot of kids just don’t have the foundation of baseball because we’re in a much different world right now.

Joey Myers  16:14

I agree and even playing baseball video games because we were outside, you and I we had like both feet in each world, right? We were at the beginning of the tech world, the video game world, Atari, the Nintendo and then kind of went from there, but we played baseball stars and R.B.I. baseball and watched baseball.

Joey Myers  16:34

The other thing that I was thinking when you were talking about that was whiffle ball. When do kids play whiffle ball anymore, we did that with my eight-year-old, our son who’s in third grade, this last year, we didn’t really like how our league took the whole COVID thing this last year, so we went independent, we went on our own and this was like the transition year between machine pitch in our league and player pitch.

Joey Myers  17:01

I really wanted to take that year and help that transition and help the kids, the hitters, especially, well both the pitchers and the hitters, but the hitters, especially with the fear of getting hit by their own peer as they’re throwing.

Joey Myers  17:15

What we did big time this summer, so we practice, did our thing we were able to get some games in, we scrimmage ourselves quite a bit just because other teams were playing in their leagues, and they didn’t have as much time and room for us to play and we just got started in the travel thing.

Joey Myers  17:31

I’m starting to build relationships with travel ball coaches and whatnot. We pretty much scrimmage each other more than anything but in the summer, we decided to keep going like one day a week.

Joey Myers  17:41

What we would do is we would do a couple of how to hit a baseball drill things, couple things like hit the heavy bag, because you know a lot of them, they stop they’re bat at contact, and I have a thing called a V flex. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

Joey Myers  17:51

It’s like the ring that floats in the middle, it looks like a dreamcatcher, a big dream catcher and it has a ring in the middle and so the thrower will go under hand, and we just throw balls through that little circle whiffle balls, golf whiffle ball sized balls, and they only swing if it goes through the ring.

Joey Myers  18:09

If it goes outside the ring, they don’t swing so a little bit of strike zone awareness and at the end we would do whiffle ball, we would play whiffle ball games, so we play their Home Run Derby or we play an actual game where they play against each other and got to get each other out and stuff like that but whiffle ball, what happened to that?

 

What ever happened to playing Whiffle Ball in the street, and can kids learn anything from video games?

Mark Gonzalez  18:27

The funny story is that I was always a good opposite field hitter growing up and the reason why I was a good opposite field hitter because I was left-handed and right field was closed in our neighborhood.

Mark Gonzalez  18:38

You just have to figure stuff out on your own but those MLB games right now and this is sort of like a point enter your kid’s life where they are, and my kid plays a lot of MLB like the show, the game or whatever it is, but it’s so good now if you’re really paying attention, you can really get a lot of lessons there in terms of pitching sequences.

Mark Gonzalez  18:41

If you’re paying attention and as a dad you can kind of point out a little bit of things, you can get a lot of really good information from those video games because it tries to follow normal pitch sequencing so if you’re going low outside soft you can kind of come back up and in …

Joey Myers  19:28

I agree, that’s a great how to hit a baseball point. I think that’s how some of us learn the game just growing up even though it wasn’t quite as complex as like you said now, the games are so lifelike now and the sequencing so lifelike, whereas back in the day, it was almost 2D, we’re seeing 3D on these video games, right?

Joey Myers  19:47

But you’re still learning the rules of the game. We got Wii during COVID so that keep them active and stuff like that in the house. They have that baseball game with the Wii which they have the weird faces and the bodies that seem to be floating, big heads that float on top of the bodies.

Joey Myers  20:06

You learn what the rules are, you can’t go back to the base at least in those video games, and we got to get ahead of the runner. If they hit it in the gap, well, you’re not going to get that player out at first, so you got to get it in either the second or the third, to be able to get them off, that was my thing in the outfield.

Joey Myers  20:27

We were always about cutting off that extra base. If a guy headed to the wall, you got to make sure you get to it and get it to your cut off guys so that they can either throw it to third if they’re fast and try and break for third, or you can get him in second or whatnot.

Joey Myers  20:41

I love that. It’s a great point about the video games.

What things have you guys been doing on the recruiting side?

Joey Myers  20:43

I have a question, so you guys are in the recruiting side right now. Junior year, that’s a great year to start the recruiting process. For some of those dads out there that may be freshmen, they got freshmen, sophomores, you mentioned that Atticus has been putting his stuff out on social media video and things like that. What things have you guys been doing on the recruiting side?

Mark Gonzalez  21:05

Well, one of the things, I kind of try to use this as a sort of developmental process in terms of life skills. I started off by sitting Atticus down and trying to go over, okay, well, why don’t you send some emails to coaches at universities that you think meet your skill set, and I was pretty laid back in terms of getting to some basic points, but I wasn’t writing his emails.

Mark Gonzalez  21:36

He sent some horrible emails, that’s how you’re going to learn. One day you’re going to be going out looking for a job and you need the skill of how to communicate and writing to sort of potential employers and recruiting is very much similar.

Mark Gonzalez  21:55

You are writing to future college coaches, and you want to put your best self forward, you want to show yourself to be a smart person, a person of good character, you want to show your baseball abilities, and you want to show that you’re interested in that college.

Mark Gonzalez  22:13

Now, he writes good emails, and he texts back and forth with the particular coaches, and guess what, I’m not involved.

Joey Myers  22:24

I love it.

Mark Gonzalez  22:25

That’s it really and then, he does a lot of stuff on Twitter in terms of posting at bats and highlights from games and like working out and stuff. I’m not really involved in that either.

Mark Gonzalez  22:40

Maybe a little bit sort of like from, hey, what type of colleges you’re looking at, why, where, what do you expect to get out of it, even have your major just to make sure he’s approaching the college recruiting thing the right way.

Joey Myers  22:59

What’s he looking for? What schools and why? I love hearing the answers to those questions.

Mark Gonzalez  23:07

He’s changed. I think it’s fair that he’s changed, when he was a freshman, it was like, I just want to go anywhere, you know, D1, they kind of started very broad, and now he’s sort of narrowing things.

Mark Gonzalez  23:20

Right now, he’s looking at California schools, he’s looking at California schools, but he knows that that’s going to be a challenge. I’ve been part of the wisdom that, it doesn’t have to be D1, it’s about fit, you go somewhere, and if it’s a good fit for you, and the rule is, you want to go somewhere where people want you.

Mark Gonzalez  23:47

In my opinion, you don’t want to be the last guy to get on a D1 team, I think that makes it really, tough. I’d rather be the first guy on a D3 recruiting board or D2 recruiting board.

Mark Gonzalez  24:02

We’re looking across the board. We’re looking at California, we have some out of California schools, too, that we’re looking at. I’ve been open with my finances in terms, I’ve been open with all my kids, this is how much we have budgeted for you for college.

Mark Gonzalez  24:21

I’ve just gone through the process with a daughter, she’s now majoring in bio engineering at Cal Berkeley. She applied to a number of colleges, and we had to sit down and look at the math and see what would work and talk about whether you’re going to have Cal Berkeley that’s something within my budget.

Mark Gonzalez  24:51

Some other schools that she had gotten into, like certain Ivy League schools she got into but that would have been alone, so I had to sit her down, Okay, well if you want to borrow this much money, how much are you going to make in five years?

Mark Gonzalez  25:05

What the loan payment is going to be? Here’s what your rent payments going to be, here’s what your car payments going to be, and it was like, well, Cal Berkeley is looking pretty good.

Joey Myers  25:14

I love it. That’s a great approach. I love that and I don’t know maybe he’s doing this in his emails. I don’t know what his emails look like, but with my hitters, my local ones, the ones that are about that age Junior, seniors, I mean, sophomores, hopefully not seniors.

Joey Myers  25:30

They’re hopefully thinking about this a little bit earlier, but sophomores-juniors, one of the things I picked up, there was a book, it was a book on negotiation, it was something like, “negotiate as if your life depended on it”.

Joey Myers  25:42

It was an FBI guy. His name will pop into my head here, but he was an FBI guy for like 30 years and he was the one on the negotiation team for like child abduction that was outside of the United States.

Joey Myers  25:58

It could be child abducted, an American family in Southeast Asia, could be Vietnam, something like that. He was called in to do the negotiating and stuff. He had a son who was playing football in high school, and the same time came Junior, and he had to do some recruiting.

Joey Myers  26:17

One of the interesting things that he said, it was like, oh the light bulb went on with me, was when you send those emails out, letters out to those recruiting coaches, is to ask them how do you evaluate your hitters?

Joey Myers  26:31

Or how do you evaluate your pitcher? How do you evaluate your pitchers? How do you recruit hitters? What is it that you’re looking for? Because some hitters, hitting recruiting coaches will say, well we’re looking for the launch angle swing and then you’ll have another coach that will say the opposite, we’re not looking for a launch angle swing.

Joey Myers  26:50

What I tell my hitters, they want to be a little bit lazier and make one video that has a little bit of everything and send it out to all the coaches, but I told them, I said if you do that and you send a launch angle piece of your big video as launch angle, they’re going to go this is disgusting, I don’t like this.

Joey Myers  27:09

I tell them just create videos of different things of your ball exit speeds of your games of you maybe during BP spraying the ball around the infield or around the field, showing that you can go up, oh you can pull the ball, you can go straight away center, show that you can hit a double dinger, show that you can hit a 10 degree line drive, show that you can hit a one hop screamer.

Joey Myers  27:31

You have all these little how to hit a baseball pieces and then based on what the coaches are telling you, then you just piece together the right pieces that they’re looking for and then send it out to them.

Mark Gonzalez  27:41

I think that’s great advice, I’ll probably give that to Atticus, see what he wants to do with it, I just think that really kind of hit it on the nail on the head that you’re trying to make yourself attractive to colleges and everyone has a different sort of idea of what they’re looking for.

 

“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…”

Mark Gonzalez  28:06

That also helps the like the kid because 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.

Joey Myers  28:19

Exactly.

Mark Gonzalez  28:22

It’s not a match, but I think today with all of the technology and I think that’s something that I probably started using two to three years ago where you have the little blast motion stuff, you can get a lot of data there, a lot of data where it really helps to have a dad just you can kind of see, hey look where you were six months ago and now look where you are now in terms of bat speed or attack angle or all those things you’re working on.

Mark Gonzalez  28:51

That also helps sort of settle just give them the cage where someone know, oh that’s an absolute bomb, I’m like, Are you sure? Yeah, let’s see what the blast motion says on that one.

Joey Myers  29:03

Do you guys have hit trax up there, yeah?

Mark Gonzalez  29:05

Yes.

Mark Gonzalez  29:06

Speak of a reality show video game to be able to go on, we would have a hell of a time, fun time back in the day if we had hit trax.

Mark Gonzalez  29:16

Yes, I grew up the same way, just a whiffle ball. When I was in college, we would play a doubleheader and then we would go back to the dorm and eat dinner and then we would come out and play whiffle ball.

Joey Myers  29:33

Totally different now, they get on their headphones, and they listen to their music, or they play video games instead. I’m not saying video games are bad, in moderation, I would think but, like you said you can learn a lot from playing MLB The Show.

Mark Gonzalez  29:49

I think so.

Joey Myers  29:52

So I want to be respectful of your time, before I let you go , I want to also let people if they want to get contact with you and stuff we’ll go over that but before we get there 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?

 

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?

Mark Gonzalez  30:15

I would say, number one, it just depends on who you are. Having played baseball myself, I would say it was like, a blessing and a curse.

Mark Gonzalez  30:30

The blessing, I have a general understanding of baseball, but the curse is, I had a general understanding of baseball from 35 years ago.

Mark Gonzalez  30:41

There was a lot of unlearning that I had to do a lot of things really developed over the years, so I had to just completely relearn things and it was fun. I would say, for the dads, have an open mind and just go out there and look at all of the leaders in the field.

Mark Gonzalez  31:06

Now with Instagram and Twitter, you can follow some really, excellent coaches out there who can give you all the information you need that you can pass along to your sons, and I say don’t assume you know baseball because you played baseball.

Mark Gonzalez  31:26

I think that’s a big mistake that I made early on, but I sort of develop myself, I was able to say, you know what, I just assume, I don’t know anything, and I’m entering this like someone with no baseball experience.

Mark Gonzalez  31:43

I think that’s when I was able to get a lot of information, really good information that I was able to pass on to my son. Now my son, he just has so much information, I hear him sometimes cooking up other kids, you know, move this way, do that way.

Mark Gonzalez  32:01

That’s where I was like, okay, at least I’ve accomplished something, I passed on some really good information. If he can understand that information enough, where he could pass it on to other people, I think he’s in the right place and it makes me feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of sort of passing on my baseball knowledge or even my new baseball knowledge, but all baseball knowledge as well to my son.

Mark Gonzalez  32:28

I think that’s what it’s all up. That’s what it’s all about. For dads out there who have no baseball background, I think that’s perfectly fine. I think you can coach your team, have a good time.

Joey Myers  32:45

Learn everything, they don’t have to buy anything.

Mark Gonzalez  32:48

Yes. My wife, she coached my daughter’s volleyball team, she never even been on a volleyball court. She just got some books and there was like some Stanford volleyball player who lived in our neighborhood, so she talked to her, and she ended up taking the team to the CYO finals, she was second out of 32 teams, because she knows how to run things.

Mark Gonzalez  33:21

If you know how to run things, well, then you can do well running a baseball team and then just outsource the baseball knowledge. Usually, when you go to rec ball or travel ball, it’s like the one coach who’s just doing everything, he’s organizing, and he’s doing the baseball and sometimes that can get kind of lost a lot of times for running a team and it’s rewarding.

Mark Gonzalez  33:45

You can have a good time with running a team, I’ve coached a bunch of teams, I don’t like running the team. Whenever people would come to me and say hey, do you want to coach and I was like, Well okay, as long as I’m not running anything, so then people would say hey, when’s the next practice? I don’t know. I’m waiting for the email.

Mark Gonzalez  34:06

I was able to do that for several years which made it really fun where I just got to go to the field and coach the kids up. I had a lot of fun with that and I think I told you this story years and years ago, I had this young team I was coaching with my younger son and so we just had fun with it and we had this rule if anyone ever had a walk off because you know we live close to Oakland, we would do the Oakland A’s pie in the face right.

Mark Gonzalez  34:39

It was a close game, and we were scratching and crawling, but like we weren’t nervous everyone was just cheering pie because they wanted to get it, we ended up winning.

Joey Myers  34:50

Oh, that’s awesome.

Mark Gonzalez  34:53

Be creative. Don’t focus so much on the winning and losing, focus on the experience. My youngest son just the other day, he mentioned, He’s like, remember when we’re putting the pie in the face? He remembers the pie in the face, he got no idea probably what happened in the game.

Joey Myers  35:14

That’s such a great how to hit a baseball point. Hopefully some people can take some nuggets out of what you have to say, Mark, because I think you have a lot to say and in our relationship that we’ve built over the years.

Joey Myers  35:26

Thank you, again for following me and supporting me and all that. So where can people find you if they wanted to reach out? Say if they had a how to hit a baseball question or something like that about anything?

 

Where can people find you Coach Mark and powerful BONUS tips???

Mark Gonzalez  35:36

My Twitter handle is just East Bay Mark, that would be the easiest, I’m on Twitter, pretty much every day and night, just kind of seeing what’s out there. DM me, I’ll pass along whatever how to hit a baseball information I can, but there’s a lot of wise baseball people out there on Twitter and Instagram and I’m not one of them.

Joey Myers  36:05

I beg to differ.

Mark Gonzalez  36:07

I can point you to who they are, and I think that’s the most important thing. I would say to the dads out there, just be willing to see the long game. What I mean by that is like Atticus, he wasn’t in every travel ball team.

Mark Gonzalez  36:25

There were teams out there who wanted to play every weekend. That just wasn’t the path that we were going to go, I have two other kids, our whole life doesn’t revolve around baseball.

Mark Gonzalez  36:44

There’s a draw that out there where you almost feel like, wow, if your son’s not on every team playing every weekend that he’s getting behind. Guess what, it’s just not true. That playing baseball every single weekend, as much as some teams do, that you’re not getting behind, I’d rather have kids play other sports, especially when they’re younger.

Mark Gonzalez  37:08

I’d rather not play a tournament and hit in the cage, because I think one of the things with all these games is somewhere the development is getting lost, because it’s hard to get better in games, it’s very counterintuitive.

Mark Gonzalez  37:27

I really believe that how to hit a baseball improvement comes when you’re not playing the game for two or three months. You can really sort of break things down, and suddenly, the results don’t matter. Because you’re working towards something but if you’re always playing games, you can never break something down, you can never change an arm path or hey, this swing just isn’t working.

Mark Gonzalez  37:56

There was a period of time where Atticus had a leg kick for a while, and it just wasn’t consistent. When he had it, it was great, but it just wasn’t consistent. During a period of two or three months, we kind of change it to a toe tap.

Mark Gonzalez  38:13

It took a while, that’s not something you can do on a weekend. If you’re playing games all the time, then that’s something that’s not going to work.

Mark Gonzalez  38:24

I would also say, kids develop at different sort of times, so don’t get caught up in sort of what’s happening out on the field if you feel like your son’s making the progress that he needs to be making and don’t focus on the result so much.

Mark Gonzalez  38:43

I remember, this might have been when Atticus was like 11 or something or 12 and he played off on some team and maybe he probably shouldn’t have but that’s just how it happened.

Mark Gonzalez  38:54

I don’t think he got to hit the whole season, that was like a long season, and we went right back from tournament and sometimes your son just needs to hear that he believes in you.

Mark Gonzalez  39:08

I remember saying, this close, you were so close. You can’t imagine how close you are, and I know you don’t see it out there. I know you’re frustrated right there. But you are so close.

Mark Gonzalez  39:21

Next summer he just broke out. He went from not getting a hit during the entire season to like hitting .500 the next season. You need to take the step back and, as the dad see the long game, see how he’s improving.

Mark Gonzalez  39:40

I guess one final how to hit a baseball point is, don’t forget the strength and conditioning, that’s so important. So many families get caught up into having to play baseball every weekend and then they get into high school, and they don’t have the body they need to compete on a varsity level baseball field and having that body is really important.

Mark Gonzalez  40:10

I was telling Atticus the other day that there’s something called body discrimination, if you’re really put together, guess what? Everyone’s going to assume you can play, you get a little more latitude in terms of whether you’re going to produce a lot because you just look like a baseball player versus if you’re underweight or whatever you know they’re going to assume you can’t play.

Mark Gonzalez  40:37

That’s just a how to hit a baseball reality, that people have their biases of what a baseball player looks like so as a young kid you don’t have to go hard lifting weights, especially when you’re in middle school but push-ups and pull ups and sprints and all those things, they make you athletic.

Mark Gonzalez  40:56

When you’re old enough to start lifting weights it’s an easy transition and there’s a lot of great programs out there that can really help dads guide their kids in terms of weight training that’s really focused on baseball development and speed development.

Mark Gonzalez  41:20

Atticus was never a fast runner. That just wasn’t his skill and he’s worked at it through strength and conditioning, and he went to a camp a few weeks ago and he had a seven flat 60 [yard dash].

Mark Gonzalez  41:30

For him that’s flying, that’s flying for him, he’s probably getting near his max, just sort of maximizing who you are, some kids can wake up out of bed and go run six-seven, that’s just who they are.

Joey Myers  41:38

Yep.

Mark Gonzalez  41:40

All you can do is try to make yourself the best person you can with the how to hit a baseball abilities that God gave you.

Joey Myers  41:56

I love that, all great points, Mark.

Joey Myers  41:58

All right, so for those out there who want to contact Mark, go Twitter @EastBayMark, you can just go there and like he said DM him if you’ve got any questions and things like that, but hey man, I appreciate you making the time during your busy lunch hour over there in the East Bay

Joey Myers  42:14

Thanks, and we’ll have to do maybe a part two at some point. Definitely want to keep up, keep abreast of Atticus and how he’s doing, and he’s got a year and he got another year and then the big things happen.

Joey Myers  42:25

Thanks again, coach Mark for jumping on today in this how to hit a baseball interview.

Mark Gonzalez  42:28

Okay, take care.

Softball Practice Drills

Softball Practice Drills: “What Are You Looking for When Recruiting Hitters?”

 

 

In this softball practice drills interview with Justin Lewis, Softball Hitting Coach for the Fresno State Bulldog softball team, we’ll be looking at…Softball Practice Drills

  • How did you get to being the hitting coach for Fresno State softball?
  • What do you do when you come into a new program?
  • What are you looking for when recruiting hitters?
  • Do you guys do game planning?
  • Do you have your girls hunt the rise ball?
  • Softball practice drills: do you do pitch recognition stuff with the girls?
  • You’re getting ready in a short amount of time? What’s high priority right now?
  • Anything else that you’re working on?

Coach Justin and I ran into each other a few years back when he was doing his Coaching Minds podcast.  Justin is a good friend of mine, so I think you’ll enjoy learning about softball practice drills and many other things a coach has to deal with coming into a program during COVID…

Below is the audio transcription of the interview.  CLICK HERE to download the transcription PDF. This is one of 24 expert interviews included in my new Swing Smarter book.

Enjoy!

 


Justin Lewis  00:00

I think she hit two home runs off those, she was like four for four with two jacks. Yeah, she was incredible.

Joey Myers  00:09

Wow. Well, there’s a bunch that opted out last MLB season two. I don’t know who really, but I know there were a few. Are you ready to get started?

Justin Lewis  00:20

Yes, whatever you need, brother.

Joey Myers  00:22

All right, let me do an official role here.

Joey Myers  00:25

Welcome to Swing Smarter monthly newsletter. This is your host Joey Myers from hittingperformancelab.com, and I have the pleasure today of returning the favor, Mr. Coach Justin Lewis.

Joey Myers  00:34

He had me on his softball practice drills podcast a few years back, and he has just moved here to California actually, specifically Fresno, he just got the hitting instructor job for Fresno State softball.

Joey Myers  00:48

I want to first welcome you to the softball practice drills show, and welcome you to California, Justin.

Justin Lewis  00:51

Yes, brother. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it, and yes, the tables have turned here.

Joey Myers  00:58

Well, in those days, you were still doing the firefighter gig and you were looking to start to get your foot in the door for coaching and things like that. Now, you’re the hitting coach for Fresno State softball.

Justin Lewis  01:10

Yeah, it’s kind of been a whirlwind last three and a half years. I was driving a fire truck three and a half years ago when we last chatted. What’s funny about that podcast, I loved doing that podcast, and I actually miss it a lot.

Justin Lewis  01:23

I miss having great conversations, with people like you, but I started it because I wasn’t having any luck getting back into the game. It was like, well, let’s start this little journey and then I got the opportunity to kind of get back in. This is my third school and three and a half season goal, and my fourth season now.

Joey Myers  01:46

So, Tracy’s back there, you started the softball practice drills podcast to try and get your foot back in the door in the game. How did you get to where you are now? How did that domino help you to get to where you’re at?

 

How did you get to being the hitting coach for Fresno State softball?

Justin Lewis  01:58

Yeah, I don’t know that the podcast really helped me that much. Basically, Mike Kandrey at University of Arizona is one that really helped me out the most.

Justin Lewis  02:07

I was living in Tucson, driving a fire truck, but I was working on Mike’s camps. That’s really what helped me get in. Then, Craig Nicholson was out of coaching and was looking to get back in and he took a Division Two head job at Texas A&M Kingsville.

Justin Lewis  02:27

I had known him from we were both at Central Arizona College together. He was the head softball coach, and I was coaching baseball there. We had a relationship and that’s kind of how it worked out.

Justin Lewis  02:39

I went to Kingsville, took a team that hadn’t been to the conference tournament in 10 years. We went to the conference tournament the first year, and then the second year, went all the way to the DII World Series and finished second.

Justin Lewis  02:51

We got double dipped on the last day to lose it. It was kind of a rough one. But D2 right, they’re going to make you do a doubleheader in the championship game.

Joey Myers  03:03

Yeah. Right. Like little league?

Justin Lewis  03:07

Yes, and so then a friend of mine got the head job at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, which is a D1 school down there. I was already living in Corpus Christi, so it was an easy transition, I got to sneak into division one ball and didn’t even have to move.

Justin Lewis  03:23

Then this opportunity came along, and it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, being able to join a program that’s firing on all cylinders. They had a great run before COVID hit last year. I can join them, and hopefully, coming here will not screw things up.

Joey Myers  03:44

Was it just one of the few openings that came up, Fresno State? How did you land here?

Justin Lewis  03:58

It came open. They kind of went through the hiring freeze with COVID, after the Coach Lisle left. It was just kind of a timing thing, and I had some people reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in it.

Justin Lewis  04:16

I hadn’t even really thought about it, I wasn’t planning on leaving where I was at, we were building, we took over a team that had only won eight games the year before we got there. We were kind of in our complete rebuild.

Justin Lewis  04:29

I was really looking forward to going through that journey because we brought 13 new kids into Corpus this year, and then had an amazing recruiting class coming in 2021. I was super excited because that team is going to be nasty.

Justin Lewis  04:45

I was looking forward to being part of that. I wasn’t planning on leaving until I could get a head coaching job, it was kind of my goal.

Justin Lewis  04:54

I wasn’t really looking to leave for another assistance role, but again, just the opportunity to come join a top 25 program, with the facilities that we have here.

Justin Lewis  05:05

As a hitting guy, they got everything in the world you could want here. I haven’t been to a school yet that had any more technology than my cell phone. Having an indoor hitting facility with hit tracks, K motion, blast, and everything we got, it was just kind of an ideal situation for us.

Joey Myers  05:27

What do you do – softball practice drills – when you come into a program? Like the last couple ones you talked about, they only won eight games. As a hitting guy, where do you start? That’s a big challenge. Where do you start with that?

 

What do you do – Softball practice drills – when you come into a new program?

Justin Lewis  05:42

Just start with the basics, if you don’t even know where to sometimes, it’s so overwhelming, because you didn’t recruit any of those kids, right? When I recruit, I try to recruit swings that I already love, because they limit us in time so much that we don’t have time to do complete rebuilds of swings, it’s just unrealistic.

Justin Lewis  06:04

That’s even if the kids want to. It’s a lot of just band aids and try to make them as good as they can possibly be with what they’re already working with.

Justin Lewis  06:17

At the end of the day, one of the reasons I recruit swings that I already love, besides the timing factor, is I don’t want to take something away from a kid, even if you make a change, you still kind of took something from them, right?

Justin Lewis  06:29

To me, mentally that does something to them. Luckily, we’re in situations where those kids were hungry for any kind of knowledge and work ethic. It was just kind of lucky that when I was at Kingsville, there were some really talented pieces that were in place, and we kind of fell into a great situation. That was nice.

Justin Lewis  06:55

The last year was a little rough just because there wasn’t a whole lot of talent there, but just great kids that wanted to work. We were better, we were 6 and 16 when COVID hit and kids were gelling and starting to really buy in.

Justin Lewis  07:14

We probably would have won about 20 games is my guess, which doesn’t sound great but compared to eight the year before. I was kind of sad for those kids to not get to finish off showing that we were better.

Justin Lewis  07:30

The teams that we played could tell that we were better. We were competing in games that they had no business competing in the year before and snuck a couple of sneaky wins in over some teams that we had no business beating.

Justin Lewis  07:45

You miss it for those seniors that didn’t get to finish it. As far as just the hitting goes, it’s just tough, it is just putting in the reps with the kids that want to work and just trying to put it all together.

Joey Myers  08:00

It makes it nice when they actually want to learn and want to get better at softball practice drills. I always tell my dads or my buddies “hey, do you want to get into college coaching or high school coaching? I’m doing a little league thing by default because my son’s eight now”. We’ve been doing that, you know?

Joey Myers  08:19

I always tell him, well, it’s nice with the private small group stuff we do because all those kids want to be there. They all want to get better and the parents want that as well.

Joey Myers  08:29

When you say that it makes it easier when you walk into a facility or softball practice drills program even if you didn’t recruit those hitters. You mentioned the kind of swings that you’re looking for, what are the top, maybe one or two things, say like Fresno State moving forward, when you get to start recruiting bid? Or maybe you guys are still doing that now? What are you looking for?

 

What are you looking for when recruiting hitters?

Justin Lewis  08:54

A couple things, the biggest thing I look for is, I look for kids that are already naturally keeping their barrel in the middle of a field. It’s like the recruiting velocity for pitchers. It’s just more room for air.

Justin Lewis  09:10

Kids that already naturally do that, that’s like number one for me. Are we swinging the bat hard? Are we trying to do damage? It may look pretty but there’s no juice behind it. Kids that are real spinning, I try to avoid even if they look the part.

Justin Lewis  09:33

A lot of times in travel ball you get these kids that are 5’9″. Big strong kid, they’re on the right travel ball team, and they get enough bad pitching in high school and travel ball that they can make that swing work.

Justin Lewis  09:47

You better understand that swinging will translate to this level where kids are upper 60s and painting corners like crazy and 80% of our pitching is probably on the outside part of the plate and it’s there for a reason, it’s all these kids come in.

Justin Lewis  10:03

As they’re growing and getting older, they are getting stronger, they realize that if I get going this way in a hurry, spin it in one direction, I got a little bit of juice. That just doesn’t translate when you get to this level. Naturally, I just look for those kids that naturally just keep their barrel in the middle of the field.

Joey Myers  10:23

The other thing in softball, you have the high fastball and baseball but on the big field, 60 feet six inches to see that ball come and travel. But in softball, it’s 43 feet, right? You have less time, so the rise ball comes in, and when you have that spinny swing, typically what follows is that barrel gets in the zone way too early and drops because the minute that barrel leaves the shoulder, gravity starts taking over and rotational forces start taking over and drag the barrel down.

Joey Myers  10:51

That rise ball becomes a challenge. The past school, was that baseball or was that softball?

Justin Lewis  10:58

I’ve been in softball ever since I got back. I played men’s fastpitch for 15 years. That’s kind of where I fell in love with the game. You look at it as like a business move if you looked at just that way.

Justin Lewis  11:17

Softball, to me, is the way to go. I talked to baseball guys all the time, like you got to get into softball. There’s so much room for growth, and there’s so much dominant coaching, just excellent coaching, and all levels of college baseball.

Justin Lewis  11:32

I was getting in as a 40-year-old assistant, starting from the bottom. I wasn’t 23 or 24 right. I had to make a business decision as well. It wasn’t just that, I love softball, after playing it, and you see how fast the game is compared to baseball.

Justin Lewis  11:52

I have a hard time watching baseball anymore, it’s just so slow and dry. It doesn’t even hold my attention. I grew up with four older sisters, I got a wife and a daughter, like I should have known, it should have been foreshadowing years ago that I was going to end up coaching females, but I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t trade it for baseball in a heartbeat right now. There’s no way, I absolutely love it.

Joey Myers  12:22

I love my boys. I love working with my boys, but the girls are a little bit more fun. Boys are sponges, they want to soak it in, they want to learn, they want to get better, and some more than others. But it just seems like every girl that I’ve worked with doing softball practice drills, they just want it a little bit more sometimes.

Justin Lewis  12:42

I was nervous about it. I’ll tell you a funny story. My first road trip and Kingsville were kind of letting me know that there’s not a whole lot of difference between them either. We’re driving, we’re not 30 minutes down the road and I hear this man who farted, and I was like, they’re the same.

Joey Myers  13:05

They’re humans.

Justin Lewis  13:09

There’s some obviously particulars where we got to be careful touching and hand placements.

Joey Myers  13:18

Yes, no more butt slaps.

Justin Lewis  13:21

Yes, none of that. No grab ass at all. You must be particular where you stand, especially once the relationship gets built, they understand that you’re just there to help them but I’m very particular and make sure I keep my distance.

Justin Lewis  13:36

I stand in front of them, “Hey, is it okay if I touch your shoulders?”, if I want to try to manipulate them a certain way, the same with their hands. I got about a three-foot-long PVC pipe for one, stand that back hip, it’s like that right there.

Joey Myers  13:55

Instead of using your finger, you’re poking them with it.

Justin Lewis  13:59

I grab them if their hips are going a certain way, I grab their hips and manipulate them the way you wanted to, but that’s just not an option.

Joey Myers  14:06

Exactly. Yes, that’s a good point. I think you coming from a female background family wise, you understand that, and that’s good for others to hear, too. Especially those that have daughters that are getting into softball practice drills, like the little league version of softball and stuff. It’s good to know.

Joey Myers  14:24

On game planning, do you guys do game planning? Do you have a strategy that you help the girls with? Like you hunt? Do you have them hunt in certain softball practice drills? How does that go?

 

Do you guys do game planning?

Justin Lewis  14:36

I try to look at what the other pitchers are trying to do to us. Most of them are trying to throw strike one, let’s find out, can she throw a strike one? If she can, is that our best pitch to hit?

Justin Lewis  14:54

If it is, to me we got to go bang strike one. If they have proven through scouting whatever, they’re not great at throwing strike one, we can be a little bit more patient.

Justin Lewis  15:05

I battle with these kids a lot because no one wants to hit down and away curveball running away from you at 68 miles an hour. That might be legitimately your best shot. If you’re 0-1 now because you didn’t want to go attack that pitch, now most of them are just going to try to throw rise balls above your hands. Good luck with that.

Justin Lewis  15:33

Let’s find out if strike one is an option for us, and if it is, we got to drop our egos and we got to go attack it. I’m also real big about the 1-1 count, it makes a big difference in that -pitch, are we going 2-1? Or are we going 1-2, and that’s just vastly different scenarios there.

Justin Lewis  15:54

Pitchers tend to get into rhythm and pitch callers get into rhythms, those are two counts that I track, the 0-0 count and the 1-1 count, and just having an idea of what that rhythm and routine is, if there’s any pattern there.

Justin Lewis  16:13

At this level, the higher up you go into Division One, the lower levels and DII, a lot of times you’re just facing two pitchers. There will be curveball rise ball, the special ones got that third one that change up, if they got that trouble.

Justin Lewis  16:29

The higher up we go, you’re facing kids that almost every kids got that change up, and maybe they got a fourth pitch. We start looking at what pitches can we eliminate. To me when I played and face guys that were throwing absolute gas and had four devastating pitches, I’ll start eliminating some of these pitches.

Justin Lewis  16:47

How do I do that? To me it was, if I go hunt something down at my knees, the rise balls a lot easier to take when I’ve got to be focused down in the zone. I do a drill with our girls where I’ll tell them in front toss, every pitch is going to be at your kneecap, to your shin and I want you get down there and drive it.

Justin Lewis  17:08

We’re not just going to pound ground balls running that pitch, and they focus and it’s always their best round, and they’re super focused on it. About three quarters of the way through that round, I’ll throw a one up at their chest level, and they take it effortlessly.

Justin Lewis  17:24

I’ll talk about it afterwards. “Hey, that was a great round. Why do you think you did so good?” “I was focused”. Oh, that’s a mind-blowing stuff here. Then, I’ll ask them, “Hey, I threw that ball up kind of simulated rise ball, how easy was that to take?” “Well, it’s really easy”. “How come?” “I was focused down in the zone.”

Justin Lewis  17:45

Shocking. From me having to do that over and over again and chasing my fair share of rise balls through the years. That’s what I try to get through to them. We face so many rise ball pitchers, that seems to be the key for us.

Joey Myers  18:06

Do you guys ever switch your plan or softball practice drills, and go and hunt the rise ball at all, like rise ball, obviously up to a certain limit? You’re not swinging at one that’s up here.

Do you have your girls hunt the rise ball?

Justin Lewis  18:15

Flat rise balls go a long way. What’s interesting is this summer, or during quarantine, a bunch of us hitting coaches got together on a weekly zoom call. It was awesome.

Justin Lewis  18:30

There’s probably as many as 28-29 of us every week from all the top programs and just JuCo programs, all different levels, and everyone’s sharing their information and one of the coaches, his approach sometimes is like, “whatever their strength is, let’s go hunt that”, it was kind something I hadn’t really thought.

Justin Lewis  18:55

Why would I go look for their worst nastiest pitch, and when we start looking at a lot of the statistics, some of these guys really get into the weave with the tracking of some of this stuff, they have the technology to do it.

Justin Lewis  19:10

They still miss, and we got to be ready for where we act. A lot of times pitchers never miss, and they do at all levels, even the greatest ones, miss right in the middle of the plate a lot. It certainly made me question and made me think a little bit more about it.

Joey Myers  19:27

Have you ever dug into Perry Husband stuff? Effective Velocity?

Justin Lewis  19:32

Absolutely.

Joey Myers  19:32

He’s gotten really big into the fastpitch softball world and he’s worked with I think some of the top five programs, when it comes to both the hitters and the pitchers.

Joey Myers  19:44

Hitters, it’s the hunting, if it’s the pitchers, they’re moving their pitches around in the zone to take advantage of the discrepancy between how close the ball is versus how far it is away.

Joey Myers  19:55

That was a big one for me, from a hitting perspective because now I have to counter that. How do we counter that? He says, it’s like a wide receiver trying to cover two cornerbacks, one cornerback trying to cover two wide receivers.

Joey Myers  20:11

Both wide receivers run a similar route, one’s a deep route and the other one’s like a deep post, he can just kind of hang out in the middle, read the quarterback and then just peel off whenever the quarterback goes and releases the ball.

Joey Myers  20:22

The problem happens when you have one wide receiver that goes deep, and you have another one that does like a 10 yard cut in the middle. Now that cornerback has to decide, do I need to defend the deep ball because I don’t have a safety behind me to help or can I peel off and go inside?

Joey Myers  20:39

With the pitching, it’s the same idea. If you guys are facing a lot of rise ballers, like this coach is saying why not? Why not hunt their best stuff and teach the girls during softball practice drills how you get to that rise ball and crank on it?

Justin Lewis  20:51

Yes, absolutely. One of the things with softball, you’re not like baseball, you have different arm slots, everything like that. That’s not a thing in softball, and so everything’s coming out of one spot.

Justin Lewis  21:03

The ability for these pitchers to have everything busting out of one plane different directions, it’s nasty. Some of these kids are just filthy with what they do, and I think the EV stuff in softballs is barely scratching the surface right now.

Joey Myers  21:23

Now, pitch recognition, like you mentioned is a little tougher softball, because it’s coming out it seems like the same slot. Do you do pitch recognition stuff with the girls? And if you do, how do you do that?

 

Softball practice drills: do you do pitch recognition stuff with the girls?

Justin Lewis  21:36

I don’t dabble with it much. Again, worse. Especially right now, where Fresno State didn’t even have a fall. It’s like fire ready aim right now.

Joey Myers  21:47

Yes, it’s a little advanced.

Justin Lewis  21:51

It’s just trying to get reps right now and some of these kids have been off for 10 months, relying on what kind of work they put in. Luckily, at this level, most of these kids have still been putting in work, they haven’t seen a live pitching in 10 months.

Joey Myers  22:09

Talk to that, because there’s a lot of coaches out there dealing with the same thing, both baseball and softball, where their hitters may or may not have been working over the term, but they obviously haven’t been getting a lot of LIVE. When is the first game of the season?

Justin Lewis  22:24

It’s like the 20 or 12th, I think February 12, we got like 23 days.

Joey Myers  22:30

You got less than a month. How do you guys attack that? You’re getting ready in a short amount of time? What’s high priority right now?

 

You’re getting ready in a short amount of time? What’s high priority right now?

Justin Lewis  22:39

There’s no manual for this, this is something we’ve never really had to do. We started the first week, we didn’t know what our athletes were going to come in. We didn’t know what shape they were going to be like.

Justin Lewis  22:53

You must move as your slowest runner. We just brought them in, and then kind of did like an individual the first week and come down, let’s just hit for an hour and see where everybody’s at.

Justin Lewis  23:06

I’m coming in with I don’t know any of these kids. I try to build that relationship quickly, and I just wanted to see what they’re trying to accomplish with their swings. We’re still just kind of tracking them along slowly.

Justin Lewis  23:21

We’re kind of hitting the ground running now, just started team practice and revving up those the number of swings and the amount of work we’re trying to do.

Justin Lewis  23:30

Fortunately, we have two GAs and a pitching coach that all throw full arm. There’s nothing that is better than that. Our first year at Kingsville, it was just me and the head coach, and neither one of us threw.

Justin Lewis  23:47

Our kids’ timing issues were evident, our first quarter of the season was we’re late on everything. The next year, we played one of our… running a GA basically that threw non-stop for us, and it made the world of difference.

Justin Lewis  24:04

In my school last year, the Corpus Christi, both the head coach and the pitching coach both threw a lot. Now having three here, we’re kind of spoiled. It makes a huge difference.

Justin Lewis  24:19

We haven’t even started with the pitchers as far as seeing live pitching, but I think it’s coming pretty soon because we don’t have a choice. We got to get them as many looks as we can.

Justin Lewis  24:33

There’s just no playbook for it, and I’m interested talking to buddies across the sport, seeing what everyone’s doing to get ready, but also keep in mind that a lot of them had falls.

Justin Lewis  24:45

They’re kind of building off of what they did in the fall to where we’re just kind of getting started. I’m really interested as far as a coaching perspective to see if it even matters. That’s what I’m really interested in.

Joey Myers  24:59

Yes, the ultimate experiment.

Justin Lewis  25:03

In Corpus Christi, we had our fall cut short because of COVID. We lost the last two and a half weeks of the fall, and just getting into bunt defenses, and first and thirds, and all that kind of stuff, and it was taken away.

Justin Lewis  25:20

We’re feeling very unprepared. As I was interviewing for this job, they were “we’ve had no fall”. I was like, I don’t feel so bad anymore.

Justin Lewis  25:28

I’m just wondering, as coaches, we always feel like we’re not prepared enough. We’ve got to do that bunt slap defense for the 9 millionth time and our kids are like, “got it”. I’m interested to see how much it matters that we didn’t have a fall.

Justin Lewis  25:46

I’m sure it’s going to matter a little bit here and there, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it may not matter as much as we think it is.

Joey Myers  25:55

I agree. It will be interesting on the hitting, and the timing, and all that kind of stuff, too, with minimal prep time to see. I think the experiment really is, is it the amount of work you’re putting in? Or is it the software? That’s the hardware, the software and the brain, how long does that take to really actually get it?

Joey Myers  26:16

You’re talking about higher level cream of the crop hitters. You’re talking about better software at that point. It would be interesting to see how that goes.

Justin Lewis  26:24

The NFL just kind of showed us, they had their training camp, but they didn’t play any pre-season games. It was completely different. I watched a lot of games that kind of look like the NFL to me.

Justin Lewis  26:38

I’m sure the coaches would disagree with that, and point to numerous areas where they fell short, because they didn’t feel like they were prepared. I’m sure we’re going to miss; we’re going to screw up a cuts and relays.

Justin Lewis  26:53

Maybe we miss a couple bunt defenses, but at the end of the day, I’m interested. Look at the recovery side for the student athletes. Baseball and softball players can traditionally claim to be some of the most overworked athletes around just because there’s no stopping, especially those college baseball players, and they go off in the summer, and they’re just that grind.

Justin Lewis  27:18

Softball doesn’t really do that, they start a summer league here and there, getting to be a little bit more popular, but we may have the freshest athletes we’ve had in a long time. I’m interested to see how that plays.

Joey Myers  27:31

If you get out of the gate screaming, like you said, they’re fresh, and they kind of hit their stride, that kind of subsides a little bit. That would be interesting, we will be staying in touch because for me too, I’m learning.

Joey Myers  27:43

I’ve had my hitters coming and seeing me and I just felt bad for them when we shut down. I just felt like they had about two or three weeks into the high school season, when it when it shut down here.

Joey Myers  27:57

My hitters were poised to do well, do really big things, and it just got shut down. We do our share of little games of random pitch and whatnot, but it’s just not enough of the reps. Like you said, it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Justin Lewis  28:18

The fall can be a grind, you’re looking at the mental grind of the whole season. That includes the fall and the spring. Our kids are just chomping at the bit to be back and be around their teammates.

Justin Lewis  28:32

From a mental health standpoint as well, I’m curious about a lot of things. I think it may change; the world has changed clearly. I’m always fascinated about things that change the world. After 9/11, we haven’t worn shoes through airports, and it’s just normal. Now, I’m interested to see what other ways the world has changed because of all this.

Joey Myers  29:01

Exactly. Well, I want to be respectful of your time. Anything that besides the congratulatory on getting a new job and being closer to me and all this stuff, anything you’re working on outside of trying to get this band of elite athletes to where they need to be during softball practice drills?

 

Anything else that you’re working on?

Justin Lewis  29:20

I just try to learn all the time. Take everything I can, I read way more than I probably should right now. My family is not out here, they’re still in Texas. It’s softball and just trying to get better at everything.

Justin Lewis  29:36

There’s a couple of books that I read recently. I always put out a reading list every year, I keep track all the books that I read, and my two bests are Unlearn by Humble the Poet and Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. Those are my two best read.

Justin Lewis  29:56

Those were amazing books. I just investigate ways to apply it, and always the ultimate hunt for becoming a better coach, and a better leader, and a better husband, and father, and it’s amazing how much I think I fall short on that from time to time.

Justin Lewis  30:15

That’s really been it, just trying to adapt to this area and these kids, just trying to serve them in the best ways I possibly can. It’s all about them, and as long as we keep that attitude, good things are going to happen here.

Joey Myers  30:33

That’s what I like about you, you got that softball practice drills growth mindset. You always want to be around those kinds of coaches, because they’re willing to say when they’re wrong, they’re willing to keep learning and that kind of thing.

Joey Myers  30:42

I think if you’re not falling short, you’re not doing some right. You got to be setting those goals out there far enough that sometimes you do reach them, but sometimes you don’t, and that keeps you going.

Joey Myers  30:52

I think that you have all the softball practice drills formula of a great growth mindset coach, I appreciate everything you guys are doing and take care of my girls. I won’t mention their names but take care of them out there.

Justin Lewis  31:04

You got a couple good ones. They’re some of my favorites.

Joey Myers  31:07

Talking about growth mindset. Those two and the older one, I won’t mention her name. She is a sweetheart and she’s one that you’ll definitely want to lean on with recruiting because she is just likeable, network-y, bubbly personality. She’s awesome.

Justin Lewis  31:25

She’s a rock star. She broke my PVC wall yesterday.

Justin Lewis  31:31

I’ve never had one explode like this, how hard does this kid swing the bat? She’s a little ball of terror. Like the rest of the kids that came through the station, they’re like, “of course it was her that broke it”

Joey Myers  31:48

You know when you mentioned her name? I think I told you this, it was all her, I always say I’m a compass and the flashlight in the dark, you have to put the work in.

Joey Myers  31:59

That summer, she worked so hard, she went from like a 65 mile an hour ball exit speed with the softball to 75 plus, in three months or two and a half months, however long that we were working together. She’s just a hard worker.

Justin Lewis  32:15

Yes, it comes off her bat in a hurry. When she keeps that barrel in the middle of the field, it’s nasty.

Joey Myers  32:22

When she came, she used to think that she was taught her whole life before she got into college to slap the ball, slap. Then, I think the coaching change after her freshman year that she recruited her to slap and the new coach that comes in says, “You know what, we’re not slapping, we’re driving”.

Joey Myers  32:39

She didn’t know how to do that. because she’d been taught her whole life to slap. Now to think how far she’s come. It’s great to see that, so proud of her and you’re going to be taking care of them.

Justin Lewis  32:51

She’s amazing, she’s been a big help in my transition here. Both have actually, I got to go, we had a day off. They’re both local kids, getting all the spots where I got to go hiking and everything else. They’ve been taking care of me, they’re good people.

Joey Myers  33:12

They’re both great. I haven’t met the other girls but I’m sure they’re great, too.

Justin Lewis  33:18

It’s a diverse group of kids here. I love it. They’re all different walks of life and just getting to hear their stories and what their whereabouts.

Justin Lewis  33:31

I come back to coaching, I say it all the time, I love hitting and I spend way too much time thinking about it and studying it and swing, trying to fix swings in the middle of night when I’m sleeping, but really, it’s the kids.

Justin Lewis  33:45

I’m trying to help them, use my experience to help them become the people they were meant to become is really why I came back to it and I need that interaction more than they need me. They will never find that out, though.

Joey Myers  33:59

They don’t realize it now, they’ll realize it later, but it’s not about softball, it’s about life. You’re teaching them life through softball, and I agree with you. That’s why I do it and continue to do it, it’s you’re mentoring.

Joey Myers  34:12

Like you said, you’re getting more out of it probably more than they realize, although when they get older, and they start you know, getting dealt families and stuff, they’ll say “Ah, Coach Justin, he was really pouring into me and I learned actually a lot from him”. But at the time they didn’t realize it.

Justin Lewis  34:26

Hopefully.

Joey Myers  34:28

All right, brother. Hey, keep up the good work out there. Good luck with all the COVID happenings, I know we talked before we started recording about your stuff out there. Stay safe and healthy.

Justin Lewis  34:40

Let’s get together. Let’s get you over to the facility soon and let’s whack it around a little bit.

Joey Myers  34:43

I would love it.

Justin Lewis  34:45

Awesome, brother.

Joey Myers  34:46

All right, Coach Justin. See you, bud.

Justin Lewis  34:47

You got it, take care.

Joey Myers  34:48

Take care.

Josh Karr

To Coaches That Want To Fill A 2021 Roster Spot Despite COVID19

(CLICK HERE for the full transcription of the interview)

UPDATED: Josh has currently found a home at a JC, but I’m sure he’d welcome any other interests.

I’m doing something a little different in this post…

I want to help college coaches.  But most importantly, I want to help support one of my High School Seniors that got stuck in this COVID-19 season ending cyclone.  What follows is an interview to help coaches fill a 2021 roster spot with a solid student athlete…

The NCAA has allowed a 5th year for seniors in college impacted by COVID-19 season shutdown.  I agree with this.  It was a good move.  However, what about High School seniors who only got to play 15-20 games in 2020, without the opportunity to commit?

I’ve interviewed one of those seniors, Josh Karr.

FULL DISCLAIMER: I’ve worked with Josh in the past, and his dad reinforces our system with him as well.  I wanted to conduct an interview as if I was a college coach recruiting Josh.

 

Quick stats and highlights from the interviewJosh Karr

  • 6-foot, 2-inches, 215-pounds. From: Wills Point, Texas. Goes to: Wills Point High School.
  • 96-mph ball exit speed off tee using PocketRadar app. Hit 100-mph on LIVE pitching but didn’t record that.
  • Infield corner position player: 1B/3B, has played outfield before (RF).
  • .960 to .970 Fielding%
  • 60-yard time: 7.2
  • Pop-time: 1.99
  • 3.62 grade point average.  1040 SAT.
  • Loves Math.  Wants to major in Biology, end up in the medical field.  Possibly wants to be an NPA.
  • 2019 stats (Junior year): .329 BA, .451 SLG%, .537 OBP%. 27 hits, 4 homers, 5 doubles. 26 RBI’s.
  • Named “player-to-watch” for his region.  Out of roughly 540-550 players of the whole region. Josh was one of top 40 they picked for it.
  • His main focus hitting right now is line drives

If you want to reach out and contact Josh, you can at the following spots:

  1. Email – jmkarr at SBCGlobal dot net (formatted this way, so Josh doesn’t get a lot of SPAM)
  2. Phone – 661-889-5543
  3. MaxPreps page
  4. On the socials – His personal page on Twitter is: @JoshKarr16 … and his baseball page is: @BaseballKarr …you can DM him there as well.

Final thoughts: yes, I’m a little biased in Josh’s case. And no, I don’t do this that often.  But I’m going to vouch for this graduating High School Senior.  Josh comes from a solid family.  They’re hard workers.  Highly disciplined.  And focused on what they set their mind to.  Josh is a fantastic student.  And since I’ve known him, he does what he needs to to compete at the next level.  He needed to cut weight, so he cut 10% body fat and dropped 10-15 pounds last fall.  His weakness is pitches down in the zone.  He’s currently working on driving those pitches on a line.  The point is, this is a coachable student athlete that is looking to compete for you.  Please reach out…

 

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

Here Are Our Top-10 2017 “Best-Of” Non-HPL Links Shared On Social Media (plus BONUSES)

I wanted to put together a 2017 year-in-review of the Top-10 links we shared on our Facebook fan-page.  How popular a post is depends on Shares, Likes, and Comments.  And I have over 27,066 Facebook fan followers, which is a big study group to judge the helpfulness of these links.

By the way, the following linked resources don’t include Hitting Performance Lab blog posts.  ENJOY!

 

#10 Most Shared Link in 2017

What should you do if…?

“Your child plays in a league that mandates minimum playing time for each player. Your child consistently plays the minimum amount, and never when the game is on the line. The same players always play more than the minimum and are in at crunch time. You don’t think this is fair.”

CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#9 Most Shared Link in 2017

Like Physicist Dr. Alan Nathan told me, body mass isn’t the best indicator of batted ball distance, bat speed is.  If bat speed isn’t at top speed, then Ball Exit Speed won’t be either.  This is GREAT news because teaching bat speed is within the control of EVERY player, body mass?  Not so much.  CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#8 Most Shared Link in 2017

From the post:

“Throughout the recruiting process, [Chris] Collins, Head Basketball Coach at Northwestern University, says he observes parents in the stands to help identify the sort of environment the recruit grew up with. In the recruiting process, coaches should begin to notice if parents are supportive and positive, or negative while encouraging individualistic behavior that only regards their son or daughter rather than the entire team.”

CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#7 Most Shared Link in 2017

From the post:

“These 8 movements take just a short amount of time, so you can add them in throughout your day to break up long bouts of sitting, or you can even use them as a warm-up to your regular training routine…Our hips are incredible structures that allow us to be mobile and strong and perform everything from the most mundane activities as walking to amazing feats of strength and power shown by the finest athletes.  Take the time to take care of your hips and your life will be the better for it.

CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#6 Most Shared Link in 2017

One of the best quotes in this Wall Street Journal article?

“These self-made hitting gurus didn’t play in the big leagues, operate outside the mainstream and are convinced there is a better way to hit than what’s being taught at the major-league level. And they are rattling the baseball establishment.

CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#5 Most Shared Link in 2017

From the post:

“Colt McCoy says this is because specialization limits the skills kids can learn, both motor and relationship skills, from playing multiple sports. Being on different teams gives kids an opportunity to learn and grow.  The other benefit of playing multiple sports is that you don’t get burned out. McCoy shares here that he didn’t know he was going to play football in college until his junior year in high school!  He continued to play basketball, golf, and other sports through high school because he liked being a part of different teams. McCoy strongly feels that when kids specialize at too young an age they miss out ‘on what sports truly encompass.'”

CLICK HERE for original post.

 

#4 Most Shared Link in 2017

Many of you know how I feel about the ground-ball hitting approach.  I think the biggest push back from pro GB hitting coaches is because they have no clue how to optimize line drive Launch Angles in their hitters.  Do you have a hitter with above average speed?  Then why not teach him or her to drive the ball with authority too?  Gives them another tool for their toolbox.  Teaching a fast runner to JUST hit the ball on the ground is just plain lazy.  Be better than that.  When coaches aren’t growing, they’re dying.  Make hitters better.  Give them more tools.  CLICK HERE for the original post.

 

#3 Most Shared Link in 2017

Shameful conduct.  Bullies.  I feel bad for the young ladies on this team who were seen as guilty by association. CLICK HERE for the original post.

 

#2 Most Shared Link in 2017

How cool is this?!  From the post:

“Joe Jackson was at the Rangers’ Spring Training complex on Friday, and no, you did not somehow step into a time machine and travel back to the 1910s. It was Joe Jackson, the 24-year-old Minor Leaguer who, yes, is the great-great-grandnephew of Shoeless Joe Jackson”. 

CLICK HERE for the original post.  And our MOST SHARED non-HPL link in 2017 was…(drum-roll please)

 

#1 Most Shared Link in 2017

This video is well worth your time. George Springer’s dad was interviewed after World Series Game-7 ended, and after his son received the MVP award.  Great insight into what dad taught Junior growing up, even discussing a unique perspective to the stuttering challenges George Springer (son) grew up with.  CLICK HERE for the original post.

And for the BONUSES…

 

BONUS #11 Most Shared Link in 2017

As many of you know, I love getting athletes to move better.  If we do that, then they’ll perform better. This is a great routine to help with stiff hamstrings, which surprisingly is what most of my hitters have!  CLICK HERE for the original post.

 

BONUS #12 Most Shared Link in 2017…ahem…I mean First Week January 2018

This was a recent popular January 2018 post, but I wanted to include it here.  Preaching the ‘Sticky Coaching’ gospel for parents.  CLICK HERE for the original post.