Hitting Drills are Crucial for Success
Just because a player swings and misses a ball does not automatically mean they took their eye off the ball, as most people believe. Hitting a ball moving at various speeds and to different locations is a difficult skill to do. Most missed balls are due to poor timing or bad fundamental swings, not taking the eye off of it.
Hitting drills help players develop better batting skills, but just as important, a solid hitting drill explains and forces a crucial aspect of the hitting fundamentals.
However, there is some basis for believing they took their eye off it when they miss it, as many hitters do not watch the ball as well as they should. If it is obvious a player is overswinging than they probably are taking their eye off the ball. It is common for youth hitters to move their head a great deal before or during the swing, causing them to lose focus on the ball. Whenever there is head movement, out, forward or down, the hitter’s chances of squaring the ball up decrease.
Improving the mechanics of hitting will solve most head pulls, as good hitting basics will give ballplayers a good chance a hitting the ball consistently. Fundamental drills that develop the batter’s hands and hips help prevent hitters from moving their heads. The more players learn to use the big lower half of the body muscles and the small muscles around the hands and wrist, the more they will control their head action and success usually follows. As hitters work to develop the perfect swing, the following head control drills will keep their head steady.
It works both ways, though, by controlling the head, players will be forced to use the correct muscles better with good contact resulting. As hitters work to develop the perfect swing, the following head control drills will keep their head steady and their eyes on the ball. The added bonus of these drills is that they will prevent overswinging, which usually causes excessive head movement, as mentioned above.
Hitting Drills to Keep Hitters’ Eyes on the Ball
- Batting tee practice is always a good start for watching the ball. It is best to have hitters begin with their eyes out towards the pitcher and bring their eyes to the ball as they stride. Coaches should have batters continue to watch the top of the batting tee for a second after contact before looking to see the results of their swing. That is a great habit to have when hitting a pitched ball, too.
- Soft-toss flipped ball practice, from the side or from the front behind a screen, is great for watching the ball to contact from a short distance.
- Dropped ball drills, where the coach stands to the side and drops balls into the hitting zone will have hitters watch the ball to contact. Dropped ball drill develops a quick, compact swing with eye on the ball.
Other Great Hitting Drills to watch the ball
- As the hitter swings, the coach flashes a number to their side and the batter is required to look at and announce the number after their follow through. This drill works with batting tee work, flipped balls, or dropped ball drills. This drill can work with batting practice too, as players cannot pull their heads past the pitching mound.
- Along the same lines, a fielder’s glove is placed at front of the opposite side batter’s box and players keep their eye on the glove after swinging and before looking up to find the hit ball. Eyes on object to side of home for after making contact.
- From one knee and a safe distance behind the hitter where the catcher usually sits, the coach flips a ball forward into the hitting zone as the batter strides. Hitters watch the ball from the coach’s hand and swing when the ball reaches the hitting zone. With the ball coming from behind, it guarantees the hitter’s head and eyes to stay on the ball. This is a great drill for having players stay back on the ball, too. Behind the hitter flips helps keep eye on ball.
- Place a few objects equidistant along the path from the mound to home plate and have batters track the ball over each object. Some hitters only watch the ball part of the way and this helps them track it the entire way.
- Hitting on a balance beam helps as too much head movement prevents hitters from remaining on the beam throughout the swing causing them to lose sight of the ball. Balance beam hitting promotes a steady head.
- Having hitters track the ball with their eyes all the way to the catcher’s glove, when not swinging, keep them focused on the ball into the hitting zone.
- When mixing up speeds (fastballs, curveballs, and change-ups), have hitters take all off-speed pitches during batting practice. This will show if they are picking up different speed pitches, which will only happen if they are watching it intently.
- Having the coach flash numbers with his fingers from the mound, without a ball, and with the pitching motion while hitter tries to read number helps hitters focus on release point.
These hitting drills will greatly enhance players focus on the ball, which is necessary to time the ball, of course. It must be remembered though that use of the incorrect hitting mechanics causes excessive head movement.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is now available. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 120 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.