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4 CORNERS DRILL

A hitting drill that our kids do is called the "4 Corners Drill", actually for bunting.

 

Our players divide up into 4 groups of how ever many. They gather around each of the bases and the plate of our diamond. A player uses the plate or base as a home plate and stands ready to drag, squeeze, or sacrifice bunt with another player pitching from his knee about 10 feet away. There is also a catcher, and the other player’s field with bare hands.

 

Each player bunts the ball 5 times and then everyone rotates until all three types of bunts are laid down correctly, making sure that fundamentals are being done, with a coach at each station.

 

BADMINTON DRILL

A great drill we use for hitting is to use badminton birdies. ***No flight practice golf balls are a great alternative

Simply have a coach stand 10-15 feet from the batter and throw the birdies into the strike zone. This drill enables batters to take LOTS of swings in a relatively short period of time. It also allows the coach to place the "pitch" exactly where he wants it, thus enabling the batter to work on weak areas of their swing.

 

Another drill we use is a variation on the traditional "soft toss"; rather than baseballs, we toss mini marshmallows so the batter is forced to fine tune his swing for the smaller target. You wouldn't believe how big a baseball looks after this.

 

BAT SPEED DRILL

Put a weighted donut on your regular baseball bat and hit eight baseballs. (Overload)

 

Hit eight baseballs with a fungo bat. (Underload)

 

Hit eight baseballs with your regular bat.

 

I conduct this drill in a soft toss situation and do 2 sets 2-3 times a week. Over the course of 4 to 6 weeks you should see a positive increase in bat speed.

 

BROOMSTICK DRILL

Make a couple of bats from broomsticks about 30" for little league. Purchase practice plastic golf balls at any sporting goods store. Have players break up into two groups of four, one player pitching, one hitting and two others for retrieval. At first players will have difficulty making contact but with concentration on point of contact they will begin hitting consistently.

 

BUNTING TECHNIQUE DRILL

Purpose: To improve players bunting technique.

 

Procedure: A protective screen is in the middle of the pitching area. The drill has two pitchers and two catchers. Pitcher one is in front of the protective screen and throws to home plate. Pitcher two is behind the protective screen and throws to second base. Each pitcher has a bucket of baseballs and each catcher has an empty bucket. The hitters are divided into two groups, with one group at home plate and the second group at second base.

 

Hitter 1 bunts a specific bunt and runs to first base, while at the same time, hitter 2 bunts a specific bunt and runs to third base. Then the hitters jog to the ends of the opposite lines. For time efficiency, the balls not contacted by the hitter are placed in the catcher's ball bucket, thereby allowing the pitcher to prepare for the next pitch.

 

COLORED BALL DRILL

Paint several baseballs with different bright colors (solids, of course) and place in a bucket behind mound. Have assistant place ball in glove of pitching coach (ball hidden from batter). Pitcher checks color of ball then calls out any color or the actual color of ball in glove. The batter can only swing at the ball that matches the color the coach called out, and if the pitch is in the hitting zone.

 

Variation-

 

Soft toss two balls at once. Just before tossing, coach tells batter which color to hit.

 

If you only have white baseballs - tell batter to hit top or bottom ball.

 

HIP TURNER DRILL

Purpose: Development of quicker hips and the relationship of hip speed to the entire swing.

Procedure: Place a bat behind the waist, horizontal to the ground, and use a glove as home plate. While holding the ends of the bat in the hands, assume a normal batting stance and watch an imaginary pitch being delivered. Execute a stride and quick turn using the bat to help turn the hips faster. Finish in the proper contact point position.

 

HITTING TO ALL FIELDS DRILL

I have found this drill will help younger players learn to hit inside and outside pitches and learn "their pitch".

 

Split your team into 2 equal teams talent wise. Set a line of cones or other suitable separators directly down center field.

 

Play "over the line" and alternate between left field and right field. Have a coach pitch from the mound or regulation distance.

 

We will play a 4-inning game, closing the right side the first inning, and then closing the left side the next. It is imperative that your coach that is pitching is accurate. For right-handers, when left field is closed your pitcher must pitch to the outside so they can "go with the pitch" and have a chance to hit to right. When right field is closed and left is open, your pitcher must give "middle-in" pitches. We give our hitters 3 strikes. All other "over the line rules that you deem fit apply. Of course another benefit is defensive glove work.

 

This game forces your hitters to hit the outside pitch that they will inevitably see when they are behind in the count. It also allows them to attack "their pitch" (for most hitters, the middle in pitch)

 

 

HITTING TO THE OPPOSITE FIELD DRILL

A drill that I have found very effective and easy to do is to set up for batting practice regularly. Then have the pitcher throw the ball from a shortened distance and from the opposite field side (i.e. for a right handed hitter, the pitcher throws from between the mound and 1b). This creates the angle to make the hitter "stay behind" the ball and hit the other way.

 

We tell our guys they have to get out if they hit the ball to the "pull" side of the mound. Also, make sure the batter faces the regular mound and does not turn towards the new mound.

 

 

LEAD AND FOLLOW HAND SWINGS DRILL

Purpose: The lead hand swings allow a hitter to establish proper timing and power with the lead side of the body, giving the hitter proper contact with the ball. The follow hand swings establish the feeling of throwing the bat at the ball.

 

Procedure: Hit off a tee, imaginary ball, or soft-toss. When executing swings with the lead hand, you should concentrate on keep the hand above the plane of the ball. If the lead hand drops under a pop out, strike out, or fly out will usually occur. The hitter must also turn the hips quickly for proper timing and power. The lead elbow should not extend fully before contact with the ball, since that will promote a slow bat due to an excess of arm arc in the swing. By concentrating on keeping the lead hand on top of the ball and turning the hips quickly, a hitter can establish proper timing and power with the lead side of the body. The lead hand/follow hand action creates timing and power. Both hands should snap straight into the ball precisely the same instant. This will help you establish proper bat speed and control.

 

 

LOW OUTSIDE TEE DRILL

This drill will make players aware of the club head’s position and the importance of keeping your eyes on the ball.

 

Simply use a tee and a youth bat, about 28 inches long. Set the tee like a low outside pitch and have the players hit a ball off it. This should be done at first with large groups because everybody will get a good laugh to see their teammates swing wildly in the air. After a while they learn to aim the club head at the ball instead of merely swinging the bat through the strike zone.

 

 

ONE HANDED BUNTING DRILL

One Handed Bunting--Players get into groups of 3 or 4 for max bunts. The drill is to grip the bat with the top hand at the balance point of the bat, then bunt that way. All the things you try to teach such as grip, bat angle, 'catch the ball with the bat', etc. happen naturally just by bunting one handed. It is a simple finishing job to add the bottom hand to steer the ball, and leads easily into drag and push bunts.

 

A few minutes of practice gives lots of skill and leaves that much more time to HIT.

 

 

PITCH BEHIND DRILL

The timid little-league batter always seems to assume that backing out or stepping out toward third base will automatically prevent him from being hit by the pitch. You might notice that he starts his getaway before he has any notion of where the pitch is really headed. I have had some success against this tendency by throwing behind the timid batter's back. After all, he will get plenty of these pitches at the little league level, and you don't want him backing into them, getting hurt, and becoming even more afraid.

 

If the habit is deeply ingrained, you might want to start out with tennis balls. You can also start by throwing a lot of pitches behind him, and then gradually decrease the frequency of these pitches as he starts to break the habit. Soon he will realize that he had better not back up until he sees where the ball is really going. This will make him much safer at the plate, which will appeal to the timid batter right away. And while he's watching the ball more closely, he's going to realize that he doesn't have to hide from the good pitches, but can stay put and hit them instead. I have seen it work!

 

Another simple drill I use with these hitters is to have them stand-in at the plate and take short practice steps in the proper direction (toward the pitcher), over and over again. If he's very timid, tell him to think about stepping toward the second baseman (or the shortstop, for lefties). In his fear, he will adjust his step back to the middle, which is where you wanted it in the first place. After 15 or 20 reps, we resume pitching to him. Admittedly, this won't work miracles in the worst cases, but sometimes it's enough of a push to get a player hitting.

 

Another thing: Sometimes you're using a drill for a pitcher and a catcher, and you just need a batter to stand in without swinging (maybe you're getting a new pitcher gradually used to the idea of pitching to a batter, or getting a new catcher used to the idea of having that bat swinging around in his peripheral vision). At these times, choose one of your more timid kids to stand in, and have him concentrate on watching the pitch closely all the way. This gives him a chance to practice this without the pressure of trying to hit the ball.

 

 

ROLL AWAY - FENCE DRILL

Fear of the baseball is often one of the biggest obstacles to good hitting. It can lead to "stepping in the bucket", poor balance and "pulling the head" (or pulling off the ball). Although it's normal to have a healthy respect for the baseball, abnormal fear of being hit by the ball can cripple an otherwise good hitter. Any player who has trouble rolling away from a pitch thrown at him (i.e., turning toward the catcher so the ball will hit him on the backside) needs to practice this drill until it becomes natural.

 

Here's how it goes:

First explain the importance of rolling away from a pitched ball. Ask the players if they would rather be hit in the face, throat, stomach, groin or back. Most will say back, others can take a lap. Demonstrate how to roll away, and then proceed with the drill.

 

Find a fence or backstop the hitter can stand behind. It must be high and wide enough so he cannot be hit with a ball thrown from the other side. The hitter stands behind the fence with a bat. The pitcher stands pitching distance away on the other side of the fence (the fence separates the 2). Place a glove or portable base down (on the batter's side) to act as home plate while making sure to leave enough room for the batter to take a full swing. The pitcher throws to the plate and the batter swings normally (if the pitch is a strike). Of course he won't make contact with the ball because the fence will stop it before it reaches him. Throw a few strikes initially then randomly throw directly at the fence in front of the hitter. Don't let up, let it fly.

 

Vary the location and be sure to mix it up so the hitter doesn't get into a habit of turning away every time (make sure he continues to swing at strikes). Throw at different parts of the body (including just behind the head) and watch for proper reaction. Repeat this drill until the hitter's natural reaction is to turn away. Good Luck!

 

 

SHORTSCREEN DRILL

We station a tosser seated behind an L-screen approximately 30 feet away from the hitter (tosser should wear helmet and stay well behind the screen.) The tosser can pinpoint the corners and move the ball up and down throwing a high percentage of strikes from this distance. The hitter is forced to react quickly.

 

To further the effectiveness of the drill we have the tosser shout a count just before delivering the ball (i.e. 3-0, or 1-2, etc.). This forces the hitter to think about the type of hitting situation that he is confronted with before offering. For example, in a 3 ball situation the hitter may decide to take a questionable pitch for ball 4 whereas in a 2 strike situation they must guard the dish. Also we will vary the situational hitting by having the tosser shout out where runners are as well as out count. This further reinforces the concept of productive at bats while giving a mental focus to what can otherwise become a repetitive drill.

 

 

STAY BACK DRILL

One drill we use is with whiffle balls and badminton birdies. The main purpose of the drill is to teach the players to "stay back" on off speed pitches. When the whiffle ball is thrown you will get a simulated fastball. When a birdie is thrown it starts at the same speed as the whiffle ball, but will die down and drop. Players need to learn to wait for the birdie to get there.

 

Another drill we use is set up like soft toss. The feeder bounces the ball in front of the batter. He then says "fastball" or "curve." If he says fastball, the batter should swing at the ball on the way up from its bounce. If the feeder says curve, the batter must wait for the ball to come down from its apex.

 

 

T-DRILL DRILL

You will need to pair off your players for this drill .To set up this drill, put the batting tee in front of home plate. Using home plate will allow your player to get a comfortable feel for being at the plate and not the tee. One player puts the ball on the tee the other hits it. It is a good idea to move the tee around home plate so that your players get used to hitting the ball from different pitches. This drill helps develop the skill for good contact with the ball. Make sure the hitters concentrate on contact and watch the ball as they swing.

 

HITTING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

A. SITUATIONS: Emphasize hitting fastball.

1. COUNTS

(0-0, 1-0, 1-1): hit only fast ball you like (in your "zone")

(2-0, 3-1): zone fast ball you hit best

(2-1): most cases.... zone fastball

HOWEVER ... take into account pitcher's ability and previous 3 pitch selections; may have to look curve or change

(3-0): take unless in your zone (the pitch you came to the park to hit) if swinging.... don't jump on just any pitch but rather look for a pitch in your zone

(0-1): no change in attitude.... get a fast ball

(2 strikes): attitude changes.... always look fastball but react to curve and change

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!! Strike zone is widened to black of the plate THE FURTHER AHEAD IN THE COUNT YOU GET, THE SMALLER YOUR STRIKE ZONE BECOMES; THE FURTHER BEHIND IN THE COUNT YOU GET, THE BIGGER YOUR STRIKE ZONE BECOMES.

 

B. DRILLS (do at every practice with Hitting Vest!!!)

1. Tees (100): 33 high, 34 middle, 33 low --- alternate hitting to left, center, right

2. Toss (100): alternate hitting to left, center, right

3. Backside flips (25): reverses toss drills, emphasis on waiting to hit curve and change

4. Weak-side swings (25): hitting one-handed with non-throwing hand

5. Turns (25): bat behind back, emphasis on hitting with hips

 

C. GAME-DAY DRILLS (do before every game!!!)

1. Tees (50)

2. Toss (50) 

3. Turns (15)

4. Short toss (10-10-5): pitcher throws from 30-40 feet with tennis balls or IncrediBalls (20 swings, 5 bunts)

 

D. VISION

1. Watch front shoulder of pitcher.

2. Move vision to release point just as ball is released.

3. Study pitcher to find release point.

4. Read pitcher's arm release to see where ball is going.

5. Track ball into your hitting zone.

6. Hand release shows where ball is going (high/low, in/out).

7. If at release point ball is level with hand --- fastball.

8. If at release point ball is above hand --- curve or change.

 

 

PRO CUT PROGRAM

This past year I've been conducting trials using the PRO CUT. It is a new device that weighs12 oz. and attaches to the handle of the bat and allows the bat to be swung comfortably. With the weight on the handle, as the swing begins to the inside and forward, the weight assists in bringing the hands in and forward as opposed to away from the body that weight from a donut does. The weighted handle makes the bat feel balanced and not top heavy.

 

All hitting drills can be done with it on; tee work, soft toss, short toss and all winter I used it extensively doing regular sets of dry swings with excellent results. Its amazing but even adding 40 to 55 % more weight to the bat, it actually facilitates the swing. A test group in our academy over a six-week period increased their bat speed from 3mph to 17 mph! Of coarse we also improved their mechanics by working with them each week.

 

The Procut can also be used in the on deck circle instead of donuts. I look forward to seeing decent swings in the on-deck circle (one of my pet peeves) instead of donut-assisted loops.

 

These are brand new and cannot be found in many stores outside the Chicago area. Ron Lefebvre loves it and several universities have started using them having gotten them at the coach's convention in Nashville this year.

 

You can get a brochure on it from TIPM INC. by calling 847-838-6116 and tell them you picked it up on the Internet from Coach Erickson. Soon you can see a picture and get a brief description of one on my own page, Palatine Travelers.

 

 

SOFT TOSS DRILLS PROGRAM

In my lessons I use four soft toss drills to focus on some key elements of hitting.

 

I usually use regular soft toss to warm the hitter up: 30 reps. First, I rotate my hands holding two balls and toss them in an inconsistent sporadic pattern. This develops bat speed upon eye contact. Eventually the more experienced hitter could be tossed fakes as well. While the tosser is spinning the ball he actually fakes twice and then releases one. The next he just tosses. 30 reps.

 

The second drill is motor skills and awareness. I hold two balls in one hand with two fingers separating the two. I want to hold the balls as if they were stacked upon each other. Before I toss the balls I call out top or bottom. This forces the hitter to actually think about which ball to hit upon a command. This will also fine-tune their concentration.30 reps.

 

The third is the most difficult and possibly the best. The tosser should stand up close to the plate but just out of bat distance. The tosser holds the ball high in the air above the front part of the plate and drops the ball. The batter depending on his eyes to initiate the swing has to hit the ball before the ball touches the ground. His technique is critical in this drill. Make sure his step; hips, balance, and head are all in correct form. 30 reps.

 

The last is where the tosser stands behind the hitter tossing the ball from his knee through the hitter’s strike zone. The batter has to accelerate his bat after the ball. This develops pull arm strength and overall power.15 reps.

 

P.S. Fatigue develops bad habits so make sure the hitter rests twice the amount of time spent hitting.

 

 

TEACHING HITTERS PROGRAM

Station 1

1) Top hand should hold bottom thumb to simulate holding a bat. Top hand should also hold a ball. Throw the ball into a net for all direction of hits (pull, middle, opposite field). The throw causes arms to extend and rolls wrist to attain a down and in or out swing.

 

2) The "Slap" technique involves two players. Have one player kneel in front of batter with a hand outstretched in the strike zone. The batter then swings at the outstretched hand and slaps it with both hands. This keeps the front shoulder in.

 

3) For a player that sweeps, stick a batting glove under the front armpit to ensure that the swing stays closed and the batter doesn't fly open.

 

Station 2 (Make sure that on these drills, the batter is in his full stride, but weight is back)

1) Rapid Fire: Use three balls and soft toss them immediately upon contact, one right after the other. This develops quick hands.

 

2) Drop ball: Have a batter and tosser stand parallel with each other with the left foot in line with the left foot of each. The tosser drops the ball from eye level and from a knee. You may think that the players may be too close to each other, and that is a legitimate thought. If the batter doesn't swing correctly, he will hit the tosser. A little encouragement for the batter.

 

3) Fastball Drill: It is soft toss but from a distance and with more speed. Tosser stands to the side of batter and about 10 feet away and tosses underhand with a little bit more on the ball.

 

4) Back feed Extension: It is soft toss from behind the batter. Stand about 5 feet directly behind the batter and toss ball into strike zone. The batter can look at the tosser the first few times, but then must do it blindly. Develops quick hands.

 

Station 3

1) Batter kneels and tosser throws ball to bill of cap to emphasize that the batter chops down at the ball.

 

2) Batter stands and same as  Station 2 drill, except tosser throws to nose level and out in front.

 

3) Use two "T's." Place a ball on the front "T" about two inches lower than back "T." Swing to hit ball on front "T."

 

ABCA Clinician: Marty Paulson, Fond du Lac Goodrich High School, and Wisconsin

 

 

BETTER VISION AT THE PLATE TIP

Too often times young players are encouraged to close their stance at the plate (i.e. placing their front foot closer to the plate than their rear foot) thus limiting their vision of the ball. Usually this results in their "pulling off" or away from the pitch when striding.

 

I try to encourage more kids to "open" their stance by placing their front foot further from the plate and encouraging them to stride in towards the ball. This allows them better vision of the pitch and an easier feeling of getting away from the pitch inside, potentially at them.

 

 

CORRECTING STEP OUT TIP

Many young players will take their front foot and step away from a pitch as they swing, thus pulling them off the ball.  Have the player get in his stance and place a bats on the ground at his heels. The player begins to adapt to the foot placement and not step on the bat.

 

Once the player starts making contact with the ball, he has demonstrated to himself that he can hit when he doesn't back away. Depending on the age and experience of the player, this can take anywhere from 10 minutes and up.

 

I have had great success with kids when I've done this, and with little time involved.

 

 

FENCES TIP

The player stands with a bat facing a fence. He should then take the bat and put the end against the fence lightly. The end of the handle should make slight contact with the player's mid-section. He can now take his normal batting stance at that distance from the fence and take about ten or fifteen swings. If the bat is making more than light contact with the fence, the batter is not bringing his hands through first, which he should be. To get a player to bring his hands first, have him take his normal stride as if to swing, turn hips, not have his hands extended. If he continues to do this, it will increase his bat speed and he will probably hit the ball harder.

 

 

HANGING WIFFLE BALL TIP

My son was 7 years old and a first year player. I hung a whiffle ball on a string from the rafters in the basement. He practiced hitting it. The ball moved around a lot, so it was more difficult to hit than off a tee. His first year of coach pitch he finished the year with a .677 batting average. I was so proud.

 

 

Two Tees

 

1st tee  the player will hit from

2nd tee about 5 feet away slightly higher than the first tee.

 

The idea is to get something that is about up to the hitter's waist or slightly above and make them swing "up" to hit the ball off the tee and not swing "down" and try to "pick" the ball off of the tee. It is really quite challenging and will be immediately rewarding to the hitter. 

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