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For Baseball, Hitting is the Name of the Game.

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Not to take anything away from the importance of playing solid defense, but baseball teams generally tend to try to stack their lineups with players who can create something offensively.  I’ve often heard coaches and scouts say that a good hitter has potential purely because of his ability to produce runs.  The perspective is that defensive skills can be developed later.  If your hitting skills are good enough, you might not have to worry much about defense at all, even in the pros.  Just have a look at Manny Ramirez.  Half the time it seems like he doesn’t know much about what’s happening in field.  But, he’s as good a hitter as you’ll find.  Again, I’m not trying to discredit the value of good defense.  It’s just that winning games is so dependent upon scoring runs that learning to hit well should be the first priority of any up-and-coming baseball player who isn’t planning a pitching career.  With that said, here are some tips for becoming a better hitter.

Slowing Down the Ball
Have you ever watched a slow-motion replay of someone missing a slider by a couple feet.  When I see something like that, it almost seems at some point as if the hitter is purposely missing the ball.  Why?  Because it all happens so quickly that at some point between the batter’s choosing to swing at the ball and the pop of the catcher’s mitt there is a disconnect.  During that period of time – as the ball moves closer to the hitter, the hitter actually loses sight of the ball altogether.  The trick, then, is to develop your reflexes and eye-hand coordination so that you are essentially slowing the ball down.  Your increase in reaction time gives you the extra split second you need to swing the bat in the ball’s path rather than partially or completely missing.  There are many drills you can use to speed up your reaction time, from taking batting practice using a high speed pitching machine to throwing a ball against the wall and catching it on the rebound. 

Bat Speed
Being capable of swinging the bat quickly is important for a few reasons.  First of all, a bat that is moving faster hits the ball harder than one that’s not moving as fast.  Second of all, quick bat speed gives the hitter a slightly longer period of time to make up his mind on a pitch.  Deciding whether a ball that’s moving 90+ miles per hour is going to move up or down, or if it’s in the strike zone, is a difficult task.  Your ability to move the bat quickly through the strike zone will give you more time to make that important decision.

Bat speed is dependent upon a hitter’s strength and technique.  Developing good bat speed is, like all elements of baseball, a matter of repetition.  Swinging a weighted bat is a good way to develop good bat speed.  Your time spent in the weightroom will go a long way towards getting you the bat speed you need to be a consistent hitter.

Narrowing Your Target
You’ll notice skilled basketball players sometimes shooting on basketball goals that have much smaller diameters than the regulation size.  Instead of always practicing on a regulation size 18-inch basketball hoop, they’ll use a 13-inch hoop.  This forces them to shoot the ball with a little more arch and towards the very center of the hoop.  The same principle applies to hitting a baseball.  Your goal is to hit the ball at the very center.  The baseball equivalent of the 13-inch practice rim is to use a broom stick and bottle caps (or a similar setup) to teach yourself to aim at a smaller target using a narrower bat.  If you haven’t tried it before, you may find yourself a little frustrated at first, but as you train yourself to focus, you’ll find that your eye-hand coordination improves so that you can consistently put the wood on the caps.  You’re sure to see an increase in your ability to connect solidly with a baseball.

Watch Yourself
It’s always helpful to get feedback on what techniques and movements cause you to hit the ball well and what tendencies detract from your hitting ability.  Try videotaping yourself every so often.  Watch the video to see what you look like swinging the bat.  Slow it down so you can catch the details of what you’re doing both when you hit the ball well and when you struggle.  Each hitter has a unique style. Having a first-hand look at your posture and technique allows you to visualize the corrections you need to make and to become more confident in your hitting strengths.

Becoming a reliable hitter encompasses a range of skills within the skill.  There are thousands of tips and tricks that can be used to develop your hitting game and bring it to a higher level.  The ultimate end for expending the effort to become a better hitter will be a guaranteed spot in the lineup, and a lot of successful trips around the bases.

Richard Robbins is one of the owners of RobbinsSports.com, an online retailer of baseball jerseys, baseball uniforms, and baseball equipment.