How to Hit a Baseball for the Little Leaguer Who Can’t
Everyone has an opinion on how to hit a baseball. For proof, just go to any little league game and wait until the end of the order on either team. Inevitably, the last few batters will struggle hitting the ball and you will find, immediately, everyone on the field and in the stands is an expert in hitting. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, the self appointed hitting coach, teammates, umpires etc. etc. Occasionally, the kid makes contact but it seems more by sheer luck than anything adopted by the player’s advice givers.
I can’t imagine any other scenario in life akin to the few moments a little leauger experiences in the batters box under those conditions. Imagine what it would be like to have all of your friends and family yelling pointers as you tried to accomplish something you weren’t very good at. It’s no wonder these players are probably in their last season of baseball–who would want to pay money for that experience?
I have never seen your struggling player try and hit a baseball. But I am guessing, considering the thousands and thousands of hits I’ve seen made and missed in little league, a few of the tips and tricks below on how to hit a baseball are just the remedy your player needs to put the ball in play–finally.
If you are looking for advice on how to hit the ball in play more than 75% of the time then your either reading the wrong blog post or your expectations are too high. A 25% strike out rate is plenty fine in little league. He may or may not be on his way to the hall of fame, but looking for tips and tricks on how to improve your contact percentage probably won’t be found below. This is more for the little leaguer or little league coach who has a few that can’t seem to make contact.
Tips and tricks for how to hit a baseball for the little leaguer who can’t.
- Step At the Ball: The most common issue I see with little leaguers who can’t hit the ball is the direction their front foot moves during the swing. Regardless of where that front foot starts in a batter’s stance, the front foot should step towards the ball as the swing begins.Many little leaguers who struggle hitting the ball (and a handful who don’t) step that foot away from the plate. Many others who struggle don’t step that foot at all. Many who don’t step at all move their back foot in some fashion or another (usually outwards). These steps can be very big or very small.To hit a ball successfully and with any degree of consistency you must step towards the ball. That ball is coming from the pitcher who should be in front of you. (If he’s not, you might not even be playing baseball). Stepping towards the ball also means stepping towards the pitcher. Lots of problems are solved by getting your hitter to step towards the ball during the swing:
- The player is forced to push from their back foot.
- The player is forced to have some degree of proper balance towards their toes.
- The bat will have much better plate coverage through the swing.
- A proper step begins the correct process of the body and hips hitting the ball.
- Over Gripping the Bat: Lots of hitting coaches at every level of baseball suggest lining up the second kunckles in both your hands when you grip the bat. I don’t think the knuckles need to be lined up perfectly but I’d suggest they need to be close. Between many and most little leaguers who aren’t hitting the ball are over-gripping the bat. Usually it is so bad even their third knuckles are not lined up.You can usually spot an over-gripper from far away since the both the players elbows are above or equal to the height of their hands. Lining up the second knuckles solves a handful of problems:
- Pushes the bat further into the fingers of the player instead of the palms.
- Allow the player to swing with their wrists (overgripping locks up your wrists). Some folks call this, “swinging with your hands” and its a good thing to do.
- Control the head of the bat for better contact.
- Dramatically increase bat speed.
- Swing the bat through the zone for the maximum amount of time.
- Open Your Eyes: One very under-diagnosed problem with hitters who struggle mightily is they close their eyes before contact. This one is a little harder to tell, but take out your phone and video him swinging at his next at bat and, I bet, 4 times out of 5 times you’ll see the kid who struggles to hit close his eyes right before contact.I have yet to find a great way to rectify this problem, but most kids don’t even know they are doing it. If you can recognize it, video him doing it, and show it back to him he may come to grips with it himself and keep his darned eyes open while he is trying to make contact. It is horribly difficult to hit something you can’t see. He will need to physically choose to make his body do something that it is yelling at him not to do.
- Actually “Watch the Ball” Make Contact: Telling little leaguers to “watch the ball” is probably the most common advice you’ll hear. The advice is true: watch the ball and you’ll hit it more often. But “watching the ball” isn’t the opposite of “not pulling your head out.” A lot of players don’t pull their head with their swing yet are still NOT watching the ball.Watching the ball entails actually looking at the ball and following it with your chin until it makes contact with the bat. Some refer to this as putting your ‘face on the ball’ or ‘follow it with your chin’. However you want to convey the idea, your little leaguer needs to watch the ball through contact–not just keep his eyes open and not pull out his head. Physically watch contact occur with the bat. Slo-mo videos of big leaguers hitting the ball show their eye’s through contact in pretty dramatic fashion.
- Hit The Ball In Front: This step is a little more advanced as the above three steps will solve most chronic strike out problems. Hitting a ball properly entails “hitting the ball in front of you.” If the player thinks contact should occur when the ball gets directly in front of their belly button (like they might have done in tee-ball) they are going to spend a lot of time striking out.Proper contact with a baseball happens “in front” or towards the pitcher. Look how Albert Pujols, in the picture below, is hitting the ball in front of him. Contact occurs,roughly, over the front foot.
While hitting the ball in front is a task that takes years of solid practice, little leaguers can start getting the hang of this very early on. Proper contact involves, as well, a spin of the hips and pulling the hands through–but those steps are life long persuits. In the mean time, get the player to make contact in front of them and the other principles can develop more naturally.
If your little leaguer is struggling to hit have them step towards the ball, not over grip the bat, keep their eyes open, practice with them to watch the ball to actual contact and try and hit the ball in front of them. Practice, practice, practice and, you will find in time, they start hitting the ball consistently.