If you want to become a good or even a great hitter, it’s important to master the fundamentals. When starting out, it should be just you and the baseball bat. A batting tee and a net are also recommended once you have perfected your swing mechanics. By following these baseball hitting tips for beginners, you will get to understand what to do to make contact with the ball and hit with power and force.
At this point in your understanding, just focus on the fundamentals. Don’t be concerned with concepts such as exit velocity, launch angles and baseball exit speeds. Even once you understand those abstract concepts, they won’t help you swing the right way. Adjusting your batting stance, load, stride and swing always involves concrete, physical practice and lots of repetition until you get it right.
It’s a great idea to start with a batting tee if you have one. The tee keeps the ball stationary and thus much easier to make contact with. You must first be able to hit a stationary baseball so you’ll be able to hit one that’s moving 75 miles per hour and over.
Although you can practice these tips almost anywhere, it’s strongly recommended that you work inside a regulation sized batter’s box drawn with chalk, as well as home plate to stand beside as you work on swing mechanics.
These are the 6 steps batters do when swinging at a pitch. It all happens within the space of a second. We will start with the batting stance and work our way through to your follow through swing and the extension of your body.
Keep in mind that there is no set in stone batting stance. Each of us has our own unique stance, based on our size, height, strength and other physical factors. Your stance should be comfortable for you to do.
However, there are some fundamental requirements for your batting stance, and the closer you adhere to them, the better the load and stride that follows will be.
The K Posture
When you have found your best stance, it should resemble the lowercase “k” seen below.
Coaches often refer to a good batting stance as assuming the “k posture.” By following the suggestions below, your stance will be in the form of the letter “k”.
Your batting stance is your starting point. Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect stance. All Major League baseball players have their own batting stance that’s unique to each of them.
First, set your feet square to the pitcher. You should be perpendicular to the pitcher’s mound (at a 90 degree angle). You can also stand in a slightly open stance, where your front foot is towards third base, or a slightly closed one, where your front foot is in the direction of first base.
Find a comfortable part of the bat handle to place your hands. It can be near the knob at the end, or up a little ways towards the center. When it comes time to swing the bat across the plate, you can adjust your grip on the bat to insure a smooth, even and powerful swing.
Your feet should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulders.
This is where we talk a little about physics, and specifically the law of inertia. Isaac Newton defined inertia as “the tendency of an object to remain either at rest, or in motion.” Hitters standing at home plate are doing one of two things with their bodies: they are either keeping them in constant motion, or they are standing still.
You want to always have a little movement in your lower body, and a little in your upper body, as you wait for the pitcher to release the ball.
Loose muscles are faster and more responsive than muscles that are at rest. Based on Newton’s principle, it will take more effort to put your body in motion if it is not moving than if both your muscles and body move. When you go from waiting to moving the bat across the plate, you will be able to swing more quickly if there’s some movement in your batting stance.
Remember always to stay loose and relaxed at the plate. Avoid tightening up or freezing. Always move your wrists, shoulders, and knees. You can move the bat, but not too much. You can move it around in a tight little circle as you grip the handle, but keep it close to you.
Remember, inertia requires more power to move. If you’re always moving, there’ll be less inertia, making it easier to move quickly.
Your Hand Placement
Note the position of the hands in the illustration above. When you hold the bat, lift your hands up higher so the bat is over your back shoulder. The bat should end up behind your head, more than over your shoulder.
In order to set your hands correctly, try this approach:
- Rest the baseball bat on your back shoulder.
- Make sure the knob of the bat is facing the catcher.
- Grip the bat in your hands and raise it up 3 inches off your shoulder.
With the bat raised properly, flex your knees, getting into athletic position. Don’t stand rigid at the plate. When you bend your knees, it will be easier to swing through the ball when it comes.
Now that you are in a comfortable stance, the next action is to establish your load. Your “load” is where you gather your momentum and prepare for an explosive and forceful swing. Think of pulling back a bow string with an arrow. The arrow is being loaded to the bow. The batter is loading for his swing.
You load is your first movement. When you load, you shift weight to your back leg, and at the same time, you pick up your front foot.
When you have established a comfortable stance, get into your load. The load is your first movement. It’s basically a weight shift back to your back leg, and at the same time, picking up your front foot.
Loading can be seen as gathering yourself, tightening and compacting your stance as the pitcher winds up and gets ready to throw. As the pitcher is winding up, you are winding as well.
Loading for Timing and Not Power
Keep in mind a very important point: the load is a timing mechanism, not a source of power. The purpose of the load is to prepare for your swing, not to build the power of your swing. This will occur when you pull the bat forward using your shoulders, wrists, forearms and feet.
The load doesn’t supply the power, so avoid lifting your front foot high off the ground in the loading stage, because it won’t help you get more power into your swing.
Be sure to load against your back leg, and not over it. Going over beyond the back leg will put you in an unbalanced position, which defeats the purpose of loading. Also, it will cause you to come out of a comfortable batting stance.
Use the lower half of your body to load. Shifting should be smooth and without any jerking movements. Think about dancing, the fluid, gliding motions a good dancer has. The best load is like that.
When you go back into your load, your front shoulder should drop down, so that your front shoulder is a little lower than your back shoulder. Keep the analogy of dancing in mind.
Next, pull back your front arm and shoulder. This will make you more compact in your stride. Your front shoulder should move closer to your chest in this motion.
Later, after you make contact at the end of your swing, your shoulders are going to switch. After contact, your back shoulder will be lower than your front shoulder.
As soon as your front heel makes contact with the dirt, your swing has begun.
When you go into your swing, your front heel will drop to the dirt in the batter’s box. As you start to swing, your front foot moves forward.
As you front heel goes down, your back heel comes up. At the same time, your hips start to rotate. Your back knee has already begun to come forward, and your weight is displaced to the inside part of your back toe.
You should be able to feel your hips and your lower half pulling the bat through the swing zone. When you are not hacking at the ball with the bat, then you know your body mechanics are right, because the front heel will go down at the same time your back heel comes up off the dirt.
When you rotate your hips forward, your lower body, arms and shoulders are swinging the bat for you. When you swing in this manner, it is unforced and natural, and you’ll get the most force behind the swing.
Also, your back knee and the bottom knob of the bat are moving together. The back heel rises and your back knee shifts forward, while at the same time the bat knob starts moving forward. Your body has to work all together.
When you are doing your swing right, it will not seem like a dozen or more separate movements like it’s described here. It will become fluid and will feel natural. We break it up into individual movements because we’re talking about body mechanics.
Pulling the swing movement together, on your upper body,
- Your back elbow drops
- Your wrists, the bat knob and shoulders are together, compact and tight.
- The shaft of the bat is close to your back shoulder.
In your swing motion, always keep the knob and the shaft of the bat close to your body. Moving them away from you will decrease the power of your swing. Keeping the bat, shoulder and wrists close is the power position..
Being connected in this way is the strongest position, and will allow you to exert the maximum force on the ball when it makes contact with the bat.
When you make contact with the ball, your arms should be in and close to you, but not jammed in unnaturally. The feeling you have in your body is that you are about to exert a great deal of force off the wide part of the bat into the baseball.
Remember, distance away from body reduces power. The farther away your wrists are, the more extended your forearms will be, and the less power there is in your swing.
Another reason to keep the bat close to your body has to do with control. When you extend the bat away from you, you have less control swinging it. The only way to make the best contact on the ball is by keeping the bat close.
As you go through your swinging motion, try to move your elbows as little as possible. However, don’t intentionally force yourself not to move them. Stay relaxed!
To practice these steps, grip the bat behind your head and above your shoulders. Swivel your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary all throughout the movement.
Extend your elbows only after the bat makes contact with the ball. At the moment of contact,
- Extend your elbow out.
- Extend your arm fully through the ball.
- Don’t tuck in your back elbow, or raise up your front elbow as you swing.
Position of Hands
Just prior to ball contact, not the position of your hands. For the best bat control and a powerful, compact swing, your hands should be palm up, palm down across the bat handle.
The top hand palm is up, the bottom hand palm (nearest to the knob) is down. When you do this, your wrist breaks as little as possible and your grip on the bat is strongest.
The barrel of the bat should be below your hands. Visually, it looks as if you are swinging in an upward motion, but actually you’re swinging level.
Keeping your eye on the ball
While keeping your eye on the ball as you swing through it, straighten out your front leg. Don’t bend the leg. It should not be stiff, but instead flexible. But it should also be straight.
Your back leg knee will bend in toward the front of your body. Your back arm should be in an L-shape.
Point of Contact
Home plate has a width of 17 inches, and all of it is within the strike zone. The pitcher will throw the ball somewhere over that area. The batter stands either to the right or left of home plate, and his bat crosses over the plane of the plate.
As the pitch hurtles towards you, it will either come on the inside of home plate (closest to you), down the middle, or on the outside of the plate. Not only that, the pitch may be something other than a fastball, such as a curveball, a changeup, a slider or a breaking ball.
Aside from the type of pitch, there are basically three places where the ball will go in relation to your body.
- Pitch down the middle: When you swing at a pitch down the middle, the point of contact with the bat should be even with your front foot. Your objective is to hit the ball back to the pitcher, up the middle of the field. Note that it’s the pitcher who determines where you will hit the ball.
- Inside pitch – Pull your hands in towards your body. If you do this, you will pull the ball. Move in naturally with a fluid motion so you don’t get jammed up. You will connect with the ball almost before it crosses over the plate.
- Outside pitch: The ball will travel a little bit deeper over the plate. It will almost seem as if you are swinging late. When you make contact, the ball will travel to the opposite field.
When you swing, imagine you are driving through the ball. If you keep that image in your mind, you will likely do it properly. Extension happens naturally when you don’t force any movement of your body through the swing. At contact, don’t roll your wrists. You don’t want the bat to get off the plane of the pitch.
Recall now the K position we talked about earlier. When you set up in your stance, with the bat over your shoulder and behind your head, your feet a little wider than your shoulders, and your elbows and arms extended correctly, your body assumes the shape of a K. Because you cannot see yourself in this stance, ask a friend to take a picture of you before you load.
- Good form is when you can make a V shape with your arm when extending.
- Drive through the ball. Don’t stop at contact.
- Stay on the plane of the pitch as long as possible.