Playing baseball is not as easy as sportscasters on popular networks sometimes make is sound. Every aspect of the game, from fielding a position, to throwing the baseball accurately, to swinging a piece of wood or composite material to connect with a small object, is studied with an aim towards perfection. There is a large amount of material which instructs how to swing a baseball bat. But in the end, it all comes down to the batter’s complete hitting mechanics, and how well he performs each step of the physical act of swinging.
Hitting the baseball off the bat and making it go where you want it to involves conditioning, muscle memory, and hand to eye coordination. Hitters need to react quickly and have excellent reflexes. Since swinging a bat is a repetitive motion, getting the right memory of the swing into your body and your muscles happens when you swing the bat correctly and repetition.
The three main components of swinging a baseball bat requires assuming the correct batting stance, gripping the bat properly and perfecting the mechanics of your swing. Getting it right when starting hitting will make all the elements of hitting well fall right into place.
The Batting Stance
As players grow in the game starting in Little League, then on to high school and college, hitting the baseball becomes more and more of a challenge, mostly because pitching arms get stronger and pitchers are able to do much more with a pitch than they were able to when smaller.
By the time hitters reach high school, they face pitchers who can do more than throw the ball harder. Pitchers with age and experience have also have mastered a number of different pitches, and have had years of experience facing every kind of hitter. As pitchers improve, so must batters improve in order to compete and to do well.
All sports require discipline, in the form of drills, and working at the same movement again and again until you get better. A good hitter with a .250 batting average, then, is a lot like a good musician. A great hitter, on the other hand, is like a virtuoso pianist. Years of discipline, pain and dedication will yield positive results and will help you advance from an average hitter to an extraordinary one.
When you work constantly on your swing, your muscles will develop memory and you will no longer need to focus on each element of a great swing. It will become second nature. When the ball is moving at high speed toward the plate, there isn’t time to think. You only have time to react. That is where muscle memory comes in. Your body will know all the right moves, and perform all of them in the fraction of a second.
Your feet, your hands and your head are keys to hitting success. If you can move them properly and in concert, you’ll start expecting to hit better.
Your Feet in the Batter’s Box
Your feet are what allows you to keep your balance throughout your swing. Staying balanced from the beginning through the finish of the swing is critical to your ability to track the fast moving ball accurately as is approaches the plate.
Your batting stance should be comfortable. You want to stand the distance of the length of the baseball bat plus the length of your arm in distance to the far side of home plate. Check the distance by standing in the batter’s box, reach the bat out to see if the fat end can touch the opposite side of the plate. You’re standing in the right spot if the bat touches the opposite side.
- Line your feet up beneath your shoulders. Feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider.
- Make sure both feet are parallel with one another.
- While in your stance and waiting for the pitch, resting on the balls of your feet will help you react and swing the bat more quickly.
When learning proper swing mechanics, the word load is used to mean the point at which you shift your weight to your back foot, while your body compacts together just before the swing. The load stops when the back knee and back shoulder are in line. You move slowly and come to a stop just before you release the bat and swing.
Keep your Knees Bent
Now that your feet are in position, bend your knees. Don’t crouch or stoop too low. Make sure there’s a spring in your knees and your hips.
A lower center of gravity will help you generate force in your swing and will stabilize your body in position. Don’t stick out your butt or let your upper body lean too far forward. Despite how you see some major league players standing at the plate, don’t try to copy their stance. Remember each hitter has his own unique stance. With repetition and drill practice, your body will settle comfortably into its own authentic batting stance.
How to Grip a Baseball Bat in your Hands
When you grip the bat correctly, a few parts of your swinging mechanics fall into place all at once. Your bat speed will become quicker, and your body relaxes. You’ll also be better able to drive through the baseball when you swing.
With the right grip on the bat, your hands can make rapid adjustments to be in the best possible position. If you didn’t track a pitch properly, you’ll be better able to recover quickly with a good grip.
To grip the bat properly, take these steps to make sure you have the best hold.
- Stack your wrists. Make sure the big knuckles of your top hand line up with the small knuckles on the bottom hand close to the bat end.
- Swing the baseball bat down to the point over the plate where you will be making contact with the ball.
- How near the knob of the bat you grip depends on your own size and strength.
- Try a practice swing in this position. If your wrist feels weak, adjust your grip up toward the middle of the bat.
- Keep adjusting until your grip is strong and your swing has power up over the plate.
You should also work on getting the right grip by grasping the bat with your bottom hand right above the knob. Now take your top hand and wrap your fingers around it, then grip. Remove your lower hand, holding it now with your top hand only.
Try a practice swing slowly just with your top hand. Next, take your bottom hand and wrap it around the bat by your palm. Both your hands are now gripping the bat, but it’s important that the top hand grips the bat by your fingers and not in the palm. Only the bottom hand grips by the palm, but only slightly.
A good test to make sure your top hand is gripping the bat correctly is by releasing your bottom hand and pointing the bat to the sky with only your top hand. Shake the bat. If you’re able to whip the bat, then you have the proper grip. If the bat doesn’t whip, adjust your grip so that the fingers of your top hand are gripping the bat instead of the palm of your hand.
How Can I Get a Strong Grip on the Bat?
Forearm and wrist workouts have been created that help strengthen your wrists and your gripping ability. Performing these regularly will help you hold a baseball bat tighter and more securely.
This exercise targets your finger extensions.
- Dig both your hands into a bucket filled with sand or uncooked rice.
- Start making fists as if you are trying to crush the rice.
- Do this for about five minutes before moving to the next exercise.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells.
- Start walking about half the length of a football field, or 50 yards.
- Simulate a piston movement with your forearms, moving them up and down about 45 degrees as you walk.
- Take hold of a dinner plate and hold it around the edge with both hands.
- Walk your hands in a clockwise direction around the plate
- Circle the plate up to 30 times.
- Now switch directions and move around the plate for another 30 passes.
Keep your Hands Back
When moving your hands toward the ball, don’t immediately extend your arms or push your hands forward. When you keep your hands back at the start of your swing, you’ll be able to generate a lot of energy with your legs and your core before bringing your hands through.
As you make contact, your eyes should “see” the bat hit the ball. You should hit through the baseball, meaning your bat speed should be at its peak just before contact. This is a huge step in having a better hitting technique and driving the ball.
Swing Mechanics and Bat Position
As you get ready to swing, keep your body in a straight line. Your center of gravity should be situated over your feet. Keep your toes, hips, knees and shoulders aligned.
Point your chin in the direction of the pitcher’s mound sp you can keep your eye on the ball from the moment it’s released. Keep your eye on the ball at all times. From this position, your power is released and will uncoil once the ball is within hitting distance.
If any part of your body deviates from this stance, be aware that you will be sacrificing speed, power and control.
Swinging and Hitting the Ball
We’ve talked about how and where to place your feet, bending your knees and gripping the bat properly. These are the first three parts of a batter’s swing mechanics.
When you swing the bat starting from behind your head, then around across the front of your body and finally making contact with the ball, the entire process takes less than a second. Within that second an entire sequence of events occurs involving your feet, up to your calves, your knees, hips, then your shoulders and your arm, all orchestrated into the perfect bat movement form start to finish.
When we discussed elements of the batting stance before, it was pointed out that each one of us has our own unique stance. No two are alike. When all is said and done, your batting stance has little or no impact on how well you hit the ball.
However, it’s clear that the least complicated batting stances are used by the best hitters. The simpler your stance, the more fluidly and easily you will move through your swing mechanics.
Like your batting stance, your stride is another aspect of swing mechanics that is unique to you. Some batters swing with a high knee lift which places most of their weight inside their back foot. They stride forward to the pitcher.
There’s no one correct way to make your stride, but observe that in their stride, the feet of great hitters end up as wide as the length of the bat. Also, their hands are almost up to their shoulders so their front arms stay flexible.
Hitters with high batting averages and high slugging percentages hold the bat at an acute angle to their head, and their back elbow is at shoulder height or a little bit below. As they go through their swing, these hitters land softly on the inside of their front foot.
Swinging and Proper Weight Distribution
How you distribute your weight is important. You want to take your weight fluidly from the inside of your back foot to the inside of your front foot. Your swing should start from the ground moving up, and power is transferred into the bat.
Focus on how you are standing. As you stride and shift your weight forward, study the way you swing through. Your weight should move from your back leg to your front, while your hands remain back. Swing the bat forward and rotate through.
The moment your bat makes contact with the ball, be physically aware of your body movements beginning with your stance, then through the stride, and finally, the shifting of your body weight. When you grip the bat correctly with both hands you will swing with maximum power.
Observe your movements through these key areas, and see how much power you are able to put in your swing. Fine tune your shift forward, and determine what stance, stride and shift combination lets you hit with the greatest power.
How Do I Increase my Bat Speed?
There are just a few simple steps you can take to get more speed in your swing.
- Hold the baseball bat in your fingers, not in your hands. The more your move from your fingers to the palm of your hands, the more you will slow down your bat speed. Check your hands to see that your top hand holds the bat only in your fingers.
- Hold the bat slightly at an angle away from your body. If the bat is held too close to the body, it will slow down your swing.
Imagine holding a hammer in one hand. Now imagine hammering a nail. Observe your wrist and forearm motion and note how the hammer goes away from your body, and that you are holding the hammer with your fingers only and not in the palm of your hand. This is the same manner in which to grip the baseball bat with your hands.
Bat Barrel Tilt
When you watch a major league ballgame, observe how the high percentage hitters hold the bat out toward the plate when they move to their back feet (loading).
Just before swinging, these hitters tip the bat out and away from their bodies in the half-second before they follow through and swing. You can improve your bat barrel tilt with lots of repetitious movement. A batting tee is an excellent way to improve your bat tilt.
Mental Decision to Swing
Think about your mindset when you are at the plate waiting for the pitcher to wind up and throw. Are you not sure if you’re going to swing the bat? Are you waiting to see the pitch come in?
In truth, fastballs coming in at 80 miles an hour at high school level aren’t easy at all to follow. This is where a batter has to trust his instinct, and to make the decision to swing before the pitcher throws the ball.
Now that you have decided to swing, your mind is suddenly completely clear. At this moment, your muscle memory will kick in and you will make a near perfect swing. The truth about hitting the baseball is it’s easier to get a hit if you don’t think about the kind of pitch that will be thrown.
When your mind is clear, all that remains is your objective of getting a base hit.