Wiffle balls have assumed a larger role in recent years during team baseball practice. It’s especially popular in youth baseball because they won’t cause injury to young players with fear of being hit by the ball. There are questions about the effectiveness of using wiffle balls for team drills. After researching and consulting with coaches, there is a definitive answer to this question.
So, is Wiffle Ball bad for your swing? Wiffle Ball is not bad for your swing and it is a great way to build basic hitting mechanics. Because of the way wiffle balls are constructed, they offer challenges to batters that heavier regulation baseballs can’t provide, such as the ability to make wiffle balls curve in the air. This not only helps improve a hitter’s eye to hand coordination, but it also helps improve his swinging mechanics when his hands pull the bat to swing.
A hitter’s stride and swing at the ball can be markedly improved and studied in finer detail which leads to a faster, more powerful and accurate swing
It seems paradoxical to think that light, plastic balls can offer so many advantages for little league hitters as well as players at the high school and even pro levels. One assumes that if a standard, regulation baseball is used in real games, then it follows that the same kind of ball should be used in practice and during drills. However, for the past 50 years, wiffle balls have been invaluable to coaches and teams. In the 21st century, wiffle balls have become more popular and ever before. The question becomes, “How do wiffle balls help a batter’s swing?”
Wiffle Balls are more challenging to hit and Pitchers can make it move in ways that test the hitter’s Eye to hand Coordination
One of the wonderful things about using wiffle balls is that it can be used in an area with 50 feet of open space. It was first used by kids living in urban areas where there weren’t available baseball fields. And space was limited. Should the ball accidentally hit a car or even a person, there would be neither damage nor injury to them.
Its design allows wiffle balls to be pitched in numerous ways that challenge batters. A wiffle ball has holes that cover exactly half of its surface.
How Pitchers can benefit from practicing with a Wiffle Ball
When the pitcher throws with an overhand delivery with the holes on the left (inside), the wiffle ball will curve to the left. When the pitcher turns the ball so the holes are on the right (outside), the wiffle ball will curve to the right.
When a hitter and a pitcher get together to throw and hit, their practice benefits both of them. The player pitching, for example, can work on fine-tuning his throws. If he wants to throw a better breaking curve ball, he can figure how many fingers grip the top of the ball when throwing.
To make the ball curve upward, the pitcher places the holes on the top. To make his pitch curve downwards, he turns the ball to the holes are on the bottom and throws in a sidearm motion.
How Hitters improve by swinging at a Wiffle Ball
The components of a great swing are in the way a player sets up before hitting a baseball. There are three elements to a hitter’s swing:
- Batting Stance: Every player has his own unique batting stance. He’ll stand in the batter’s box and find the most comfortable way to stand and face the pitcher. Coaches rarely if ever try and correct a player’s batting stance, unless the stance makes it too difficult for the batter to move into his stride.
- Batting Stride: A hitter’s movement begins in his feet, then his back hip and finally to the shoulders.
- The placement of the feet will impact the power of his swing.
- The front foot is out facing the pitcher at about a 45-degree angle to allow the batter’s hips to rotate towards the front of his body.
- The proper stride allows the hitter to plant his front foot at the correct angle. If the angle of the front foot is correct, there will be more power in the swing. He’ll also have attained the fastest bat speed.
- Batting Swing: In a split second, the hitter transfers the power in his body from his feet, through his legs, the turn of the hips, then up to the shoulders and finally to the wrists and forearms. It’s a fact that actual swinging power originates in the The leg muscles are by far, the biggest muscles in the body.
When using a wiffle ball, a hitter isn’t concerned with distance. Indeed, the most powerful swing at a wiffle ball will make it travel 100 feet at best. Wiffle balls allow hitters to swing over and over again.
Only through Repetition will Batters become Better Hitters
Let’s discuss for a moment about activities in which we gain an interest. As an example, some people have always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. A person then decides to take piano lessons.
The word all students hate to hear during a piano lesson is the word practice. To the piano student, that word conjures up the image of the piano as a giant monster that needs to be tamed, and they don’t have the first idea how to do it.
A good piano teacher will tell their students how to practice. In a sense, piano practice is a drill because it involves playing the same line of music over and over again.
Over time, if the player repeats the same 10 or 15 bars of music, he or she will start to play it better. When the student returns to the piano teacher, the teacher can make the subtle corrections necessary so that the tune sounds musical and rhythmically even.
The student learned to play the piece through repetition. Although it sounds like drudgery, repeating over and over again, in fact, what happens is that every time the song is repeated at the piano, there is an improvement, even if it is so small as to not be noticeable. But a person who is really motivated to get better will like the fact that they worked on the music and got better at it. In time, more challenging pieces will be practiced and mastered through repetition.
Advanced music, like the best hitters in pro baseball, comes from repeating the same body mechanics over and over again, except with the fingers, arms, and shoulders. Even pro players in the major leagues practice with wiffle balls. Why do they?
It is because a wiffle ball by design is harmless and can be used virtually anywhere. All the pro hitter wants to do is go through the motions of his stance, stride, and swing and repeat the motion as often as possible. The more times he swings, the higher the probability that he will hit the ball better, resulting in his batting average rising.
A youth or high school player can get a more expensive bat, a better fielding glove, or the most popular baseball cleats. But if he isn’t practicing and repeating the same movements in his play, for as long and as often as possible, he won’t get better at it.
Are Wiffle Balls Safer than Regulation Baseballs?
The wiffle ball that we’re familiar with today traces its origins back to 1953 when a semipro ballplayer named David Mullany observed little leaguers practicing their pitching and hitting with a golf ball that was perforated, and swinging at it with a broomstick.
Mullany knew from his own experience how practicing with a hardball could hurt the limbs of pitchers practicing their curveballs and breaking balls. Today, in fact, a lot of young players suffer from an increasingly popular injury known as Medial epicondyle apophysitis, now referred to as “Little League Elbow”. The injury has become so common, in fact, that the term “Little League Elbow” has entered into physician reference manuals.
The batter can suffer shoulder and wrist injuries while doing swinging repetitions when using a regulation baseball. Baseballs are 149 grams (6 ounces) and are pitched at a high velocity. As the ball travels at high speeds from the pitcher to the batter, it gains weight. The impact on a young body, when repeating their swing can result in injury.
Practicing with a wiffle ball instead eliminates the possibility of Little League Elbow or rotator cuff shoulder and elbow injuries from swinging a bat. Players can swing at wiffle balls using wood, aluminum, BBCOR or plastic wiffle bats. The impact on the body when making contact is practically null.
Why are they called Wiffle Balls?
The name comes from the fact that pitchers can throw incredible curveballs with a wiffle ball. It’s actually harder for batters to hit wiffle balls because of all the amazing angles and curves the ball takes when a pitcher turns the holes on the ball.
A “whiff” happens when a batter swings and misses at a wiffle ball. Pitchers had the advantage back when the ball was invented, racking one strikeout after another against swingers trying to track the ball with their eyes and still missing it.
How does a Whiffle Ball help a Player’s Swing?
Here is where repetition becomes important. A player who swings at a wiffle ball over and over, even when it has jaw-dropping movement and curves to the left or right, or downwards, will eventually be able to hit the ball.
This forces the thrower to find new ways to fake out hitters. But because of its light design, a threshold is reached. Eventually, players who practice hitting a wiffle ball steadfastly will master its movement. Their eye to hand coordination increases significantly, and their swing is fast and powerful, making them better hitters.
Wiffle ball drills are an excellent addition to regular team practice. Coaches can team up players into pairs or in threes to practice on their own. One player pitches, the other hits and the third, as an option can field and retrieve the ball. The ball doesn’t travel very far when hit, so the thrower can also retrieve the balls after throwing a half dozen or so to the hitter.
These mini-practices during team practice allow the hitter to repeat his swing over and over, much more than he’d be able to do at home plate. A recommended drill sequence would be for hitters to spend 5 to 10 minutes hitting a wiffle ball, moving next to a batting tee, and finally to hitting balls thrown at regular speed from the team’s pitcher or the coach.
Do Wiffle Balls come in Different Sizes?
In the last 70 years or so, new products have come out that take the basic idea of the wiffle ball and making improvements on it.
There are now wiffle balls that are the same size as a golf ball. An obvious advantage is that the player attempts to hit an object smaller in size than a regular baseball. The hitter needs even better hand to eye coordination to make contact. An important element of hitting involves ball tracking.
Logically, being able to track a smaller ball will make hitting a larger one more easily. Training with a smaller ball benefits the hitter’s swing motion because it teaches him to line the bat up to the ball.
What makes some hitters attain a higher batting average (.325 and higher) than an average .250 hitter is the ability to connect with the baseball over and over again. To have this consistency requires repetition, especially working on eye to hand coordination. By the time the player steps into the batter’s box, his tracking skills will be highly developed and so will his footwork be dramatically improved.
Hitting a smaller object takes longer to master and may be frustrating to hitters at first. However, if they stick to it they’ll see their batting average rise above the .300 level. Everything becomes easier to hit, both regular sized wiffle balls and regulation baseballs.
How soon should players begin to practice with Wiffle Balls?
Wiffle balls are an excellent substitute for baseballs, sponge balls, and tennis balls. If by accident, a tennis ball is hit with a lot of speed and makes contact with someone unexpectedly, it can hurt. Wiffle balls never cause injury and players as young as 5 years old can practice catching fly balls without the anxiety of being it in the face.
The Little League recommends wiffle ball practice with players starting at 4 years of age. Kids this young are just starting out, trying to orient themselves to the game of baseball, the rules and their role in the game.
Lots of coaches have kids begin their batting instruction by hitting wiffle balls off batting tees, using wiffle bats. Some, like the Easton Pro Stix wiffle bat, is modeled after a standard professional baseball bat. The wiffle bat very light and 33 inches in length. This bat and others like it are safe for children to use.
Kids can start the discipline of practicing with repetitions using a batting tee and a dozen wiffle balls. With a parent nearby to watch and instruct, kids swing at wiffle balls over and over, gaining skills merely by repeating their swing.
The mind and body process and store the movements of the body, so the next time a hitter takes a swing, he’ll make the same movements that have been stored in his body. A player makes corrections to his body mechanics which will replace the erroneous movements.
If the bat is solid and durable like the Easton bat described above, it can last for years and make practice more effective due to its similarity in shape to a typical pro baseball bat.
Drills parents can do with very young players aside from a batting tee include soft-tossing the wiffle ball from the side of your child, close enough to observe his swing but also far enough away so your child doesn’t hit you with the bat when he swings.
A parent or coach can start with a pack of 12 wiffle balls. They are inexpensive and will last for years. After soft toss drills, the parent or coach can lob underhanded to players standing in front of them.
One of the benefits of using a batting tee with wiffle balls is it allows the player to practice balls on balls thrown low and high to him, as well as inside and outside pitches. Once he’s practiced it a batting tee, caches can soft toss low, high, inside and outside pitches.
The lighter ball and bat allows the young player to take more repetitions before becoming fatigued. That’s a particular advantage when players are under the age of 8 or 9. It’s also a fun activity for kids and keeps them focused on making contact with the ball. Kids love physical exertion but the key is making them disciplined enough to repeat the same motions time after time.