Parents often wonder what I am doing when I teach hitting. With one player, I let him keep doing what he is doing, even though his swing looks different, whereas with another, who appears to look good, I proceed to change their swing? The reason is not that I like one player more than the other but that there is a difference between hitting style and hitting mechanics that often is not noticeable to the untrained eye.
Along the same lines, an often used statement I use with young hitters is, "Once you make it to the big leagues, then you can hit like him (their favorite player), but until then, do it this way." The point is that young hitters can mimic their favorite players hitting style, but rarely do they mimic the major league player's hitting mechanics. For the very few that can perform the correct hitting mechanics, as initially talked about above, I allow them to keep doing what they are doing. For the rest of the hitters, once, and only once, they consistently show good hitting mechanics and can "load" into correct hitting position, do I allow them to develop a different style.
There is a difference between hitting style and hitting mechanics, with the difference being big or small, from hitter to hitter. Style is a player's initial set-up - the width between their feet, open or closed stance, weight distribution, and bat position is their style and unique to the batter, when they get in the batter's box. However, style ends when the hitter finishes their stride at this point, the load must be correct and hitting mechanics take over, but only achieved with the correct hitting position.
Hitting position to start hitters at:
1. Weight is balanced on the balls of feet done by a slight head lean towards home plate.
2. Feet are at optimum distance apart wider than shoulders but not so wide the weight goes on the front foot at foot landing (weight is back) done with the ball-of-foot landing first
3. Hips and shoulders are level done by keeping hands up (shoulder height) and front elbow down.
4. Hands two inches behind shoulder (towards catcher) and four inches away from body (towards home plate)
5. Bat angle leaves the bat barrel directly above the rear shoulder with the knob of bat pointing down and slightly back towards catcher's feet
As mentioned, I never change hitters' style if they demonstrate they can go to the correct hitting position at foot landing. Having said that, it is a lot to expect young hitters to begin out of hitting position and load into perfect hitting position, so it is often best to begin most young hitters in hitting position to give young hitters the best chance to perform the correct hitting mechanics. Also as mentioned but worth repeating, style and load can be developed after mechanics are understood and performed.
Coaching little league baseball players to recognize the difference between style and mechanics is the sign of a great coach.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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