Besides striking out, nothing is more frustrating for batters than continually popping up, or hitting weak fly balls. Unfortunately, the solution to stop popping up a baseball is not as simple as just telling players to stop upper cutting, dropping their hands, or dropping their shoulder. Sometimes, a changing of the mindset of the batter is necessary. The mindset change has to do with getting players to think of hitting the top half of the ball, especially for players who have little power to begin with, as hitting balls in the air are easy outs for players who lack power.
The solutions to stop popping up a baseball problem, usually has to do with muscle memory changes. Using the following hitting drills speeds up that process and these drills may be the only solution.
For players who have very good swings but still hit the lower portion of the ball a couple of quick fixes may work. Simply raising the batters hands an inch or two and/or having them stand a little taller by bringing the feet closer together may be all that's needed. These little changes helps them see and get to the top portion of the ball, as hitting the ball an inch higher turns pop ups into good line drives.
Usually however, repetitive, muscle memory hitting drills are necessary. These swing adjustment drills involve two areas of concentration. First, helping players keep their hands from dropping, gives them a more direct attack to the ball. Batters can work on this in a number of ways, with the first being hitting balls off a high batting tee, until good solid line drives result. Secondly, players can take swings using balls on two batting tees, with the rear ball a balls distance below the ball meant to be hit, with goal of keeping the barrel from dropping. For extreme cases of bat or hands dropping, setting a tee hip high and directly under the batter's hands at setup position, helps eliminate the big initial hands and barrel drop, forcing an initial downward move. This tee behind hitting drill works with regular batting practice, too.
Of course, many experts out here cringe when they see such drills, immediately saying, "The swing is not down" and "That is not the way we see great swings work." It is obvious these experts have never worked with hitters before, because, as mentioned, you can tell a batter a million times not to uppercut so much, and they cannot change the habit without doing some of these opposite drills, with the hope of arriving at the perfect swing. Having hitters do the opposite of what they normally do helps them meet in the middle, hopefully with a better swing.
It is also not a bad idea to take some of these tee ball swings with just the top arm or with a donut on the bat, so players get a better feel of the whereabouts of the bat barrel.
The second area that often needs addressing when popups result is leveling out the hips. Many people talk about the back shoulder drop but it only drops too much because the hip collapses. Two drills help the collapsing back hip action. First, hitters stand with feet together and swing without using hips and without bending knees. This helps them realize they can get to balls without collapsing the backside, especially lower half pitches. Next batters swing and kick their back knee up and through so the hips remain level, with a good transfer of the weight forward.
These two drills are necessary on low and high pitches, too, as often hitters drop more on low pitches than high ones. These level hip drills are also good during batting practice with accurate pitchers. Batters can combine these drills with the batting tee drills from above too, to work on both level hips and a direct swing at the same time.
With these muscle memory changes, players begin to square balls up, eliminating many popped up balls. Finally, these drills help players who swing and miss miss a lot of balls too, as most swings and misses come from being under the ball.
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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