Archive for youth baseball hitting
As a coach I have no doubt the best way to start a young hitter off is with a square stance. It will help them become balanced quickly with limited effort and will give them the best chance to put a level swing on the baseball.
Now, you will have players that try to immolate what Major League players are doing but I would encourage you to take a firm stance (pardon the pun) on this subject and encourage them to start with the square stance. It will make it much easier to teach them a correct fundamental swing.
I do caution you against making major stance changes with players that have been playing the game a number of years and otherwise have a good fundamentally sound swing. The stance change on this type of player could harm their hitting ability and really makes no sense to do so you as the coach will need to be the judge.
Remember the stance is important but it’s not critical and variations are common. If the player has a great swing and usually hits the ball well leave their stance alone.
The Square Stance
A square stance, shown in the above picture means the players feet are equal distance from the plate and on a straight line to the pitcher. The toes should be pointed toward home plate or turned in very slightly. You want to make sure the toes never point outward when the player takes his stance. Make sure the knees are bent slightly to help with balance.
It’s best for the player to have his feet about shoulder width apart but that’s not a hard and fast rule. It really comes down to player preference and what will keep them balanced throughout the swing so if you see a player loosing their balance try a slightly wider stance and see if that corrects it.
We really believe the square stance will allow the player to see the pitcher’s release point with both eyes and put them in the best fundamental position when they drive toward the baseball.
Key Stance Coaching Points:
- As you have read above there are many different types of stances but the three most common ones are the square, open and closed stance.
- We feel the square stance is the best start for most young baseball players but regardless of what stance is used it’s important to make sure the player is comfortable and balanced when standing at the plate.
- Balance is extremely important as the player cannot put a level swing on the baseball without being well balanced at the plate. This starts by taking a square stance and being comfortable when getting into the batter’s box.
- A square stance is one where the feet are parallel to home plate with good balance and slightly bent knees. Knees should be inside the feet with the toes turned slightly in. The stride should be directly toward the pitcher.
Ok, you want to use an open or closed stance. Here are some guidelines, but remember we don’t recommend it as it can cause other swing problems. These stances are typically used by older players to make up for swing imperfections.
- The open stance is one where the front foot closest to the pitcher is out away from the plate. Toes on the front foot are not pointed to pitcher but more of a 45 degree angle. Stride should be back to parallel directly toward pitcher and should not remain open. Doing so will limit power and make it very difficult to handle an outside pitch.
- The closed stance where the back foot is out away from home plate. Toes on the front foot are not pointed to pitcher but more of a 45 degree angle. Stride should be back to parallel every time.
Batter’s Box Setup Position
The average player playing against average competition should setup with their front foot closest to the pitcher placed at the point where the plate breaks back to its tip. We call this the middle of the box position.
As you get older and play against better caliber players it’s a good idea to adjust your setup location based on the type of pitcher you are facing. Here is a guideline to follow.
- Deep in the box – setup here when you are facing a tough pitcher that throws very hard and you need the extra time to catch up to the fast ball. Standing here against a breaking pitch or pitcher makes you deal with the entire break of the ball. Not a good place to be if you are facing a primary breaking pitcher.
- Up in the box – setup here when you are facing a breaking pitcher that throws softly. This will allow you to hit the ball before the majority of the break.
- Middle of the box – best place to setup for a young and average hitter.
Insider Hitting Point 4 – Stance
Moving beyond the grip and plate coverage it’s now time to take a proper stance to give you the best chance for a level swing. As you coach this game you will notice hundreds of different stances that are used today. There is no absolute perfect swing; however some make it very difficult to consistently hit the ball. Start off with a good foundation and you will be ahead of the game when it comes to swing development.
You will hear coaches tell players they need a good base in order to be successful at playing the sport and being prepared for the action that is coming their way. Coaches call this the athletic position and every sport has it. Baseball players need to have an athletic position when they are hitting the baseball or playing defense in the field. This athletic position will set them up to make successful plays on the baseball.
When hitting the baseball we call this athletic position the stance and it’s our 4th key point to successful hitting. The stance is basically how and where the player stands when they enter the batter’s box ready to hit. You will see players at all levels with a variety of stances, some very straight forward and others very unorthodox.
Our hitting program is designed for players of all ages and our advice on correct stance positioning is based on average players and will not address every situation. We realize that players with experience may very well have a stance that doesn’t fit our mold and that is completely ok if they can hit the ball well and are in good hitting position at the start of their drive to the baseball. If you do have players like this then making a change to them could do more harm than go but again, this will be the exception not the rule.
For most players following our stance guidelines will help them setup and be in a better position once they get ready to drive to the baseball. Our stance will set them up for success and it’s a must for any young or new baseball player. It just doesn’t make sense to start anywhere else.
There are three basic stances we have seen players take over the years. The open, closed and square stances are most common among baseball players of all ages and each has their own pros and cons. We are not going to walk through all of them as that would not really do us much good since we believe the square stance is by far the best stance to have your players take each and every time they enter the batter’s box, so that will be our focus. The square stance sets the player up in a position that improves their drive to the baseball and keeps them from binding up.
Insider Hitting Point 3 – Plate Coverage
Plate coverage is an important part of getting setup and prepared to hit the baseball but is often overlooked by coaches of all levels. Lack of plate coverage can cause the player to swing the bat on the wrong plane and make them alter the key hitting points to obtain good square contact.
So, what is plate coverage?
When we talk about plate coverage we are talking about the players setting up in a way to ensure the baseball bat can reach (cover) the entire distance of home plate all the way to the outside corner and usually 1 inch beyond it. This coverage is crucial to hitting the outside pitch and maintain good sound key hitting point fundamentals throughout the swing.
Getting into a good position…
We teach our players to get into the batter’s box holding the bat with the bottom hand closest to the pitcher keeping the knees slightly bent and the head leaning forward. The player’s weight should be slightly forward and up on the balls of his feet. The player then reaches out and ensures he can touch the ground just outside the plate. Setting up in this position keeps the player at the correct distance from the plate to ensure he can complete a sound fundamental swing and cover pitches over the entire plate area.
Grip Coaching Points
- A loose grip means fast hands. Not too loose but you want to make sure you are not squeezing the bat too tight causing your hands to bind up thus slowing down the swing.
- Don’t grip the bat too deep in the palm of the bottom hand, as this will also cause the hands to bind up.
- Ensure the small knuckles (the one’s you would knock on a door with) on the top hand should line up with the small knuckles of the lower hand. This doesn’t have to be exact as comfort is still important. As we discussed above this is not always possible and should not be the key driver of a good grip.
- You should realize under playing conditions you don’t have time to walk the process slowly as the pitcher is ready to throw. You should practice this during your home training sessions so it becomes second nature. Once you get this in your muscle memory it can be done almost immediately when you are at the plate. You will find that you will not have to even check the grip once you get it into your memory.