Babe Ruth towel drill

Friday, Feb. 15th 2013

Have you ever heard of the Babe Ruth towel drill? I know I never have, and I am not sure if I think it is actually good for hitters either. I recently read about the Babe Ruth towel drill on eFastball.com, and while the drill seems like it could be effective, the site say the drill is only meant for certain types of swings. The most interesting part about the drill is about how it exists today. The story goes, Ruth told his pinch runner, Sam Byrd, who was used more often than not latter on in Ruth’s career, and then Byrd taught the drill to legendary golfer Ben Hogan. If this many influential athletes have used the drill, there must be something to it.

The drill has all of the characteristics to make it a great drill. It’s simple, easy, and inexpensive. Take a towel and place in under the armpit that is closest to the pitcher while you are in your batting stance. Next, take some swings during batting practice and try and keep the towel underneath your armpit. The common critique against this drill is that it can promote bar-arm, and if that is the case for you, it might be best to lay off the drill. More than anything, the drill is supposed to extenuate the punching effect of the back hand of your stance, as the barrel of the bat meets the ball. I would evoke our readers to respond to this post and let me know the effects the drill has had on their young hitters swing.


Total Control Ball: Baseball Revolution or Fraud?

Thursday, Feb. 14th 2013

Today, I found a hitting product that I am fascinated with, however I am not sure if I like it or love it. The product with which I have made reference to is the Total Control Ball. There was not much information on what service the product actually performed, and after I saw the lofty price tag of around $12 a ball and $60 for a six-pack of balls, I had to know what capabilities the spherical yellow object performed.

First, what is the Total Control Ball? The TCB, as I will refer to it from now on, is made from “a highly absorbant energy material” which may be used on tee drills and soft/front/short toss drills to, as their website states, “develop strength and extension through the hitting zone and provide instant feedback to the hitter.” The TCB comes in three different forms: a whiffle ball style, a larger ball for softball, and a smaller ball for baseball.

Although it took more effort than I feel like was needed to divulge the actual function of the ball—no website adequately described what the ball was for—the TCB, unless hit in the perfect spot on the ball, either falls straight up in the air or straight to the ground, because of the malleable material it is made out of. However, I am skeptical that the product can provide results that are equitable to is lofty price tag. $12 for a ball and $60 for a six-pack is a lot of money, and these figures are on the low end of what I found to be the common sum for the product. I also found very little feedback from customers. The only explanations of the product, or comments on the functionality of the product, came from websites that featured the product for sale. The ball seems to be a glorified bouncy ball, that you can find in the toy bin at Toys R’ Us, slapped with a huge mark up. Our readers can tell me if I’m wrong. If nothing else, TCB.com did provide me with the enjoyment of a video that showcases their product to a soundtrack that sounds like it was taken out of a Michael Bay movie. Do watch it, and enjoy.


Keep your hitter in the batter box and off the bench.

Wednesday, Feb. 13th 2013

Injuries are a part of every sport, especially baseball. But, as a parent of a young baseball player, it is difficult to know when to push your child and when to say enough is enough, you’re too hurt to play. In order to tell the difference between an injury that is merely superficial, and one that could be detrimental to the long-term health of our son or daughter, we must become educated. Safety should be the most important part of any athletic activity, and I personally will make a conscious effort to make our readers aware of the ways in which they can make the game safer for their children in future posts.

To start my public awareness push for increased safety in baseball, I would like to point to BaseballThinkTank.com’s Injury Prevention 101 guide. The guide provides information about common and not so common baseball injuries: tendonitis, elbow pain, shoulder stiffness, and ankle injuries. While the articles are informative through the overall quality of information presented, the value of the written text is extenuated through the use of video tutorials about how to care for your young child, if and when the injury bug strikes them. The website also give preventative measures for how to take care of your child’s body, and looks to keep players in the batters box and off the bench. These exercises may be tedious and less fun than other baseball activities, but they are important and can increase the longevity and productivity of your young baseball player’s career. Today’s game has been revolutionized through the use of advanced stats, but all indications have pointed to baseball’s new frontier being improved by the use of science and injury prevention techniques. For the sake of your child, take advantage of the new ways in which you can keep them healthy, and look toward revolutionary remedies to fix age-old problems.


School comes before baseball

Tuesday, Feb. 12th 2013

We could go very in depth and talk about the next two pieces of information that I am about to present to you all day. However, I merely wanted to show these statistics to the parents of our young readers, for the next time their children say their more interested in baseball than school.

The probability of playing college baseball, for a high school senior, is extremely slim. And, even if your high school senior has the ability to play college baseball, and wants to go to school where he has a scholarship and a chance to play, as opposed to a school that he can go to with a better academic reputation but not play baseball, show him these statistics and this graph. The statistics and graphs were found on HSBaseballweb.com:

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While the odds to play college and professional baseball are extremely slim, many players may still be motivated to dismiss this information and say “I’m going to be that small percent to play pro/college ball.” However, lets look at another factor that many people are unaware of when it comes to professional or competitive baseball: birthdate. I recently heard about this phenomenon in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the seceret to success.

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The reason for the slanted amount of professional baseball players born in August are because of the July 31st age-cutoff imposed by youth baseball organizations. As a result, the oldest players are the ones that happen to be born in August. A player born on August 1st has twelve full months of development more than a player born on July 31st, in the same league. As a result, the player born on August 1st will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than the player born on July 31st. The player that is born on August 1st will look better against his peers and make traveling all star teams where he will play against better talent, play in more games over the coarse of the summer, get more practice, and get better coaching. Tell your kids that if they are born in July, and not on August 7th like Mike Trout, that it might be a good idea to put school first.


‘Let it get deep’: Hitting the Outside Pitch

Monday, Feb. 11th 2013

Hitting to the opposite field is one of the most important qualities a young hitter can have, but few hitters know how to effectively handle outside pitches. Most hitters never learn to hit the other way, and, as a result, their careers are short lived. When I pitched in high school, my approach as a pitcher was to hammer the outside corner. At the high school level, surprisingly only fifteen percent of hitters can handle that pitch; Pitchers that read this article may want to take note of that. But, it’s true. Hitters cannot handle the outside corner of the plate, and end up rolling over pitches and hitting week ground balls to the infield.

 

SwingSmarter.com summarizes how to effectively handle an outside pitch:

  • Let the ball get deep into the strike zone; You have more time to hit an outside pitch than an inside pitch. Think about it.
  • When you hit an outside pitch, focus on swinging through the baseball. As they say, imagine that you make contact at the baseball and your swing continues three baseballs through the original contact point.
  • SwingSmarter.com also gives a piece of advice about hitting the outside pitch I have not heard before, but like a lot. Think about taking your back knee through the center of the three centers of off centered baseballs that you are trying to follow through on. It may feel like you are taking a half-swing, but you are really taking the energy generated by your hips and channeling it in a direction you are not used to. This will enable you to hit for greater contact and power.

High school baseball tryout advice

Friday, Feb. 8th 2013

Because we focused on how to prepare for tryouts for youth hitters yesterday, we will focus on how to make a team for high school hitters today. HS Baseball Web is a great forum and place to find articles about the current status of high school baseball around the country. Today, I found an article, more of a checklist really, for high school players about how to make their high school team.

Although the article is quite long, high school players will be able to find an abundance of quality advice in its recommendations, and even though the article is directed at players that want to make their high school team, the checklist serves more as a guide for players to improve their game as whole beyond try outs. I will let our readers go through the link to read the entire checklist, but there is one recommendation that caught my eye on the list. Number ten: “Keep a daily diary of what you do at practice and keep notes of your observations. This will help you see the progress you have made.” Not only will this help you keep track of the progress you have made on the field, it will also help you become more of a student of the game. The best players are the smart players, and even though improvement to your technique and talent may go through its own peeks and valleys regardless of your determination, your knowledge of the game is completely indicative of your effort.


The Importance of the Stride: Continued

Thursday, Feb. 7th 2013

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Although the stride in a swing can lead to multiple problems that will counteract the productivity of your swing, the stride is essential in the generating power as a hitter. Many coaches have attempted to take the stride out of swings, and with the old BESR bat, which had a crazy amount of pop, that was ok. With the new BBCOR bats, however, hitters need to generate all the power and energy in their swings that they possibly can. No longer can hitters rely on their bat to generate their power, as a result, the stride is now more important than ever.

I have been a constant advocate for big, but controlled strides, and this is consequently why I am so interested in ISO Baseball’s Stride Trainer. Coaches look to eliminate the stride from young and older hitters swings because of the bad habits that it can create: over striding, stepping in the bucket, opening up immediately with the front toe, or a combination of these flaws. Whatever the case may be, the sooner that you can train yourself as a hitter to have a correct well balanced stride, the sooner you will be able to excel as a hitter. ISO baseball’s stride trainer encourages good form in the stride, through assistance and a limited amount of resistance, while it teaches hitters that the key to a good stride resides in the weight that they place on their back leg. Any use of bad techniques while hitters have the trainer on will result in an imbalance that will make it impossible for the hitter to hit; only the correct form will allow the hitter to take a swing.


Baseball tryout advice for younger hitters

Wednesday, Feb. 6th 2013

Today’s blog may be more appropriate for our youth hitters, but it can also be applied to our first year high school hitters. This time of the year, for our young baseball players, means tryouts. There may be a sense of apprehension, nervousness, and butterflies when you go to your team’s tryouts, but our blog today will look to help relieve your anxieties. SKLZ.com’s most recent article is entitled How to Evaluate Players During Tryouts. While the article is generally meant for coaches, it can also serve a purpose for players, and give them an inside edge to see what coaches look at the most in these periods of evaluation.

The article tells coaches to look at four aspects of a player’s game: hitting, fielding, athletic potential, and intangibles. Hitting: don’t abandon your mechanics and swing at bad pitches to show coaches your contact or power potential. They will be able to recognize if you didn’t get a good pitch to hit. Remember, plate discipline is a valuable tool. Fielding: show positive body language, always pay attention to what is happening on the field, don’t be lazy at getting to ground balls/fly balls, and always use two hands. Athletic potential: this is something that you either have or you don’t, but you need to be able to show off whatever athletic potential you do have. Dive after fly balls/ground balls. Sprint out to your position. And if you get walked, sprint to first base. It may be the only chance you get to show off your speed. Intangibles: just show that you love to play baseball.

Most importantly, when it comes to any aspect of your game or the categories listed above, show confidence and have a good attitude. Yogi Berra always used to say, “ninety percent of the game is half mental.” If you can show the confidence, and believe you can make the play, odds are the coaches will see your attitude, and reward it. Coaches don’t want some kid with a bad attitude that they will have to pacify through the long summer months. They want kids with upbeat attitudes that want to win baseball games, and are coachable enough to fix whatever flaws in their game they may have.


Inventive idea towards hitting

Tuesday, Feb. 5th 2013

One of the most important attributes a piece of baseball training equipment can have is that it may be used alone, by one individual. Many training aids require the participation of, if not three, two people, but quite frequently we are left to our own devices to work on our swing. The Schutt Striker II looks to address the necessity of group participation in a piece of training equipment. Even with tee drills, when you are by yourself you have to hit the ball off the tee, reach down, put another ball on the tee, and do it all over again. Basic description: the Schutt Striker II is an apparatus that is attached to a fence and the ball is suspended parallel to the fence, by a piece of rope.

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The Schutt Striker allows you to practice on your own the fundamentals of your swing without having to chase after baseballs, and waiting for partner to practice with you. Simply take a swing, and the ball will spin vertically, until it comes to a stop. The advantage to this particular hitting device, as opposed to other devices like it—the Swing Away—is that after you hit the ball it travels vertically, as opposed to horizontally. Put another way, the Schutt Striker II simulates the action of a pitch better than its competitors through it’s unique design.

The Schutt Striker II is a good hitting tool because it may be used by a single individual, simulates what an in game pitch looks like more than its competitors, and is offered at a competitive price. Baseball equipment manufactures and inventors need to continue to accomplish these three goals with each new invention. If they don’t, they are only moving horizontally down creative pathway, like the Swing Away, as opposed to vertically towards ideas uncharted, like the Schutt Striker II.


Common hitting mistakes

Monday, Feb. 4th 2013

In order to improve at anything in life, we must look to improve our flaws. When it comes to hitting, we have the advantage of being able to look towards others when we want to improve our errors. Because, if this is the first time we have encountered a particular problem, the odds are that someone else has identified and corrected our mistakes. Matt Schilling is the Director of On-Field Instruction at Baseball Factory, a professional scout, and a former college coach. Recently he has decided to publish a collection of PDFs that address the five most common hitting flaws that he has seen.

Consequently, I thought we would take the time to look at the first edition of Schilling’s work. His first edition looks at the at the load, or as he calls it, “the launching pad.” Whatever you want to call it, the load is the first time when mistakes in your swing can happen. There are a variety of errors that may occur, and Schilling gives a general guideline of how your stride and movement of your hands should look at this phase in your swing. Take the time to read Matt’s work. It is a delight and is a piece of work that is applicable in its breadth from the novice to the professional.


Two dills you may have heard of, and one I haven’t heard of

Friday, Feb. 1st 2013

Livestrong.com has a surprising amount of credible articles about baseball training and exercises. For our high school hitter focus, this week, we will look at an article published by Steve Silverman entitled How To Train Your Eye Better To Hit the Baseball. Despite the glaring grammatical errors present in his title, the article contains three tips to help improve performance in the batters box; two of the tips you may have hear of, and one of the tips you probably have not hear of—I know I haven’t heard of it.

The drill in question—the one I have not heard of—requires the use of two baseballs: one regular and one painted orange. The drill also requires a partner. Between you and your partner, orient yourselves in the normal fashion you would when you do ‘soft toss’ drills. The partner will toss both balls simultaneously towards the batter, and as she/he tosses the ball he will say “white” or “orange.” The hitter will hit the ball that the tosser has called out, and while the drill works on swing mechanics it will also work on the batters concentration at the plate.

The second and third drills are probably the drills that you, as a baseball follower, have heard of.  The second drill really isn’t a drill at all, and should be what each batter tries to accomplish every time they go to the plate; hit the ball where it is pitched. The drill describes a pitcher throwing the ball to a hitter: three pitches on the outer half of the plate, three pitches on the middle of the plate, and three pitches on the inner half of the plate. The batters goal is to hit the ball in the direction it came from. All told, there really isn’t anything revolutionary or creative here. The third drill requires the use of a broom handle and bottle caps. If you have been around base baseball for any intermittent period of time, you can tell where I’m going. If not, you can read the article from where I linked it above.

While I do like the first drill that Steve Silverman prescribes, the second and third drills that he suggests are not very revolutionary.