We've all seen it, a kid with a bat in their hands and a parent or coach chucking as many balls at them as they can, just to get to the next kid standing on deck. But watch closely, is it batting practice for refining a players swing, or is it assembly line hitting, with the main goal being to get as many players through the line as possible? To make matters worse, many of the same people throwing those bad pitches in batting practice are the first ones to tell a kid to stop swinging at pitches out of the zone in games. Isn't that what you've been teaching them to swing at?
Working with hitters should include several key things to be successful. One of the first things I do when working with a new hitter is to let them know batting practice is all about them. No one else gets the blame when they fail or the praise when they succeed. When I tell hitters to work with a purpose, I'm telling them to work smarter. Successful hitters know that what they don't swing at, is just as important as what they do swing at. Would you be bothered by a player swinging at pitches out of the strike zone in a game? Work towards throwing better pitches. Work on specifics at the tee. The low pitch, the high pitch, inside and outside. Tee work is critical, but not just "set and forget" tee work. I have cut down tees, so the ball can be set at the very lowest possible height but would still be called a strike. I also have made tees taller so they are at the top end of the strike zone for players. The low strike seems to be the one most hitters resist working on. I hear " Coach, that's way too low!" Or " "I can't hit that!." Many times I'll ask one of my catchers to come set up behind a hitter and tell the batter what they think. The answer is almost always the same from the catchers. "Coach, I'd be mad if the ump didn't call that a strike." So, we work to hit pitches that would be called strikes and laying off any pitches out of the zone.
As a hitting coach, I try to get my hitters to work on all aspects of hitting with an emphasis on quality, not quantity. My job is important but should be invisible if done properly.
1) Throw consistent pitches in the strike zone.
2) Work at the hitters pace, not mine.
3) Know when to stop them and know when to shut up. (Don't let them make the same mistake repeatedly, but let them work through one or two bad swings)
4) Keep them focused and focused on positive not negative.
As a hitter, there are several keys to be successful as well:
1) Tee work is essential.
2) Work on hitting the ball anywhere in the strike zone
3) Hit the ball where it's pitched
4) Work on hard consistent contact, not distance.
5) Know how to bunt.
6) Stay positive. If you think you can. You're right. If you think you can't, you're right again!
I work with college hitters and kids as young as 10. My approach is the same for all of them: Swings may be similar, but they're not identical. Learn from everyone you can, and build your own swing, not just mine. Show them you have confidence in them and they'll show it too. I'm not impressed by long fly balls, if you can scare an infielder with your swing, that impresses me. Work on hard consistent contact and home runs happen. Work on bunting every practice. Work hard on things you're good at, work twice as hard on things that need help. Stay positive!
Coach Quinn: Currently the hitting coach for a baseball program that is nationally ranked. He calls baseball and softball “Family Sports”. He has over 40 years playing and coaching experience. His wife was an all state and all met pitcher, and his oldest daughter was a high school fastpitch player. He has a stepson who played college baseball and making an appearance in the Collegiate World Series and has now gone on to be a college coach himself, and his youngest daughter is a short stop who wants to be a college fast pitch player playing in a nationally known program and is being recruited by several schools as a high school sophomore. Coach Quinn has been at his current school for 12 years where they have won two conference championships, and two state championships. As a player he was a catcher
and third baseman. Coach Quinn and his wife are also in the Washington Metro Area Slowpitch Softball Hall of Fame as players. Coach Quinn provides hitting instruction to the Firebirds organization and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.