First of all, it's likely not some major mechanical flaw. Players, parents and coaches tend to overreact to 3 for 15's
with major reconstructive mechanical adjustments, lineup changes, even eye-exams (not always a bad idea prior to the start
of a season). The reality is probably above the shoulders. Illinois High School coaches have a tough issue to deal with.
The veteran coaches know that the kid can hit--just needs to relax, etc. Problem is, they also know they only have a month
of quality weather to get their club playoff-ready. If this were the big leagues, we'd look at the first six weeks and
see what direction the kid is headed and make necessary adjustments. For the Prep player, six weeks is basically the
season. So what to do?
Well, this area is a specialty of mine. I find that most of the useful strategies
I have acquired playing at a high level revolved more around my failures (overcoming different types of fears--or
dealing with them with proper behavior) than successes. The following things WILL NOT work to turn it around...
An unannounced benching or lethal drop in the batting order from 3rd to 8th. Unless a kid is just lazy and a waste of
a uniform, a sudden drop in the lineup is seen as a grave consequence in his life and his confidence will plummet. Instead,
talk to the player. In college, I moved from 3rd to 7th (after leading off my whole life). Our hitting coach said,
"I KNOW you can hit. You're over-thinking this thing. You're still hitting fastballs pretty hard. Coach and I think
if you hit in the higher grass for awhile, you'll get more fastballs, you'll satrt building something and get your presence
back at the plate. You're not going anywhere--you're in the lineup. Take your time, stay focused, and let yourself play."
It worked like a magic potion. It has worked for me as a coach countless times as well.
2. "If you hit
another pop-up or strikeout with men on--you're done"...ummmmm yeah. NOT a good plan. Basically, this hitter is
going to the plate thinking of two things; a popup AND a strikeout. Try, "stay behind the ball, get a good one
to hammer." or "see white, hit white."
3. "Lower your hands and lengthen your stride
and tilt your ass bend your knees choke up open up keep your head in there firmer grip looser grip jump down turn around pick
a bail o cotton..." Invite 30 people over to your house and put out 50 different indredients and see what kind
of soup they make...PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS, as the saying goes...
Instead, try these little tips. You
may find them sane...and helpful...
1. Take a more useful batting practice guys! Instead of coming to AE and
chucking 100 balls at your buddy who's scuffling, little drills like "5 hit and runs" or "3-2 counts",
etc. create a small amount of expectation and energy (pressure and focus) that translates better into games. Batting
practice is a great time to fail--no scorebooks! In fact, if you're not failing once in a while in BP--you're not improving.
It's the failures and proper reaction to those failures in baseball that teach us and move us up the ladder.
2. Have a plan. Develop an approach with your coach. Don't go crazy with mechanics. Most of you have solid
swings by March. You and your coach within 20 at bats can see how you're being pitched, how aggresive you are, etc.
Talk to your coach and develop a simple plan. I had a kid scuffling last summer; he hit into some tough outs and lost
his aggressiveness. I started the runners in his next two trips with men on basically making him be aggressive and putting
the ball in play hard. The first trip he bounced out and the next he hit a long triple to right-center. He went
9-13 with a homer the rest of the week. If you need a basic plan, you can never go wrong with using what I call the "big
half of the field". It allows you to let the ball travel--see it better--and get back to basics. Trying to pull
the ball, overswinging or just plain trying to do too much plays into the pitchers arsenal. You'll turn an ordinary
kid throwing "78 with an overhand breaker" into "87 with a tight slider". I've seen many kids without
a plan or approach throw themselves
world-class change ups! If it seems like you're ALWAYS hitting
0-1, 0-2, or 1-2...you probably need to change your approach. Stay positive, team oriented, and trust your coach to help.
3. POSITIVE messages are key. We ALL hit the same way...Optic nerve, brain, message, muscle reaction
First, SEE THE BALL. Great hitters can track a ball within 10 feet of the plate. Hitters that suck see it out
of the hand and react. These guys are GREAT 6th grade power threats. Load behind the ball and TRACK it. Maybe even take
a pitch. Ever get a take sign 3 and 0 and swear to the Heavenly Father that had coach just let you swing you'da hit
it 12 miles? The reason is there was NO FEAR of failure. You KNEW you were not swinging. You relaxed and just
SAW the baseball travel. It looks so big and sexy. That's your optic nerve and brain relaxed. Now, add the power
of negative thought and the baseball is reduced to a Bayer aspirin dipping, diving and rocketing through the cosmos. Why?
It's simple. Your hitting sequence becomes optic nerve, brain, fear, message, inhibited muscle reaction
Your muscles WILL NOT react properly when fed negative thought...
To that end, I have told at least a HUNDRED
kids of the following scenario; they always laugh and say "Holy Cr*p! That's SO true."...
You walk everywhere
you go. Up the stairs, down the stairs, to your car, the refrigerator...you never even think about it. It's a
natural as breathing. Now, it's a school day. You turn the corner into a basically empty hallway.
There's a girl you really think is smokin' at her locker with her friend. You don't want to be rude--or a dork, so you
muster the best James Bond "hi" that you've got. Then something HORRIBLE happens. You pass her and...suddenly...you
CANNOT WALK! You're in "I'm a freaking loser freefall!" Things like, "does she think I'm a dork?"
or "are they laughing at me?" stagger you against the ropes and suddenly the negative thoughts have turned something
as natural as WALKING into an impossible chore.
Try listening to yourself breathe in a quiet room sometime. Before you know it--you won't
be able to do that, either, without increased concentration. It's bizarre. We use our brains for evil all the time.
In the end, if you wanna talk give our staff a holler at 224.944.8534. Just keep in mind, as Manny says,
''When Im hitting (well) I can see the ball close to me. When I'm not hitting, I see it close to him (pitcher)."
SEE THE BASEBALL.