The golden rule in the batting stance.
The most important tip that anyone can give to a hitter is "Keep your head down and still in your stance and swing."
Every hitter has been given this cue, but only the consistent hitters actually put it to use.
The still head helps create consistency, and consistency is what separates the good hitter from the journeyman hitter - enabling him to hit the ball hard again and again.
A hitter has very little time to judge the location, speed, and category of the pitch, and then command the muscles to swing the bat aggressively at the pitch. That is why hitting remains "the most difficult thing to do in sports."
Obviously, when fractions of a second mean so much, the act of keeping the head down and still so that you can see the ball longer, can mean everything in the hitting process.
What causes head movement during a swing?
The most common cause is "pulling the head out." It is a bad habit that not only keeps the hitter from seeing the baseball in the contact zone, but helps pull the front shoulder and hips out of the power zone. In fact, it constricts the hit selection to just the inside pitch.
All hitters face this problem at one time or another. The good hitters never stop working at it - to keep it from happening. Fortunately, it remains a relatively easy part of the hitting process to focus on in practice: Keep the head down and still with your eye on the ball, on every swing.
Another common cause of head movement is overstriding or lunging. Whenever a hitter overstrides or lunges, he will move his head downward - changing the level of his eyes and making it harder to judge the pitch. Hitting is hard enough as it is without having the eyes bouncing around while the pitch in on its way.
The hitter, depending on his body size, will generally take a six to eight-inch stride. Anything over eight will usually lead to excessive head movement that will prevent the hitter from meeting the ball consistently.
Overstriding can be averted by having the hitter spread out more and take a smaller stride. The wide stance-short stride will help promote balance and allow the hitter to use his body more efficiently.
The archetype hitter in this respect was, of course, Joe DiMaggio, who set up with his feet well apart and barely moved his front foot on his step-to-hit.
DiMaggio's seamless, perfectly balanced stroke provided great consistency and power. What's more, unlike most great power hitters, he rarely struck out.
Coaching point: Besides spreading out and reducing the stride, the hitter should be taught to keep his stride soft - move his foot forward as if testing an icy surface to determine whether it will support the body weight. The "soft" step will help keep the body balanced at its strongest hitting position.
The hitter's head will dictate what kind of hitter he is. The key thing in coaching is to get the hitter to focus on keeping the head down and still on every swing.
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|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Date:||Aug 1, 1998|
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