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The 3-H approach to hitting.

Every hitting instructor has to concentrate on the head, the hips, and the hands

It has been said time and time again: Hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of our time, said it best: "You take a round bat and a round ball and try to hit it squarely."

Baseball has had some great hitting instructors from Williams to Carew to Lau to Hriniak. They are all different in one way or another(1), yet observe some of the same constants. I believe that all of them focus basically on three body parts: the head, the hips, and the hands. Hitters who will concentrate on this "3-H Approach to Hitting" will usually achieve success.

First and foremost is the position of the head. The hitter who doesn't see the ball is going to have little chance of hitting it. The guiding acronym is "H.O.T B.A.T." (Head on The Ball At All Times).

The head should also be "still." It should start on the shoulder closer to the pitcher and finish on the opposite shoulder after the swing with both eyes on a level plane.

Coaching point: The hitter should be able to pick up the release point of the pitch, while keeping his head still from start to finish.

Hitters with a closed stance would have trouble seeing the ball. Their nose may actually block their view and prevent them from picking up the pitch soon enough(2). Coaches should have such hitters open their stance and straighten their head.

The hips also play an essential role, as they generate and supply power to the swing. The key lies in the stride. It should be made low to the ground and be no longer than the hitter's bat(3) in order to allow the hips to "spin" (rotate) at maximum speed(4).

About 60% of the weight should stay back on the rear foot as the stride foot lands. This is to ensure balance and power on the swing and put the head behind the belly button at contact.

A firm left side (with a stiff front leg) will keep the hitter back and prevent him from transferring too much of his weight forward to the front foot.

Another key check point is an L-shaped back leg at contact.

The third part of the hitting process relates to the hands. The hands should be kept loose in the stance, then tighten naturally at the start of the swing. Remember, tight muscles are slow muscles, loose muscles are quick muscles.

The hands should go straight to the ball to ensure the quickest and most compact swing. The hitter should never drop his hands, as this will slow the swing and make contact more difficult.

After contact, the hands should continue hitting through the ball and finish high.

If the hitter feels more comfortable letting go of his top hand, fine - so long as the hand comes off after contact.

The follow-through, much like the stance, is generally overrated. A comfortable stance will usually produce a "good" swing and a "good" swing will produce a "good" follow-through.

Probably the main function of the follow-through is as an indicator. It tells you whether the swing is good or bad. A poor or awkward follow-through clearly indicates a problem in the swing.

Hitting can be very complex or very simple. The 3-H approach gives the hitter and coach important areas to concentrate on without complicating the swing or causing a lot of confusion. In short, it gives the hitter something easy to remember as well as basic checkpoints when problems arise.

Remember, to become a great hitter, the athlete must concentrate on proper techniques and then practice, practice, and practice.

FOOTNOTES

1. Although the Charlie Lau and Wait Hrinlak tenets have much In common, they do have some differences in the finer points. Hrinlak believes In stepping into or toward the plate and swinging downward on the ball, whereas Lau believes In making an aggressive movement toward the pitcher and taking a more level swing.

2. Hitters with exaggerated closed stances often have trouble seeing the pitcher's release point with their back eye. S.F.Giant hitting coach Bobby Bonds corrected this problem with Matt Williams early In 1994, and Williams attributed much of his great season (43 homers and 96 rlbbies In Just 112 games) to the correction.

3. Re the length of the player's stride not being longer than his bat: Gary Ward, coach at Oklahoma State, has this to say about stride and bat length: "The size of the stride should be locked into the length of the bat. If your bat Is 34[inches] long at the completion of your stride, the 34[inches] should serve as your power base. In short, the power base should be as long as your bat."

4. By "spin," I mean hip rotation. The rotation of the back hip is accomplished by slightly pivoting or rotating on the bali of the back foot. This turn (or spin) will allow the hips to generate power and drive the body through the ball. Ted Williams put it this way: "The hip movement is a spinning action with the head as a axis, and it must not be restricted."
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Title Annotation:baseball; head, hips and hands
Author:Tucker, Mark A.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Words:888
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