The Most Important Part of Hitting; Pitch Recognition
By DIRB Hitting Instructor, Chris Thompson
“The most important thing when hitting is to get a good pitch to hit.”Ted Williams
It’s not how you swing, but what you don’t swing at that matters. As a hitter, the most important part of the at-bat is to get a good pitch to hit. A good pitch to hit will be different for each hitter. Every hitter should know “his pitch.” They key to hitting is to find “your” pitch, and when up to bat, look for that pitch until you have two strikes. At DIRB, we teach our players to get their pitch by work in the cage. Players will be analyzed using tee work, front toss, and then normal batting practice. Throughout these drills, the player will be gauged with a radar gun to measure ball exit speed. Hitting off a tee measures the exit speed solely produced by the hitter. A ball in motion will create a higher exit speed, which means the pitcher supplies the power in the at bat.
After analyzing which location produces the highest exit speed, the coach will discuss his pitch. Next the coach will do a front toss drill in which the player is only swinging at that one particular pitch, his pitch. If the ball is not in that zone, the hitter will take the pitch and track the ball. Tracking the ball means the hitter keeping his eyes on the ball into the catcher’s mitt. The drill will then progress to the hitter yelling “no” when he recognizes the pitch is not in his zone. If the pitch is in his zone, the hitter says nothing and swings away. This drill will let the coach know how fast the hitter can recognize if the pitch is his or not.
One or two hours practicing any skill will produce minimal results. If players want to be the best, they have to practice daily, especially at home. This can be practicing hitting mechanics in the mirror or visualizing at bats in the game. The night before a game, players should visualize three or four at bats. They should visualize getting their pitch and driving the ball to the outfield. Also, they should visualize at bats that are not successful. Everything will not go as planned, and if players prepare for a bad situation, it will be easier to become successful because they already experienced the situation mentally. Parents can help by ensuring their child does this the night before. Parents should not speak to the player during the game about at bats, one voice from the coach is enough. However, after the game parents should ask about at bats and if the player hit their pitch, and if not what should the player do next time to improve. Focus on the process, than on the result.