Offseason hitting drills
The offseason is where the work gets done to prepare us for game play. Once the grass starts to green up in Minnesota, we know that baseball season is just around the corner. In order to get ready for opening day, us northerners use a variety of offseason hitting drills to prepare. These drills can be done on our own, or with a teammate or two. You can also seek specialized coaching from one of MN’s great training facilities. Let’s focus today on some drills that you can do on your own, with limited space, and that require limited resources.
As we all know, baseball is a game of repetition. The best hitters in the game didn’t get that way over night or by watching a “how-to video”. At its purest form, baseball is one of the most mechanical and fundamental sports. The more repetition, the more success you may find. A Batting Tee is a small tool that applies to all abilities of players. There is benefit for your “tee ball” players up to your Major Leaguer. A batting tee allows you to breakdown your swing to the most miniscule of details. It focuses on areas of weakness, and allows you to get many swings in a short amount of time. A tee is portable! You can do it in your basement when it is 20 below zero. Also works fine in your garage with a small net! The ideal spot would be a batting cage, as it allows for instant feedback letting you know exactly where you hit the ball and if you hit it properly. Check out the Tanner Tee, best in the business. Tee work is one of the best offseason hitting drills you can do!
Basics- Ball placement on the Batting Tee
Try and place the ball on the batting tee with purpose. The saying “keep your eye on the ball” is an important focus of tee work. Hitting different spots on the baseball will create different outcomes.
Figure 1. Hitting downward on the top seam will create backspin that will make the ball go further.
Figure 2. Hitting the inside seam (right hand hitter) will create a better path to the baseball while also creating backspin to drive the ball further.
Basic Batting Tee Work
Basic Batting Tee work consists of moving the tee around the plate to focus on hitting pitches in different locations. Keep your typical batting stance and set-up when attacking these locations. By hitting the outside pitch, it allows for the ball to travel deeper through the hitting zone with the same swing. Up the middle contact should be somewhere between your stomach and your front foot after stride. Attacking the inside pitch, you will want to make contact earlier and out front so your wood bat barrel can make contact without compromising your hands or your stride.
Top Hand/Bottom Hand Drills
The purpose of one hand drills is to isolate weaknesses in your swing, discovering limitations by being dominate with your top or bottom hand, and creating balance. By isolating one hand, it will help to create power as well as finding your ideal swing path.
Top Hand only- by letting the elbow lead through the zone, it will help by getting the wood bat barrel on plane with the pitch more quickly while developing bat control and balance.
Bottom Hand only- the bottom hand, even though most will be top hand dominant, will truly help you understand your swing path as a whole. Your lead hand will start the motion of pulling towards the baseball. Once you can control hitting line drives with one hand, the easier it will be with two. A couple training aids most popularly used are our one-handed trainer and the Hammer!
High Batting Tee Drill
We all have been in that funk where we start popping balls up and dropping our back shoulder. Here is a solution that will help you by driving down on the ball and generating that backspin with more line drives. By elevating the batting tee to somewhere between your eyes and your chest, it will create a bat path forcing you to stay on top of the ball through the zone while not allowing you to drop your backside shoulder. By setting your batting tee on a chair or bucket, it will allow you to achieve that ideal height for the tee. The ideal location to hit the ball is right back up the middle at head height. The focus is to square up the ball, where our Hand/Eye Trainer is ideal for hitting that sweet spot with immediate feedback.
Step Through Drill
Bat speed and Launch Angle are commonplace terminology within baseball and its developing at younger ages. This drill focuses on that as well as using our legs to generate power. The Step Through will also aid in keeping your hands back while we stride and get our front foot down first. While doing this you need to keep the bat back in the zone longer to swing at better pitches. The set-up will include starting at the back of the batter’s box facing straight towards the pitcher. The first step is taken with your right foot if you are a right-handed hitter towards the tee set-up in the front-middle portion of the plate. The left leg follows through as your stride leg into your hitting position. After the swing the step through is the back leg finishing off on the ground or on your back toe. This is all controlled movement as to prevent “squashing the bug” as we are looking to generate back spin and more power!
Why Train with a wood bat?
Offseason hitting drills pared with a wood bat will really help you improve your game. Swinging a wood bat has many benefits for the young player. Wood bats give instant feedback. You will feel it if you don’t square one up on the barrel. If you hit one off the end or off the handle, the hands will feel the vibration off the bat. Simply swinging a wood bat can really help hitters develop faster. First off, wooden bats tend to be weighted differently than aluminum / metal bats. This doesn’t always mean that a wood bat is heavier. It means that because the barrel of wood bat is solid (instead of hollow like an aluminum bat), the weight distribution is going to be/feel different. This difference alone helps hitters develop the muscles they use to swing. It really builds bat speed faster than just working with aluminum. Plate discipline and learning to swing at better quality pitches will essentially make you focus on hitting the sweet spot of the wood barrel and make your wood bat last longer. Wood is the bat for players looking to play at the next level!