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Offseason Hitting Drills

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.

Tee Work

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.

Hitting downward on the top seam will create backspin that will make the ball go further.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.

Tee placement for ideal contact

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!

Categories: Baseball Bats, Baseball Training, Bat Swing Speed, Wood Baseball Bats, Wood Bat, Wood bat company, Wood Bats

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MaxBat ProXR vs. other Non Traditional Knobs

MaxBat ProXR vs. axe Style Handles.

Why is the ProXR angled knob the best in baseball, let us explain. The swing of an actual axe (chopping wood), which the competitors’ product is based on, has a linear swing path. Meaning it drives the hands to the point of contact.  This is probably the most important point…the swing of an axe always ends at contact. This is critical. The oval shape and general configuration of an axe handle evolved over thousands of years specifically to drive the axe head to the point of contact. This also applies to swords, hammers and other linear-path swing implements. The oval shape locks the hands into alignment with the swing path. This PREVENTS the hands from deviating from that swing path.

Round Knob is Key

In sharp contrast, the MaxBat ProXR knob is round and you know a baseball swing is rotational.  Meaning the bat must rotate around the batters’ body and the hands MUST roll over the central axis of the bat to compete the swing. This gives hitters the ability to both, make adjustments during the swing and complete the rotational swing path. Putting an oval axe handle on a baseball bat is in direct conflict with the requirements of a rotational baseball swing. Imagine trying to adjust your swing on a breaking ball or change-up when the shape of the handle is resisting those adjustments.

ProXR was designed from the ground-up specifically for a rotational baseball bat swing. It reduces compression in the hands and gives batters improved performance. Additionally, we tested our designs before we went to market and continue to do ongoing research and testing. As a side note, ProXR is the only angled knob technology that uses a round knob shape to help create a smoother swing.

In terms of game performance,  ProXR performs very well.  Every professional player who swung ProXR in 2018-19 had career hardest hits as measured by StatCast. We have not yet assessed the 2020 data.

You can add the ProXR knob to any custom MaxBat wood bat.  Check it out under the “knob” section of the custom bat builder… https://www.maxbats.com/shop/bats/custom/141/5 

The ProXR round knob versus axe style handles oval knob.

The round ProXR knob allows the bat to follow the natural swing path of a baseball bat. The oval knob shape fights the natural swing path.

Categories: Baseball Bats, Bat Swing Speed, Custom baseball bat, Maple Bats, ProXR, Wood Baseball Bats, Wood Bat, Wood Bats

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Why Do People Think These Are Wood Bats?

I came across one of these “wood bats” the other day.

WTDX243S-13_Demarini_Wooden_Bat_front-1024x1024

This is a popular “composite” bat that you’ll often see in somebody’s bat bag as a “just as good as a wood bat”.  The DeMarini S-series “wood” baseball bat.  A kid was using the bat in the hitting facility I work at and quite frankly, the bat irritated me.  I looked at it and thought – How can anybody look at this thing and think it is a wood bat?  After having it gnaw at me for about an hour and spending some time bitching to a few people who would listen, I decided to actually do some research and see if I was getting worked up over nothing.  So I used the google button and made a few calls to some people in the industry that I know and came up with some things I will share with you momentarily.  But before I do that and possibly ruffle a few feathers, I want to relate some town ball history that I happened to be present for that will illuminate why this bat vexes me so.

Wood Bats & Minnesota Town Ball

Here is a factoid that I have discovered is not known by all town ball players.  Minnesota town ball, regardless of class, used to be an aluminum bat league.  That’s correct, it was not always a wood bat league.  For those of us who were there this is a “well duh” type statement.  But I have found that many younger players are unaware of this.  It is, however, quite true.  Prior to 2002 town ball players used aluminum bats.  So how did it change?  Well, that is an interesting story in itself.

In the late 90’s aluminum bats went through a transformation.  Bat makers started using new technologies that led to lighter bats that produced a “trampoline effect” that caused the ball to pretty much explode off the barrel like a .50 caliber bullet.  Consequently, balls started flying out of ballparks.  Even guys who were little or previously popless started regularly hitting jacks.  Five of the top ten highest single season collegiate home run records and highest team totals occurred between 1997-1999.  And seven of the top ten highest team home run totals per game happened between 1997-2002.

I played my collegiate years right before this bat explosion.  During this “Negative Five Era” as it came to be called, I was playing Independent pro ball using a wood bat.  When I was released (for being too handsome, not because I sucked) I came back to town ball and was amazed.  There were guys with 20 jacks all over the place.  Dude, Minnetonka hit 93 bombs in 1998.  I’m pretty sure like 10 of them were hit with one hand and floated over my head in left field at Parade Stadium in the state championship game.  The truth is, it wasn’t really that fun.  When someone hit a home run people barely noticed, and if a batter laced a double nobody even looked up.

Worse than that, it seemed to be getting dangerous.  Pitchers were seriously in harms way.  I witnessed several hurlers get absolutely torched.  I was catching a game when Tonka legend Tony Richards took a ball about an inch off the ground and a foot outside past our second baseman before he could even move.  It was actually scary to throw to some guys.

So our team decided we didn’t want anyone’s blood on our hands and switched to wood bats in 1999.  I know that sounds cocky, but we had one of our own pitchers smoked in the dome and it came a fraction of an inch from ending his career (he really had a career too as he ended up being drafted by the White Sox).  Plus we had some big boppers of our own.  At 6’3″ and 260 lbs of shred town ball hall of famer Chris Johnson had a legitimate chance of murderizing someone, or at least putting them on a liquid diet for a long time.  Anyway, we played the entire 1999 season with wood bats and finished 2nd to Minnetonka in the class A state tourney that year.  We weren’t on a crusade to get everyone to use wood.  We just found out it was more fun.  It was real baseball and we had to work hard to compete.

The next year Wintz trucking, who had used wood for part of the previous year, went to wood all year long (at least I think they did).  Then, finally everyone changed over in 2002.  After playing with wood I will never go back to aluminum (or whatever passes for aluminum these days) again.  Wood totally leveled the playing field.

Which brings me to this thing again…

WTDX243S-13_Demarini_Wooden_Bat_front-1024x1024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is why I don’t like it.  It is just like those stupid juiced aluminum bats.  It is cheating.  Allow me to illustrate why.

When I was playing Indy ball we had a dude who corked a bat.  He had a hole bored in the center and filled it with cork.  Then he plugged the hole and sanded it down.  We all took BP with it, crushed some homers and agreed it was the coolest thing ever.  My team mate did not use it in a game however.  I guess he read this rule:

Major League Baseball Rule 6.06(d)

A batter is out for illegal action when he uses or attempts to use a bat that, in the umpire’s judgment, has been altered or tampered with in such a way to improve the distance factor or cause an unusual reaction on the baseball.

and he thought “yeah, that’s cheating.”

Here is a cross section of a corked bat…

corkedbat

Here is a cross section of a DeMarini…

inside-dmarini-300x200

Yes, you are seeing that right.  A DeMarini “wood” bat is not really a wood bat.  It is mostly plastic.  It looks a lot like a corked bat.  An awful lot.  But you probably already knew that.  the question is, so what?

The answer is, the bat gives the hitter an advantage.  The bat is designed to be lighter and worse than that, the handle is made out of carbon fiber material.  The same crap they make hockey sticks out of these days.  It flexes and then snaps back faster than a solid wood bat does.  Here is some actual copy from a DeMarini ad…

“This maple/composite design provides players with an ever so slight amount of flex that is not typically found in a maple–‐only wood bat.  This design also produces a slightly end–‐loaded feel and a larger sweet spot for more trampoline and more power than your conventional wood bats.”

There is that darn word again “trampoline”.  By this companies own admission, their “wood” bat DOES NOT even perform like a solid wood bat!

So here comes the argument – Yeah but they don’t break.  It is true that they break far less often, but they are not indestructible.  They now cost about $200.  There are several reputable companies that I am aware of that offer discounts to town ball players and make great wood bats.  You can get 3-4 bats from these companies for around the same price.  Will it be a little more expensive to swing real wood – perhaps for some guys it will (depending how bad your swing is).  Well, it was an adjustment to swing wood when we went to it in the first place.  Nobody complained then.  Because it was more fun and made the game even.

All of this leads me to my point, these bats should be banned from town ball, or any league or game that is dubbed wood bat baseball.  The bat race that we broke free from in 2002 is just starting all over again.  Lets nip it in the bud and swing real wood bats.  The Roy Hobbs organization has already banned these bats stating that they are no different (and even worse) than a corked bat.  It is embarrassing to me that the state that went to wood bats first has to take its cues from another organization.  I really don’t know where to start, somebody take it from here…and then maybe the Lorax and all of his friends will come back again.

– Matt Paulsen

  MaxBat Blog Contributor
Categories: Baseball Bats, Baseball Training, Maple Bats, Wood Baseball Bats, Wood Bat, Wood Bats

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