Key cues for hitting success – Part Two

By Dave Hudgens

In Part One of Dave Hudgens’ article on cues for hitting success he covered the importance of practice, what an instructor should look for in a hitter and how to teach players to better see the ball. The article continues below:

Stay balanced on takes
A hitter having a proper take is another tool for the hitting instructor to evaluate. When my hitters take a pitch, I like to see them stay balanced with their weight – not going too far forward. I like to see 50/50 or 60/40 with a little bit of movement back to the ball. My cue to hitters for staying balanced is very simple, “Stay balanced.” Once again this goes back to their practice. Hitters have to understand what it means to be balanced and what the term “stay balanced” means.

Effort level
A fourth essential key to helping hitters is to recognize their effort level. I tell my hitters to “stay within themselves” which means don’t over-swing, and try not to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Effort level is a topic that is often overlooked. Young kids start forming high effort level bad habits at a young age for various reasons: lack of strength, wanting to hit a homerun, wanting to hit the ball as far as some of the bigger kids, pressure from coaches or parents or just game situations. High effort levels cause hitters to have a tendency to over-swing or swing harder then what they are capable of. The key I use with hitters is “slow down.” They should feel like they have something left in their bodies – it should not be a max effort swing. If hitters are using a max effort swing, what it tells me is that they are not trusting their hands. High effort levels can cause the other keys to look bad. If a kid swings too hard, it may cause his head to lift and his balance to be off. If I see them staying balanced with their head down, they usually have good effort levels.

Proper communication: what, how and when
All that being said, great preparation and outstanding knowledge is useless without the proper communication techniques to the hitter. Equally important as to what is said is how and when it is said.

You can give the perfect instruction and adjustment keys to a player, but if it is not said at the right time and in the right way, they won’t hear it and sometimes even worse, they will tune you out. We have covered the what for each of the keys mentions. The how is easy, never shout or belittle your hitters. You are there to instruct, not get angry and yell. Likewise you want to tell your hitter what you want him to do, not what you don’t want him to do. For example, you want to say, “Get a good pitch to hit” rather than “don’t swing at the curve ball in the dirt.” If you say don’t swing at the curve ball in the dirt, guess what, your hitter is thinking? Curve ball in the dirt. Be positive and instruct in a positive manner. Repeating this in practice and drills is essential to being able to communicate in the game.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t talk to a player right after his at bat because he is upset and too emotional to be able to comprehend let alone adjust to what you are saying. I would speak to him before his next at bat usually in the next inning. I would ask him three questions:

What were you trying to do?

What went wrong?

What kind of adjustment are you going to make?

Likewise I always try to find something positive in that at bat. For example, maybe he swung at a bad pitch, but he kept his head down. I might say something like, “You kept your head down good at that at bat, now make sure you get a pitch you can drive.”

Good luck with your cues and I hope all your hitters make the opposing pitching coaches take the long, slow walks to the mound. Let the fireworks begin.

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