Five Curveball Drills

By Dave Hudgens (Part 3 of 3)

Here are 5 curveball drills taken straight from our Conquering the Curveball DVD (the second DVD in the Hitting for Excellence series).

1) Underhand Recognition Drill
This drill is designed to help differentiate between the speeds of a fastball and an off-speed pitch. I like this drill very much because it will help you recognize where the weight of your body needs to be. To do this drill:

• Coach tosses underhand from behind a screen sitting about 15ft. in front of home plate.

• Coach mixes change of speeds and locations. Changing the speeds allows the hitter to feel the hesitation.

• Hitter drives the ball right back up the middle.

2) Bounce Drill
This drill reinforces the hesitation that needs to take place when hitting a breaking ball. For example if you are looking fastball, and the pitcher throws a hittable breaking ball, if you continue on as if it were a fastball, you will be way out front. That is why it is so important to recognize early and hesitate until the ball gets to you.

To do this drill seated:

• The tosser sits behind a screen 15ft. in front of the hitter.

• The tosser bounces the ball 4-5ft. in front of home plate, allowing the ball to bounce into the strike zone.

To do this drill standing:

• The tosser stands behind a screen 25ft. in front of the hitter.

• Tosser throws the ball overhand, bouncing the ball 3-4 ft. in front of home plate, allowing the ball to bounce up into the strike zone.

3) Underhand Lob Drill
Since a major key to hitting the curveball is to allowing it to come down to you, this drill is designed to practice waiting for the ball to come down to you. To do this drill:

• The tosser positions himself behind a screen 10-15ft. in front of the hitter, lobbing the ball over the screen.

• The hitter must wait for the ball to come down to him. Stay inside the ball and drive it up the middle.

4) Drop the Ball Drill
The purpose of this drill is to teach the hitter to stay down on the ball. It also helps to develop quickness in the hands.

To do this drill:

• The tosser stands to the side of the hitter, far enough back so as not to be hit with the bat.

• Tosser extends his arm high in the air, dropping the ball straight down into the contact zone.

• Hitter should make sure he gets ready early and let the ball come down to him.

5) Back Toss Drill
It is very important when hitting a breaking ball that you stay inside the ball. This drill will help develop that habit as well as practicing the hesitation.

• Standing 5-6ft. behind the hitter and to his open side (about a 45° angle) underhand toss the ball into the contact zone.

• The hitter should then concentrate on hitting the ball right back up the middle. This will give him the feel of staying inside the ball.

Know Your Strike Zone
Where many hitters get into trouble is swinging at offspeed pitches out of the strike zone. The best hitters command the strike zone. They know what pitches they want and where they want them. Your batting average and on base percentage will jump dramatically if you command the strike zone. This is what I call being selectively aggressive.

Your Goal
The best pitchers in baseball can not throw their offspeed pitch in a great location for a strike consistently. So don’t be intimidated. Even if the pitcher has a great curveball, it may not be good that day and it won’t be un-hittable every time. There is one important question to ask: Is anyone’s curveball consistent outing after outing? The answer is definitely NO.

Your goal as a hitter is to have a good approach on the hittable curveball. This is just one of the pieces of the puzzle to becoming a master hitter. Success doesn’t come overnight and only the most dedicated players will achieve their goals. It is my hope in putting this article together that you will have the same solid information at your disposal that the best hitters in the world have. 95% of players don’t have a plan when they see a curveball – aren’t you glad you do?

Dave Hudgens has been involved with the best of baseball for over 30 years. He is currently the Hitting Coach for the New York Mets. Prior to that he was a longtime hitting coach in the Oakland Athletics’ organization.

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