How Does a Hitter “Know” Himself?

All the players’ experiences playing baseball go into this equation. He is the sum total of every pitch, every at-bat, every inning he has ever played. And over this time frame, he has learned what “type” hitter he is. “Types” fit into three groups. “Contact/singles hitters” for the smaller, fleet-of-foot player, “line dive gap hitters” who possess average-to-good foot speed and occasional power, and “pure power” types that don’t run very well, but have true long ball potential. Most hitters fit into these three types, and knowing where YOU fit in, goes a long way in determining your two-strike hitting plan. My experience suggests that approximately 70% of players fall into the “line drive/gap” type and 15% in both the “singles/contact” and “pure power” categories.

“Cloning” Hitters

While we’re on this subject of hitting “types,” this is probably as good a time as any for all us instructors/coaches to get on the same “page.” Because most hitters fall into these three types, we MUST be sensitive to the fact that not everyone can do what we teach. As instructors, we have to adjust our hitting knowledge—and what we teach—to the player and his intrinsic ability. Sadly, many times I tutor players who confide that their coach teaches everyone the “same” mechanics, regardless of size, strength, or foot speed. We must guard against allowing ourselves to be caught up in this potentially harmful practice.

Last summer, a college player from the University of ****** came for lessons. He was a big, strapping kid. 6’4″ and 240 pounds. Strong as an ox. I asked him to take a few dry swings for me. After watching him, I told him I was really “excited.” He asked why, and I told him I very rarely come in contact with a player as strong as he—and with such great foot speed.

He looked at me, incredulously, and blurted that he had NO foot speed whatsoever. So I asked him why he swings “down” at the ball if he can’t run. He said that’s what his coach taught, and EVERYONE had to hit the same way. Players 5’4″ were taught to hit the same way as players 6’4″! I know you’re smiling at this point and saying, “Yeah, Mike, but that isn’t ME. I don’t do that.” Think again. It runs rampant in baseball. What a terrible waste of ability!

His coach, possibly unaware of the consequences of his actions, was keeping this player from realizing his “dream.” I told him I had no interest in teaching him a technique that would upset his coach, and perhaps cast him in an unfavorable light in his eyes. He said he wasn’t worried about that; his dream was to play professional baseball. Over the next seven days, this player learned mechanics more suited to his “type.” He returned to school and hit 9 home runs in the fall. No one else on his team had more than two. At the conclusion of “fall ball,” his coach came up to him and said he didn’t like his swing. He wanted him to go back to swinging down—the mechanics he taught.

While we’re on this subject, it is interesting to note, as a “general” rule, ALL hitting types become “singles/contact” hitters with two strikes. Because, for the most part, we don’t come to bat, every at-bat, where we represent the winning run. More often than not, we must do some things mechanically which will allow us to put the ball in play. Contact—not power—becomes the name of the game with two strikes.

Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is  http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/

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