It is often said hitting a baseball is the hardest task in sports. Hitting the ball requires someone to not only swing a bat with proper technique, but they must see the ball and react in a fraction of a second. Forever, hitters will seek an edge to make the task less daunting.
Preparing for such a task is challenging. But it's not impossible. Even though a baseball game requires several people, it only takes one person to improve your swing in the backyard: you.
While there might not be any better way to improve as a hitter than facing live pitching, finding a live pitcher with command or even a pitching machine isn’t always feasible. When these are not an option, here are five youth baseball hitting drills worth trying.
High Tee, Low Tee
What you’ll need: two adjustable tees, two baseballs, baseball bat (note: if you do not have an additional tee, find an object to use in its place—a chair or stool 6 in. taller than the tee will do)
Many times, young hitters’ swings are too long and uppercut. Here’s a simple fix. Set up a tee per usual and take another tee and put it around a foot-and-a-half behind the other one. This back tee should be about six inches higher. The key is to hit the ball on the front tee and nothing else.
Swing as usual but do not hit the back tee. The goal is to hit the baseball on the front tee and if the swing is on a consistent path, then it should result in line drives.
Footy It Up
What you’ll need: baseball bat, tee, soccer ball/basketball, (soccer net would be a bonus)
Hitting a soccer ball sounds easy enough, right? The point of this hitting drill is not only to make contact with the soccer ball (or basketball), but to drive through it and work on hitting for power. Since it’s a bigger ball with more recoil, the key is to swing through it and try to hit line drives.
Having a soccer net would be a bonus as it would give hitters a target as they try for line drives up the middle. If you can't find a soccer net, a large, sturdy wall made of brick will work as well. Make sure to stand back far enough so the ball won't bounce back off the wall too fast for you to react.
Stuck in the Bucket
What you’ll need: two tires, baseballs, baseball bat, tee (optional), Paint or sunflower seed buckets if you can't get ahold of two tires
To stay balanced and be in a position to make contact, it is important kids don’t step out. Align the two tires (buckets) side by side so that the hitter gets the feel of being in a batter's box. Hitters can either hit off a tee or out of their hand by tossing the ball into the air. The key is for both feet, specifically the front foot, to stay in the tire while hitting.
It can be frightening for young ballplayers to face live pitching with the fear of being hit. But if they learn the proper technique in practice, it increases the chance they will use it in games. Doing this drill will get the player comfortable in the proper position at impact and lead to more confidence in the box.
Don't Hit The Fence
What you’ll need: baseball bat, fence (note: if your yard doesn't have a fence, consider the siding of your house in an open space, away from windows)
The point of this drill is to build young hitters' confidence in hitting inside pitches. The batter should stand about one bat length away from the fence, no further. They should be close to the fence, but not close enough to actually strike any part of it.
The hitter will envision an inside pitch coming at them, then swing the bat. Their swing should drag the head of the bat behind their hands until the bat reaches the front of their body, then quickly extend the head outward at the "ball." Repeating this practice will help young hitters perfect a short, quick swing for those real-life inside pitches.
The Rocky Balboa
What you’ll need: heavy bag (punching bag), baseball bat
No, you’re not going to bust through a heavy bag like it’s a piñata. Instead, take swings at the heavy bag and at the point of contact, instead of recoiling, continue to drive through. Essentially, you want the bat to be stuck to the bag with your hands out in front at contact.
The key here is improving torque as it would be tough to drive through a heavy bag. It certainly helps strengthen the hands and develop power.
Batting Practice Makes Perfect
Ultimately, there is no true substitute for live pitching, but not having a live pitcher doesn't mean you shouldn't practice. The more time you spend perfecting your batting technique—even without a live pitcher—will only benefit your performance.
Continued use of these practices in combination with actual game play will certainly improve your line drives, balance, power, and overall results. So get outside, get to swinging, and work on a victorious trot for when you hit your first grand slam!