As young baseball players develop their hitting skills (hopefully while using a high quality wood bat from Phoenix Bats!), they haven’t seen much pitch variety. At this point, hitters haven’t seen a ball breaking towards them, or moving away from them.
In learning how to properly hit the pitch itself, the most important thing to understand is that a batter’s swing itself should not change—it’s all in the eyes.
Hitting the curve starts with seeing the pitch.
The art of how to hit a curveball comes from recognizing the pitch as it’s thrown. It’s important to learn how to pick up the rotation of the ball as soon as the pitcher has released the ball.
By learning how to recognize each pitch as it’s thrown, the batter will have a much better chance of making contact.
Each pitcher has a release point, depending their type of delivery—overhand, three-quarters, sidearm, the release points for each pitcher can vary.
One quick way to figure out what’s being thrown is by watching the pitcher’s throwing hand. If his fingers are set up behind the ball at the point of delivery, it’s likely going to be a fastball. If his fingers are set up more to the side of the ball, chances are the batter will see a curveball coming his way.
At a younger age, pitchers haven’t developed the technique of throwing a fastball and curveball with a uniform motion. Kids have a tendency to slow down their pitching motions when throwing a slower pitch like a curveball or change up.
Understanding release points, recognizing a different spin on the ball and picking up the ball from the pitcher’s hands can all help in aiding a young hitter properly recognize a curveball.
Now it’s a matter of learning how to hit it.
In a batter’s approach, they’ve become so used to hitting fastballs that when a slower curveball is thrown, they’re generally swinging too early, therefore making no contact at all.
The swing doesn’t have to change, but learning to keep the hands back in a batter’s swing can help. Normally a batter will have their hands moving forward along with their body when swinging. By learning to keep their hands back, they’re not nearly as easily fooled when that curveball or change up is thrown. Making that initial stride doesn’t mean the hands have to move forward at the same time. By keeping the hands back, the batter still has a chance to swing through the ball without swinging early.
Hitting curveballs takes time. In batting practice skills (again, hopefully while using a Phoenix Bats wood fungo bat) at a facility that uses a pitching machine, the batter can better learn how to keep their hands back. In live batting practice, they can start to learn the nuances of recognizing each pitch.
The art of hitting a round ball with a round bat is considered one of the hardest things to do in sports. When young pitchers start throwing curveballs, it becomes that much harder. But hitters can gain an advantage by learning the above steps and taking the advantage back from the pitcher.