With so many tools and drills to navigate through, it could be overwhelming when trying decide which training aids to purchase for your hitters. This is where the Baseball Drive comes in with “The Five that Drive” resource for hitting. Here is a collection of the five training aids that college and professional hitting coaches think are essential for supporting and developing successful hitters.
A special thanks to Darren Fenster of the Boston Red Sox and Coaching Your Kids, and Ryan Hurba, Binghamton University Bearcats hitting coach, for their specific contributions to the list.
Here it is:
For the Brain – (1) The Mental Keys to Hitting by Harvey Dorfmann
For the Eyes – (2) Tracking Balls/Drill
For the Swing – (3) The Tee and (4) The Short Bat
For the Muscles – (5) The Penny Bat
Please read on for more description of each training aid:
The Mental Keys to Hitting: A Handbook of Strategies for Performance Enhancement (link)– As I have outlined in the past, this book is a MUST read. So much of our attention goes to the mechanics of the swing and the pressure of “getting a hit.” If you truly want to support your young hitter, you will use this to help shape the way that you interact with your young players before, during, and after competition. It is also the top recommended book among college baseball coaches!
Tracking Balls/Drill – “Tracking” is the act of identifying the pitch and following the ball all the way through the hitter’s zone. With the tracking drill, we train our hitters to focus on the ball more, which then allows their muscle memory to take control of their swing. In order to do this drill, all you need is a set of three softer balls and a few markers. As far as the balls go, you could use old tennis balls, “incrediballs”, or Atec-type training balls. You will mark each ball with generous size color dots (green, red, blue) or numbers. Toss the balls from about 15 to 25 feet and either have them catch them or take a swing. Focus on them identifying the color early and right out of your hand, and have them yell it out to you! TIP: Hide the balls behind your back and mix them up. Make a game out of it!
If you are interested in purchasing balls specific for the drill, please see below:
Tee – NO SECRET HERE! There are hundreds of different drills (with thousands of variations) that players could do on the tee each day. However, I think sometimes coaches fail to remember that hitting drills should be used as differentiated instruction, meaning no two players should have the same hitting routine because no two players have the same exact swing. We will go more in depth in the future. Right now, I want to remind guardians of players that this is a MUST have tool. The tee itself is a drill, therefore we do not need to over-complicate things. As along as we move the tee around both inside and outside and up and down the zone, our young hitters will at least be getting the reps necessary to build muscle memory. The great thing about the tee, is that we could use it almost anywhere. In my first blog post I talked about how my father hung an old bed blanket from the rafters of our basement and we hit of an old traffic cone he “found” in the street.
If you are interested in investing in a tee, I recommend the Tanner Tee. It is lightweight, you can break in down for travel, and best of all, DURABLE. It is the only tee that I use for instruction, but then again, I am a bit of a tee snob.
Short bat (one-hand trainer) – A short bat is essentially an under-sized bat, so KEEP your old bats unless you plan on donating them to a friend or family member. The idea of utilizing the short bat is to help players separate their top and bottom hand and improve bat control and speed as well. Depending upon the age or size of the player, you could use an old tee ball bat or maybe even just choke up. Every player is different, but as long as he could repeat mechanics with just one hand, then using the short bat will improve the player’s ability to hit.
There are companies that make bats specifically for one-handed training, so If you wanted to pick one up or do some research, here are a few links to affordable options:
Penny Bat (weighted bat) – A “penny bat” is essentially a weighted bat that could be used when actually taking live swings. All you need is an old bat, some tape, and about a dollars worth of pennies. Utilizing the weighted bat is a cost effective way to do baseball specific strength training, or just to warm up before a game or at bat. Here is the link to good friend of The Baseball Drive, Darren Fenster’s Coach Your Kids blog post, “Power from Pennies”.
If you are not interested in making a penny bat but like the idea of your player(s) swinging a weighted bat, here is the link to some another tools that will provide the similar outcome:
Please remember that there are cost effective options of each of these resources. You do not have to spend a ton of money to be a great parent or coach of a baseball player. Also, all drills and strategies do not work for every player. Never force your player to do a drill or activity that they do not want to do. Although I do tell my players that “they need to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable,” always keep in mind the importance of creating positive experiences.
***The above links are amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item, I may benefit by making a few bucks. If you do proceed with a purchase, thank you very much for the support, and if not, that is obviously okay too, because maybe you found more cost effective option for your player.***