Note: An article contributed by little league coach Henry Stevens. A special thanks to him for this great technical advice on swinging.
I love coaching and managing little league baseball. The only thing I loved more was when I played. I was always a good hitter. I had quick wrists, a discerning eye and good hand to eye coordination.
One of the most important things to me in hitting was to get a bat that “fit” you. There are important differences to the player; the length and weight of a bat will make a big difference. The length of the bat will be determined by the height of the little leaguer. The weight in ounces will be proportionate to the size of the bat. An example would be a 29″ long bat with a weight of 17 ounces. The grip will also need to feel comfortable.
Once you have the bat picked out, you have to develop how you will face the pitcher. What will your “stance” be like? That means how far back in the batter’s box will you stay. It also means how close to home plate will you stand. Other factors such as having an open stance(facing the pitcher with the back leg close to home plate) or a closed stance( head looking over your front shoulder and your front leg close to home plate) will be decided. Either way, you want some bend to your knees and your weight towards your toes. Then we get to the grip, or how to hold the bat.
You do not want to hold the bat too tight. That creates a tense, clinched, tight hold on the handle. Put your bottom hand approximately one inch above the bottom knob of the bat. Put your other hand directly on top of your bottom hand, and keep the knuckles of both hands lined up even. Next is to hold the bat firm, not squeezing it too tight, in the palm area of both hands. Do not bury the bat deep in your palms, but at the bottom part of your fingers, where they meet your palm.
Your front arm should make a 90 degree angle, bent at the elbow (similar to the letter, “L” lying on its back) and held about 6 inches away from your chest. The back arm should also form a letter “L”, with the elbow facing down. The hands should be at shoulder height and the barrel of the bat forming a 45 degree angle over your back shoulder. That is essentially the way that the bat is held.
Hitting is 30% grip, 20% stance and 50% recognition. By recognition, I refer to knowing in an instant what type pitch is being thrown and then timing your swing. You follow the ball all the way in with your eyes, keep your head still, step forward towards the pitcher’s mound, turn your back hip and back leg inward and extend the arms through the ball and snap the wrist just as the bat meets the ball.
It is a difficult task to do all of this with consistency. That is why the best hitter’s in baseball are successful 35 or 36% of the time,(a .350 or .360 batting average). At the time of this writing, the batting average leaders are Ichiro Suzuki in the AL @ .364 and Hanley Rameriz in the NL @ .340. Baseball , especially the art of hitting, are not as easy as it looks.