Hitting a baseball has been described as a science along with being a practiced art. I am a firm believer that anyone can become a good or even great hitter in baseball if they just use their head and approach every at bat with the same level of concentration and determination. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.” Even though this was portrayed as comical, the first part of his statement is very true.
Every at bat in a baseball game should be approached with a clean slate. What the pitcher threw to you in your last at bat will not necessarily be what you see this time around. If the opposing pitcher is doing his job he is trying to catch you off guard and throwing the same pitch sequence or locations will not do the trick. As a batter you need to know what this particular pitcher likes to throw first time through the order, second time through and so on. Does he usually like to start off ahead of a batter or will he try to bait you with something out of the zone? Which pitch does he trust the most when he gets behind in the count and which pitch will he usually throw as his “strike out” pitch when he is ahead? Most of the time it is an educated guess but even so, a well informed hitter “guesses” right a great deal of the time. There is one other aspect of using your head in a game and that is the time spent in the dugout. An at bat doesn’t begin when you step into the box and it does not end when you ultimately score or get put out. A great hitter is always studying the opposing pitcher and what his tendencies are in different situations.
How many times have you heard since you began playing the game of baseball, “keep your eye on the ball”? Too many to count, right? There is a good reason for that and the simple explanation is, you can’t hit what you can’t see! There are many different approaches to this aspect of hitting and a hitter has to use the one that works best for him/her. The approach I find that works best for most young people I work with is picking the ball up by concentrating on the outside of the pitcher’s throwing shoulder. No matter if the pitcher is throwing straight over the top, three-quarters or sidearm his arm is still attached at that point and has to rotate toward the plate from there. If a batter can focus on seeing the ball very early in the pitch he/she will be able to not only see it all the way to the bat but have a better chance of picking up the rotation of the ball to determine which way it might break. The one thing that never changes is having your head down and your eyes focused on the ball when your bat makes contact with it.
Making the most of every at bat whether it be a strike-out or a home run involves using your brain not brawn. Most good baseball players trust their eyes to see and direct their hands to the ball. What many of them fail to do is use their head in the seconds before that happens!