Fighting the Natural Forces Battle When Hitting
Oddities of the Art of Hitting
This page will attempt to convince you that most skills involved in a proper
baseball swing are unnatural movements that need to be trained over time
and constantly reinforced.
I will also make an attempt to explain why some hitters peak while others
continue to improve with time. Unfortunately, some peak before they reach
a double-digit age.
NATURAL vs. UNNATURAL MOVEMENTS
Can you think of any other sport where you need to direct force or energy
toward a target that is not in front of you? You may say tennis, but think
about how a tennis player sets up to receive a serve. He or she is facing
How about basketball? Nope, you are facing the basket when shooting.
Maybe a hockey or soccer goalie? Sorry, these individuals are squared up at
the shot coming toward them.
Anyhow, you probably understand where I'm coming from. Therefore, think
about how a hitter is set up in the box. Now, think about which direction
the opposite force (the ball) is coming from. It's actually coming from the
side. Actually, since a baseball swing requires you to apply opposite
force, this is the best position to be in.
However, the optimum way to apply this force unfortunately contains
movements that are in a sense unnatural. Allow me to explain:
When we hit, our hands are at or slightly above shoulder level. On the approach
we try to keep our hands and barrel above the ball. If you think about it, this is
an unnatural movement. We are fighting the forces of gravity. The natural
thing to do would be to allow our hands to drop to waist level and then swing
from there. Try it out!! See how natural it feels. Unfortunately, this natural
movement would result in a slow, long swing ending with a less than adequate
We do however see a lot of young hitters who take this natural approach. We
coaches refer to many of these natural movements as flaws. If it's only natural,
then why call it a flaw? Simply because the proper mechanics of a swing are
The Swing Path
We are standing in the batter's box with a bat in our hand. We are then told to
swing the bat while making sure that the barrel takes a straight path through the
hitting zone, and not around it. We are told to open up our body in a way that we
are sure not to pull our front side out. Be sure not to cast that barrel out too
soon either!! One more thing, these things must be done in a sequence. TALK
Let's think about the natural movements. First of all, your holding a bat that is
longer than your arm. Ninety-percent of this bat's weight is at the top (not to
mention it's the part furthest away from your hands as well). If you told an
ordinary person to swing the bat, what would the natural movement look like?
1) He would probably start the swing with his hands, since that is where the bat
lies. NATURAL but INCORRECT!!
2) The first part of the bat to move would probably be the barrel. NATURAL but
3) The barrel would probably travel in a circular path. NATURAL but
4) His front side (including the head) would probably fly open because of the
weight of the barrel and the path that it has taken. NATURAL but INCORRECT.
5) Finally, if he used his hips at all, he would rotate both hips in a circular
motion. NATURAL but INCORRECT.
These are five natural movements that we coaches spend numerous hours
trying to correct because in our book they're considered flaws.
Next time you are working with your hitters, keep these ideas in mind.
Pay attention to these flaws and watch how natural they seem to be for your
Make them understand that hitting is not a simple skill due to the fact that it is
unnatural. Use analogies such as the coil/uncoil of a spring to begin to train
unnatural thinking. They need to begin to develop an unnatural frame of mind
when it comes to hitting before they can actually separate themselves from
group of "natural thinkers".
Not every hitter will be able to grasp this entire concept. His physiological
make-up will not allow him to delve into the unnatural. It is the individual who you
can look at and say to yourself, "He gets it", that has the endless potential. Now,
it's all about practice, practice and more practice.