When I played major league baseball I often had trouble getting ready to hit. The reason was that when I tried to get ready by moving my upper body, it did not come natural and took my concentration away from timing and seeing the ball. I developed a lower half movement that felt much more comfortable. Whether hitters get ready to hit using their upper body, lower or both, getting ready to hit and not swinging from a dead stop is important. Every player has to find the “trigger” that they are comfortable with. Good hitting coaches help hitters find their way of getting ready and do not make all hitters prepare the same way. The trigger must become natural for hitters where no thought of doing it comes to mind when in the batter’s box.
It is an important aspect of hitting because it is much more difficult to put things in motion from a dead stop then from a moving start. This is why the best hitters in baseball prepare to hit every pitch with a moving sequence of actions that allow them to “explode” on the ball at just the right moment. Of course, this rhythm and timing of the pitcher should begin in the on-deck circle so hitters are not surprised or out of sync with the pitchers delivery. Working on the timing and rhythm of getting ready to hit is a never ending process for hitters and this timing and rhythm tends to come and go at various times. Hitters whose preparation to hit gets altered, often go into prolonged slumps.
Once hitters are comfortable in the batters box, it is time to “get ready” to hit. The next few moves are crucial for hitters and these moves are what separate successful hitters from the rest.
1. Narrow their focus of their eyes to the area around the pitchers ultimate release point – the area around the pitcher’s head.
2. Hitters need to begin shifting their weight towards their rear leg as the pitcher begins their forward movement towards home in their delivery. This shift of weight should transfer most of their weight to the back leg.
3. As their weight is shifting back, hitters need to remain in or get their upper body and bat to the correct hitting position. It is OK to start out of 100% correct hitting position in the initial set-up as long as hitters get to the correct position by the time the front foot lands and before swinging. Because of my aforementioned trouble with getting ready to hit, I was most successful by starting in 100% correct upper body set-up and just moving my lower body to get ready.
Correct Hitting Position Post Stride:
A. Head, shoulders, hips and elbows all level to the ground.
B. Knob of the bat pointing down and slightly back towards the catcher’s feet.
C. Hands shoulder height and about 2 to 4 inches back of shoulder (towards catcher) and no more than a hands distance away from the shoulder towards home plate.
D. The bat barrel should sit on a line directly above the players rear shoulder and definitely not be sitting behind the shoulder more than an inch or two.
4. Once their weight is back and the bat gets to the correct position, the hitter takes a soft, controlled (2 to 5 inches) step directly towards the pitcher. This step should leave their body weight on the backside leg for a fraction of a second as the lead foot lands on the inside ball of the foot before their weight begins to transfer towards the front leg.
5. It is important that the front foot lands on time and the hitter is totally ready at this moment to swing if the pitch is desirable. This landing of the foot should be a fraction of a second before making the decision to swing or not, ideally when the fastball is close to the hitting zone
* Getting to correct hitting position, getting ready to swing and developing this rhythm under balance does not guarantee great hitting but, combined with a good swing, gives hitters their best chance at success.
From the mental standpoint, hitters must have ultimate focus on seeing the ball from the pitchers release all the way to possible contact position. Much of the mental preparation for hitting is done before the at-bat begins. Things like knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, the pitchers strengths and weaknesses and the strike zone all go into the hitter’s mental plan before getting to the batter’s box. Combining this mental concentration with getting ready to hit as the pitcher delivers, makes for prepared hitters.