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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seeing the Baseball and Softball Properly When Hitting

By Bobby Woods

As parents and coaches, we often tell our children to keep their eyes on the ball when hitting a baseball or softball. Without a doubt this is an excellent teaching point. It probably should be stated more often by parents and coaches, including myself.

When a major league player is hitting good and a sports writer asks him, "Why are you hitting so well this week because you weren't hitting last week", the player will most likely say, "I am seeing the ball, and it looks big".

Hitting a baseball or softball well is more a visual skill than anything else. There are, however, many other key components to becoming a successful hitter including muscle memory, stance, weight transference, grip, rhythm, hitting inside out, balance, the launch position, mental imagery, use of hands, and effective hitting drills.

Here are some tips on how to see the ball.

When a hitter is batting, he or she should use soft focus and fine focus. As a pitcher is winding up, the hitter can watch the pitcher from the waist up or look at the pitcher's face. Those are some examples of soft focus.

Where the pitcher releases the ball is fine focus. This is extremely important. It is where the hitter's eyes should be, at the point of release. Great hitters see the ball immediately from the pitcher's release of the ball. So a hitter in baseball and softball must go from soft to fine focus.

There are more tips for seeing the ball better. Study the pitcher by using these 3 letters, R-R-P.

The first R stands for Rhythm. Is the pitcher's wind -up fast or slow, or somewhere between fast and slow. This is the pitcher's rhythm.

The second R stands for Release. Where does the pitcher release the ball from? Do they have an overhand, three quarter, or side-arm release? Softball pitchers use an underhand release in the windmill style of pitching. Using fine focus will help determine their release point.

The P stands for the the type of pitches the pitcher has, and in what pitch count they throw them. For example, let's say you are hitting third in the lineup. The first and second hitters have just struck-out on a curve ball with a 0-2 count. All of a sudden the count on you is 0-2. What kind of pitch do you think you will be seeing? Probably a curve ball, but not necessarily. Your primary responsibility is to be ready for the fastball, no matter what the pitch count. However in this situation odds are that a curve ball will be thrown to you. Therefore the bar is raised that a curve ball may be thrown to the hitter.

Remember when the ball is pitched, the hitter needs to pick up the ball at the pitchers release point. The head and eyes then go down to hit the ball. Ideally at contact the hitter's eyes and nose should be directly facing the middle of the ball. This will give you perfect and direct vision to the ball.

Try this exercise. Hold a ball and line your nose and chin directly to the middle of the ball. Does it look big? Move your nose and chin to the left or right of the center of the ball. Now you are using peripheral vision, and the ball is not so big anymore. And please remember this. After hitting the ball keep your head and eyes down at the point where you made contact with the ball for one second. This will prevent looking up or peaking before you hit the ball.
Also when you put your eyes and head down as you hit the ball your bat speed becomes faster. Your bat takes a natural path to the ball, your hips rotate better and your follow through and balance will improve. There are many other ways to see the ball better but these points will definitely improve your hitting.

Finally, always remember the most important thing in sports is to have fun!

Trivia question: There are five ways to get on first base without hitting the ball. What are they? offers hitting tips, DVD and books for baseball and softball players of all ages. We provide you with everything you need to know about hitting drills.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick