The other day I was trying to explain a concept in hitting that is pretty important – the need to get your body and bat into the proper position before actually taking a swing.
I asked the girl if she played chess – an obvious analogy about getting all the pieces in place. No she didn’t, she told me.
I asked about checkers, which is not quite as complex but still requires some strategic planning. That was a negatory as well.
So finally, with Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away as I write this, I came up with what I think is an explanation any young person can relate to.
Basically, it’s that before you can enjoy the great Thanksgiving feast you first have to set the table. I guess you don’t absolutely have to, but if you don’t you’re pretty much looking at a messy Viking dinner.
For the civilized world, though, you want to be sure the plates, silverware, napkins, condiments, etc. are all on the table before you bring out the food. That way when everyone sits down you’re ready to gobble up the gobbler (or whatever is being served).
The same goes for hitting. When the ball is pitched you don’t want to just start flailing the bat at it.
Instead, you need to start moving body parts into place – setting the table as it were.
For example, you’ll want to load in plenty of time to set a nice rhythm. If you’re using a stride you’ll want to stride; if you’re doing a no-stride you’ll want to start shifting the weight/center of gravity forward.
You’ll also want to start gathering visual information about where the pitch is going, how fast it’s going to get there, and if you’re more advanced what type of spin it has.
All of this happens before what would be considered a swing by the rules, which is when the bat starts moving toward the ball.
If you take the opportunity to put all of these pieces in place, you stand a pretty good chance of being able to feast on the pitch when it comes.
If you don’t, and you just start bringing the bat when the pitch is released, the odds are you’re going to look like a turkey.
The key is you have to know what moves to make before bringing the bat – that is, which movements are table setting and which are the actual swing.
Using a stride-based swing as an example, everything that happens before the front heel drops and the hips start to fire is table setting. You haven’t committed to anything yet.
Once the hips start moving forward in a hips-shoulders-bat sequence, you’re now into the swing. You can still pull off if you recognize that the pitch isn’t going to be a good one to hit, but you are definitely going after it with the intention of hitting it hard somewhere.
If you have a player or son/daughter who is having trouble understanding the difference between the preparation phase and the execution phase of the swing, try this analogy on him/her. (It applies to all forms of hitting.)
With a little practice his/her hitting line will start to look like a cornucopia of excellence.
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