KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE BALL Although the games of baseball and fastpitch softball are quite different, watching a baseball game can improve your softball skills. This particular tip deals with a mechanic in hitting that is mandatory to be successful. It is a simple fundamental, but one that must be consistently communicated in coaching fastpitch: Keep your eyes on the ball. If you have ever seen still photos of a baseball player hitting a homerun, perhaps in the newspaper, a baseball magazine or even watching a game on television, you have seen this mechanic in action. In most still photos, the ball has already made contact with the bat and is on its way to the upper deck of the ballpark. If you look at the hitter's eyes however, they are still focused on the contact point- where the ball has just met the bat.
This is extremely important in becoming a great hitter, whether you play softball or baseball. To back this thought up, watch a professional hitter's head, and more specifically his eyes. You " ll see that his eyes follow the ball along it's entire path from the pitcher's hand, until it makes contact with the bat. Additionally, he keeps his eyes trained on the contact point long after the ball has been hit. You can actually see his head move as his eyes follow the ball. Try it and you will see what I mean.
I stress this fundamental because today's softball pitcher is throwing the ball with more velocity and more movement than ever before. Now, more than ever, you must keep your eye on the ball as it makes contact with the bat, or you will miss it. Often times, in an effort to watch a well-hit ball sail into the outfield, a hitter will lift their head and take their eyes off of the contact point. In this scenario, the ball will probably never have a chance to make that glorious journey and you will be left standing at home plate.
The reason for this is simple; your body has been shift out of position at the contact point by simply taking your eyes off of the ball. Get in your normal batting stance. Now, move your eyes and head in the direction of a ball hit well into the outfield. Did you notice your shoulders The trailing shoulder (right if a right-handed hitter, left if a left-handed hitter) dipped as the leading shoulder rose. To see for yourself, try this in front of a mirror or video yourself. Have someone mark a spot on the mirror where the tip of your bat is with your eyes focused at the pitcher's level.
Again, watch the flight of a ball hit into the outfield, and stop to notice where the tip of your bat has moved. The tip has dropped resulting in a popup to the infield or even worse, a whiff! You can see why this mechanic of looking at the contact point is so important, even after you hit the ball. Stay focused. If you really want to be a great hitter, you have to train your eyes to follow the ball from the pitcher's hand to the contact point. A drill I use a lot in teaching hitting is to have a few players (who are not pitchers) over to watch pitching practice, I make up some lame excuse about needing a live target so that they will not know I am trying to teach them a skill. After the true pitchers are warmed up and throwing their pitches for accuracy and movement, I have a hitter step into the batter's box without a bat, WITH HER HELMET ON.
Her only responsibility is to watch the rotation of the ball from the pitcher's hand to my glove. The batter then has to tell me what the rotation of the ball was, what kind of pitch it was (based on the rotation), and if it was a ball or a strike. Without knowing, she has started to build muscle memory that will enable her to watch the flight of the pitch, concentrate on the ball, and focus on the contact point. It works fabulously! Make sure you use this drill.
And we will see great results. Looking forward to seeing you at practice.