Post by Trent Calmer
During the winter I participated in “The California Winter League” (CWL), and had one of the best baseball experiences of my life. I highly recommend anyone interested in playing professional baseball to attend. It is a month straight of games in sunny Palm Springs with the coaches being scouts for various affiliated/independent professional baseball teams. During the trip, Wally Joyner came to the field to talk hitting to all the CWL participants. His talk on hitting was so simple and how he explained it made me realize that this is how hitting at all levels should be coached. He also shared some stories from his playing days and talked so much that the fans in the stadium yelled at him to wrap it up. He didn’t care one bit and finished up when he felt like it. Here for you are some of the main points that he discussed in his talk on hitting:
Wally posted a .289 batting average with 1106 RBI’s in 16 years of professional baseball
Be Consistent With Your Grip
The first aspect of hitting that Wally emphasized as being one of the most important and often overlooked parts is ones grip. This portion of the talk hit home for me because I was never taught proper grip until I got older. During my youth playing days I got conflicting messages from different coaches about how to hold a bat that I never got consistent with it. Wally explained that if your grip is off, everything else in the swing will be off. The hitter does not get to “palm-up/palm-down” at contact and will not be able to stay “through” the baseball. Wally talked about consistency a ton in the talk as a whole and this was the first aspect of it. Hold the bat in your fingers, not your palms. Making this adjustment will help you feel not as “handsy” with the bat which will help you stay inside the baseball.
Work Contact Zones on the Tee and Recognize your Weaknesses vs. Strengths
The next topic that Wally discussed had to do with the tee and working on various “contact zones.” Setting up the tee for hitting might not seem important but it actually makes all the difference in the world. Where you make contact with an outside pitch will differ from where you make contact with an inside pitch. If you have the access to a cage that allows you to see ball flight, recognize which locations you can stay through consistently that produces a hard hit back spin line drive. The big takeaway I got from Wally during this portion of the talk was when he said to work on your weaknesses, but don’t forget about your strengths. If your weakness is hitting a pitch on the inside part of the plate but your strength is hitting the outside pitch, focus more on the inside pitch. Players will too often focus only on the locations on the tee that they can hit and rarely focus on their weaknesses.
(right handed batter)
Have an Approach at the Plate, and Find Positives Out of Every AB
Taking the previous point into consideration, Wally talked about how your strengths and weaknesses will dictate your approach at the plate. So say you are guy above that has trouble with the inside pitch but loves the pitch out over the plate. In a hitters count, especially a 2-0/3-1 count, the pitch that you are looking to hit has to be your pitch. If the count changes to 2-1 or 1-1 for example, what you are looking for will expand. So now you might also have to include the down and away pitch or the pitch that is at the top of the strike zone. When you get to two strikes that is when you have to protect and potentially swing at your weaknesses. You might foul it off and live to fight another day.
Balance, Rhythm, Timing
What tied everything together at the end was when Wally talked about how he worked on balance, rhythm, and timing. He accomplished these three things all in one simple drill that can be implemented by baseball players of all ages. One simply grabs a bat, and as you swing it forward, balance on the front foot. Now swing the bat back and transfer the weight to your back leg. See if you can also balance on your back leg. You can modify this drill to a timing drill by bringing your bat forward as you watch a pitcher pitch a ball to the plate. Wally talked about how he incorporated that drill daily and used it to time pitchers before he went up to hit. As I mentioned earlier, this drill is great because it can be taught to any age group. From what I have observed from high school baseball players, most kids are over thinking their mechanics that they forget to track the baseball. This simplifies things and gets them focused to hit live pitching. At the same time, this drill can be used as a staple to a youth baseball practice routine. Kids aged 9-12 have a hard time grasping this weight transfer/balance concept so incorporating this drill in at a young age will work wonders.