The bulk of the hitters at Athletic Mission train year round, coming in 2-3 times a week. This means that they swing A LOT in the cages. As players continue to improve their swing, improve their consistency, and improve their ability to hit the ball hard – every ball in the cage becomes a double or home run. Our hitters leave our facility everyday feeling very confident about their swing and about the upcoming season.
The challenge for us, is to make sure as we transition from Off-Season training mode to Pre-Season training mode, is to start changing the conversation from swinging to hitting, slowing everything down to prepare for pitchers who are trying to strike us out, and taking cage swings to the field.
The topic I want to address in this post is: taking the cage swing to the field for batting practice and games.
The hitter’s objective during the off-season is to improve the feel for their swing, be more efficient with the feel of their swing, or maintain the feel of their swing. For convenience purposes, this work is typically done in a batting cage and, in some cases, indoors.
Hitters at Athletic Mission have a routine; a process they go through every time they come to the cages. Since our players get very comfortable with their routine during the off-season, what typically happens when they re-join their team, they get out of their routine, therefore causing them to be uncomfortable. When they are not comfortable, they do not perform well. It’s very important that you stick to your routine. You will be amazed that something as little as getting off of your routine can have an effect on your performance.
During the off-season, our hitters hit 2-3 days a week in batting cages. When our players rejoin their team, they finally get to start taking batting practice on the field. Because of all the work our hitters put in the off-season they are excited to see how the cage results translate to the field.
When you go from the cages to the field, you can immediately feel intimidated by the size of the field compared to the cages. So you have to bring the cage to the field and work your way into the field. In other word, make the field small so you can build up your confidence.
Here is the typical routine in the cages:
- Tee work, driving the baseball to the back of the cage and sometime the L-Screen gets in the way.
- Front toss, driving the baseball to the back of the cage and sometime the L-Screen get in the way
- Live Pitching or Machine, driving the ball to the back of the cages and sometimes the L-Screen gets in the way
Now take this approach to the field. It will look like this:
- Focus on hitting every ball up the middle, hitting the L-Screen.
- After feeling confident about the first round, focus on hitting the ball just over the second baseman’s head. This allows you to be easy with the swing and let that ball travel a bit.
- Once you get comfortable with that round, then try driving the baseball through the second baseman’s head.
- Now you are confident, and the field that was once huge is starting to feel a bit smaller, so drive the ball the center field.
- Now, drive the ball through the center fielder.
- Drive the ball to the fence.
- Drive the ball through the fence.
- Drive the ball over the fence.
Watch big leaguers take batting practice, and you will see them take a similar approach to this.
Once games have started, your focus has to be on the baseball. The focus is so intense that you are able to zone out the crowd and slow the ball down. Be ready to hit the first pitch. Do not take the first pitch for the purpose of trying to establish your timing. You establish your timing in the dugout and on deck.
Have an approach, an understanding of what you want to do and stick to it. Trust your eyes and your body will follow.
Train like a professional! Stick to a routine! Learn How to Take Batting Practice! Learn How to Hit!
So, this is how you make a peaceful and successful transition to the field. The other two topics of switching the off-season conversation to preseason – from swinging to hitting, and slowing down as pitchers are trying to strike you out, I will address in the next couple of weeks.