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Friday, February 5, 2010
How to Hit in the Clutch - Baseball Batting Advice From a Former Major League Player
By Jack Perconte
There are not too many feelings better than getting hits for baseball players. Actually, there is? Getting a hit in the clutch is an even better feeling. Of all the great memories I have of playing baseball, the ones that are most memorable are those of clutch hits that I had. Many people think of clutch hits as those that drive in runs or win games, but just as important sometimes are hits that players get to start a rally, break up a no hitter or knock a good pitcher out of the game. One of my great memories of a clutch at-bat did not involve a hit but a sacrifice fly that I hit in the 17th inning that drove in the winning run against the New York Yankees. This was as memorable as a hit because, being a player with little power, hitting a ball deep enough in the outfield was not an easy chore for me.
Developing young players to be good clutch hitters is one of my goals as a hitting coach. Of course, the best clutch hitters are generally the hitters who are the most fundamentally sound with their hitting mechanics. Having good fundamentals always give players the best chance at success. However, just having good fundamentals does not guarantee a great clutch hitter and all hitters can be taught to become better in the clutch. I have known many players who have the knack of going 1 for 4 in games for a.250 batting average, but that one hit always seemed to be a big hit for the team. Some players just have a sense of the moment and an inner confidence that they are the right person for the situation. Good clutch hitters are able to focus on the moment. They do this by focusing on the things they can control, which is simply taking a good swing at a good pitch. These clutch hitters do not over-swing, try to hard or get too "up-tight" to perform.
With this in mind, following are coaching tips to help ballplayers become good clutch hitters:
1. Explain to players what was alluded to above, that "clutch hitting" involves more than just an RBI hit or a game winning hit. For example, just getting on base with a walk or single can be very "clutch."
2. Put players in known clutch situations in practice as much as possible. "Two outs, bases loaded, game on the line and here is the pitch," is a good batting practice idea. When players are put in clutch situations often enough, they will develop the sense of having "been there before," which may enhance their confidence and give them reassuring feelings.
3. Explain to players that no one will remember for very long if they make an out but everyone will remember, for a long time, if they come through with a big hit. In this manner, players will begin to feel like they do not have much to lose, which should ease the pressure. This also serves to have players look forward to the opportunity.
4. Good coaches do not over-coach by making more of a situation than it is. This can be done by staying calm and just telling hitters to "get a good pitch to hit." Coaches should be careful not to change their demeanor or overload players with distracting instructional tips, especially during intense game situations.
5. Ask players in practice who wants to be up to bat with the game on the line. Most if not all will say they want to be, even if they are not sure. This "mental preparation" will help players prepare for the situation before they are in the actual situation.
6. Occasionally saying to different players that you want them to be the player up to bat with the game on the line shows your confidence in the player, which should help the player's confidence.
7. Coaches should not show disappointment in front of players when they do not come through in the clutch, so that players will not shy away from wanting to be up in that same clutch situation the next time. Parents of players should be sure and follow this point also, because kids definitely do not want to disappoint their parents.
Finally, one thing that I did as a player was to begin preparing myself for game ending situations. When a game was close in score, I would begin about the sixth or seventh inning to visualize being up in the last inning with the game on the line. This was great preparation for the eventual situation where I came to bat with the game in the balance.
Former major league baseball player, Jack Perconte gives baseball hitting tips and batting practice advice for ballplayers of all ages. His baseball playing lessons, books and advice can be found at http://www.baseballhittinglessons.com/baseball Jack is the author of two books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete - his positive parenting advice and books can be found at http://positiveparentinginsports.com
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