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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The 4 Things That Make a Great Hitter

The 4 Things That Make a Great Hitter
By guest author: Todd Thomas

There are 4 things that make a can make a GREAT baseball or softball hitter. FOUR CRITICAL THINGS. Leave just one thing out and you can forget about greatness. Be absent of two or three or all four and your going from Good, to Average, to Poor, to finding another easier athletic endeavor.

These 4 things are...Potential, Technique, Work Ethic, and Mental Approach. Let's discuss each and their importance in being a great hitter.

1. Potential: This one a coach has no real control over. If a hitter does not have the potential to hit like Alex Rodriguez, then I dont' care who their instructor is they cannot make him/her hit like Alex no matter what they are taught nor no matter how bad they or their parents want that. No more than Hank Haney (Tiger Woods swing coach) can teach any given golfer the same stuff he teaches Tiger and turn that golfer into Tiger Woods. It can't be done. The only real control an Instructor has is to help a hitter to hit to their own potential whatever that is. It may be an outstanding Rec player. Maybe that's your potential. OR Maybe a really good select player or a top high school player, a top College prospect, or maybe a pro prospect. Potential does come in varying degrees that is for sure. Some may even seem to have the ability to stretch their potential, but I would submit to you that the potential they reach was always within their own God given potential. Part of a player's natural ability to fulfill their own potential shows in their ability or lack thereof to "take it between the lines". Some players are great batting practice hitters but when they step into the batters box, they just can't seem to hit(consistently or at all) like they do in the cage or at practice. It's a frustrating and perplexing phenomenon, but it's real. The bottom line fact, and it's hard for most if not all players and their parents to accept this, is that some players just don't have it "built in" to their natural ablility/potential to perform between the lines to a high level or to the level they expect they should. Some players have the desire to be great and I'll talk more about desire later in this article. However, if the potential is not there then I'm sorry neither will be greatness.

2. Technique: When good technique is put together with good potential, good things definitely will happen for a hitter. Some players with tremendous potential and natural ability can have horrible technique and still do very well. However, in my opinion, even though they may be good they are NOT reaching their true potential without good technique. Players with average to below average potential with bad technique certainly shouldn't expect much. Conversely, players with average to below average potential can expect to be much better and have the ability to make great strides toward their own personal potential with good technique. So what technique can help hitters reach their personal potential? It is the technique used by the best Major League and Collegiate hitters. What technique is that? That depends of what you call it. Mike Epstein calls it Rotational Hitting. Some people have a problem with that term for whatever reason. Mostly because they haven't a clue of what it really means or what we specifically teach from the beginning of the swing to the end. But they "assume" and are wrong. Okay, so call the technique what you want if it makes you or someone else feel better. Call it The Big League Swing. Call it a Hybrid Swing. Call it whatever you want, but it simply is the technique of the best Big Leaguers and Collegiate players. It should be noted that some current and former players from these categories have no clue what their true technique is/was and have no clue how to actually teach it either. For you or any hitter to reach their potential, a hitter must have good technique/mechanics.

3. Work Ethic: Along side work ethic is something I mentioned earlier and that is desire. Without desire, there is no sustainable work ethic within a player. A hitter MUST have the desire to be great and because of that they MUST work hard at reaching their potential. I have seen many players with loads of potential. They have learned the best technique and yet they don't work at it. They wonder what's wrong with them, or the technique, or maybe even with their teacher. I say this to every hitter... There is no SHORTCUT to being good(and certainly not great). It takes work and it takes it for an extended period of time. In fact, it takes work until the day they stop playing the game. The best hitters in the world are Major League ball players and the top college softball players. My question to you is... How often do they take batting practice? If you answered "Every Day", you are pretty much right on. Is there a day off here and there? Sure. But for all intents and purposes, they take BP EVERY DAY! Why do they do this? They are already great. What do they need to work on it for? I'll tell you. Because hitting is a lifelong pursuit. One never has "it" figured out permanently. If the best players practice every day, then why do some hitters want to take a "lesson" and then just show up for games and expect to be good?!? It's inexplicable. Yet I see it all the time. I believe that the One Who Works The Hardest, HITS The Hardest! Work, work, work. Take a break and then work some more. Only then should a hitter expect to be their best.

4. Mental Approach: Without a solid mental approach going to and at the plate, a player can only ever expect to be good, but not great. How a player thinks in the batter's box and prior to getting there is what can make a good hitter a great hitter. There are several schools of thought on this. I say subscribe to one and APPLY IT! One side of the mental game is confidence and focus. The other side of the mental game is being prepared and thinking along with the pitcher. Mike Epstein believes the best mental approach lies in anticipating pitches. Having a plan, using acquired information (either from observation or from teammates), and anticipating pitches. Now I am not going to get into the specifics here on this. There is much more to it and to cover than I want to go into here. Mike Epstein's book "The Mental Side Of Hitting" is a good resource. I know one young hitter who has read this book SIX times and guess what, IT SHOWS! There are others resources out there on having a quality at-bat or being a thinking hitter. There really is some good information on this and those hitters that want to reach their potential are the ones who will seek it out, dive into it, and apply it. Many hitters short change themselves by selling short how important it is to have a solid mental approach at the plate. They hear it and it goes in one ear and out the other. Meanwhile, they want their instructor to just help them to perfect their technique to make them better and to reach their potential. They won't and their coach can't if their technique is already solid. Get into the mental side of hitting if you DESIRE to be GREAT.

In closing... As the title to this article would indicate, in order to be a great hitter and/or to reach YOUR maximum potential, you must have all 4 of these things. Think about it. What good is any one of these things without AT LEAST one other element? Without one, you can only expect to be good. Absent of two, a hitter will be average AT BEST. With only one element, it's all but hopeless. Do we even need to consider none? Not really. The good news is that 3 of the 4 are simply a decision. All any player has to do is to decide to have good technique, a good work ethic, and a good mental approach. Only potential/natural ability is out of your control. If God has blessed you with natural ability, then fulfill you're potential by deciding to apply yourself in the other areas. Finally... if you DECIDE to leave out one of the 3 areas that are under your control, now you'll understand the results you'll get.

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