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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baseball Hitting Drills - Tips and Drills For Using Hitting Stick Trainers

By Nick Dixon

There are many versions of the "ball-on-a-rod" trainer. The first and original version was the HitnStik*. Then later came other versions including the Hit2win Trainer^ and the SKLZ Target Trainer. All of these are handheld units. They have different names but they all are great trainers to teach and train young players. All of these baseball trainers basically work and perform the same. These trainers are some of the most popular baseball batting trainers used today.

The popularity come from the benefits they offer the baseball player, baseball coach, and the baseball parent. You can learn to hit without having to chase, pick-up or retrieve a single ball. The unit is portable and requires no setup. It is welcomed in complexes and parks because it allows safe pre-game warm-up, requires little space, and does not damage fences. It is important to know the proper angles when using this product.

As the inventor of the HitnStik*, Hit2win Trainer^, and SKLZ Target+ Trainer, I sometimes cringe when I see someone using the product incorrectly. First, the product is to be used as a "still" ball trainer. You should not move the ball when using these trainers. Second, the holder must stand at the proper angle to the batter and direct the ball at the correct angle to the batter. I often see coaches and parents working with players when I visit a park. I sometimes get frustrated because I observe the product being used incorrectly.

The key to proper use of any hand-held batting device is KNOWING AND USING THE CORRECT ANGLE FOR THE DRILL YOU ARE DOING! If you do not direct or point the ball at the proper angle, the batter will always make poor contact. The first thing to remember is that the holder should always direct the rod and ball toward the hitter's back foot. This simple rule insures that proper bat-to-ball contact is made. If the angle is wrong, the end of the bat will hit behind the ball and the bat will never actually touch the ball. This is what I call "coning out".

The 4X5 Baseball and Softball Pre-game Warm-up Drill

The batter takes 5 swings at 5 different ball locations. Remember to direct the ball toward the belly button or back foot of the batter.

1. HIP TURNER LOCATION - The holder stands slightly behind the batter directing the ball at the batter's bat pocket. The purpose of these swings is to make the batter use the hips as the batter turns and hits the ball. The batter should take a step and drive the ball.

2. INSIDE STRIKE - The holder moves toward the direction of the pitcher from the batter. This location simulates hitting a pitch over the inside 3rd of the plate. The ball should be positioned slightly in front of the batters front foot. The batter should attack the inside strike earlier to keep from getting jammed.

3. MIDDLE STRIKE CONTACT - The holder will move around a couple more feet. The ball will be positioned in a location behind the front foot. The batter will drive the bat through the box. The ball hit is on the middle 3rd of the plate. The ball should be positioned at a location inside the batters front foot. This teaches the batter to allow the ball down the middle to get inside the front foot so that maximum power can be generated during the swing. Allowing the ball to pass inside the front foot allows the batter to use the front foot and leg as a anchor and leverage to generate a more powerful swing.

4. AWAY STRIKE LOCATION - The holder will move around a couple more feet to give the batter a ball to hit that is on the outer 3rd of the plate. The ball should be at a location just inside the batters back foot. The batter swings and drives the ball in a direction that would be to the opposite field. The batter may have to take a slight inward step with the front foot to properly execute this swing.

The holder changes location and height and allows the batter to take 6 swings at each location. Every player on the team can take 30 warm-up swings each in less than 10 minutes.

Coaching Points:

1. Make sure the ball is directed at the batter's back foot.

2. Make sure the batter does not over stride.

3. The batter should keep the head still and the head should stay down with the eyes on the ball throughout the swing.

4. The batter does not move. The holder will change the location of the ball by moving.

5. The height of the ball should be raised and lowered in the strike zone to give the batter swings at both high and low strikes.

6. Make sure that the hitting area is safe with no one within 15 feet of the holder or the batter.

7. Make sure that the batter is swinging in a direction that is free of persons should the batter lose the grip on the bat.

8. Check to make sure the batter is using proper grip, stance and stride mechanics.

9. Positive reinforcement should be given when the batter makes good solid contact.

10. The holder should make sure that the trainer safety strap is used to prevent the holder from losing their grip on the trainer when the batter hits the ball.

*HitnStik is a registered trademark belong to Easton Sports. ^Hit2win is a registered trademark of Nedco Sports Products. +SKLZ Target is a registered trademark of Pro Performance Sports.

The Baseball Coaching Digest has a great selection of BASEBALL COACHING and TRAINING ARTICLES. Check out the Bat Action Hitting Machine baseball pitching simulator. This high speed training machine is 100% Guaranteed to raise Batting Averages and has a full year warranty.

Nick Dixon is the President and founder of Nedco Sports, the "Hit2win Company". Dixon is also an active and full time high school baseball coach with over 25 years experience. Dixon is widely recognized as an expert in the area of baseball training, practice and skill development. Coach Dixon is better known as the inventor of several of baseball and softball's most popular training products such as the Original BatAction Hitting Machine, SKLZ Derek Jeter Hurricane Hitting Machine, Original Hitting Stick, Hit2win Trainer, SKLZ Target Trainer, SKLZ Derek Jeter ZipnHit Pro, and Strikeback Trainer. Dixon is also a contributing writer for BaseballCoachingDigest, the Baseball 2Day Coaches Journal, Batting Cage Builder, the American Baseball Directory and the Hit2win Baseball Coaches Monthly Newsletter. Dixon has 5 blogs related to baseball training including the BaseballCoachingDigest Blog, CoachesBest Training Blog, Hurricane Machine Training Blog, Batting Cage Buyers Blog, and the Bat Action Training Blog.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick