“You want to talk about practice? PRACTICE?”
Yes, but more specifically batting practice. All too often my teammates, and younger kids that I help coach, go through batting practice without any intent. What I mean by that is, they go in just to take their “hacks” and get out. They don’t work on things, try to perfect things, or go in with any plan at all. They step into the box, swing away, step out and do nothing to improve during that time.
Time in the cage, especially the time before a game starts, is crucial to in-game performance. Sure, it is a lot of fun to step in and go into home run derby mode and try to hit the ball as far as you can. However, the best hitters use that time to maximize their swing. If you can find a BP pitcher who can throw the ball where you want it, it’s time that needs to be utilized. If you are a pull hitter and don’t care about taking the ball to the opposite field, let the pitcher know and have him focus on your power spots. Let it eat. Work on your swing, so that when the pitcher in the game makes a mistake in those hot zones, you make it count, instead of fouling the ball off. If you are an all-fields hitter, use that time to have the BP pitcher throw in-then-out. Work on your balance at the plate and your ability to adjust to the side of the plate the pitch is thrown. Take it seriously, because it can be the difference between a pop-out with the game on the line, or the game winning double down the line.
If you watch batting practice at a MLB game you will certainly see your fair share of dingers, but if you really watch, you can see the pros are working on things in the cage. You’ll see guys letting the ball travel as deep as they can and taking it the other way, or trying to work on getting the ball in the air more. My college coach always told me, as was not the most fleet of foot, that he would rather see me pop up every pitch in BP, than hit a bunch of ground balls to the right side. He said that, knowing that if I dialed in my swing after the pop-ups, I would start hitting line drives. Practice your game and what will work best for you as a hitter. Work on getting better with every pitch and that intent will translate into the game. Then, when your turn through the order comes, step up to the plate knowing that you put in the work it takes to have your swing ready to go, and take a daddy hack.