Practice on both sides is key to switch-hitting

Youth Sports

October 28, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- What is the best way to teach young players to switch-hit?

Jeff Nelson, Annapolis

DEAR JEFF -- The best way to learn to hit in general is through practice. The drills we use in our instructional programs help develop the building blocks that are necessary to establish the mechanics needed to hit live pitching. Those drills must be performed consistently from both sides of the plate before having a player attempt to switch-hit against live pitching.

It can be counterproductive to have a player switch to his or her opposite side during batting practice or against live pitching if he or she hasn't worked on developing the swing first through drill work.

Of course, some kids are naturals and can walk up and hit the ball from either side of the plate. But to really develop as a switch-hitter, a player must put equal time and energy into learning to hit from both sides.

The vast majority of us are physically weaker when hitting from one side of the plate than we are from the other. If you try to hit live pitching from your weaker side without developing the individual components of the swing and the muscles involved, you are more likely to develop bad habits in an effort to swing harder or hit the ball farther.

So, when teaching a player to switch-hit, start with the basics. Use a standard soft toss to achieve the proper grip with loose hands and the "door knocking" knuckles lined up. This unlocks the wrists and increases bat speed. Use the batting tee to develop weight shift. ("You have to go back to go forward.")

Do short toss from the front, tossing pitches to the outside part of the plate, to help the player learn to stride toward the pitcher and keep the front shoulder in. We also have a lob toss drill that helps players keep their weight back, a stickball drill that develops balance and other more advanced drills.

These drills can be found in our instructional books and DVDs as well as in the "Parent and Coach Clipboard" section of our Web site at Ripken Baseball.com.

Once each component of the swing has been developed, let the player face live pitching and make notes as to what drills will help further improve that hitter's approach - from either side of the plate.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askripken@baltimoresun.com.

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