By Steve Nicollerat
Coach Nicollerat is the founder of Coaching Baseball Right and a veteran of 40 years coaching varsity high school baseball, youth baseball teams and camps. His is also a National Master Certified Epstein Hitting Instructor
The very first thing a young player wants to do when struggling with their hitting is change their mechanics or change their swing. The other day a dad cam in and said his daughter hit the ball great off the T. But, when she got into live pitching she was often late and hit a lot of balls into the ground. I watched the young player take batting practice and noticed that her timing was off. She was getting her front heel planted when the ball was about 3 feet in front of her front foot. She was very late. She had no time to go thru her proper movements and was just reacting to the ball. The result: very late and hit the ball into the ground.
When your hitters are struggling, the very first thing to take a look at is their timing. I put them in the cage and have someone throw (or you can use a pitching machine if you absolutely have to). Put a cone about 13-15 feet in front of their front foot. Get a video of the swing and see where the ball is in relation to that cone when the front heel hits the ground. It should be at the cone. For my young girl it was way past the cone and just a few feet in front of her front foot. She was late.
So, I had her try to get her front foot planted earlier, when the ball was at that cone marker. We threw pitches, and she tried to have front heel plant at the proper time. I called out if she was early or late and she made the adjustment. This was a very simple thing to do.
We can discuss why the cone would be placed 12-15 feet in front of the front foot. But that is where many/most hitters seem to have heel plant. I do think that point is up for discussion. But the general idea here is to make the kids aware of timing as a fix, rather than an immediate change of their mechanics. This drill will give you an idea of how to get the kids to fix a timing issue.
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