(Frank is a 14-year MLB veteran. He is a 1992 graduate of Smithtown East HS, where he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 10th round of the MLB Draft. He compiled a .291 AVG in over 3,800 at bats. He gives lessons for Steel Sports Academy at Baseball Heaven.)
by Frank Catalanotto
The truth is that everyone is different, so when it comes to baseball and hitting drills, you need to find out which ones work for you and which ones don’t. The repetition of the drills is so important. Part of getting better is teaching muscle memory–especially for younger kids. Here are some that worked for me.
One arm drills might be my favorite because each arm gets strengthened individually. I would get a small, lightweight bat and have someone flip balls to me. With just my front arm, I would take 10-15 swings and then switch to the back arm. I always wanted to make sure each arm and hand were working correctly, focusing on staying inside the ball making sure I was leading with the knob of the bat. Also, I would reach out toward the pitcher with the bat after contact to ensure I was getting the most amount of extension possible. I would do one arm drills every day before batting practice. By doing each arm separately, you can find any weakness or flaw that could be the reason for any struggles you may be having at the plate.
After I did my one arm drills, I’d always go right into front flips. The coach would stand about 15 feet away behind an L screen and flip balls underhanded. I liked to do these after the one arm drills in order to now have both arms and hands working together. I would have the coach flip 5 balls away, 5 in the middle and 5 inside, then I’d finish off with 5 more away. Since the speed of the pitched balls wasn’t very fast, I felt like I could really concentrate on feeling the mechanics of my swing and make sure it was working correctly.
A third drill I liked to do was a rapid fire drill. This was especially effective when I felt like my hands were slow. Have the coach flip about 10 balls from the side quickly one after the other giving you just enough time to get your hands back. Make sure not to stride as this is just a drill for your hands. Take a breather after 10 and then do another 10. This drill will quicken up your hands and really allow you to feel the whip of your top hand.
The last drill I recommend and that I used quite a bit when I was a teenager at home is the wiffle golf ball/broom handle drill. First, cut a broom handle to a comfortable size and get a bunch of wiffle golf balls. Next, have someone flip the ball to you and try to hit it. It’s not easy, especially at first, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. The theory is if you can hit a tiny golf ball with a broom stick that’s only about an inch-thick, imagine how much easier it will be when you have to hit a much bigger ball with a much thicker bat. This drill really improves eye/hand coordination and it’s great to do before a game! Also, it can be done individually with each arm one at a time. You don’t even need to have a partner for this drill; simply tie a string through the wiffle golf ball and attach it to the ceiling somewhere in the garage or basement. The ball will always come back to you.