Launch Angle, Changing Your Swing, and Taking Effective Batting Practice

The baseball swing for every ballplayer is ever changing.  All the way up to the MLB, players are constantly working and tweaking their swings, players are constantly talking with each other and their coaches about their swings.  A lot of players growing up don’t realize how mental the game is.  They all hear it’s 90% mental, but why?  It’s not just during the game that is the mental part.  Every time you take batting practice you need to think about what is working and what isn’t.

Over the last few years there has been a change in swing culture.  The goal used to be to hit low line drives, and now it is to hit deep fly balls in the gap or over the fence.  When you’re going through the process of changing your swing, you need to be extra mindful and you need to work on it every single day.

Ever since Josh Donaldson went on Studio 42 and gave us all his two cents on hitting ground balls, virtually all the coaches in America have turned their players on to hitting deep fly balls hoping for extra base hits.

Here’s the full video – CLICK HERE

Here’s the important part (5:22 in the full video) – CLICK HERE

I am entirely bought into the thought process Donaldson describes in the video.  If I want to get anywhere with my baseball career (especially as a corner outfielder/ 1st baseman), I’m not going to get there hitting ground balls through the four hole.  So I completely changed my swing.  I have completely bought into working every single day on my spine angle and making sure it’s perfect on every swing.  It’s to the point where I believe that when almost anything goes wrong, I feel like it is because of my spine angle.

There is one thing I’ve noticed about this swing though.  High heat is impossible to catch if you repeat this swing no matter where the ball is.  I say high heat because it’s only a problem if you’re facing velo.  If not, it’s not a problem.  The uppercut swing is direct and at a perfect angle to the low ball, but when the ball is up, the swing becomes very long to the ball.

There’s two ways to go about dealing with this;

1. Do what Mike Trout does: Take high fastballs.  Now, this sounds easy, but there’s a reason Mike Trout is the only person I’m calling out here.  He is the only one that is able to consistently take fastballs up… for strikes.  Yes, just because it’s a strike, doesn’t mean you have to swing.  Mike Trout is successful for many reasons, but one of them is because he knows his swing and will not swing at a fastball, even if it is for a strike if he’s not going to be on time.  I challenge you to find a video of Mike Trout being beat by a high fastball.

2. Learn how to hit it.  This one also sounds easy but obviously it’s not.  Baseball is hard.  If you want to have this uppercut swing, but also want to be able to hit middle/ up fastballs, you CAN NOT start with your spinal angle set which is what some players do to cheat to those low pitches they can crush.  You need to start with a normal spine angle, recognize ball down, and set your spinal angle while the ball is coming.  This is entirely possible and is what most ball players do without even knowing it.  While it gives you a better chance to hit the high pitch, you will no longer have as much of the advantage you had with the low pitches with your pre set spinal angle.

Next time you’re taking batting practice, try to find which zones you like the best and which ones you don’t like and find out why it’s like that.  Instead of mindlessly hitting, learn about your swing.  The more you know your swing, the better your approach at the plate can be and the better your swing will be.  You can either be aware of what you don’t like and take those pitches and/ or make minor changes in your swing to correct those flaws over time.

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The Importance of Hitting Every Day

Most people say hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in all of sports.  That being said, you’re given a lot of room to work with – you only have to get a hit 30% of the time to be an all star.  The only way to get better then everybody else is to practice more often, harder and smarter than everybody else (ESPECIALLY when you’re young).

At a young age, keep it simple.  First of all, your kid needs to be strong enough to swing all the way through the ball.  If the ball pushes his bat back on contact, he’s losing power.  To fix this, mike trout 2the best way to get stronger is to hit bigger, heavier balls.  Second, tell your son or student to aim for a certain part of the cage.  Young players don’t understand how their body is moving the same way an older athlete does.  By giving him the simple goal to hit a ball in a certain spot, his body will naturally create more efficient mechanics.  It won’t create perfect mechanics, but he will be able to fix a lot of kinks in his swing without you having to tell him about them all.

It is imperative that you hit at least every other day.  Now that I’m in college, I hit every day.  I’ll take one or two days off a week.  Two or three times a year I’ll take a week or more.

However you’re practicing, whether it’s off a tee, front toss, live arm or off a machine… you’re getting better.  Especially if you’re in high school – those who practice everyday get rewarded, period.  You’ll get better, your coaches will know you’re a grinder and college scouts love grinders.  People will always tell you how many people are working harder canothan you, but if you do an hour of extra batting practice after everyone else is done, you’re working harder than MOST high school ball players.

Once you get yourself in the cage, it’s not just about hitting the ball.  Work on something.  Pick one thing to work on and do it until it becomes natural.  Pick just one thing so you don’t confuse yourself and mess up your swing.



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Choosing a Travel Ball Team

This post is for players that are in high school.  If you’re not in high school yet, don’t worry about getting recruited, focus on becoming a better ball player.  Learn to love the game of baseball because that is the best way to learn how to play with heart, and in the end, college coaches love players who play like they love the game.

That being said, once you’re old enough to start looking for a college, getting yourself on a great travel team is crucial to getting recruited.  There are a few things you need to think about when choosing a team.

1. Get on a Good Team

Scouts want to be away from their players as little as possible so you’ll notice that the majority of them start to show up when playoffs start.  They assume that the good players have made it to the playoffs.  If you find yourself on a team who can’t make it to playoffs, you’re not going to get seen by most scouts.

2. Find a Coach Who’s Goal is to Get You Recruited

There are tons of teams these days that are just trying to take your money.  My coach had been coaching and getting kids recruited for years so he had relationships with plenty of coaches.  You want to find someone like that, and there are plenty like that.  If you find yourself with a coach who at any point is unsure of what the next step is, you are with the wrong coach.  You want someone who can guide you through the entire process and don’t be afraid to go out and find someone new.  Your coach should be there for you, not for money.

3. Associate Yourself with People with the Same Goals

If you surround yourself with people who want to succeed you will be pushed to succeed.  Also, if you play on the same team as guys who are just playing for fun, that looks really bad in front of scouts and they will immediately discredit you.  Scouts are looking for guys who want to win and want to be pushed, guys who don’t care are a cancer to the team.  If you find yourself on a team like this, leave immediately because if a scout sees you as a cancer that is a hard first impression to shed.

What College Coaches Are Looking For

I learned a lot on my journey from high school to college ball.  About what it takes to succeed at the college level and about what coaches are looking for in their recruits.  If I alihad known the things I learned I would have done more to try to improve my mindset going into school.  You hear that baseball is 90% mental, but it takes too long for you to realize why.

Yes, coaches are looking for raw talent but they’re looking for more than that.  A few key core values are specifically important to being a college baseball player.  Playing ball while going to school is hard and it takes a special kind of person.  You can’t be halfway into it, you must be 100% bought in.  Below are some core values that will help you through the grind:

  1. Grit – How gritty you are tells how easily you will be swayed from your goals.  Be honest with yourself when taking this test to see how gritty you are.  People with a lot of grit are also called grinders and they have a lot of determination.
  2. High Confidence – You need to have a lot of confidence.  You can’t go into your freshman year thinking you don’t belong you won’t succeed.  Any doubt in yourself will show on the field.
  3. Responsibility – You need to be able to take responsibility for your actions.  If you’re always pointing the finger at someone else then you’ll never do what you need to in order to succeed.  If you blame the coaches, people and requirements pushing and pulling on you from all sides then you won’t find ways to better yourself to overcome these obstacles.

My Story

I got recruited in Arizona.  I firmly believed that the manner in which I played meant a lot more then how well I played.  Something got into me and even though it was a hundred plus degrees, I was hustling all over the place and was enthusiastic about each play.

It’s also important to know that what your high school and travel ball coaches think about you is important.  No matter how close you are with them, they won’t put their name on the line to give a good word to college coaches.  If you want your coach to say good things about you, prove to him that you deserve it.  My scout team coach knew I worked hard and I know he told every coach that asked about me.  That goes a LONG  way coming from a well trusted coach.

My senior year, I had already committed and my scout team had a banquet.  My future college coach was the keynote speaker.  He talked about a player he had and in what ways he was a great player to have as a coach.  Not because he’s their best player but because he knows that he never has to worry about how hard he’s working.  College coaches have a LOT on their plate; if you can take the edge off for them, then they’ll love you.  Work your butt off so they know you’re reaching your maximum potential.  Get good grades so they don’t have to worry about you in the classroom.  In fact, players who get good grades are making their coaches look better without them having to do anything… they love that.