Great hitters in professional baseball make swinging a bat look as easy as swinging your arm. But while the movements are more or less similar, the swing requires a whole lot of practice before coming close to the skill of an MLB player.
Maybe you’ve never played baseball and want to try it out for the first time, or maybe you just want to sharpen your skills before the next local tournament or charity game.
Whatever your reason, learning how to swing a baseball bat is one of the most fundamental aspects of playing baseball. And to swing right, you first have to get a few things ready.
Before Batting Practice
Find the right baseball bat.
This is especially important if you’re training children for Little League baseball. Some bats are too heavy and can cause unwanted injuries.
A good test to see if the bat is the right fit is if the kid can hold it for 30 seconds without faltering, with his/her arm extended outwards and parallel to the ground.
If the kid is drooping and losing balance, switch the bat for a lighter one. You can upgrade to more standard bats as time goes by.
To know how light a bat is, feel its weight or check the denoted length-to-weight ratio. This is known as the “drop weight” and is indicated by a negative number, with a smaller number signifying a lighter bat (e.g., a -5 bat is heavier than a -10 bat).
The other major accessory is the ball. Once again, this applies mostly to kids and you should use a lighter ball to build their confidence and get them into the game.
A practice baseball is great for this and a tennis ball also works as a light makeshift baseball. The main objective here is to make sure to get the batting stance right, hold the bat properly, and practice proper swinging of the bat.
If these three key areas are well mastered, one can then move on to the more standard baseball accessories.
Getting Your Stance Right
All the other steps are dependent on this first one. No matter how well you hold your bat, if you’re not assuming the proper batting stance, you’re likely to mess up your baseball swing.
1. Line Up Your Feet With Your Shoulders
To get into this position, set your feet shoulder-width apart. You won’t have a problem if they’re slightly wider.
Make sure they are parallel to each other on the batter’s box. To further enhance your movement, rest on the balls of your feet.
If you’re right-handed, the opposite side of your body should face the pitcher. If you bat with your left hand, the right side of your body should face the pitcher; don’t hit a baseball with your non-dominant hand.
Make sure that your body is perpendicular to the home plate.
2. Keep Your Knees Bent
Bend your knees, but not so much that it interferes with your stance, just enough that you enhance your balance.
This is also why shorter people have more balance than tall people; being close to the ground enhances a lower center of gravity hence increasing your stability.
You’ll know you’re in the wrong position if you stick your butt out, have no spring in your knees, or you’ve made your upper body lean too far in front.
3. Plant Your Back Foot and Stay Ready
Again, this is another strategy to enhance your stability. Proper balance on the feet equals more power.
Make sure they’re well-positioned on the batter’s box and your back foot is in such a position where if you swing the bat, you can twist it, together with the rest of your body. This swing helps with more bat speed and power.
If you’ve assumed the right stance, make sure your body is not too tight to the point of prohibiting fluid motion in your swing. Loosen up your shoulders, straighten out your neck, and shake out your ankles to confirm this.
Having the Right Grip
If you’ve gotten your stance right, you want to make sure that your bat is in the right position to swing and hit the ball.
1. Hold It In Your Fingers and Line Up Your Knuckles
Don’t hold it in your palms. As much as it feels right, it inhibits the flexibility of your wrists.
For a proper grip, make sure the handle runs across the fingers of both your hands.
Don’t hold it too high (make sure the bottom knob and the pinky finger of your bottom hand are close) and don’t hold it too firmly. Only increase your grip when you’re close to hitting the ball for maximum power.
When holding your bat, make sure the knuckles of both your hands are in a straight line. To make this more comfortable, try the box grip i.e., positioning your fingers such that the knuckles resemble the straight edges of a box.
2. Position It Over Your Back Shoulder
Hover it over your shoulder such that it’s at a 45-degree angle. Don’t lay it straight onto your shoulder; the only body part the bat touches is your hands, anything else (shoulders, neck, etc.) is out of bounds.
You want to get in this position so that you’re ready to swing at the baseball. Holding it any other way doesn’t allow you to generate force and react as fast with your swing.
For more effectiveness, make sure that your back elbow is at shoulder height.
3. Ready Your Stance
Make sure no part of your body deviates from the initial stance. Ensure that you have proper balance, are comfortable in your position, and that your entire body is in a straight line i.e., you have your toes, knees, hips, and shoulders aligned.
If all of this seems right, you’re ready to properly swing your bat.
Swinging the Bat
All the above techniques are to prepare you for the perfect swing. If you’re confident in your stance and have a strong grip, you’re sure to make solid contact with the ball when you swing.
1. Step Up With Your Front Foot
Right from when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, make a slight movement with your front foot. This readies you for a heavier impact and ensures that you have a solid base when you swing for the ball.
When making this movement, make sure to not interfere with your primary stance or your good grip. You want to be just a tiny bit loose, but not too loose that you sacrifice balance.
2. Ready Your Hips
Having a good swing depends on your hip movement. This is because they initiate the rest of the movement by creating momentum for when the bat makes contact with the baseball.
When in the strike zone, rotate your hips clockwise if right-handed and anti-clockwise if left-handed. Once again, maintain good balance.
If you do this well, your shoulders will soon follow suit.
3. Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Your eye should be on the ball, not on the pitcher. Keep your head low and your line of vision straight at the ball throughout this whole movement.
Shifting your sight to any other surrounding features makes you lose concentration and interferes with your hand-eye coordination, increasing your probability of striking out or hitting pop-ups.
4. Turn Your Shoulders and Strike-Through
When at hitting distance, start your movement from the bottom up – feet to hips to shoulders. This should be in a quick motion.
Make sure the tip of the bat is not too far from your body.
Strike the ball and follow your swing through by extending the bat to your opposite shoulder. This adds to your initially geared-up momentum and allows you to hit the ball harder.
Here, your back knee should be in line with your back hip.
While you can follow through with both your hands holding the bat, also try it with a backhand (holding the bat with your bottom hand and releasing the top hand) and see how it works.
Bonus Tip: Have the Right Mentality
Mentality is a major part of any sport, and it’s what sometimes differentiates two similar teams. In this case, if you think too much about whether or not you should swing your bat, you’re likely to strikeout.
When the ball is coming at you, have it in your mind that you’re going to strike it with as much power as possible. You might still miss it anyway, but a good hitter exhausts every single advantage at his/her disposal.
It takes practice to learn how to swing a baseball bat. If you want to perfect your swing, set aside some time during the week and try it out with a batting tee.
If you’re consistent enough, you’ll build muscle memory and the movement will become second nature.
Who knows? With time, you might just find you have the swing of a Major League baseball player.