I initially wanted to try to teach you how to hit a softball, but then thought better of it as some people just might not be able to hit the ball, no matter how hard they try or how good my advice is. There are also a million different approaches a batter can take up at the plate, so who am I to tell you my approach is the best, or the only way you can hit the ball? I instead decided I would give you all the knowledge you would, in theory, need to try to hit the ball, because when facing a top softball pitcher, her pitch could reach the plate in just thirty five hundredths of a second. Hear that Chad Masterson? By the time you have finished reading this paragraph, you would have already had time to watch three pitches whiz by you, probably strike-out looking, and start your walk back to the dugout. Let’s go into this with an open mind though, as the first step to hitting the ball is being in the right mental state.
#1 Exude Confidence
You may still be questioning, “What’s so hard? You just have to walk up there, look at the ball, and swing. Of course I’m confident about that.” I guess in some cases, you’re right Chad Masterson. In others, though you could not be more wrong. You have obviously never been looking a pitcher in the eye while she examines you to figure out what pitch you absolutely hate (like that high and inside pitch, that seems to come at least five miles per hour faster than that low and outside pitch.) You have to step into that box with absolute confidence that you are about to hit that ball. Once you step both feet into the box, stand tall and exude confidence. Let your body language show that you are not scared of anything the pitcher is going to throw your way. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to how to get you into the box.
#.5 Timing and Contact Point
Before we even go into the mechanics of successfully hitting a ball, we need to talk about a little something called contact point. For a pitch down the middle you’re going to make contact with the ball right as it begins to cross the plate. For an inside pitch (the balls that are on your side of the plate), you’re going to need to start your swing just a tiny bit earlier than you would with a pitch right down the middle. Your contact point (where your bat makes contact with the ball) should be just a few inches out in front of home plate. This allows you to pull the ball to left field. For an outside pitch (the balls on the opposite side of the plate) you’re going to have to let the ball get slightly deeper, maybe allow it to cross the plate an inch or two at most. You’re taking that ball to right field.
Almost every batter has their own unique stance that they have become comfortable with through years of practice. I’ve acquired what is called an “open stance.” This means that once I step into the box, facing home plate, I stand with my front leg pulled slightly further back away from the plate than my back leg. You should feel more weight on your back leg than your front if you’re doing it right. Now, what to do with the bat? Right handed hitters should have their hands stacked at the bottom of the bat with the left hand under the right; lefties, opposite but still at the bottom of the bat please. Now, I happen to be an overanxious hitter, so I sit my bat patiently on my back shoulder until the pitcher begins her motion. Once she begins her motion, I lift my bat about six inches off my shoulder. Now that you have a stance Chad, we can move on to the hard parts.
#3 Leg Drive
Since I’ve set you up with an open stance. You get a more complex step towards the ball. Isn’t that fun? Your front leg should be the first thing moving towards the ball. You should lift your leg up and step in line with your back foot. Don’t stride out towards the pitcher too much, just past shoulder length will do Chad. As your leg is stepping, your arms are released and as your arms are moving through the ball, your back hip should be driving towards the pitcher. Hard. The key to hitting the ball hard and far is a powerful, explosive leg drive. The faster your back hip slams shut, the harder the ball is going to come off of the bat.
#4 Bat Path
Now, arguably the most difficult part of hitting is getting your bat path (essentially where your arms are going on their way to the ball) correct. On the way to your contact point your right elbow should start to almost dig into your rib cage, but be careful not to dip. Your front elbow is the leader, wherever it goes, the rest of the bat path follows. You have to be super careful not to pull your front shoulder off of the ball, or all of our hard work goes out the window. You’re aiming for the middle of the ball, so keep your wrists firm. No noodly wrists here Chad. As soon as your bat makes contact with the ball you should begin to straighten out your arms into extension (this means your arms have successfully pushed the ball out in the direction it came from). After your contact point, you can do whatever you want with your arms really. I choose to keep both hands on my bat and continue the swing until I make contact with my back; this is called a follow through.
I’ve done all I can do Chad. Now it’s up to you to practice and learn to hit that ball over the fence. Good luck.
Oh, and one more thing, keep your eye on the ball.