The long days of summer are gone and the dreaded offseason is upon us. Fear not! Offseason is the perfect time to work on building your agility, speed, and strength, and to focus on specific gameplay areas in which you need improvement.
Even if there’s no offseason practice for your team or nearby batting cage, you can still work on your hitting. There are many drills that can greatly improve your hitting technique that can be done in your own backyard or at a nearby park. Some are solo drills and some you can do with a friend. The most important part is to do these drills consistently, over and over again, so that muscle memory will take over come game time and do the hard work for you. Make every practice swing a perfect swing. Focus on the little details of your technique. Every time you swing the bat do it correctly so that your muscles will remember that perfect swing when it really counts.
3N2 has compiled the 5 best offseason hitting drills to help keep you sharp so you’ll be game ready when the new season’s first pitch is thrown.
1. Swing for the Fences Drill
Benefits: Helps to teach a hitter to hit the inside part of the ball thus allowing you to hit to all fields. Drives hands forward and through the ball, creating a short path to the ball. Develops a compact swing and improves bat speed.
How it’s done: Stand facing a fence, then raise your back arm straight toward the fence and adjust your position until your fingertips just barely touch the fence. Take several practice swings using good technique, avoiding making more than light contact with the fence. If you are hitting the fence you are probably not bringing your hands through first. Make adjustments to your technique and continue swinging. The closer you can get to the fence without hitting it during your swing the better you will become at inside pitches. Bat speed will also improve, allowing you to hit the ball harder.
Need a bat? 3N2’s Pro Clutch Maple Wood Bat is one of the highest quality maple wood bats on the market, perfect for offseason hitting practice.
2. Batting Beam
Benefits: Helps create balance throughout the swing and forces a player to properly align the feet. Helps you learn to take your timing step straight toward the pitcher. Creates a successful hitting position by teaching you to be on the balls of your feet rather than rocking back on your heels. Swinging from the heels lessens your power and pulls the bat out of the hitting zone which gives you less chance of hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat. Forces hitter to keep things simple so that you can get explosive hitting power while remaining stable.
How it’s done: Construct a batting beam out of a few pieces of 2×4 lumber (some prefer to go a little wider. This is a matter of personal preference.) Make the main piece about four feet long and brace it with two cross pieces about 18” long, nailed about 16” from each end of the main piece. Stand on this beam while hitting off of a tee or having a friend soft toss. Do whatever you can to stay on the beam throughout your swing and after finishing the swing. Your legs may get tired and sore but keep at it! Those sore legs are proof that you’re working your hitting muscles!
3. The Drop Drill
Benefits: This is a great drill for increasing bat speed and hand speed and forces the hitter to take hands straight to the ball. Improves reaction time, hand/eye coordination, and quickness of the hitter’s turn.
How it’s done: Have a friend stand about one and half steps to your side and one and a half steps in front of you. Have them hold a ball above your head (a step stool may be needed at first) and drop it into the contact zone. Have your eyes on the ball before and as it is dropped. Hit the ball before it can touch the ground (harder than it sounds!) while keeping a level swing and proper mechanics. As you get better at hitting the ball from a higher height, gradually have the ball dropped from lower and lower heights until it is being dropped from the hitter’s shoulder height. Once proficient at shoulder height, use smaller and smaller balls to make the drill more challenging.
4. Three Colored Balls Call Out
Benefits: Perfect for improving a hitter’s concentration, pitch identification, and focus on the ball. This drill forces you to watch the ball from the moment it leaves the pitcher’s hand and helps to improve your reflex time. Forces the hitter to stay back and wait for the call, which helps you to keep your hands back and wait for the ball to get to you.
How it’s done: Use three different colored whiffle balls or, to make this drill even more challenging, put a different colored dot on each ball with permanent marker. Have a friend soft toss two balls at first, calling out the color of the ball to hit. You’ll then attempt to hit only that ball and not the other. Move on to using three balls and have the tosser switch between tossing high balls and low balls.
5. Pitch Recognition Drill
Benefits: Helps the hitter learn to read different pitches accurately and to pick up the type of pitch even if they don’t at first recognize it. Helps you to concentrate on the ball, focus on the contact point, and react quickly to a pitched ball.
How it’s done: Step into the batter’s box with a helmet on but no bat in hand. Your sole focus is to watch the rotation of the ball from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand to the moment it goes into the catcher’s glove. Call whether it is a ball or a strike and say what the rotation of the ball was and what kind of pitch it was based on that rotation.
More Offseason Work
Aside from specific drills, tee work is probably the best thing you can do to improve your hitting. It improves hand/eye coordination and creates a controlled situation from which to swing at the ball which allows you to focus entirely on the little details of your form and technique. Move the tee around to various positions around home plate to simulate inside pitches, outside pitches, and so on. Adjust the tee height to work on pitches at various heights in the strike zone. Most importantly, make repetitive good strong swings with solid ball contact.
Alongside tee work, hitting fungo is excellent offseason training. Tossing the ball yourself and hitting it before it hits the ground really improves your hand/eye coordination as well as your overall coordination. Best of all, you can do this totally solo and it’s fun! Hanging a whiffle ball from a tree or other high place and then practicing your swing with it is another fun and easy way to get in some offseason hitting practice. You can also make a couple of bats from broomsticks and purchase plastic practice golf balls and other small balls to hit. As you get better and better at hitting things with the broomstick bats, find smaller and smaller objects to hit to increase the difficulty. Some players even use black eyed peas to hit with a broomstick bat!
Committing even 10-15 minutes several times a week to these few simple but effective drills can help you improve your game, both mentally and physically. You’ll be ready to step up to the plate and avoid a slow start to the season when you take advantage of the offseason. When it’s time to get geared up for baseball and softball season head over to 3N2 for all of your apparel and gear. Our performance and quality are second to none and you deserve great gear as you head into your best season yet!