Follow a few softball batting tips to improve your game. Softball batting can be affected by a number of factors, such as grip, bat speed, stance, hip movement and swing. Even the kind of bat that is used (either aluminum or wood) affects the swing's outcome. Contrary to what many believe, good softball batting is not a natural talent. With proper technique and training, anyone with any decent ability can find success in softball batting.
Find the Right Bat
Choosing the right softball bat is an important first step. When it comes to softball batting tips, bigger is not always better. A big bat does not always equal more hits. According to softball batting coach Marc Dagenais of SoftballPerformance.com, a heavy bat causes the muscles to tense more, which makes them move slower during a swing. A lighter bat means better bat speed, so the softball travels farther. He also suggests swinging an even lighter bat on the on-deck circle, not a heavier bat, to loosen the muscles and create a faster swing. Softball batting coach Wendell Kim suggests holding the softball bat at the base of the fingers, not the palms of the hands. The knuckles of both hands should be nearly aligned.
While most softball teams still use aluminum bats, the use of wood softball bats has risen in popularity. According to the Phoenix Bat Co., using wood softball bats, even for softball batting practice, can help develop a proper batting technique. Aluminum bats don't give the batter much of a feel when the softball is hit. Batters using wood bats can feel the impact more easily, and the wood is a more natural extension of the arms. This helps batters develop a better sense for the sweet spot, as well as stronger wrists and a better eye.
Batting Tips to Get That Arm in Shape
At the plate, picking up the pitch is imperative. According to Dagenais, softball batting involves using "hard focus" and "soft focus." Instead of guessing the ball's release point, you should focus on the pitcher as a whole. Once the pitcher begins the pitching motion, narrow the focus to the arm and pick up the ball. By shifting from a soft, overall focus to a narrow, hard focus, a good batter can train the eyes to zero in on the ball better, making it easier to judge pitches.
When contact is made, the speed of the bat slows down because the impact with the ball hurts. This happens in both baseball and softball, with both aluminum and wood bats. Dagenais suggests several batting tips and exercises to improve strength in the wrists and forearms that will give you more speed and power in your follow-through, giving you more hits.
In the first exercise, called the "Hammer," batters hold the softball bat upright in one hand with the arm straight out. The batter then lowers the bat by bending the wrist in a hammering motion. This builds strength in the forearms and wrists. If the softball bat is too heavy at first, the batter should choke up a little on the handle and do 10-20 repetitions at a time.
The second batting tip is an exercise, called the "Windshield Wiper," is much like the first exercise; however, you move the softball bat left and right with one arm, like a windshield wiper. This strengthens the wrists and improves the torque on your swing. You can modify these two exercises by using both arms instead of one.
Batting speed is important to develop because as speed declines, so does the number of quality at-bats. Hitting the softball with good speed and power will put the ball into play and increase chances of a hit or an error by a fielder. Hits off of aluminum bats are faster and harder, but with proper mechanics, wood softball bats can deliver similar results.
More Torque Equals More Hits
Jack Mankin at BatSpeed.com has researched the mechanics of softball batting and believes successful batting employs rotational mechanics, in which the bat turns during a swing. This is different from linear mechanics, which encourages a straighter softball bat swing with more emphasis on weight transfer, power and follow-through.
Mankin has documented the importance of torque for softball batting speed. As the lead arm brings the bat through the strike zone, the back hand pushes forward, causing the bat to rotate. The right amount of torque will actually increase the speed of the softball bat when contact is made. With enough torque and bat speed, the softball travels farther. The result: Some swings tend to have more "pop" than others. When even the best players have a softball batting slump, it is usually due to improper mechanics that change the effect of torque and bat speed.
Mankin actually has scientific support to back up his theory. In 1991, Harvey Leff, chair of the physics department at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, studied Mankin's research and found that his study is scientifically sound.
Like Dagenais, Mankin also believes in the importance of bat speed in softball batting. However, Mankin's batting tips specify that it is important to hit your maximum bat speed at the point of ball contact, or as close to it as possible. While some may argue it can come in the follow-through, Mankin says his research does not support this.
The DeMarini School of Softball Batting
The late Ray DeMarini, a softball batting legend who created a number of modern softball bats and instructional videos, had several softball batting tips for increasing one's speed:
No matter who the batting coach is, or if aluminum or wood softball bats are used, most experts tend to agree that the right bat and a sound swing are the two most important batting tips to successful softball batting.
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