No matter the age or size of your Little Leaguer®, being a good hitter is all about making solid contact with the ball. If a player can see the ball, they can hit the ball and using a batting tee is a great way to develop hand-eye coordination and a consistent contact swing path. So, have your Little Leaguer dust off the bat and helmet, and wake up those muscles from their winter slumber by taking some hacks off of the tee.
Since leading Major League Baseball (MLB) in homers, on-base percentage and average in 2012, and becoming the first MLB player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown, Detroit Tigers’ slugger, Miguel Cabrera is known for his bat control as much as his home run power. Being such an accomplished pro, you and your Little Leaguer may be surprised to learn about one of his secrets for success. The reigning American League Most Valuable Player uses a batting tee every day!
In the 2014 edition of the Little League® Magazine, set to be delivered next month, the two-time MVP said, “Taking a bunch of swings every day off a batting tee is the best way to practice your swing. If you’re able to do that consistently, you’re going to get better and better.”
Here are two simple drills that your Little Leaguer can do to maximize a consistent contact swing path. Before you begin, be sure to adjust the height of the batting tee so that the ball on the tee is slightly below the batter’s beltline. Also, be sure the player is wearing a batting helmet and is using an alloy or Little League-approved composite bat that is age-appropriate.
When facing the batting tee, have the batter line up the big toe of their front foot with the second point of the batting tee and step back so that the barrel of the bat can contact the ball when the player’s arms are extended. The ball on the tee is to be slightly ahead of the batter’s body to allow a full swing follow through.
Once the distance is established, do not allow the batter to take any practice swings at the ball. Position the batter’s feet shoulder width apart, then get into a comfortable batting stance and prepare to swing.
Without aiming at the ball, the player should begin to swing at normal speed, but stop just before contacting the ball. Have your Little Leaguer hold that position.
The bat is to be level with the ball as it sits on the tee; the palm of the batter’s top hand is facing up and the palm of his bottom is facing down. The batter’s arms are fully extended, the hips are open to the tee and the eyes are focused on the contact point.
After a one-second pause, instruct the player to follow through with a complete swing, hitting the ball off the tee. Repeat the drill 10 times to establish muscle memory.
To help remind your Little Leaguer to keep their back shoulder up and develop a proper swing path, place a second tee directly behind the first. Raising the level of the back tee six inches above the level of the ball on the first tee.
Repeat the steps mentioned above, including pausing the swing prior to contact.
To perform Drill #2 properly, your Little Leaguer’s bat should not hit the back tee during any part of the swing. Be sure your Little Leaguer makes solid contact with the ball on the front tee.