A level swing is not swinging the bat level with the ground, rather level with the path of the pitch. In most cases, a ball being pitched is actually falling just slightly as it enters the contact zone. Hitting down on the ball too much (undercuts) are almost as bad as big uppercuts. Both can result in your bat not staying on the same level as the ball long enough--making contact more difficult and less solid.
To correct uppercuts and undercuts, the position of the hands when the stride foot is planted (launch position) might need to be adjusted. Also, any thinking that you need to hit down (or up) on the ball must be avoided.
Aside from the hands being over the rear foot at the launch position, their height is also important. Uppercutting may occur because the hands start too low while undercutters may start their hands too high, well above their shoulder. The hands should be about shoulder height. From the rear shoulder, the hands should bring the bat head down into the hitting zone. As the bat head flies forward, it should go through the contact area level with the path of the ball and maybe even slightly upward.
Take a Short Stroke
Hitters who extend their arms and hands too early in their swing (often called casting or sweeping at the ball) have what's called a 'long swing'. Even worse are hitters who are very stiff and lock their front elbow (called 'barring' the lead arm). The farther the hands get away from the body and the sooner the barrel comes out around the hands, the slower the swing. The bat head tends to come around the hands - beating the hands to the ball and resulting in less power and generally pull shots.
'Staying inside the ball' or going 'short to the ball' means keeping the hands closer to the body, leading with the knob of the bat and extending the arms only at and after contact is made. The back elbow needs to stay close to the body until impact.
The shorter the swing the less can go wrong, and the easier it is to fix.
The Fence Drill
Stand with a bat, facing a fence. Take the bat and put the end against the fence lightly. The end of the handle should make slight contact with your stomach. Take your normal batting stance at that distance from the fence and swing. Start in slow motion, for safety reasons.† If the bat makes more than light contact with the fence, you did not bring your hands through first. With hands in close to the body (inside the ball), and your back foot turn-in triggers the stroke (squishing the bug), you'll complete the drill properly.†Full arm extension does not take place until contact out in front.
The Tee Drill
Most batters try to pull the ball - even on outside pitches. This drill promotes a shorter inside-out path. Set up a tee on the inside corner of the plate and swing with an inside-out path such that the balls will be hit more on the side closer to you and thus to the opposite field. (A double tee will allow you to work on both inside and outside pitches at the same time. Click here
for a double-tee series.)
Chair Drill for Uppercutters
Use an old bat, a batting tee on front of home plate, and an old folding chair or a tall cone behind the tee.† Make sure that the tee is just slightly lower than the back of the chair so that you must swing with a slightly downward angle in getting to the ball. Don't put the chair or cone too close to the tee - at contact you may want a very slight upward movement.† If the hitter uppercuts, they will only hit the back of the chair, providing very noisy feedback. (This can also work with a double tee, with the back one, without a ball, set higher than the fron tee with the ball.)
Soccer Ball Drill
If you have a tendency to hitch or get your hands too far away (casting) at the start of the swing, or the barrel drops, or the swing comes around the shoulder, try this. Done correctly with an inward turn, you'll develop proper weight shift to the back side without having to lean back.
Use a real soft soccer balls (a little smaller size). Have the coach/helper put the ball between your bat barrel and shoulder (closer to the chest side). The barrel is at about the proper 45 angle and the top hand is shoulder height and about 5 inches in front.
Now, take swings from whatever source (tee, hand toss, possible live pitching with a safety ball). The ball doesn't interfere with the swing, but where the soccer ball drops can tell you a lot...
- Straight down or slightly to the rear of the plate? Oops. Then you lifted or pulled your hands away from your body before your lower body and shoulders started the swing.
- Across the plate or slightly forward? Good. Then you started with your body and kept your hands in position until the swing starts - the soccer ball was pushed forward and out by the shoulder.
Alternate every couple of swings without the soccer ball so it doesn't become a crutch and you can learn what the proper stroke feels like (muscle feedback). You'll learn that a hard swing can be accomplished using more body rotation - keeping the hands on an inside path.
The stroke taken to the ball has a lot to do with your success as a hitter. To develop the short, inside stroke that has found favor (for good reason) up through the professional ranks, there are a number of tips, theories, etc. Please read the added note on the left before following the advice here.
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Chris Gummere says:
Mar 16, 2009 at 10:02 AM
I have been using the Fence Drill for years. It is my favorite drill and will correct long swings immediately.
The soccer ball drill has been the best fix for "casting" that I have used. The players get immediate feedback and a method for creating the right muscle memory.