One Voice—Finding The Right Hitting Instructor

right voice

Baseball and softball hitting instructors are in demand today more than ever. Many parents and players hope hitting lessons will ensure success. Of course, as a hitting coach, I believe hitting lessons can be very effective, but only if hitters are committed to diligently practicing what they learn. Thanks to the Internet, hitters also have access to thousands of pages of hitting instruction, and videos on seemingly every hitting topic. All of this information can be a blessing for hitters and their parents, but it can also be a nightmare for high school and college coaches, and even hitting coaches like me.

A high school baseball coach recently wrote to me expressing his frustration with the current trend in hitting instruction…“Paul, you have no idea how many philosophical differences we have with outside instruction.  Recently, I put a study together on our current team, and found that there are a total of eleven outside instructors that I’m aware of and eight different teams that our kids play for in the off-season besides our team.  It is no wonder why we look like deer in the headlights, at times. High school coaches are often easy punching bags for outside teams or instructors these days.  If a kid has success, they take the credit, but if a kid fails, it is the high school’s fault.  With the coaching restrictions regarding contact days, we lose that relationship in regards to a consistent hitting philosophy during the off-season, and in some part, during the season as well.”  This coach wrote to me, because he liked the way I was working with his star shortstop and wanted me to consider working with other players on his team.  His goal was to install a cohesive hitting philosophy that would produce consistent results.

I am often on the other side of the table with high school and travel coaches, so I understand their frustrations. Too often, I have worked hard with baseball and softball players in the off-season, only to have their school or travel coaches alter what we worked so hard on, with little or no justification for their changes. This is also frustrating for my hitters, because it puts pressure on them to compromise.  This compromise often means adjusting or eliminating some of the key hitting mechanics I teach to avoid conflict with their coaches. My response to hitters and their parents when this conflict arises is always very clear and definitive…“You should only listen to one voice!”

Right or wrong, I require my hitters to either listen to my “voice” (my hitting keys and my overall philosophy) or I will refuse to continue working with them.  This may seem rigid and harsh, but it is in the best interests of both my hitters and me. I have great respect for high school and travel coaches, but unfortunately very few have the time to work with their hitters as effectively as a good private hitting instructor.

Refusing to continue working with hitters because they choose to listen to other hitting voices in addition to mine, is always very difficult for me. I quickly develop personal relationships with my hitters and their parents, so it is hard to draw that line in the sand. Whenever I am forced to have this difficult conversation, I never focus on the virtues of my hitting keys compared to what their other coaches may be advocating. Instead, I always focus on the benefits of listening to only one voice when it comes to hitting instruction and the importance of committing 100% to that voice.

I never fault my hitters who decide to find a new hitting instructor. I know it would be worse for both of us if they continued working with me and another instructor at the same time. The individual hitting keys I teach come together as a cohesive sequence to form a powerful and consistent swing. Any changes by another instructor can cause the entire sequence to become awkward for hitters, which will lead to unrealized potential.

My advice is to first find a hitting voice that is easy to understand. Some hitting instructors or information on the Internet can be extremely difficult to understand, even for me. Next, the personal instruction or information should be credible. If hitting instructors are unable to articulate and quantify the benefits of their hitting keys, then players and their parents should be skeptical. Finally, select an instructor with a track record of success. If possible, speak to current and past students to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the instructor’s hitting mechanics, overall philosophy, and personal approach.

When it comes to hitting instruction, a solo is better than a chorus. Find the right voice and commit to it.  If that voice turns into a duet or trio, find a different soloist!

una voce

The Best Power Hitting Drills


It was a cold, blustery day at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The Wheaton College Softball Team was playing Carthage College in an important conference double-header. The wind was blowing in, so home runs on this day were unlikely. The first game was scoreless through seven innings until Ellen Radandt (pictured above) came to bat for Wheaton College. Radandt hit a BOMB—a long home run through the wind and into the trees well past the left field wall. After the game, one of the umpires was still marveling at her prodigious shot.  He was also baffled how she hit the ball so far with what appeared to be an abbreviated swing. He knew I was the hitting coach for Wheaton College, so he asked me, “Did you see how she stopped her swing half way?  Do you teach that?”  I just laughed and said, “Yes and no”.

During the many months of off-season training, Ellen Radandt and the other Wheaton College hitters worked hard to perfect their power hitting mechanics. The two hitting drills that enabled Radandt to hit that long home run, and the Wheaton College team to break single season school records for home runs and doubles, are what I call the “1/2 Swing” and “2/3 Swing” drills. I developed these two drills several years ago after it became clear to me that full arm extension at impact is one of the keys to great power and consistency in both the baseball and softball swings.


The purpose of this unique drill is to train the body to consistently achieve full extension at impact. As I have written many times, after a powerful leg lift and weight transfer, the lower body should rotate independently, followed by the violent rotation of the upper body. At some point, these independent rotations will generate enough energy (or torque) to propel the bat naturally and powerfully into the ball. This is a very critical point in the swing sequence. The best softball and baseball hitters will use this kinetic energy to create what I call “lightning”.  Hitting lightning can only be achieved when hitters have fully extended arms at impact. Without full arm extension, much of the precious kinetic energy is wasted.

The 1/2 Swing Drill is exactly what the name describes. I ask hitters to simply stop and hold the swing, with the arms fully extended in a “Power V” position, and with the bat pointing directly over the pitcher’s head. Both elbows should be locked and both wrists should be aligned with the bat, without any break. It is critical for hitters to freeze at the end of the 1/2 Swing, so they can observe whether the arms, wrists, and hands are in the proper positions.

Here is a video illustrating the 1/2 Swing Drill:

This drill will lead to more power and precision. If it is done correctly, the ball should hit the back of the net in a batting tunnel or a line drive into straight center field. As hitters get comfortable with this drill, they will hit the ball harder and harder, while still maintaining the desired finish position of fully extended arms and stiff wrists. It is also important for the hands to be in the correct position.  As I have written in a previous post, the top hand should be in a strong and stable position at the end of the 1/2 swing.  This hand position is the critical link between the kinetic energy generated by the body and the bat before it makes contact with the ball.


The 2/3 Swing Drill is merely an extension of the 1/2 Swing Drill.  Instead of ending the swing with the bat pointing at the pitcher, the bat should now stop after the full rotation of the shoulders. The purpose of this drill is to make sure the “lightning” at impact does not dissipate until the swing is completed. Like the 1/2 Swing Drill, at the end of the 2/3 Swing, the “Power V” should still be intact, with both elbows remaining locked. The wrists should still be unbroken, with the hands in the same strong position. Hitters should freeze and hold the finish to ensure the 2/3 Swing was completed successfully.

Hitters who believe the swing is over after the bat hits the ball are more likely to bend their arms and break their wrists after making contact with the ball, which affects both the speed and path of the bat. With my Swing Speed Radar or my Zepp sensor, I can prove that hitters who fail to maintain full extension after impact with the ball have lower hand speeds and bat speeds than hitters who hold the “Power V” as long as possible. These hitters are also unable to keep the bat on a powerful swing path, which is necessary to drive the ball into the outfield gaps for extra base hits or over the fence.

Here is a slow motion video of the 2/3 Swing Drill. Notice how powerfully her body rotates after a controlled leg lift and weight transfer. The bat then takes a direct path to the ball, with full arm extension at impact, and the angle of her body in an ideal leverage position. In slow motion, you can almost feel the lightning!


  • Don’t get frustrated if these drills feel a little awkward at first.  It will only take a short period of time to master these drills.
  • Hitters can use these two drills while working off a batting tee, during front toss sessions, and even with live pitching. Although, I would recommend perfecting the drill hitting off a batting tee first.
  • Hitters should work on their 1/2 Swings and 2/3 Swings during every batting tee session and periodically during front toss and batting practice sessions.
  • In batting cages, the 1/2 Swing balls should ideally hit the net at the end of the tunnel.  For 2/3 Swing balls, the target should be the upper portion of the right net, more than halfway down the length of the tunnel for left-handed hitters.  For right-handed hitters, the target should be the upper portion of the left net, more than halfway down the tunnel.


When hitters see how hard and far they hit the ball with their 1/2 and 2/3 Swings, they will want to use them in games!  After only a short time using these drills, the ball will begin jumping off the bat.  Hitters will notice this increased power and will want to duplicate it in games. I convince my hitters that the more they practice these drills, the better their extension will be during their full swings.  Hitters who train their bodies to incorporate full extension as a natural part of their swing will enjoy increased power and improved consistently, because their bat is no longer a piece of metal.  It is a bolt of lightning!

So, why did I answer the  umpire’s question at Carthage College by saying, “Yes and no”Yes, I teach the 1/2 Swing that Ellen Radandt used to hit that long home run.  No, I never tell hitters to use either the 1/2 Swing or 2/3 Swing in a game——but they could!

** The hitter in the videos is Katie Yergler, a co-captain for the Wheaton College Softball Team.


Looks Matter!

Image result for billy williams cubs images

I never received any formal hitting instruction when I was a young baseball player. I learned how to hit by emulating the swings of my baseball hitting heroes, including Lou Gehrig, Billy Williams, Roberto Clemente, and Henry Aaron.  As I shifted from being a player to a coach, hitters like George Brett and Tony Gwynn strongly influenced my hitting philosophy and the mechanics I teach today. All of these great hitters had one thing in common—they looked good!  I’m not referring to their appearance, but rather their beautiful swings.

I have always been mesmerized by hitters with smooth and powerful swings that look effortless. As a young hitter, I would try to mimic every move of these hitters. I would stand like them in the batter’s box, and I would swing over and over until I looked like them. Heck, I even tried to spit like them! I had no idea why the hitting mechanics of these great hitters were so effective. I just knew they were the best hitters in baseball and I wanted to look and hit like them.

I am as guilty as other hitting instructors when I focus too much on the individual moves and motions that comprise the baseball and softball swings. Sometimes, it is wise to just step back and look at the swing holistically.  Is the swing smooth and natural from start to finish or are there unnecessary movements and “hitches”? Does it look like the swing is repeatable or does each swing look different?  Finally, does the swing resemble the swings of great baseball and softball hitters?  I often shake my head and ask the rhetorical question, “Who hits like that?”, when I see an unorthodox swing at a baseball or softball game. All swings should not look the same, but it is easy to tell the difference between a good swing and a bad one.

I recently heard a story about Joc Pederson, a young player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has quickly emerged as one of the top young hitters in Baseball. Even though he was a top prospect of the Dodgers, Pederson struggled early in his professional career.  Pederson strongly resisted making changes to improve his swing until Johnny Washington, a young minor league coach, showed him videos of the top power hitters in Baseball.  While watching the videos, Washington asked Pederson to find the similarities in his own swing. He could not.  This convinced Pederson to change his swing to pattern it after the best power hitters in the game.  Now, Pederson has one of the prettiest and most powerful swings in the Game.

So, here is my advice for young hitters. Take a look at the swings of the best hitters and copy every movement they make. Don’t worry why they swing the way they do, just try to look like them.  At some point, it will become obvious to young hitters why the swings of their heroes are so effective.  Through this imitation and repetition, young hitters will eventually gain an understanding of the hitting mechanics involved in these swings, and why they are important to power and consistency.

The same holds true for high school and college hitters. When hitters reach these levels, they often try to develop a personal hitting style. While this may work for some hitters, most actually regress when they try to look unique or different, compared to the best hitters at their level.

I still believe the keys to being a great hitter are the rotational hitting mechanics I have described in this blog. Solid rotational hitting mechanics will naturally lead to a beautiful swing. For hitters who do not have access to a good hitting instructor, all they should do is try to LOOK GOOD IN ORDER TO BE GOOD!

** The picture at the top is Billy Williams, a Chicago Cub in the 1960s and 1970s. I love this picture because it not only shows how pretty Billy’s swing is, but it also illustrates how he uses the energy from the ground as leverage to generate power.  Notice how his front foot digs forcefully into the ground, kicking up dirt as he creates a barrier to keep his weight back as he rotates powerfully, with full extension into the ball. His swing was the epitome of power and grace.  It’s no wonder his nickname was “Sweet Swinging” Billy Williams.

The Secrets Behind Marisa Arriaga’s Softball Hitting Trick

Marisa Arriaga became an instant celebrity after the video of her softball hitting trick went viral on social media. I was mesmerized as I watched her flip, kick, and hit a softball with flair and power, over and over and over and over again. Like any good magician, Marisa made the trick look easy, while leaving people wondering how she did it.

Ok, so maybe it’s not magic, but Marisa needed some good hitting mechanics to pull off her trick.

Leg Lift (Load)

Marisa load

After Marisa kicks the ball off the tee, she maintains her high leg lift.  This helps her transfer weight to her back leg to generate maximum power and it also allows her to adjust to the ball in the air.  If Marisa put her front foot down immediately after kicking the ball off the batting tee, she would have had to reach with her arms to hit the ball. Instead, Marisa keeps her leg in the air until she can gauge the exact trajectory of the ball. As soon as she determines where the ball will enter the hitting zone, she can then put her front foot back down into the ground in just right right place to initiate the swing with her entire body. This is the same process all great hitters go through when adjusting to live pitching in a game.

Hands Back

marisa hands back

What struck me after I watched the video for the first time was how much power Marisa was able to generate after all her gyrations. As I analyzed her trick in slow motion, it was easy to see that after her front foot hits the ground following her leg lift, her hands are back in the perfect “launch position”. Marisa now has given herself as much runway as possible to generate maximum hand speed and bat speed. It should be evident by just looking at this picture that Marisa is in a great position to hit the ball hard!


Marisa extension

If you glance quickly between the picture of Marisa with her hands back and this picture of her arms fully extended, you can actually see the power in her swing.  Her swing begins in a strong launch position and quickly reaches full extension, putting a charge into the ball like it is shot out of a cannon. Her body is also in a good leverage position with a stiff front leg, fully rotated hips, and a complete weight transfer to her front leg.

Full Finish

marisa finish

To complete her trick, Marisa allows the bat to finish naturally and powerfully. She knows that anything she does to change the path of the bat will negatively affect how far she can hit the ball. I can always tell when a softball hitter is finishing the swing powerfully, without looking at anything except her hair.  I instruct my hitters to “let their hair fly” as they finish the swing. This is an indicator the swing is finishing free, easy, and powerfully.

Marisa arriga

A tip of the cap to Marisa Arriaga for her slick hitting trick that is entertaining people around the world. In addition to her innovative moves, Marisa has solid hitting mechanics, making her as dangerous a hitter as she is creative.

Hitting Ruled The 2015 WBSC Junior World Softball Championship

usa hitter

As promised, here is my honest assessment of the hitting approaches and mechanics of the teams that participated at the 2015 WBSC Junior World Softball Championship in Oklahoma City. For those who read this and feel I am too critical, it is important to first understand that I believe softball players are still playing catch-up with baseball players when it comes to power hitting mechanics. The good news is softball hitting theory is now rapidly changing, as coaches and players finally realize there should not be any difference between softball and baseball swings. However, most of the hitters I observed in Oklahoma City still employ old softball hitting mechanics geared toward merely making solid contact with the ball.

Here is a link to a previous post where I make the case that softball and baseball hitting mechanics should be the same:

Some may say that dominant pitching is still the key to success in fastpitch softball. I disagree. If you look at the final college conference softball standings in the U.S., the top teams almost always have the best hitting statistics and not necessarily the best pitching statistics. After watching all the teams early in the week, I had a good idea which teams would ultimately battle for medals, based only on their hitting.  I left Oklahoma City thinking the top hitting teams were Team USA, followed by Japan, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  Sure enough, these were the top four teams in the fifteen team field at the end of the tournament.

Team USA


Team USA won the gold medal by being aggressive at the plate and by imposing their collective hitting will on every team they played.  The U.S. team had the perfect balance of slap hitters and power hitters. Pitchers who faced Team USA were never able to take a breather, because every hitter in the lineup could do damage with the bat. It seemed like any time they needed a single to start a rally or an extra base hit to put some runs on the board, they were able to make it happen with relative ease.

I was fortunate enough to watch Team USA take batting practice before their game against the Italian team.  This gave me an opportunity to take some videos in order to really analyze what made these young hitters so powerful.  Simply put, it’s all about bat speed, especially for the power hitters in the lineup.  It was evident that the U.S. hitters had superior bat speeds compared to almost all the other hitters in the tournament. When the U.S. hitters made good contact, the ball went a long way.

The challenge for these young hitters will be to find hitting mechanics that will be effective on the next level when they face the best hitters in college or the world. The goal for all hitters should be bat speed AND consistency. To be more consistent, I would narrow the stances of some of the U.S. hitters, encourage them to work on more meaningful weight transfers, and I would move their hands back farther toward the catcher earlier in the swing sequence. The hitters with wide stances and little or no loads hit the balls down the middle of the hitting zone really hard, but they looked relatively weak when they had to offer at  pitches on the corners of the plate. A few of their hitters had some difficulty catching up to good fastballs, due primarily to the movement of their hands from the set-up position to the launch position.  Hitters who start with their hands close to their bodies and then move them back as the pitch is approaching need nearly perfect timing, compared to hitters who start with their hands back and keep them back until the swing is initiated.

If these talented young American hitters continue to strive for consistency through more repeatable hitting mechanics, they will surely be a force at the senior international level.


I must confess that I have never been a fan of the hitting mechanics of Japanese baseball or softball players. Someone in Japan must have written a book on hitting that every player in that country has adopted with little deviation. Even before I watched their first game, I knew exactly how the Japanese hitters would look, and they didn’t disappoint.

The “Japanese Swing” is all about control and precision. Unfortunately, this approach is not conducive to power hitting.  Many of the Japanese hitters set up with their hands close to their bodies, like they were holding a flag. Obviously, there is no way to hit for very much power in this position.  They must erroneously believe that being “quick” to the ball will produce consistent power. I disagree, and wrote about this topic in a previous post.

To the average fan, it probably looked like the Japanese hitters had a powerful load and weight transfer. Many of the them had a very slow and high leg lift, but it was not as effective as it looked.  I believe they do it primarily for balance. Balance may help them make consistent contact, but it will not lead to higher bat speed or more power.

The Japanese hitting strategy is all about putting pressure on the defense and keeping the pressure on until the opposing team makes a mistake. They accomplish this by using their hands to guide the bat into the ball for consistent contact.  The Japanese have always been the most “handsy” hitters in the world.  They love to use their hands to place the ball in the field of play with the precision of surgeons.  Finally, all these hitters must have all read the last chapter in the “Japanese Hitting Handbook” together, because they all abruptly ended their swings almost immediately after making contact with the ball.  This final phase of their precise swings resulted in very few strike-outs during the tournament, but also very little power.

The Japanese were undefeated going into their first game against Team USA. They had no trouble scoring runs against the average pitching and spotty defense by the other teams they played. However, their controlled and cautious hitting mechanics failed when they faced the elite U.S. pitchers.  They had difficulty generating enough bat speed to catch up to the faster pitching. It is hard to argue with the success of the Japanese National Teams, but from an offensive standpoint, they are just not that fun to watch.


The Canadian hitters were not on the same level of Team USA, but I still enjoyed watching them hit.  Every hitter was aggressive and smart.  They knew when the game situation called for contact and when it called for an extra base hit. It was apparent the Canadian hitters had devised a hitting strategy for the tournament, which led to fairly consistent offensive performance.

The primary reason Team Canada had a tough time with the better pitching in the tournament was due to their “linear mechanics”.  Many of these hitters had relatively wide stances when they set-up in the batter’s box. To compound the inherent problems with a wide stance, they also stepped toward the pitcher as the ball approached, widening their stance even more.

Linear mechanics cause several problems.  When hitters step forward during the swing, they not only lose any benefit of a weight transfer, they lose critical control of the swing, especially with off-speed pitches.  I witnessed several Canadian hitters get fooled easily by change-ups.  With their weight already too far forward as the pitch was approaching, all they could do was attempt to hit the ball with their arms and hands. The results were usually weak ground balls or infield pop-ups.  I call this “getting over your skis”.  Anyone who has skied knows that when the weight of the upper body gets over the front part of the skis, there is really no way to recover.

Linear hitting is “old school” theory.  The best hitters in softball and baseball now employ rotational mechanics.  Rotational hitting theory emphasizes transferring weight to the back foot and leg during the “load” phase of the hitting sequence and keeping it back through the finish of the swing. It is the powerful rotation of the lower body first and then the upper body that leads to great power and consistency.  Team Canada would be well-served to adopt rotational hitting mechanics to take their offensive game to a higher level.

Puerto Rico

I loved watching the young women from Puerto Rico hit!  They reminded me of the hitters on the Dominican Junior National Softball Team I met during my trip to the Dominican Republic with the Wheaton College Softball Team.  Like the Dominicans, the hitters from Puerto Rico were “free swingers” and were” tough outs”.  They also had an intensity and desire to succeed that was refreshing to watch. Although I appreciated their collective aggressiveness, they lacked the hitting mechanics to match their big swings. Like most of the teams in the tournament, these hitters lacked a noticeable load or weight transfer, and they also used linear hitting mechanics.  These mechanical flaws made them look out of control at times, forcing them to often swinging with just their arms.

I did like how these hitters set-up in the batter’s box. They entered the batter’s box and set up in a solid hitting stance that served as a good foundation for the swing sequence.  Almost every hitter also had their back foot on the back line of the batter’s box.  I ask all of my hitters to set-up back in the batter’s box for several good reasons, including allowing them more time to react to the pitch, and it encourages selectivity. I also liked the way the Puerto Rican hitters set-up as close to home plate as possible.  Their intent was to force pitchers to throw inside. This is an effective strategy, especially with two strikes on hitters. I noticed that it worked well against many of the Asian pitchers who pounded the outside corner to entice hitters to reach for the ball.

Here are links to a previous post explaining why all hitters should set up in the back of the batter’s box:

My advice to the young softball players in Puerto Rico is to keep swinging for the fences, but with more control through the adoption of rotational hitting theory.


I have grouped the rest of the teams by geography because it turned out there were many similarities between the way teams from the same region hit. Frankly, none of these teams made an impression on me.  Each team had one or two good hitters, but not nearly enough to compete for gold.

Australia and New Zealand

I watched Team Australia play a few times.  I always came away from their games a little frustrated for them. They definitely had talent and I could tell they received some good hitting instruction.  Every hitter in their lineup set-up in the batter’s box solidly and they appeared confident.  What they lacked was any elite hitters who could get the clutch hit in pressure situations or who were consistent threats to hit the ball out of the park.  They didn’t do anything really well and they didn’t do anything poorly. The team from New Zealand was very similar, except their hitters were not as advanced as their Australian neighbors. They had a more cautious hitting approach and their bat speeds appeared to be slower.  For me, the best part of watching games involving New Zealand and Australia was their fans.  They had the most loyal and vocal fans in Oklahoma City, cheering every pitch and every at-bat.

Mexico and  Brazil


Both of these teams were not offensive-minded and their hitting mechanics reflected this.  Their hands were high and close to the body, causing unnecessary pre-swing movement. Only a few hitters had any visible load or weight transfer, and they were not very aggressive. When playing similar competition, both teams were competitive, but they looked very average when facing good pitching. The Brazilian hitters seemed to be more contact-oriented than the Mexican hitters. I speculate this is due to the influence from their Asian coaches.   Both teams appeared to have some good athletes on their rosters, but they were unable to convert this athleticism into hitting success.

China and Chinese Taipei


These two teams were a mystery to me.  Some of their hitters had the same precise and controlled approach as the Japanese team, while others look fairly undisciplined. Both teams used their arms and hands to aim the bat at the ball, and their swings were intentionally abbreviated. These teams lacked the international experience of the Japanese team, but based on the practice regimen I witnessed, they should continue to climb the world rankings in the future. They will always have difficulty scoring runs against great pitching, but they don’t seem to care. Like the Japanese, they hope good pitching and great defense will keep them in every game.

Italy, Czech Republic, and Great Britain


I enjoyed watching the European teams in the tournament.  I think it was because their hitting styles were very similar to what I see at high school softball games in my area.  Other than a few standout hitters, most of the European hitters did not have much power. I could tell they had some level of hitting instruction, but I failed to see a consistent approach in the batter’s box.  I may not like the hitting mechanics of the Japanese team, but at least they have a hitting style that is noticeable. It seemed like each European hitter had a unique style of her own.  It will be imperative for the coaches of the European teams to adopt a power hitting philosophy and teach it consistently. These teams will remain in the middle of the pack at international competitions until they make adjustments in all areas of their mechanics.  These adjustments should include where and how they set up in the batter’s box, the way they load and transfer their weight before they initiate their swings, how they use their arms to complement the power generated by their bodies, and the proper way to finish their swings powerfully. Without these important adjustments, the European teams will continue be fun to watch, but they will have difficulty contending for medals.

Argentina and Columbia


These teams were over-matched in the tournament. The challenge for both teams will be to install a hitting system that teaches power mechanics to young players who aspire to make the national team in the future.  The current players tried to compete, but they looked as if they never were taught the type of hitting mechanics that would make them competitive at the international level.

Hope For The Softball World

Softball hitting around the world has come a long way and it is still evolving.  No longer is softball a pitcher-dominated sport. As more teams adopt power mechanics, hitters and pitchers will become more evenly matched and the games will be more exciting for fans. If softball is reinstated as an Olympic sport in 2020, I want it to be the most compelling and entertaining sport at the Games.

  • The picture of the Team USA hitter is courtesy of the WBSC

Team USA Wins Gold In Oklahoma City!

Team USA

What a great week of international softball in Oklahoma City. Even though I was only at the 2015 WBSC Junior World Softball Championship for two days, I was able to watch every team in the tournament. I also watched many other games throughout the week online, including the Gold Medal Game between Team USA and Japan. Team USA breezed through the week without much of a challenge, going undefeated.  Their winning formula was very simple—great pitching, stellar defense, and several of the best hitters in the tournament.

I will soon post my analysis of the hitters from each of the teams participating in the World Championship. I wish I could have spent more time watching the teams hit in person, but I was still able to draw some conclusions by watching each team play at least two games. Overall, I was pleased with the hitting, but it was not much of a surprise to see how advanced the American hitters are at this level. This is primarily due to the move toward the power hitting mechanics I teach, and are also taught at some of the more progressive high school and college programs in the United States.

Congratulations to all the teams for treating the fans in attendance and online to exciting international softball, while enduring the Oklahoma heat. Well done, ladies!

  • The picture of Team USA is courtesy of the WBSC 

The Italian Dynamic Duo

Erika and Marta

* This picture is courtesy of Ezio Ratti

One of the reasons I wanted to attend the 2015 WBSC Junior Women’s World Softball Championship in Oklahoma City was to see the Italian Junior National Team. As an Italian-American, I have always been interested in the success of Italian sports teams. Back in 2006, I proudly hosted a viewing party for Italy’s World Cup victory in soccer (football). During my two days at the beautiful ASA Hall of Fame Softball Complex, I enjoyed watching many great players from around the world, including several from Team USA.  However, the two most entertaining players were Marta Gasparotto and Erika Piancastelli with Team Italy (pictured above—Erika is on the left and Marta is on the right).  Both Marta and Erika also played on the Senior Italian National Softball team that recently won the European Championship in the Netherlands.

Marta and Erika stood out in Oklahoma City in several ways.  They both are tall, athletic, and are “five tool” softball players.  A five tool player hits for power, hits for a high average, steals bases, has a strong arm, and plays strong defense. Every time Marta and Erika come to the plate, they strike fear in the hearts of pitchers. During the tournament, opposing pitchers often carefully pitched around them and opposing coaches ordered intentional walks several times.  Although their hitting styles are slightly different, Marta and Erika share one thing in common—they hit the ball really HARD!

Here is a comparison of their hitting styles:



Both Marta (left) and Erika are imposing when they walk to the plate and set up in the batter’s box. They appear comfortable and confident, which is surely intimidating for opposing pitchers. Even though I believe their hands are not in an ideal position at this point, they both will eventually move them back during the load portion of their hitting sequence.  Starting with the hands back toward the catcher means there will be minimal unnecessary hand movement as the pitch is approaching. This becomes especially important when facing faster pitchers. However, Both Marta and Erika are athletic enough to move their hands back in time to generate maximum bat speed. This powerful set-up by both hitters is the solid foundation they will use to capture the power that originates from the ground.



Marta (left) and Erika have very different loads, but both are powerful and effective. For those who have been following this blog, it should be no surprise that I believe strongly in a leg lift like Erika’s for two important reasons. Lifting the front leg results in a more meaningful weight transfer, and it enables hitters to drive inside and outside pitches with more authority and consistency. That being said, as I sat in the stands watching Marta during her at-bats, I was impressed by her short, yet powerful weight transfer.  With her short and subtle load, she is still able to gather enough power on her back foot and leg to set the stage for the rest of her swing. Both Marta and Erika are also in perfect balance. At the pinnacle of their loads, they are in total control. Their heads are still and their hands are beginning to move back toward the catcher. All great hitters achieve this moment of controlled power generation.

Here is a previous post discussing the importance of a powerful load:



After recognizing where the pitch is coming, Marta (left) and Erika place their front foot back into the ground to initiate the swing. Notice in the pictures above that both hitters are now in the identical hitting position. Their hands have also moved far enough back toward the catcher to generate optimal bat speed. Their hands will stay in this “launch” position until the violent rotation of the lower body automatically causes the upper body to rotate into the ball. When their hands finally move and rotate in a circular path into the ball, they have ample “runway” to generate enough bat speed to drive the ball powerfully to all fields.  If Marta and Erika’s hands would have remained in the initial set-up position, their bat speeds would be 5-10 mph slower, which represents 25-50 feet of lost hitting distance.

Here is a link to a previous post summarizing the benefits of moving the hands back toward the catcher:



All great power hitters achieve full extension at impact with the ball. I call this full extension “lightning”, because when the arms are fully extended, it is like a bolt of lightning exploding into the ball.  Marta (left) and Erika have plenty of lightning in their swings!

Before we look at their arm positions, take a look at their lower bodies. Marta and Erika are both in the classic power hitting position, with a stiff front leg and a bent back leg after the rotation of the hips.  The stiff front leg serves as a barrier to keep all the power generated from the initial load back until the swing is completed.

Now, let’s look at the position of their arms and upper bodies. As you can see, Marta and Erika are fully extended, but their upper body positions are slightly different. Erika’s upper body is in a little better power hitting position.  The angle of her upper body matches the angle of her lower body, which means she is using leverage to generate her prodigious power. Even though Marta is not in this classic leverage position, she still manages to consistently hit line drives with her great extension. She will eventually finish in the same powerful position as Erika.

Here are two links to previous posts describing the key to real power:



Bella finale!

Both Marta (left) and Erika finish their swings in the same beautiful position. They finish with the bat high and away from their bodies, which means they “let the bat finish where IT wants to finish”. Hitters who have solid rotational hitting mechanics never have to manually finish their swings. The bat will stay on a powerful path throughout the swing sequence and will finish without any intervention on the part of the hitter.

As I was watching Marta and Erika bat in Oklahoma City, I marveled at their combination of control and power, especially for such young hitters. Even when they were fooled by a pitch, they were able to maintain their swing mechanics.  One reason for this control is the position of their heads. From set-up to finish, their heads are in the same position—-perfectly still, turned toward the pitcher, with both eyes focused on the pitcher’s release point and ultimately the ball.


Marta Gasparotto and Erika Piancastelli are more than just great hitters on the Italian National Softball Team. They are setting the standard young Italian softball players can shoot for to be more competitive on the world softball stage. The gap between the softball skills of these two players and the rest of the Italian team is fairly wide. However, with the continued influence of Marta and Erika on the Italian National Softball Program and with progressive hitting instruction, the Italian team has enough talent to quickly catch up to the best teams in the world.

I love my Italian heritage, which makes me especially proud of Marta and Erika. They are great ambassadors for Italian softball and they are shining examples of the exciting new group of players from around the world emerging onto the international softball stage.  I am hoping to have more opportunities to watch these two talented young women play softball in the future, including perhaps the 2020 Olympics!

marta and erika

* This picture is courtesy of Ezio Ratti