I will be leaving for a week-long bike trip across the state of Iowa today (RAGBRAI). The route we will be taking is approximately 410 miles from the Missouri River east to the Mississippi River, with a total elevation gain of over 14,000 feet! Of course, we won’t be actually climbing to an altitude of 14,000 feet in relatively flat Iowa, but there are many hills in Iowa that will surely require some hard pedeling. The good news is when I finish climbing one of those hills this week, there will be a nice easy downhill ride on the backside. So what does this have to do with hitting or batspeed? The road to becoming a great hitter is long and hilly.
As the summer baseball and softball seasons wind down, I have been getting many emails, texts, and phone calls from parents, coaches, and players. It is always fun for me to hear or read about the success of the hitters I work with, and I am always concerned when I hear about their struggles. Often, I will get a text from a parent who is very worried about their son or daughter who is in a slump, and then they will send another text a few days later detailing all extra base hits and successes.
I never tell my players that hitting a baseball or softball is easy. I work hard to help hitters learn mechanics that will increase their power and consistency, but the hard work really begins when they leave the practice cage with me. Training to become a great hitter is no different from training to become a great cyclist. Both require a committment to developing the best mechanics possible, determination to overcome adversity and setbacks, and patience when performance fails to match expectations.
Getting back to my Iowa biking analogy, hitters will need to work hard when they are faced with a hitting slump (a steep incline). This may take more tee work, more batting practice, or a better mental approach to each at bat. Good hitters always break out of these slumps and enjoy long stretches of ripping the ball (riding downhill without pedeling) that are even surprising to them.
I’m sure I will enjoy the long, flat roads of Iowa this coming week. However, I know the personal satisfaction of climbing the tough hills, or the exhilaration of cruising at high speeds down the backside of those tough inclines, will be more memorable.