What better way to begin the new year than watching and learning from one of the greatest hitters in baseball history…Cal Ripken, Jr. Cal and his brother Billy have dedicated themselves to teaching the correct fundamentals of baseball since they retired from the game.
Here is a video Cal and Billy made to demonstrate how to really work on the “load/weight shift” using a tee. However, when I look at this video, I see many of the hitting fundamentals I have been writing about. Watch the video first, and then I will break down a few of the “Hitting Keys” in Cal’s swing.
Set-Up In The Batter’s Box
Notice how Cal sets up in the back of the batter’s box. I’m sure he is aware of all the benefits and advantages of setting up this way, including allowing more reaction time, and ensuring better extension when the ball reaches the hitting zone. Here is a link to a recent post on this topic:
One of Cal Ripken’s trademarks during his playing days was his solid stance. When he stepped into the batter’s box, he had a presence that was intimidating to pitchers. His athletic set up was the foundation for his powerful and consistent swing. Also, notice how his bat is back toward the catcher and away from his body. This hand/arm position is the key to a direct path to the ball.
In the video, Cal emphasizes the importance of the load/weight shift. He makes a great point when he recommends using a batting tee to work on perfecting this hitting key, because hitters can take their time and exaggerate the motion until it becomes instinctive. In this short video, Cal is unable to review all of the benefits of a meaningful load, so here is a link to a post about this topic:
When Cal’s weight shifts back, notice how his hands actually go back farther toward the catcher. Depending on the age of the hitter, I typically recommend the hands start back toward the catcher as far as possible and stay there. I believe it is important to reduce as much pre-swing movement as possible for younger hitters.
Extension and Weight Transfer
Those of you who have been reading this blog know how opinionated I am about extending the arms at or near impact with the ball, and maintaining that extension as long as possible. For those of you who have not read my thoughts on arm extension, here are two links.
I will let the picture (below) of Cal fully extended at impact speak for itself.
I also want to point out how Cal finishes his weight transfer (back to front) by actually lifting his back foot off the ground. He is not doing this intentionally. Rather, it is a result of a powerful drive of the back leg and the violent rotation of the hips, followed by rotation of the upper body. I will be writing more about this in the future.
The last hitting key I want to point out in Cal Ripken’s swing is his nice finish. Simply put, he allows the bat to finish where IT wants to finish. Cal understands that any intervention by his hands, wrists, or arms to change the path of the finish will negatively affect bat speed.
I often tell my hitters, their parents, or other hitting instructors not to only take my word for the hitting mechanics I teach. I often show them pictures and videos of the best hitters in baseball and softball to reinforce and validate the hitting keys that lead to power and consistency. This video of Cal Ripken’s smooth, aggressive, and powerful swing is one that every hitter should watch and study at least once.