I have received several Emails recently asking why my last post was in back in early June. My response is simple…..I wanted to take a break for the summer. Believe me, I have much more to say about hitting, but sometimes it is good to take a break, even from the activities we enjoy.
Taking a break can be beneficial physically and mentally, especially when it comes to amateur baseball and softball. I am always concerned about hitters who practice year-round and play too many games from early March through August. Not only does fatigue from too much baseball or softball negatively affect hitting mechanics, it often causes players to lose their zest for the Game. I know too many parents who were shocked when their son or daughter abruptly announced they were quitting the Game that once meant so much to them.
The best advice I can give young hitters and high school hitters is to take a break after a long season. Put away that batting tee and take down the net in your garage. Clean out all the candy wrappers and sunflower seeds in your bat bag. Wipe all the ball marks off your bats and store them in the closet. Throw away those sweat stained batting gloves with the holes in the palms. Take one last look at your hitting stats and file them away.
As you can tell by this advice, I am not a big fan of the twelve month baseball or softball programs. I don’t believe hitters gain much from practicing in the Fall for a season that is several months away, unless they are in college. In addition to “burn out”, hitters run the risk of injury due to the overuse of the muscles used in hitting. Even hitters who employ good mechanics are at risk of elbow, shoulder, and back strains because their bodies never adequately heal from all the practices and games during the Spring and Summer. Many orthopedic surgeons blame year-round baseball programs for the recent epidemic of shoulder and elbow injuries in pitchers. I believe hitters are also at serious risk.
High school athletes are now encouraged to specialize in one sport, in order to improve their chances of securing a college scholarship. I have my opinion about this, but I will save it for another time. However, I do believe it is possible to successfully specialize in one sport without allowing that sport to take over the life of a young person. High school athletes who make the decision to specialize in baseball or softball don’t have to hit all year in order to reach their potential or earn a college scholarship.
In the Midwest, the baseball and softball seasons begin as soon as the snow melts and the ground softens, which is typically sometime in March. Taking the bat bag out of storage in December or January gives hitters ample time to regain and improve upon the form they enjoyed the previous season. Before then, hitters should stay busy with strength and conditioning programs geared toward developing all the major muscles in the body, not just the muscles used to hit a baseball or a softball. The most improved hitters from one year to the next are the ones who combine the strength they gain in the offseason with solid hitting mechanics.
So, take a break. Find a new hobby, volunteer, spend time with friends, focus on your studies, learn a new language or a new dance. These activities may not make you a better hitter, but they will make you a more well-rounded person, and they will give your mind a break from a sport that is mentally demanding. When you return to the batting cage, you will be physically stronger, refreshed, and mentally prepared to take on a new season.
I’m going back to my break now………