Here is a quick and easy tip to help baseball and softball hitters react quicker and more athletically to the pitched ball without getting caught flat-footed!
Athletes in many sports use some level of foot movement immediately prior to engaging in competition to increase their reaction time and explosiveness. Have you ever noticed how tennis players hop up and down rhythmically as they prepare to receive a serve? Or, how about linebackers in football who look like they are running in place as the quarterback is calling the signals at the line of scrimmage. These movements help athletes read, react, and perform in one fluid motion.
In baseball and softball, hitters who stand in the batter’s box without any movement before swinging are at a disadvantage. As the ball approaches, they are forced to initiate the swing sequence without any momentum. I teach my hitters to rock gently back and forth while lifting the front foot off the ground an inch or so. This subtle movement increases reaction time and becomes the first link in the powerful kinetic chain of a powerful swing.
Here is a video illustrating what this pre-swing movement looks like:
The Auburn University Softball Team adopted a similar concept to help with their defense. They call it “The Hop”. Head Coach Clint Meyers and his staff teach their infielders to hop in unison the moment the ball hits the bat. They feel hopping eliminates any “false movement” by their defenders. Here is a video describing the benefits of “The Hop”
In the video, Dr. Wendi Weimer, Director of the Sport and Biomechanics Laboratory at Auburn University, describes the benefits of movement before the ball is hit. “When a player hops, they take out the slack in the muscle, so that when the muscle fires for them to move in a more aggressive, purposeful, ballistic motion, it is more effective because they have taken any laxity that may be in the tendon or muscle structures and it can be eliminated and they can move more quickly.”
I have found with my hitters that this pre-swing movement not only allows them to react quicker and with more explosiveness, it helps with timing and relaxation. I wrote previously about the importance for rhythm in hitting. http://wp.me/p3zdlH-1jx In the video, the rhythmic foot movement serves as a timing mechanism and sets the tone for the rest of the swing sequence. This movement also serves to keep hitters relaxed. The longer hitters stand idle in the batter’s box, the more likely they are to become tense before the pitch is thrown.
The degree of movement can vary, depending on the personal preference of hitters. Some may choose to actually lift the front foot, while other may prefer to keep the front foot on the ground and just gently rock back and forth. Any pre-swing movement is better than none at all.
- The hitter in the video is Leigh Farina, a junior infielder at The University of Illinois.