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Suggestions/drills for teaching young (9/10) hitters to stay in against live pitching?

     Our league in town uses a pitching machine for ages 7/8 and then moves to live (player) pitching for the 9/10 division.  Many of my kids hit the machine very well.  However, I've heard from other coaches that most kids go through a stage where they have a tough time adjusting to the live pitching (everything from bailing out on each pitch, recognizing balls from strikes, picking the right pitches to swing at, etc.)  I have many ideas on how I'd like to teach my hitters to adjust - keeping it simple and keeping their eyes on the ball, looking to hit first and adjust if it's not a strike, using softer balls in some bp sessions to help them gain confidence, etc.  Any other ideas/drills on how to help my young hitters make the transition without being afraid of the ball?



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Kids will be afraid of the ball, that's the nature of the game. I have hit kids with the balls in BP on purpose(not throwing hard and also using the softer balls). They need to realize that it doesn't hurt that bad and that they can handle it. That is the biggest fear to overcome and once they realize it, it makes a huge difference.

The other thing I do is put a bat behind their heels so they learn not to step out when they swing. If they do, they trip.

This is not only for 9/10, but I see it at 11/12 also.
Great tip, Tom. Thanks!
All the leauges in Northest Ohio area have banned using pitching machines for this same reason. When the kids move up to live pitching, most are scared to death and will not stay in the box.

We use only coach pitch for ages 5/6 and 7/8 . In the 7/8 leauge the last 4 to 5 games of the season, we allow live pitching for the last 3 innings of each game. This will not necessarily be a fix for backing out of the box, but will help the players be less afraid at the plate, which should reduce the problem.

Do not feel bad if you see a young player back out of he box, I have kids 10 to 12 that still do it. It is a fear they have to overcome if they what to play baseball. All you can really teach them is to have confidence and must be strong at the plate.


In your 7/8 league, is the live pitching done by coach or kids?  I only ask because we do live coach pitching the whole season and let the kids throw some the second half of the season. Some of the kids that I noticed step out the most are just coming up from T-Ball and I want to make sure they are ready for when their peers are throwing to them.

Remember, the stride is NOT the swing. The front foot should be down as the ball leaves the pitchers hand. This is maybe THE most common mistake in young hitters. They try to stride and hit all at the same time. If the front foot is down before the ball fully leaves the pitchers hand they cannot, bail and it gives them the ability to just focus on the ball to determine balls and strikes without there body and head moving during that critical time in the hitting sequence....This is usually THE FIRST thing I teach my Lessons no matter age or skill level. The last professional I taught saw huge improvements by just incorporating this element alone.
Great point about the stride. Thanks!

Thanks for the great tip. We have a travel team based out of your home town and that's one of the main points I have been trying to get across. I've seen many stride/swings and it really has them off balance with nothing on their swing.

as much as I want to believe what you say about the foot should be down before the pitcher throws the ball or even simultaneously I have to respectfully disagree. I would have to say that the pitch is generally about half way to the plate before the front foot touches the ground. Now I'm not saying that nobody hits the way that you are saying but your weight is being transfered to early if your foot is landing before the pitch is out of the hand or simultaneously. Now, if you turn on the TV and watch hitters you might see hitters that land before the pitcher delivers but these guys are taking pitches all the way. What's interesting is that there are some hitters that step or land more than once. Lou Pinniella teaches this to hard core pull hitters and his philosophy is that now you can stay back a little longer on breaking pitches and can give you a chance to hit the fastball the other way or up the middle.
I built this devise that I use for young hitters that I use early on in the season which is pretty simple and teaches them to stay in a lot more. All it is is a 2 x 2 about 4 feet long with another 2 x 2 about 1 foot long attached to the long one about 6 inches from the end of the long one. I drilled a few large holes in each so that I could put long 6 inch nails in the holes to hold down the wood against the ground. What I do is put this on the ground in the batters box so the player must put his back foot on the back side of the smaller piece of wood and the front foots heel is against the long piece of wood. I have 3 of these and stack them on top of each other depending on the player and how bad he bails when the pitch is thrown. What also happens is it teaches the young player to drive off his back foot and turn his heal to the sky because if he does't his foot will rub against the back piece of wood. I can't even tell you how well this little devise works. Maybe I should patent it. LOL.
I'm going to try this, Kip. Any chance you can snap a quick photo of it and post it here? Thanks alot!
Hopefully these pics came through.
Hi Kyle,

I've been coaching youth baseball for 10 years. Doing everything from rec league to tournament teams,
as well as winter development for kids who wanted to work on mechanics. I'm also the President of our league,
I only mention this because at the end I'll explain what our league did because of what you described.

I would agree there is a transition here. I've found that if you get the kids to start to bunt during practice it helps them get over that fear of trying to bail. I use single and double soft-toss. The double soft-toss I find keeps the kids
focus on what ball to strike at, so those kids that pull off the ball now have to focus. I also use the hit sticks and small
plastic golf balls as well for the older kids to help them focus. You will think I'm nuts on this. I also dress up in catchers
gear with an umpire blocker and we do a hitting game called knock the coach off the chair. I only do this for the younger kids. I'm protected in gear, sitting on a chair about 35 feet away and I pitch to the kids. The object of the game
drive the ball up the middle. If they hit the coach I fall off the chair. You want talk about everyone staying focus and in the box to drive the ball.

Why we changed from the machine:
Our league doesn't use machines specifically because of the reason you stated. Our kids go from Tball which allows
the kids to receive 2 pitches under hand so it helps them get eye hand and then if they miss they take the 3rd swing
off the T.

The next level for us is now coach pitch where most leagues use the machine. We have our coaches pitch. We find this
started helping th kids transition to kid pitch.

Talk to you later, Jim


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