One of the best drills for hitting that I have found show immediate results is using a “hit stick”. I know this is not new, but the big difference I found is that if you make this part of a batter’s preparation during games it totally changes how well they do when they are up to bat. You have to make sure the league allows it as sometimes other coaches will say it is a distraction to their players in the field. Below are the details for the drill:
Hit Stick “Warm Up” Drill
First, you need to set up your batting order on a board and make sure all the players know when they are up to bat when they come in from the field.
You need to have a hit stick. This is a long stick with a ball fixed to the end of it. Available at most sporting goods stores.
You need to find a place where you can use the hit stick without risking anyone getting hit with a bat. I usually find a spot behind the dugout away from spectators.
Let your players know that there is a warm-up station just before the “on deck” station. That warm up station is where you are using the hit stick. This means that the person third in line to hit should be warming up at the hit stick. (At the beginning of the innings you can “warm up” the first and second hitters with the hit stick while the other team is getting ready in the field).
I use the hit stick to help the batters loosen up, work on making contact with the ball, and even simulate pitches by pulling the hit stick past them as they hit it. This helps a lot with reaction speed. You should focus what you do with the hit stick on what each batter needs to work on. Some batters may be working on just making contact while others are working on reaction speed or swinging at only good pitches. I vary the level of drills with the hit stick to the hitter’s individual skill level. After the “warm up” station the batters go to their normal on deck position and get ready to bat.
I have been using this “warm up drill” for over a year with the same team and noticed results in the first game I tried it! I can’t tell you how important it is to give a hitter the chance to “hit 20 balls” just before they get up to bat in a game where they are very nervous.
I have found that so much of a younger player’s hitting success comes from not being nervous and muscle memory. If they can loosen up with the hit stick the nerves are much better and the positive feedback of hitting the center of the ball gives them the “feel” of a good swing.
It is the single most important drill I use for hitting!