Jim Crane's Hitting Tips

The art of hitting is attained in one of two ways, {1} natural ability {2) hard work. There are very few natural hitters; most of your better hitters have started early in life by long hours of practice. There are many fundamentals pertaining to hitting which will be outlined one by one:

1. Stance:
This has always been a subject of debate since many of the better hitters in baseball have adopted an unorthodox style or stance at the plate. The most important thing to remember about hitting is to be comfortable. This does not mean total relaxation but each hitter must assume the proper balance according to his physical build. The best way to find this out is to stand easy, without a bat, and imagine you are standing in the batter's box. Your feet should be placed in a comfortable position, toes pointing at home plate with the shoulders parallel with the body. Remember this will vary with each individual so take the position that is most natural to yourself. Once your natural position is chosen do not imitate another hitter. This will tend to confuse you and impede your progress
2. Weight Shift:
One thing all good hitters have in common, no matter what stance they have, is that they weight is shifted to their rear foot. (For right hand hitters the weight is on the right foot and for left hand hitters the weight is on the left foot.) You will realize this when the muscles in your thigh (above the knee and below the hip) tighten and you can feel the weight on the back foot. The reason for the weight on the back foot is to give a coil-like effect. Think of a spring; after it is compressed and then released, there is a reaction. The spring shoots forward and power is exerted.
3. Arm Position:
The position of the arms is a most important condition to a hitter. The arms should be away from the body with the elbows almost parallel to the ground. (Again, remember that some unorthodox hitters keep their arms close to the body, but it is a comfortable position for them and they have hit like this for years.) You can now take your position. Using a full size mirror is very helpful. Position your feet as though your were in a batter's box and your arms as if you were holding a bat about shoulder level. If your chin rests just below your upper arm when you assume this position your arms are correctly placed. One very important check should be made at this time is the rear elbow dropping; if it is, raise the elbow up to be almost parallel with the front hand.
4. Head Position:
Let's assume you have taken your stance, comfortable, weight on the back foot, arms away from the body, and your head should now be positioned where you are looking, or sighting as if firing a rifle, over your upper part of your arm. Do not bend your head down; keep it up straight so your eyes focus properly on the pitcher. Your head and eyes now become the most important instruments of hitting since your center of gravity (the body) can only perform properly if your head is well balanced and your eyes are well focused. The movement of the head, if you notice, will tend to swing your shoulder. Take your stance and try it; as you move your head to the left (assuming you are a right handed hitter) your left shoulder will move; no matter how slight the movement, it can throw off your timing and thereby your hitting will suffer.
         At this time, you should take a bat and hold it in your hands. Again, you should look for a comfortable feeling. Bats come in different sizes and weights and types of handles; since you are usually supplied with bats by your team or league try to find if your hands feel more comfortable on a thin, medium, or thick handle.
5. The Grip:
When you grip the bat your knuckles should be lined up properly. That is the lower knuckles of the bottom hand on the bat should be in line with the second joint of your fingers of the top hand on the bat. Your grip is to be firm but not tight, relaxed not loose. Remember the bat is your hitting weapon, by holding it too tight your muscles also tighten up and you tend to punch at the ball rather than use your natural swing. By holding the bat too loose, your bat does not have the impact power; this is shown best when bunting; no matter how fast a ball is thrown if you hold the bat very loose it will deaden the impact when you bunt. So this brings us to the point of gripping the bat firmly before you swing; natural reaction will tighten your grip upon contact with the ball. As was stated before, your bat is your weapon for hitting; let the bat do the work. You can not hit with your arms or your wrist; your bat, if used correctly, does the work. It is almost like throwing the bat at the ball; if you practice your swing, use the wrist of the bottom hand to guide it. On of the best ways to practice your swing is to tie a string to a pipe in the basement or a clotheline outside and swing the bat at it. This does not demand much space and you can practice on your own; you do not need a pitcher.
6. The Stride:
When hitting, it has been found that the stride a hitter takes into the ball has a major effect on the hitte's performance. A hitter's stride should be six to nine inches long for maximum power. By taking this short stride into the ball the hitter's shoulder is down and into the pitch. By taking a long, or as it is called overstriding, the hitter's shoulder is up and he either hits under the ball or completely misses the ball. The hitter feels like he is taking a nice even swing, but with the shoulder up out of position he cannot properly swing down through the ball.

Summing up the preceding we have:

  1. Assume a natural comfortable stance
  2. Keep your weight on the rear foot
  3. Keep your arms away from your body
  4. Keep your heal up and eyes level
  5. Line up your knuckles when gripping your bat
  6. Take a short stride