The Key to Solid Contact
by Don Mattingly
Hitting Instructor - LA Dodgers
Throughout this website you will see so many tips and swing concepts that deal with hitting the ball this way and hitting the ball that way. How about something that concentrates and simplifies the basic fundamental of just "hitting" the ball? After all, isn't this the most difficult task in sports?
In this article we're going to review those critical basics that allow the great hitters to make consistent contact. What is it that they do at the plate that makes it look so simple? Well, they pay attention to the most important of all fundamentals; Seeing the Ball. How many times have you heard us say - "Ya gotta see it to hit it!"?? Alot.
"Okay, Coach... How do I see it"? Good question. The number one key is to keep the head steady. The head contains the information we need to process in order to deliver the bat to the zone "ON TIME!". Huh?
Let me explain; Your eyes are in your head. Your eyes are locked on the ball and deciphering information at millisecond speed about the flight path of the pitch, the angles, the speeds, the breaks. They then pass on this information (again in milliseconds) to your brain which has milliseconds to send the correct information to your muscles to initiate the swing. IF all of this occurs on time AND with correct information - you hit the ball. We want this to happen every time we choose a pitch to swing at. We want to hit that ball.
The easiest and most fundamental method of achieving this is to keep the head (eyes) still during our swing. In essence, Rotate Under a Steady Head. That should be a swing thought for you. Rotate Under a Steady Head.
IF our head (eyes/information gatherer) does not move during the swing.. then the information it has gathered won't change. If the eyes (head) moves.. then it will be constantly sending "new' information to the brain and then the muscles about "where" the contact point will be for the bat and the ball. That just can't happen consistently. The HEAD must remain as steady as possible during the swing process.
Alright, how do we do that? By practicing your 6 Step Swing properly. By smoothly taking your weight from back to front and softly centering that weight with the proper stepping motion. Remember, the step is the timing mechanism. When the front heel lands, the swing begins. This has to be smooth. There is an old saying in baseball: Slow feet, fast hands. That means the lower body action is slow and easy (and early) to minimize the movement of the head (our processor).
The easiest method to training yourself to have "slow feet" is to start when the pitcher starts. Get in synch with the pitcher. Another old saying: When he shows you his back pocket, you show him yours. Simply stated, as the pitcher winds.. you load. When he starts, you start. This simple concept will allow you to get your lower body work done slow and steady, which minimizes the head movement. Rotate Under a Steady Head. This is the key to consistent contact.
Watch the below video of Don Mattingly explaining this process. Pay attention to the little things he is saying. This guy was one of the greatest hitters in the game. He KNOWS what he's talking about. Listen up. Click the Pic.