IT STARTS WITH THE HANDS
hands are the one and only physical link to the bat. You dont hold
it with your arms, your shoulders, your legs, feet or your mind. The only
body part which touches the bat is your hands. You may use those other
body parts to swing the bat properly, but your hands are the only physical
connection to the bat.
It stands to reason
then, that if you intend to develop yourself into a good hitter, that
you start with a fundamentally sound grip on the bat. One that will allow
your other body parts, once they are introduced, to work properly and
efficiently with your hands to produce a powerful, effective, controlled
and repeatable swing.
A good grip is one
where the handle of the bat is held primarily in the fingers of the hand.
To do this, lay the handle of the bat across the lower base of the fingers
of each hand. Then, simply close your hands around the handle.
Do not squeeze the
bat. Hold it lightly in your fingers. Pretend as though you are holding
a small bird in your hands. You want to hold the bird firmly enough to
prevent it from flying away, yet not so tightly that you harm the bird.
A light grip such
as this keeps the muscles of the hands, wrists and forearms loose and
prepared for action. Loose muscles are fast muscles. You might think that
by squeezing the sawdust out of the bat, gritting your teeth and flexing
your arm muscles, you are prepared to hit even a Nolan Ryan fast ball.
In actuality, the reverse is true. Tight muscles are slow. The tightness
inhibits other muscles, that you dont even realize you are using,
from helping you during the swing. Have you ever watched a Major League
hitter lightly grip and re-grip the bat as he waited for the pitch? He
is unconsciously reminding himself to keep a loose grip.
Here is a great example
of loose muscles being faster and more powerful: The next time you happen
to be watching a boxing match on television listen to the announcers early
in the fight. Inevitably they will comment on the boxers being "tight,"
that they arent quite loose enough yet to "get off first."
This is especially true during championship bouts because the fighters
probably are a little more tense. Tension and tightness slows the muscles
down. As the fight wears on and the fighters have adjusted to the moment,
they begin firing punches with incredible speed and power. The tremendous
quickness you see is the result of the muscles being more relaxed and
ready to respond to the commands their brain is sending to them.
Lesson number one:
Loose muscles are fast muscles. Take a light but firm grip with the bat
in the fingers of the hands.
easiest way to ensure that you are keeping the bat up in the fingers is
to rotate your hands so that the second row of knuckles on each hand line
up with each other.
hold the bat back in the palms of the hands! Holding the bat in this manner
inhibits the flexion of the wrists during the swing and robs you of natural
quickness and power. Holding the bat in the palms can also be very painful.
I have seen many batters, of all levels, strike the ball while holding
the bat incorrectly and receive a terrible bruise near the web of the
top hand. These bruises seem to linger with hitters for several days or
even weeks. Believe me, it only takes one of these bruises to make a believer
out of you about the importance of holding the bat in the fingers.
you are uncomfortable with aligning your knuckles as described earlier,
try rotating the hands until the second and third knuckles line up with
each other. This is known as a "box grip" and is used by quite
a few Major League players. Either way, it is important to be comfortable.
So, pick the one that feels the best for your size and shape of hand and
stick with it.
Both ways may feel
a little uncomfortable at first, but it is important that you pick the
one most suitable for you and practice it over and over. Soon it will
become second nature to hold it in your fingers automatically. When that
happens, you will have laid the foundation for all of the other parts
of the swing to work effectively.
The grip is the first
of the three, what I call, essential fundamentals you will need to master
if you want to become a good hitter. Remember, the hands are the only
body part connected to the bat. The bat is the only thing you have to
contact the ball. Get this most basic of fundamentals down so that it
is an unconscious act, something you dont have to give any thought
Some of the great
hitters in Major League history were said to have carried their bats around
everywhere they went. Just to carry it, to get used to feeling it in their
hands, to grip it, to feel its weight, to feel comfortable with
it. You can do the same.
The great thing about
practicing the grip, is that you dont have to be anywhere near a
ballpark to do it. You dont need any extra space. All you need is
a bat. You can practice your proper grip while watching your favorite
program. Or even better, while watching a baseball game on television.
If you do watch a game, you can take advantage of the opportunity to study
how Major League hitters are holding their bats. Pay attention to how
loose their grips are. You can learn a lot if you know what you are looking
Remember; loose, comfortable
and up in the fingers.
These are the hands of the great Ted Williams holding a bat. The picture was taken in 1993, more than 50 years after he became the last MLB hitter to hit over .400 for a season. See anything familiar?