I’m sure you have heard the saying “Be Short to the ball and Long through the ball” at least once if you have been playing baseball for any length of time. The problem is, nobody really explains what that means. The same goes for “keep your hands inside the ball”. Well, I’m hopeful that I can shed just a little bit of light on that for you in this drill.
The idea of being short to the ball is really very simple. I want you to visualize yourself watching Ken Griffey, Jr. hitting a gargantuan home-run to Left Center field. But, instead of just using your eyes to see this magnificent blast, I want you to feel like your eyes are an incredibly powerful slow motion video camera that can show diagrams and graphics along with super slow motion.
First, in your mind’s eye, just see the sweet swing in semi slow motion. Hear the crack of the bat and watch the towering shot as it travels up, up and out of the park. Now come back to the swing and replay it. This time watch the swing, hear the crack of the bat and continue to watch the finish of the swing. See the explosion through the ball and the extension of the swing during the follow through. Can you see that if you were to take the full length of the swing from start to finish, the distance to the ball was much shorter than the distance after impact? That is the meaning of “short to the ball, long through the ball”.
Conversely if Griffey were to have a longer portion of his swing “to” the ball, the result would be a soft grounder to 2nd base. He would be “reaching” for the ball, or “casting” to the ball… choose your favorite language.
So, being “short to the ball” means just that; hit the ball in the first 1/3 to1/2 of the way into the swing and then accelerate (XLR8) through the ball into the finish. Replay the swing again in your mind. This time use a swoosh graphic to follow the barrel of the bat. At the completion of the swing arc look how long that swing is from start to finish. Now plot the starting point of the swing, the impact point of the swing and the finish point of the swing. Where is the shortest distance? To the ball or beyond the impact point? Yep, it’s to the ball!
With this image in your mind you can now be successful in the Short To the Ball Drill. What is really neat about today’s game is that there are so many fine companies that are developing tremendous training aids to help player’s implement the important skills into their games. One of these companies is Muhl Tech, a maker of hitting tees, catch nets and other equipment. One of our favorite products and certainly one of the best sellers in the HittingStore is the Advanced Skills Tee.
The Advanced Skills Tee is a perfect tool to imbed the proper muscle memory for a swing that is Short To the Ball and Long Through the Ball. The tee is designed with a forward arm that prevents the player from dipping the barrel of the bat “under” the ball. But, most importantly it has a plastic pole/barrier that can be positioned to provide immediate impact if a player is too long to the ball, or casting! Another great feature of the AST is that it utilizes a brush top tee. This new design lasts much longer than the old rubber tip tee, plus they provide a perfect feel through the ball after contact.
Here’s how to make the Advanced Skills Tee work for you to help build the sweet swing you saw with your mind’s eye earlier.
Position the Forward Arm so that it is teeing up the ball in the middle of the plate and just in front of your lead foot. Next, position the plastic pole/barrier so that it is just in front of the rear hip and on the outside third of the plate. Now, when you swing you want to miss the pole with the bat and hit the back of the ball squarely. What’s great is.. if you happen to cast a bit and hit the pole/barrier, there is nothing more than a “ticking” feeling as feedback. No damage to your bat or anything else. In years past, this drill was done with a real pole as the barrier. Yea, you had to use a real old bat or wrap the pole in foam! Modern technology is a wonderful thing 🙂
Study the picture of Lance Berkman below. He has the tee in the perfect position and is making a pretty sweet looking swing. The girl in the photo has the tee more set up for an inside pitch as the ball is pretty far in front of the lead foot.