The hands are the one and only physical link to the bat. You don’t 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 don’t 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 aren’t 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.
Never 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.
IIf 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 don’t have to give any thought to whatsoever.
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 it’s weight, to feel comfortable with it. You can do the same.
The great thing about practicing the grip, is that you don’t have to be anywhere near a ballpark to do it. You don’t 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 for.
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?