By Dave Holt (Charleston, SC)
Calling all high school hitting coaches: What kind of mindset do you teach your hitters? Do you want them to think aggressively and anticipate swinging on every pitch? or See the pitch then decide?
I know my experience in professional ball tells me to look to swing at every pitch until your eyes tell you something different. Make up your mind to swing at every pitch before hand. The problem I see is a chronic epidemic in youth baseball coaching to destroy the aggressiveness in young hitters. Youth coaches are constantly implanting negative feedback before and after every pitch.
If a batter swings and misses there is an automatic onslaught of verbal and visual corrections from the coaches and parents. You pulled your head, you dipped your shoulder, you swung at the ball up here, you forgot to load, you didn't let the ball travel. Rarely if ever do you hear encouragement, "hey, great cut, way to swing it, thats the way to swing the bat, get it ready, swing it." It is all a verbal scolding and beat down every pitch.
On a foul ball the batter gets the same verbal lashing, "you are too early, let it travel, you're dipping again, eyes on the ball, make sure you load off that back leg." Really? They get the kids thinking so much that they become tentative and unaggressive--always hitting defensively afraid to make a mistake. Young hitters then begin to hesitate on pitches from the fear of messing up and receiving a scolding, and fail to get around on the good fastball. Hitters become chronically late on the fastball.
Not a single youth league coach ever recognizes that the hitters are late on the fastball. Never do coaches encourage hitters to get out front on the fastball. Oh, I did run into former major leaguer Herm Winningham one day while he was coaching the RBI team in Charleston, SC telling players to 'swing-it" and 'let if fly." I'm like wow, who said that? Then I recognized Herm and said okay a pro guy. I should have known.