By Bryan Sidensol
Unless you are fortunate enough to have winter baseball league in your area, this is the time of year that many avid players hate – the off-season. While there is no thrill of game competition or game-winning hits this time of year, the off-season is an optimal time to get a head start on next year, shore up your physical and mental approach to the game, and work on any specific areas that need improvement. Here are some tips to make the most out of this off-season and get a leg up on the competition:
Practice with a Wood Bat If you don't already, start training with a wood bat. Whether you're hitting off a tee, doing soft toss drills or hitting at the cages, using a wood bat can lead to vast improvement in your swing. With wood bats there are no "cheap hits" since the sweet spot is much smaller than that of an aluminum bat. The smaller sweet spot forces a hitter to have a short, compact swing with better extension in order to hit the ball hard. The off-season is an optimal time to start training with wood and getting used to the difference. I recommend a training routine where the player swings with wood about 80% of the time and about 20% of the time with aluminum. Make sure the wood bat you choose isn't too heavy for you – this can cause mechanical breakdowns in your swing. When the season comes around, you should continue to practice with your wood bat as often as possible. You'll be amazed at how much it can improve your swing.
Increase your Baseball Knowledge What better time to learn more about what makes hitters great? Think of it as a homework assignment you'll actually look forward to. Now more than ever, there is a wealth of outstanding information available to you, be it books on hitting, instructional videos, or surfing the internet for articles, drills and tips from top players and coaches. Your local library might also be a great source of information. Find out how great hitters approach the game, both mentally and physically. Take note of any advice that specifically addresses any flaws in your hitting approach, and then try to apply it to your practice routine. Maybe you hit too many ground balls, or you need to work on hitting the ball to the opposite field, or your bunting needs improvement. Seek out the information you need to improve and find drills to help you work on those specific areas.
No Baseball Practice? No Problem Just because there is no after school practice, or no batting cage nearby, doesn't mean you can't work on your hitting. There are lots of useful drills you can do in your backyard, or even indoors. Even devoting 10-15 minutes a few times a week to a few simple drills can keep you sharp throughout the winter and prepare you for the season to come. Hitting off a tee is probably the best drill you can do to continually work on hand-eye coordination. If space is tight or the weather is bad, substitute wiffle balls and practice safely indoors. Your focus should be on hitting the ball squarely and making solid contact.
So this winter, remember to stay sharp, practice the fundamentals, and work on any specific areas that need improvement in your game. The spring season will be here before you know it.
Bryan Sidensol is the owner of HittingWorld.com