One of the biggest hurdles for developing hitters is having the right mentality when they step into the batter’s box. Without confidence and a keen focus on each and every pitch, a hitter is limiting their potential.
The best way way to gain confidence at the plate is by being prepared. This requires a player to spend ample time developing their physical tools and fine tuning their mental approach.
A coach once told me, “You’ll get your pitch once, maybe twice, but never three times in an at-bat.”
My interpretation of that advice was never “take a pitch off” and always be ready for “my pitch.” With this aggressive mentality, an athlete will be in a constant mode of attack and won’t let an opportunity go to waste.
With that being said, a hitter must be disciplined and have a selective eye during an at-bat. Taking a pitch, even some strikes, is a better option than swinging at something that wouldn’t produce any results. A hitter might offer at a pitch that becomes a routine ground ball or a “can of corn;” however, if they were a little more patient, they could have gotten a pitch to drive for extra bases. This represents the importance of mental preparation - have a plan and execute.
A prepared hitter should begin their plate appearance before they ever step foot into the batter’s box. Whether it through film study, metrics or analyzing a pitcher before an at-bat - there is ample opportunity for an athlete to do their homework.
Youth league and prep players may not have access to technology the way that college and pro players do; however, keeping a close eye on the pitcher during their warm-ups and other at-bats from the dugout is very advantageous.
This analysis should continue from the on-deck circle, where a hitter can simulate taking and swinging at pitches, and time a pitcher’s velocity. By incorporating this extra effort into their preparation, a hitter should feel like they’ve seen several pitches by the time they come to the plate.
When the big moment arrives, a player should simplify their thoughts, enjoy the fruits of their labor and let their talents shine. Approach every pitch as an opportunity, but once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, there should be little to no thinking involved. This confident, opportunistic and reactionary approach is the best recipe for success.