Daily Archives: January 12, 2007

Does stance matter?

Pretty clever title, huh? Not bad for being past my bed time.

One of the many things about hitting that is debated constantly in the softball world is whether the stance is important. There is a school of thought that says that the stance is cosmetic, and that as long as a hitter can get to a proper launch position in time it doesn’t matter what kind of stance she uses.

That is no doubt true to a degree. Yet look at that statement again. “As long as a hitter can get to a proper launch position in time.” In time is the key. And that’s where I think the stance really does matter, at least as a hitter is learning to hit.

The physics are pretty simple. Look at it in terms of another skill. Suppose you’re hitting fly balls to outfielders. Which will be easier for them to do — start by watching the ball come off the bat, or start with their backs to you and then react after they hear the “tonk” of the bat? I think the answer is obvious. In truth it really doesn’t matter intrinsically which direction they face as long as they’re able to pick up the ball and make the catch. A catch is a catch. But it will be far easier to accomplish the skill when they can already see the ball off the bat. Tihe younger or less experienced the player, the more important it is.

The same goes for teaching hitting. There is an optimum stance to put hitters into to begin the learning process. It consists of having the feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes equal distant from the plate, the weight distributed evenly, knees bent, and the waist bent so the shoulders are over the toes; the bat should be at a 45 degree angle, lifted slightly up and back from a resting place on the shoulder. This position makes it easy for the hitter to get to a good launch position.

Once her swing shows signs of power and speed with consistency, she can start varying from the base position to find out what works best for her. She’ll need to take small steps, preferably one at a time. Maybe the hands need to be held a little higher. Maybe she wants to stand a little taller, or crouch a little lower to start. Whatever it is, if she has a solid base to work from she’ll be a lot better off than just trying what she’s seen on TV and hoping for the best.
 
Vicky Galindo is probably the best example. What she does works very well for her. But I doubt I would teach it to a beginner.

Warming up to pitch

Yesterday I was reading an online article at Girls Softball about alternatives to private instruction, when pitching warm-ups were mentioned. (This post has been modified to include the link to the article).

In any case, the poster was answering a question about what it takes to be successful in softball. For the most part I agreed with what he said, until he got to one example. In it he mentioned a pitcher whose warm-up routine before a game consisted of 100 fastballs followed by 50 each of her other pitches. He praised the dedication and work ethic of that routine.

I can’t say I agree with that. I’m big on dedication and practice and all, but I also believe that a pitching warm-up should not be a long, involved affair. The reality of softball is a pitcher often must be ready to pitch on short notice. If it takes her 500 pitches to get warmed up, the game may be all but over by the time she’s ready to go. Tournaments often don’t leave a lot of time between games either. Having the ability to get ready quickly is important so you’re ready when the umpire says “let’s go.”

The situation is even more critical in high school ball. Consider the team that has to travel. The game is scheduled to start roughly an hour and a half after school ends. That means everyone has to get dressed, pile on the bus, and ride to the game. If there’s an accident, the driver gets lost, the game is far away, or traffic is heavy, the team may only have 20 minutes to warm up total, including a quick jog and stretch, before the Blue says “play ball.” It’s just the reality of the situation.

You definitely want to take enough time to be sure you’re safe. But if you don’t have your basic mechanics there in, say, 50 pitches, 50 more probably won’t help.

The key is to know yourself, know your body, and know what it really takes to get ready. There’s a difference between quantity and quality. That aside, the post is definitely a good read, and worth checking out.

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