Maintaining connection to launch
There are all kinds of pieces that are involved in developing a quality, high level swing. But one of the toughest to achieve, from what I’ve seen is something called “connection.” That’s the proper name for the concept of tying the hands to the back shoulder in the early part of the swing and keeping them there until launch.
This is a very important factor in developing a “high level” swing. It’s something all great hitters do. But it’s easier said than done.
What often happens early in the swing is hitters will push their hands back as they begin their positive move forward. When that occurs, the hands have become disconnected from the back shoulder, and now have to cover a lot more ground to get to the contact point. The act of pushing the hands back will cause the front arm to “bar out” (a fancy term for getting straight to early), creating a long, slow swing. It is also one of the leading causes of bat drag, the condition where the elbow on the top hand gets ahead of the hands during rotation.
Unless you have a lot of experience it can be difficult to spot whether connection is being maintained or not during the swing. Here’s where video can be helpful. Shooting video from the side will allow you to walk through the swing, frame by frame, and see whether the hands are getting behind during the swing.
So what can you do if they are? One good drill is to use only the bottom hand to swing the bat to hit a ball off the tee. Have the hitter hold the bat at about the top of the tape with her bottom hand. Her arm should be bent, creating a V. Then have her move through her normal swing — negative move, postive stride/weight shift forward, rotate the hips and then shoulders, then pull the bat through the hitting zone, getting to extension and finish. Many hitters who lose connection do so because either the bottom hand pushes back, or it is weak coming through the zone. This drill will help them feel what it’s like to keep the bottom hand in place, and use it to get the bat moving properly.
If access to a gym or space is limited, another thing hitters can do is grab the back shoulder of their shirts, then go through their swing holding it until it’s time to get to the contact zone.
Yet another good drill is to hold a Frisbee with the bottom hand, and with the hands at the back shoulder. Then go through the swing. As the hands come into the contact zone, the hitters throw the Frisbee directly forward. Just make sure they don’t wind up with their hands way to the back before bringing them forward.
Here’s a link to a good example of a hitter maintaining connection. You have to have Quicktime to view it. If you need to download Quicktime, click here.