More about seeing and anticipating the ball

A few weeks ago I wrote about an interesting video on YouTube showing soccer player Christano Reynaldo scoring goals in the dark. In that post I suggested a way to apply it to hitting by closing your eyes just after the pitch is thrown.

I have to admit, though, it was just theoretical when I wrote it. Being the adventurous type, however, I decided to take my own advice and give it a try with a few hitting students. Here’s what I found out.

It actually does work — with an older, more experienced hitter. Generally speaking, hitters with good mechanics who are 16 or older are capable of recognizing the path of the ball off front toss and making adjustments after closing their eyes right after the pitch is thrown. I did it throwing to different locations, and the ones who were successful were able to hit most of them. And not just tip it, but hit through the ball.

Younger players, however, had much more difficulty. They tended not to recognize where the ball was headed and would just guess.

That makes sense. I heard John Tschida talk about the stack of mental index cards players have that allow them to recognize situations and patterns more readily. The longer they play, the bigger that stack gets.

Seems like that was at work here. More experienced players have a better feel for where the ball is headed with minimal information because they’ve seen more pitches. They can tell by the arm circle, or the way the hand is pointed, or the first split second of travel where the ball is headed.

It was also a lesson for those older players, however. I told them if they were capable of doing that, imagine what they could do if they put that much effort into seeing the ball out of the hand and then still being able to see it as it comes in. That made sense to them.

So give it a try – and let us know if you get the same results.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on February 6, 2013, in Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Well done. Nice work.

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  2. I like how you think how of the box Ken. That’s creative and more and more, we understand how the brain and cognitive function works. In sum, we got to give players the chance to see more live moving pitches in order to build that database (mental index cards).

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  3. Btonsoftballmom

    My DD1 is a relief pitcher. Since she doesn’t pitch often, she will sometimes struggle with form. The best practice we’ve found for her is to let her pitch with her eyes closed. By closing her eyes, she is able to focus on form over getting the ball into the catcher’s mitt. Inevitably, her pitches are excellent and on target. Too bad she won’t do it during a game — imagine the batter’s surprise when the pitcher closes her eyes before pitching!

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  4. While not as dramatic, I have done this as a regular part of hitting practice with a lot with my players when using a batting tee. Somehow shutting the eyes seems to turn on more of the brain or something. If they are having trouble making contact with the ball, I switch them back to a Tee, have them close their eyes and hit a few balls. Then when we go back to soft toss or a machine they can usually make solid contact again.

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  5. Thanks, Mark and Marc. Glad you both like the idea. Definitely nice when an idea works out. Btonsoftballmom, I’ve had pitchers do that as well, and for the exact same reason. Sometimes the distance, or the need to get the ball to the catcher at all costs, can mess them up. Having them close their eyes does help them focus on themselves. Another thing I’ll do with pitchers is actually blindfold them. Serves the same purpose, but it’s more dramatic. (I admit to stealing the idea from the old Kung Fu TV show.) Blindfolding them also takes some pressure off, because no one expects you to be accurate if you’re blindfolded. Yet if they focus on their mechanics they can throw strikes. I’ve had some throw more strikes on a tough day blindfolded than not. Agree it can be kind of intimidating to a hitter when she sees the pitcher not looking at her. James, I’ve done that a couple of times too, but not very much. I agree it’s again good for getting hitters to focus on their mechanics and focus more. The brain is a powerful and underestimated element in hitting!

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